A Day In Santorini

Santorini. Thira, if you prefer. Even if you don’t know her name, you recognize her from photographs of her whitewashed cave houses intermingled with striking, blue-domed roofs set against the Aegean Sea. She is iconic. Her stunning towns sit on the clifftop precipice of an ancient, sea-filled caldera of a volcano that erupted in 1620 BC. She is a photographer’s dream because it is nearly impossible for her to take a bad picture. I was over the moon when my family agreed to take a cruise to visit a few Greek islands because they have long been on my wish list. And the morning our ship floated into the caldera, my family and I were on deck to take it all in.

Approaching Oia

Our first stop was Oia. The English pronunciation of this village name is Oy-a, but the Greek pronunciation is Ee-a. Either way you say it, nothing can prepare you for what awaits you when you arrive. All the photos you have seen pale by comparison. The white buildings provide a stark contrast to the sea below. The outer streets of Oia village (although it’s hard to call them streets when there are no cars) are lined with restaurants and shops. We found shop after shop with Greek ceramics, clothing, and artwork, along with the requisite touristy shops with more standard souvenirs. The Greeks are open to some respectful bargaining if you want to try it out.

It’s only when you head south, closer to the caldera, that the view opens up to the sea and you gasp. It is everything you thought it would be, but you know your photos won’t adequately portray what you are witnessing.

You traverse narrow, cobblestone pathways, winding up and down past hotels and personal homes, separated from passersby with colorful gates or doors. This is not the place to bring large, wheeled luggage unless you’re sure you will have someone to help you with your bags. Most lodgings possess patios with sea views, and some have shaded trellises or small plunge pools so guests can keep cool. As you stroll by vacationers casually lounging on their sun-soaked patios, you suspect that the lack of privacy is a small price to pay for the privilege of staying here. No one seems to be bothered by the looky-loos. How could you be?

Oia is a selfie paradise. Around every corner is another gorgeous backdrop. Hubby snapped this keeper of me.

Can I stay? Please!

Our next island stop was to a local winery. We sampled a white, a red, and a sweet wine made from sun-dried grapes, along with some Greek mezes. All of this with a view. We quickly purchased a bottle of the sweet wine to carry home. It’s port-adjacent, and that works for us. We also picked up some boxes of baklava and Greek candy to try because it seemed prudent.

After finishing our wine samples and devouring our snacks, we headed to Fira, Oia’s big sister. Oia is the sleepier of the two main cities people visit on the island. While she has her fair share of shops and restaurants, it’s Fira that is known for nightlife. We were only there for the day, so nightlife was not on our radar, but shopping and food were. Fira, like Oia, is comprised of carless walkways meandering up and down in between plentiful shops and restaurants. So many choices and so many stairs! We were grateful it wasn’t raining because those cobbled walkways and stairs would be a slippery nightmare in the wet. Luckily for us, it was a sunny, warm day with not a drop of rain in sight. Welcome to summer in Greece.

We had gotten a recommendation from a local for a specific restaurant and decided to give it a shot. The restaurant was aptly named La Scala (Italian for The Stairs), so we had to go. The restaurant, like the one in this photo, had a lovely patio with a view of the sea. We were early for dinner so we were seated immediately. Our server, a lovely, young Greek woman made our night. Even if the food had been horrible, which is most certainly was not, she would have made our choice worth it.

Once she got us settled with beverages, she came to take our orders. As you can imagine, most Greek dishes sound Greek to us, and Luke was the first victim who had to order. He ordered traditional Greek Moussaka but, unfortunately for him, he pronounced it “MU-sa-ka.” She pretended she didn’t understand what he said, which made him repeat the mispronunciation. She looked at him and said “mu-SA-ka.” Then she gestured for him to repeat it. Terrified, he paused, and then correctly repeated after her, which earned him a kudos from her. When it was Joe’s turn to order, he wisely said, “I’ll have what he’s having.” She had a great laugh over that. All three of my companions ordered the Moussaka, while I tried a Greek pizza that came recommended. Steve and I shared a Santorini salad, which is a decidedly better version of a Greek salad you might find in the US, if you love capers, which we do. When the server came to clear our plates, she looked at Luke and asked if he enjoyed his….she paused to give him the opportunity to pronounce it correctly. He looked at her, laughed, and affirmed he did and left it at that.

When we left La Scala, we headed to the Santorini cable car in Fira for our trip down the cliffside and back to the tender that would return us to our ship.The sun was setting on our day in Santorini. And what a sunset it was as we prepared to say goodbye.

And when we had returned to our ship and decided the day could not become more magical, in the darkness as we sailed away, it did. Who knew Santorini, so beautiful by day, was just as incredible by night.

I Look Good, Now Pass Me My Readers So I Can See

It’s amazing as I get older what I am willing to convince myself is acceptable in terms of my appearance. People over 50 will tell you with age they’ve learned not to care what other people think. That is untrue. You simply get to a place where you acknowledge you’ve just wasted a precious 30 minutes (and time is a commodity at 53) trying to make yourself attractive and discovered you look the same as you did before you started. But you still have to go to the store, so you explain away your lack of effort with the preposterous notion that you are comfortable with aging. Sure you are.

