Santorini – Valentines… Better Late Than Never

So the way it was meant to work was that we were going to leave Dublin, and take our bucket list flight to some really random place on the 13th of Feb, and in this really free-spirited moment, landing in some random country, we would be able to have Valentine’s day.

Some wanker had changed those plans without even asking us, and we had to wait another week in Dublin before we could fly out.

So, Valentines was in Dublin, but I told Bec that it wasn’t good enough. The next place we went to was Sofia, in Bulgaria, and we were a little hard pressed for time anyways, so I decided that we would hold off till we got to Greece.

Now, we are starting to get somewhere. Greece is somewhere that you can do a decent date. Especially on the islands. So, with that in mind, I told Bec yesterday that she was going to have to entertain herself for the morning so that I could go and sort out the date. She’s a good sport, and naturally obliges.

Each year, we take turns for who takes the other person out on the Valentines date. This time, it’s my turn, and I am ok with it, because its going to be pretty easy to do a good date in a completely different country.

I jump out of Bed, and make her our usual yoghurt with granola and give her a kiss goodbye while I head out to sort out the day. I’ve got my little list of things that I need to get:

  1. Fish
  2. Tackle
  3. Lemon, Ginger & Herbs
  4. Foil
  5. A haircut
  6. Scooter
  7. Wood

I leave Bec in bed and take a brisk 10 minute walk into Kamari.

The bus is yet to arrive, and being that there are two others waiting at the bus stop, I figure that it wont be long before the bus rocks up. I still haven’t worked out how the Santorinian bus time table works. It has literally got the name of the destination and the place that the bus leaves from at the top of the column, and then a list of times under that.

The only issue is that there is no mention of the times that it gets to the towns in between the main destinations, and you don’t know which way it is heading. You’re better off just using the amount of people waiting for the bus as a judge of when the bus will arrive next.

Greeks don’t exactly seem to use a clock too much.

Islanders don’t seem to use a clock too much.

Greek Islanders don’t know that “cl”, and “ock” can be combined to make a real word.

We hang around and I begin engaging in an invisible sword fight with this lady while the two of us throw limbs around in a bid to try and communicate between our languages. The conversation dies off just as quickly as it started. The bus rocks up, and I help her out with the pram as we clamber onto the bus. Before the door is even closed, the bus driver is beginning to move.

I mean, if the bus just came on time, you probably wouldn’t have to hurry people along. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a place that I can hire a scooter, and just as Zeus would have it, I step off the bus, and there is a sign literally in front of me that says “ATV & Moto Hire”.

Perfect.

I walk over to the chick and say “Can I hire a scooter please”
“Yes. One second”

She reaches down and picks up her phone and says some mumbo jumbo in Greek.

“Ok. You have licence?”
“Yeah”, as I pull it out and hand it to her.
“Oh, not me. You wait. Man come for you”
“Oh. Ok”, apparently, I’m gonna get chauffeured to the place where I pick up the scooter. Literally no more than 30 seconds later, this bloke pulls up out the front of the hut and says, “You want to hire the scooter?”
“Yeah mate. Thats me”
“Jump on”

Rightio.

I hop on the back and hold onto the bloke, but only just enough that I can keep my balance, but not any tighter, incase he thinks that I might be trying to spoon him on the back of a moped. We zig zag and go all over the place until we turn this corner, and there it is, all the scooters you could imagine.

We head inside and do the formalities. We sign the documents, and we head outside so that he can make sure that I know how to ride a scooter.

I tell him that I have ridden a fair few bikes over the years.

With that in mind, he makes sure that I know how to ride a scooter.

…Well, all good then.

I say thanks to my mate John, the scooter guy, and I make my way off to scout out a location for the date. Today is a nice and warm day. The sun is out and there isn’t much of a breeze. One thing, however, that I didn’t consider, is that I am surrounded by buildings. Buildings, which block breezes.

I am wearing a shirt, shorts and thongs.

…thongs…

I just thought that I would clarify for any American readers, thongs are flip flops. If I’m gonna wear a g-string, its only for a bucks party.

I have got a bit of an idea in mind as to what I want to do for the date. I figure that since we are in Greece, and the Greeks are known for their seafood, then, I was going to get some fish, find a place that we can tuck in around some rocks, light a fire and cook the fish in the coals. Bec was saying that she wanted to do a bit of fishing while we were here too, so I figure that since we have the scooter, I can go and pick up some hand reels, and we can fish off the rocks while we wait for the food to cook.

