Santorini: The best of the rest

There are lots of restaurants to choose from in Fira and Firostefani, though the choices are limited to almost exclusively Greek food. Understandable, but after ten days we were craving other cuisines. Italian is probably the second most popular cuisine type; we had a nice Italian dinner at Da Vinci and a cheap and cheerful lunch at Il Cantuccio (both in Firostefani).

I am now a massive fan of gyros (top left), souvlaki (top right),and fava, though I didn't understand the appeal of the Santorini tomato balls when I tried them - the ones I had were far too doughy/stodgy. Gyros though I can totally get behind! It's basically meat, red onion, tomatoes, chips and sauce served in a pita, though this varies slightly from place to place. Why Not! Souvlaki in Firostefani was our favourite place for a quick and tasty gyros lunch, and I can also recommend Meat Corner in Fira.

Mama Thira is the place to go for souvlaki - I had it there twice and it was beautifully tasty both times - and I had the best fava at Rastoni (Fira). It came with smoked almonds and roast Apaki pork, though I'd give Rastoni a miss and have tasty fava from Pirouni (Firostefani) instead. Pirouni offers massive portions - you could quite easily share a main, even if you're super greedy - a great view of the sunset, plus the staff were lovely. Aktaion is another nice little Firostefani restaurant. As for Fira, try Naoussa - their pork in Santorini sauce was so yummy. We also ate at Vanilia (Firostefani) and Fanari (Fira), which were nice enough.

Two courses each, a bottle of wine and water at most restaurants costs between €65-100, and you usually get given a free dessert or shot. We found that the restaurants in Fira are slightly more expensive than Firostefani, and slightly less tasty. If you want to have cocktails in Fira, we liked V Lounge.

Speaking of drinks, we took a trip one evening to the Artemis Karamolegos Winery, where you'll also find the #1 rated restaurant in all of Santorini (as voted on TripAdvisor in September 2015): Aroma Avlis. Although we didn't have a tour, we did do a wine tasting session and tried six different glasses of their wine for €8 each. Our favourite was the Nykteri, though I really liked the dessert wine: Vinsanto.

Another popular drink on the island is Yellow Donkey (the Santorini Brewing Company also do Red Donkey and Crazy Donkey), which Olly loved. As for Aroma Avlis, the food was delicious and ridiculously cheap - definitely get the Santorini sausage starter - and I'd highly recommend that you visit both the winery and the restaurant.

As for what else you can do in Santorini if you're not feeling lazy like we were - lots! One option is to rent a scooter, quad bike or hire car to take yourself off around the island, as taking taxis all the time will get quite expensive. For reference, a taxi from the airport to Firostefani will cost €20-25, and that's only a distance of 3 miles. Another option is using the local buses, which we used to get to Oia and back.

Visit the beaches and take in the difference colours - you'll find black, red and white beaches in Santorini. Other sights include:
  • The Prophet Elias Monastery - the highest point on Santorini
  • Akrotiri - the Minoan settlement preserved by the volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago
  • Mesa Gonia - a village that was deserted after the earthquake in 1956
You can also take a full-day boat trip that covers the volcano and hot springs, like we went to, but then goes to Thirasia, the other inhabited island in Santorini, and finishes in Oia.

That's it for my Santorini adventures, other than to say you can fly direct from London to the island in under four hours, and I'm sure we'll be doing that again at some point in the future! What do you think to what you've seen of Santorini? Have you been? x

Books: Coming soon!

Over the next few months there are several books coming out that I can't wait to read. First up, it's The Lake House by Kate Morton (out October 22nd). It feels like an age since Kate Morton last released a book, and I can't wait to get stuck into The Lake House. The Cassandra Sanction (out January 28th, 2016) will be the 12th Ben Hope book from Scott Mariani, can you believe it, and Ben Hope is surely up there now with the likes of James Bond and Jason Bourne. OK, he's as irritatingly indestructible as Bond and Bourne, but it will still be a thrilling read!

I first started reading Bill Bryson books as a teenager and he's still one of my favourite authors. The Road to Little Dribbling (out tomorrow) follows on twenty years after Notes From a Small Island - I can't wait to catch up with Bill's take on Britain today! Written in the Scars is the 4th book in Mel Sherratt's The Estate Series, and I'm looking forward to some more grit lit from Mel on October 30th.

I thought Undivided concluded the Unwind Dystology perfectly, but I'm still excited for UnBound, the next book in Neal Shusterman's dystopian series. Out December 15th, the book is a collection of short stories that tell us what happened next. (I don't want to say much more in case you haven't read the other books.) Finally, Lost Girls by Angela Marsons (out November 6th) is the 3rd book in the D.I. Kim Stone series, and one that is highly anticipated.

Which books are you looking forward to reading? x

Santorini: Fira and Firostefani

Fira is the capital of Santorini, whilst Firostefani is known as the "crown" of Fira. We stayed in Firostefani at Splendour Resort, which is about a fifteen minute walk from the capital.

Although we didn't have a view over the caldera at our hotel, we just had to cross the road to see it. Our hotel was great, though only because we booked a suite with a private pool - it didn't look very relaxing at all by the main pool, and I'm glad we had our own space to read and relax in the sun.

But, there is plenty of accommodation along the cliff path if you want the view as it's from this side of the island where you get the most marvellous sunsets (though Oia does seem to be the firm favourite of where to go to see the best sunset on the island).