I was reflecting on it today and I think I’ve figured out what happens to older people. You hit a certain age and suddenly you are farsighted. Your near vision is GONE. In a restaurant, you are screwed without your readers. You pull out your phone to see if the flashlight will help. You complain about the font on the menu, as if it’s the font’s fault your eyes no longer work. You can’t see. It’s okay. It happens to most everyone at some point. But I think this is why older people look the way they do when they go out in public. They did try to make themselves presentable. Indeed, they thought they were presentable. They just have no idea what they really look like anymore because they can’t see themselves very well.

Some of us gifted older folks actually manage to convince ourselves that we look good the way we are. Today I pulled the top of my hair back with an elastic band, curled my eyelashes, put on my tinted sunscreen and my progressives, and went out in public. Just. Like. That. It’s not that I didn’t care what I looked like or that I didn’t care what others thought of how I looked. It’s that I thought I looked just fine because I can’t see. In fact, I had myself convinced that I looked rather adorable in my little glasses with random wisps of stray hair breaking free from their elastic confinement when, in reality, I looked like a lazy, hot mess with bad eye make up and thinning hair. And that’s okay. It’s part of the journey, right?

Go ahead and judge, youngsters. If you’re lucky, someday you will be over 50 and eating out in a restaurant, thinking you look pretty good for your age. Then you’ll pass your readers around the table to all your friends because no one remembered theirs and none of you can read the menu without them. And you will order a whole bottle of wine because, once you can read the menu, you remember you know how to choose a nice bottle of wine.

There are some good things to getting older. You can’t see as well, but you can afford greater quantities of better wine, which helps you forget about your failing eyesight. Where God closes a door, he opens a window.

Your Kids Can Only Grow Up If You Let Them

These once were our little boys. Not any more.

Hubby and I tried something new tonight. We left our boys, ages 11 and 9, home alone while we went to a wine dinner nearby. Admittedly, Wine Group (when we’re sober we’re not clever enough to come up with a better name and when we’re drunk we forget we need one), was just a block away from home tonight. Still, we knew we would be trusting our boys to stay at home for three to four hours, including a couple hours after dark, without us. It was a big deal. We talked about it with them for weeks beforehand to make sure they were up to the task. We lined up a back-up sitter in case they decided they wanted to have someone here with them. But, in the end, they said it was no big deal. So after too many cautious instructions (“text if you need us” was mine, “don’t stand on the counters” was Steve’s), we walked out the door and up the street.

When we were growing up, both Steve and I were given great freedom and responsibility. We wanted to share that kind of upbringing with our own boys. Over this past summer, I tried at small intervals to leave them home alone. Thirty minutes here and there during broad daylight, just to let them know we have faith and confidence in them and to let them see that they are capable. Colorado law does not specify an age at which it is legal to leave your kids home alone and unattended. I checked. The suggested guideline is 12, but the law also notes that some 15 year olds might not be safe alone while some 9 year olds would do perfectly well. Our boys, while a bit young, are responsible kids. Joe, following in his father’s footsteps, is the King of Safety. We know, therefore, that he won’t let his brother do anything stupid. On the flip side, Luke is our level-headed, problem solver when things go wrong. We’ve lived with them long enough to know that we could leave them tonight and return home to a clean, cared-for, not-burned-down house.

We left them at 6. At 9, Joe texted that he wanted us to come home because he was scared. Joe often makes claims like this when we know he’s fine. We had just started dessert, so we asked him to FaceTime my sister, who was our back-up babysitter. After a while, another text arrived. Joe said he had talked to his aunt and was fine but that he still wanted us to come home. We stalled as long as we could, wanting both to savor the wonderful dessert our friends made and to let our sons remember that they were fine. We left Wine Group at 9:33 and walked home. When we arrived at 9:38, both boys were fine. They were in the process of cleaning up the mess we specifically told them we expected not to find. The house was in tact. The dog wasn’t covered in anything sticky. They weren’t even finished watching the movies we’d rented for them. Joe had simply been a bit lonely. When it was all said and done, we’d spent 3.5 hours up the street, and they had done a pretty great job of taking care of themselves and being brave. We were proud.

I am certain there are people who will chide me for leaving our boys alone, but I don’t care. I know my kids. They’re well-behaved, smart, and competent. I know that about them, and I want them to know that about themselves. I don’t think there was anything wrong with leaving them alone for a few hours while we were three-tenths of a mile up the street. These are the things that teach a child that they’re not helpless. These are the things that give them self-confidence. These are the things that help them to know we trust and believe in them. These are the things that will ensure they are not living in my basement and delivering pizzas for a living when they’re 28. Knowing how much to trust your kids is a delicate thing. You don’t want to shield them too much, but you don’t want to expose them to too much too soon either. In the end, tonight’s experiment was a success. We expect these situations to be few and far between because we spend far more time with our children than without them. It’s nice to have proof, though, that they’re strong, smart, and independent boys. We’re making small deposits in their self-esteem banks. I’m sure they will pay off greatly with interest down the road.