Bec is much more of a fisherman than I am.

If I go fishing, it is because I want to come home with fish, and I want it to take no longer than an hour, including travel. Bec is more than happy to just sit there, cast lines, hang out and enjoy herself. Being that we are going to have to wait for the fish to cook anyways, we can kill two birds with one stone, and she is gonna be stoked.

The stereo-typical postcard shot that you see of the Greek islands is Oia. Its a little port that has been around for years upon years right at the tip of Santorini. You would think that between Fira and Oia, you would be able to find a direct road, but to get there, you actually have to go all the way around a mountain. This means that any winds that hit that mountain, hit you.

There were a lot of winds that hit that mountain.

There were a lot of winds that hit me.

My thought was that the sooner this is over, the sooner I will be warm, so I just peeled back the throttle and got to Oia as quick as I could. There really wasn’t an obvious centre of town to Oia, so I just drove straight through and kept riding down to the bay. You pull up at the car park, and you can see all these little tiny houses just on the edge of the water, built into the rock face. Its so cool to see. The boats just sit there, bobbing up and down, moored to the concrete pier leading off from the footpath.

The pier, itself has cracked in the middle, so that it is sagging into the water you see a bloke sitting here having a quick smoko break. I wouldn’t trust it much past the first few steps. There are a few construction blokes working on the place, obviously getting it ready for the tourist season about to commence.

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Oia is certainly one of the main attractions to Santorini and with the character that it has, it is easy to understand why.

I walk down, and I can see a path leading further around from where the little port ends, so naturally, I follow the path. There has been some rockfall, which has broken the path, but I can see that there have been people make their own path since, so I just keep going. The path has certainly seen better days. I keep following it, until we just reach this little rocky area, and there seems to be a concrete wall to stop the water at high tide. The wind is really just a nice cool breeze. Its not cold, and its not a strong wind.

This is perfect. There should be enough shelter to be able to light a big enough fire to cook the fish.

I head back, and now I need to find wood.

Being that there aren’t heaps of trees on Santorini, I know I am going to have to pick the wood up from somewhere else. I am hoping that since there is some construction going on, there should be some timber laying around.

As I am on my way back, I find a little cave that someone has made years ago. The door has been kicked in, and there is a few bits of timber laying around. This is perfect. I load up my arms and carry them to a a little pile near the sheltered rocks.

I head back to the scooter and make my way to Fira. I go past a little tackle shop and pick up a few little hand reels and tackle. I walk in and tell the guy that I need some hand reels and the tackle to go with them. I get the reel, and then he just stares at me. “I need to grab some line too mate”, so he takes me to the fishing line, and I grab that. “Ok, I need some hooks”, so he shows me the hooks, and I take what I need, and this time I figure that there should be some sort of initiative, but he just stares at me again. “Alright man. I need some sinkers too ay”, so he shows me the sinkers, and I take what I need.

I mean, I have only been fishing twice, and both times, it was the will of the Lord that my fishing lines would get tangled up and the fish were surgeons at taking bait and calling me nasty names.

Needless to say, I am not exactly a fisherman. I grab a knife and make my way out.

I now need to find the fish to cook. I am not holding my hopes high of being able to land a fish really quick and easy, so I just buy fish that we can eat while we pretend to catch something. Being that we are in Greece, I wanna get something fresh. I walk into the centre of town, and there is this bloke set up right on the side of the street with his little tray of fish all lined up on the angle. They are 5 euro each, so I grab two.

Just having fishing being sold on the side of the road is absolutely brilliant. Its the sort of thing that you hope to get to experience while you are in Greece, and yes, it is as fresh as it gets.

I swing into a little market to pick up the garlic and lemon, and duck into a barber shop to get my hair cut. I had been talking for a while about getting a haircut and shaving my beard. I dunno why, but I have just been wanting a little change. But, every other time that I go to actually commit to the deed, I end up backing out.

This time, I figure if someone else does it, I should be safe.

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The bloke is empty when I rock up, and it only costs me 20 euro for a haircut and a shave. He asks me 3 times if I want to completely get rid of my beard. He has a beard, so I know he knows the pain and effort that goes into toiling and tending to a God-like beard. I can see that he is just as unsure about this ordeal, as I am.

Second guessing myself a little more each time, I answer, “Yeah…”

He sits me down and begins the cut.