Fira can often be very busy as the cruise ships dock at the Old Port - you can get from the Old Port up to the capital via a cable car for €5 each way, a €5 donkey ride or walking - you'll find lots of American, Japanese and Singaporean tourists exploring the island.

We headed down to the Old Port to catch our boat to Nea Kameni - via the very steep cable car - but unless you're taking a boat somewhere, there's not much to do down there.  

From walking around Fira, you'll see that there's a lot of money in the capital (what Greek depression?), and it's because of those cruise ships. You'll spot high-end boutiques as well as charming little shops as you mooch around, and plenty of restaurants and bars.

Firostefani is much quieter than Fira, though with the same lovely view. The restaurants there were much better than what was on offer in Fira, and also a bit cheaper. Fira definitely looks much more impressive though and the sprawl of white buildings are quite something against the dramatic volcanic caldera. I'll tell you all about where you should eat and drink in both places next time. x

Santorini: Oia

Oia - pronounced "ee-ah" - is a small cute town in the north west of Santorini, and it's the *the* place to go to see a pretty spectacular sunset.

Like Fira and Firostefani, the town is perched on the edge of the volcanic caldera, overlooking the Aegean Sea, and it can get pretty crowded as people stake out the best spot to see the sun go down. We grabbed an ice cream from Lolita's Gelato and went and did the same!

Oia has plenty of those splendid blue-domed churches and dazzling white buildings that Santorini is famous for, so remember your sunglasses - it's so dazzling and picturesque that you'll need them!

To get there, you can catch the bus from Fira/Firostefani for €1.80 each way. Buses run every twenty minutes in high season, but you may have to stand as it gets busy. (A cab to Oia from Fira would set you back around €25 each way.)

There's also a clifftop walk from Fira to Oia that's apparently beautiful, though a bit of a slog in the sun as it takes around three hours to complete. Part of me was tempted, but then I recalled how hot and sticky we got climbing to the top of the volcano island and decided against it!

Another famous Santorini landmark is its windmills, and we headed to the edge of town to settle down for some cocktails by one.

We got there just before 6pm and got to choose the best table at the Sun Spirit cocktail bar - I can highly recommend their Ginger Smash cocktail and the location. Sure, you can stand along the path to watch the sun go down, but you're on holiday! After quite a few cocktails, the sun finally disappeared and we headed off to have a quick poke around the town. Do remember to take with you a small torch, or install a torch app on your phone, as there are often black outs which can last anything from five minutes to five hours.

If you're a book lover, do visit the wonderful Atlantis Books - they have lots of lovely first editions to drool over, and I had to stop myself from buying a first edition of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (amongst others).

After dinner at 1800, a restaurant in a restored Captain's mansion that dates back to 1845, we headed back to Firostefani feeling merry. Buses run quite late, though are less frequent at night, and you should definitely add a trip to Oia on your Santorini to-do list. x

The month that was: September

What happened:
The start of September was all about getting ready for our holiday to Santorini, working on Found, as well as doing a few days consulting work in Notting Hill - I was definitely ready for it when our holiday finally arrived! To be honest I've felt a little deflated recently - the Autumnal weather arriving in August didn't help - but now that I'm back from my holiday I'm raring to go again. Hurrah! (Though I am noticing the Autumnal weather even more after Santorini's glorious sunshine, especially with developing a slight cold. Booooooo!)

As for Santorini, it was a fabulous holiday. We spent ten days relaxing in the sunshine by our private pool, reading, eating yummy food and exploring a little bit of the beautiful island - bliss! It's a place we'll definitely go back to at some point. (I still need to blog about my Santorini adventures; you can find those posts here when I do.)

What I ate:
Greek food dominated September, and I am now a massive fan of souvlaki, gyros and fava. There wasn't as much fresh fish in Santorini as I would have liked - the menus oddly had asterisks next to most of the seafood indicating it was a frozen, not fresh, product - but there are definitely some dishes I'll be cooking at home.

Of course, when we got back from Greece, I couldn't wait to tuck into Sunday roasts, curries, pies and full English breakfasts.

What I watched:
TV-wise we watched Wayward Pines, half of the second season of True Detective, and continued watching The Great British Bake Off. I absolutely loved the book series of Wayward Pines, and I can also recommend the TV series. We've not finished True Detective yet - it's good, but it's not as awesome as the first series - and as for GBBO, is it just me who thinks it is starting to lose some of its appeal? I don't have a favourite this year, but I think the final of Ian, Nadiya and Tamal is spot-on.

Films watched: That Awkward Moment, Better Living Through Chemistry, The Mask, We Bought a Zoo, Iron Man 2, A Cinderella Story 3, Footloose, There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber To and St. Vincent.

What I read:
I read a staggering 65 books (I was an absolute book fiend in September because of my holiday and reactivating Kindle Unlimited for the month - see which ten books/series you *must* read that are on Kindle Unlimited here) and I abandoned reading two books.

I enjoyed the most: Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, A Time for Living by Ruth Saberton, Buried by Kendra Elliot, Alone by Kendra Elliot, Vanished by Kendra Elliot, Bridged by Kendra Elliot, Party Girl by Rachel Hollis, Sweet Girl by Rachel Hollis, and The Blissfully Dead by Louise Voss & Mark Edwards. Kendra Elliot is definitely an awesome suspense writer, and I can't wait to read more of her books. Ditto for Sarah J. Maas (albeit her books are YA fantasy).

How was your September? x


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