Santorini, Greece

Today we visited one of the most scenic places I’ve ever encountered, the Greek Island of Santorini. We arose at sunrise to discover the ship sailing into the caldera of a giant volcano.

We were tendered to a remote spot near the southern end, the only place tour buses can get down from the top of the cliffs to sea level.

Our guide, Vangelis, was the best tour guide ever. He kept us laughing the whole day, while dispensing an incredible amount of information about just about every facet of Santorini.

We spent the morning shopping and sightseeing in Oia-Ia at the Northern tip of the island, and then drove back to the Southern part of the island for a tour, tasting and lunch at the Boutari Winery. The grapes on Santorini are primarily a white variety called Assyrtiko, which is not vinifera, but tastes a bit like Chardonnay. Because the island only gets 7 inches of rain a year, the grapes absorb much of their moisture from the air. And because some of the root stock is 700 years old(!) the roots can go down 25-40 feet. Strong winds mean that the grapes grow low to the ground, and are trained into a sort of basket shape.

We were quite impressed with the winery’s barrel fermented reserve bottling (14 Euros) and especially a dessert wine called Vinsanto made by air drying the grapes before pressing (16 Euros a half bottle).

After lunch we drove to the largest town, Fira, where we descended to the old dock via the cable car, a fairly exhilarating trip.

Vangelis’ parting advice: “If you are afraid of heights, when going down in the cable car, face away from the ocean. It will all be over in three minutes. Five seconds if something breaks.”