He is like an artist surgeon, sculpting and shaping my hair and removing every millimetre of hair out of place. I give him a high five, and jump on my scooter to go pick up Bec. I’ve been away for the past 2.5 hours. I get home, park up the scooter, bound through the door, and Bam! There she is, laying across the bed like a Santorinian goddess.

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We get our stuff, I pick her up and tell her that we have got a scooter for the day.

If she wasn’t excited about the date before, she was pumped now. She straps on the helmet, and jumps on the back of the scooter and off we go. She squeeze me that little bit tighter and leans right up next to my ear to tell me how much she is looking forward to this and that she loves me. I play it off like its nothing, but inside, I know I have hit the nail on the head.

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We pull up at our favourite cafe first, and I rip in to get us some coffees and two chocolate mousse treats. The coffees are 1.60 each and the sweets are 2.50. How can you go wrong? The answer is that you cant go wrong, incase you are wondering. We jump back on the scooter and make our way to Oia, at the top of the island. Oh, and by the way, Oia is pronounced “Ee-ya”, not “Oi-ya”

Oi ya.

You can imagine how our Australian brains would have taken that. “Oi Ya *insert anything to describe a human being*”.

I warn Bec of the fact that the wind is so blowy and that its bloody cold on the bike. This time around, I rugged up and chucked pants on, but my hands were still at the mercies of the weather. its bloody hectic. It is so picturesque, though. You wind beside the mountains, with the bends and twists all the way along, leaning into each corner like you’re on the scooter version of the MotoGP.

Just in case you were wondering, I was part of the scooter MotoGP.**

We get to the bay and I lead Bec around to where the path begins. There is this little group of American girls ahead of us who have just stopped where the path seems to have finished.

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….but the path doesn’t finish.

We just hang around by the rocks and wait for them to bugger off so that we can continue along the path to our little hidey hole. The last thing you need at the start of a date is to have a little entourage tagging along. Not even interested mate. We pretend to want to be friends with them, secretly sitting on a rock and getting all snuggly, and just making the situation generally awkward so that they feel the need to not hang around any longer. They even ended up taking a photo for us…

How nice of them.

Valentines Day 2k17-5

Eventually, they have their fill of selfies and personal jokes and head back. Bec and I pretend like we aren’t watching them the whole way along, but we are watching them the whole way along, until they are just out of sight, and then we make our dash over to the path again. We head around the rocky peninsula to our little secret spot.

I explain to Bec what is going on for the date and she’s pretty happy about it all. She says to me, “Why didn’t you tell me to get a hair tie or something if it was going to be this windy?”
“Well, when I came down this morning, it was actually quite calm”
“Oh right”

She was right though, it was pretty damn windy, and my bloke brain didn’t even think about the wind causing any dramas. I don’t exactly have long hair to consider. Bec rigs up the fishing lines, while instructing me on how to gut the fish. She begins her fishing experiment, while I finish preparing the fish for the fire. She suggests that we should start the fire first, and I think “Nah. Imma do the fish first”, I shoulda done the fire first…

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Bec is standing on the ledge right by the water, casting in, and the wind is picking up her hair and throwing it around everywhere. I am sitting over on the rocks, getting the fish ready and preparing the fire. I am thinking that she is having a good time. She is still enjoying herself, but it turns out that because she doesn’t have any bobby pins or hair lackys, her hair is literally just going everywhere. It literally just covers her entire face.

This isn’t Bec’s idea of fun.

My responsibilities are done for now. I light the fire and we just gotta wait for the fire to burn through to coals. I go to get my line all rigged up, and then I see that the guy I got the hooks from gave us a pack of hooks that is all connected, instead of individual hooks that we can do with what we will. I thought that Bec had just loaded her line up with bulk hooks, but now I see that they are just one big tangled mess of hooks and fishing wire. A right pain in the ass.

Valentines Day 2k17-8

I decide to not even go down this path, so I cut the hooks and rig them up myself. I head over to the rocky wall, and check to see how Bec is doing. As long as she has her back to the wind, everything is fine. Luckily, her jumper has a hood on it, so that kinda protects her face from the wind to some degree.

I head over near her, and I have been waiting to get the fish ready and get the fire started so that I can just hang out with Bec for a bit, but we very soon realise that the wind isn’t really going to let us cast near each other without the lines being cast on top of one another. So, I head a few meters away and cast my line. We can’t really talk to each other either because the wind is making it too hard to hear each other well.

