Several years ago, Jules had one of her most disappointing traveling experiences. It wasn’t the loss of luggage or passport or some other dramatic episode that can suddenly bring a holiday to a crashing halt, but to her at the time, it was equally upsetting. It was in fact a missed opportunity to visit the Greek Island of Santorini. This was a very significant place that had loomed large in her childhood, with her mum having had a ‘Shirley Valentine’ moment many years before, resulting in a lone pilgrimage to the island only to return to Australia to enter into what is now referred to by the family as her ‘Greek phase’. The result was that for several years, Jules was exposed to images of the Greek islands, ate just about every Greek dish imaginable and lived in a house filled with the constant soundtrack of Bouzouki music. So when we finally managed to book ourselves onboard a cruise ship touring the Greek Islands, she was understandably excited.
All was going well until the day before we were about to visit the iconic island and the ships Captain made the disappointing announcement that due to rough seas, we would be unable dock. It appeared that the small boats used to tender passengers from cruise ships anchored off shore to the coastline below the steep cliffs would be unable to cope with the choppy conditions, so the reluctant decision was made to bypass the stop completely … Jules was not at all happy! From that point onward the episode would be forever referred to as the ‘Santorini Incident’ and as a rule was not to be spoken about, such was the painful memory that the ‘non-visit’ resurrected. It was felt for a long time that the opportunity to visit Santorini had been lost and that we would possibly never experience this place, having already seen several other aspects of Greece during the cruise. However, I underestimated Jules’ desire to satisfy her longing to visit the island’s iconic cliff top villages and failed to realize that she was would eventually plan to rectify what she considered to be the fateful injustice of not being able to visit Santorini previously.
So four years after the infamous ‘Santorini Incident’ we found ourselves onboard a Blue Star Ferry taking the seven-hour trip from Athens, with Jules feeling quietly happy with herself. This was the final leg of a marathon 48-hour journey from Japan, but tiredness was certainly not going to spoil the satisfaction of finally achieving her much anticipated goal. Her smile grew even wider as she eventually caught sight of the classic white dwellings and blue domed churches perched high on the cliff tops … we were finally there!
As the drawbridge dropped and all manner of vehicles and passengers simultaneously jostled their way off the ferry, there was clearly a collective sense of excitement at finally arriving in Santorini. The summer sun was baking the island as it always does in July, but the dry heat was nicely tempered by a cooling sea breeze. Somehow amongst the chaos of the dock, we managed to find a shuttle bus that would take us to the outlying village of Imerovigli. Jules had diligently researched the various options available and had opted to position us away from the more tourist orientated main town of Fira. She had booked a traditional apartment on the western side of the island that sat on the highest ridge of the cliff. From here we could view the full length of the dramatic coastline spanning the volcanic caldera from which an eruption had created the rugged island formation thousands of years ago. Looking out to sea, the view toward the horizon looked infinite, revealing far away islands that seemed to fade away into a distant haze.
As we finally sat down on our white washed terrace on our first night, sipping a glass of chilled Rose, we couldn’t quite believe that we had finally made it. Looking northward along the coast, we could see the picturesque town of Oia with sailing boats setting out in readiness to view a typical Santorini sunset. As the glowing sun slowly approached the horizon, it seemed that just about everybody had the same idea as us and emerged from their dwellings to marvel at the spectacular scene and enjoy the serenity. In that moment, the ‘Santorini Incident’ had been relegated to a distant memory and from then onward any references to the island would only conjure up warm and enduring memories.
However the story wasn’t quite over yet, because when we awoke the next morning and stepped onto our verandah, we spotted in the distance an ocean liner slowly approaching. As the ship began to anchor in the sheltered waters of the bay, we realized that it looked strangely familiar. In an amazing coincidence, this was the very same cruise ship that we had been on board four years earlier. This time it seemed that seas were calm enough and it was about to stop for its scheduled day trip to the island. For a brief moment, memories of the disappointment all those years ago returned with the realization that this particular group of passengers were about to experience what we had originally sought when we had booked our Greek Island cruise. But then we thought again; if the ‘Santorini Incident’ hadn’t happened, would we have ever returned?
Somehow destiny had demanded that we spend much more time here. It appeared that we were meant to soak up the spectacular scenery, linger over delicious Greek meals and ponder life while watching glorious Santorini sunsets. We now realize that a day trip would not have been nearly long enough to fully appreciate what the island truly had to offer. After all, this is the quintessential Greek island, so familiar to us all from countless coffee table books, calendars and postcards. During the week we stayed, we never tired of its scenery, nor the unique qualities of the island lifestyle. In the end the serendipity of this trip had become obvious to us both with our stay here effectively turning disappointment to delight!