Valentines Day 2k17-7

Regardless, Bec is still having fun, sharing laughs and having a good time with me. Having the freedom to ride to the top of the island and hang out by the shore is pretty damn good. This is all in spite of the fact that I forgot glasses to drink our wine out of, I forgot to get bait from the tackle shop, the smoke from the fire is blowing our way, the wind is messing Bec’s hair up, we cant really hang out cos we’ll tangle the lines and the wind is too strong to be able to hear each other from any kind of distance.

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Valentine’s date 4/10 so far.

Still having a decent time though? 8/10.

Bec’s a champ.

Regardless, I am beginning to feel bad. I know that there isn’t really anything I can do to change it, I mean, I did ride 20 minutes with a shirt, shorts and thongs in some cold winds to find the place to do the date, its just unfortunate that it wasn’t quite bang on.

We throw the fish on the coals, and kinda just hang out for a bit while we wait.

We use the meat of the fish remaining on the head as bait. I have no doubt that it’s not the best bait, but its all we got for now, so we just have to roll with it. We kinda just hang out on the ledge and cast lines till the fish is ready.

Valentines Day 2k17-10

I honestly think that this is the first time I have actually just enjoyed the process of fishing. Like I said before, if I wanna go fishing, it is cos I want to catch something, and I want to catch it now. This time, I was actually happy to just sit and throw my line out. If I caught something, good, if not, no worries. Bec’s rubbing off on me more and more. She’s so much more patient than I am, and if there is one thing that I could work on, it would be to be more patient.

Surprisingly, this seemingly unproductive activity is really enjoyable.

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We re-rig, and drink wine from the bottle from time to time, and finally, go to pull the fish off the coals. I find the two biggest planks of wood that we have, and use one as a seat and the other as a table. We pull the fish off and plonk them down on the plank. We unfold the foil, and the juice from the garlic, lemon and fish flood the air and Bec tells me that the fish is bang on.

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The meat just pulls away from the bone so easily. The flavours are perfectly infused with the meat and it is so tender its not funny. We sit and eat with a little warmth from the fire at our backs. Sipping on wine and chatting over a delicious feed. Its the way to go. The company, intention and the view across the bay is enough to overlook the shortcomings of the date, and Bec really has been a really good sport about it all. That being said, she says that when we are done with dinner that she would like to head home, which I am totally ok with.

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We wrap up dinner, collect our rubbish and make our way back to the scooter.

The temperature is dropping slowly, and the sun is setting at a similar pace. We grab our stuff, and while we are on the way back along the path, we watch the sun begin to set over the island in the middle of the bay. We figure that we haven’t got enough pics of us together of late, and since it was a worthy night, I figured that we should stop for a few shots.

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10/10 worth it.

We get back up to the scooter just as the sun kisses the horizon, and it is just as good as people say it is. The sun is this rich blood red and it is pretty damn big. By the time I pulled over to get the photo, it was already gone, but to be able to say that we got to see it was pretty damn cool. We get on the winding road by the mountain on our way back to Kamari (which is literally on the other side of the island).

The winds have certainly picked up, and there were at least 3 times when the wind hit us so hard that I thought the bike was going to kick out from under us. I already knew that the traction on the tyres wasn’t the best, so I was pretty damn wary of the scooter. Everybody is making their way back at the same time as us, and out of nowhere this bloke comes riding up behind us on another scooter.

We’re already taking the corners at a decent enough speed, but with the head wind and the fact that there are two of us on a 50cc scooter, we don’t exactly have a lot of oomph to overtake with. This guy just starts hopping cars in front of us without even batting an eyelid.

We were being all civilised and stuff, but that is out the window now. We look behind us and there is another scooter right on our asses. We just wind it out as best we can and time our overtakes with the sharp corners. We’ve got this little posse of 3 scooters just car hopping from time to time. Bec and I keep commentating on the audacity of the first bloke overtaking at times when he probably shouldn’t, but continues to do so anyway.

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We pull into Oia while the light is still just remaining to have a little explore of the old city. Its is just as you would imagine it to be. The blue domed roofs and crisp white walls. The streets are more like narrow pathways and the rounded walls that follow them sit at the perfect height for a seat to take in the view. The sight is really something to see. Something that everyone should see if they have the chance.

We hop back on the scooter and head into Fira to pick up some Gyros for dinner, which is only 2.50 euro. You can’t beat that. We chuck them in a bag, and make our way home to get into bed and watch Brooklyn 99.

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We’ve been catching up on the episodes everyone else talks about.

Its been a pretty decent Valentines, and Bec has been the best sport ever.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

** I wasn’t really part of the MotoGP

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