I fell in love with Europe in 1979 during my first trip traveling for four weeks with a Eurailpass. Here is a sampling of the beauty that keeps me going back for more.
This trip to Greece was in 2000. The photo on the right was taken in the serene village of Oia on the northern tip of Santorini. It's hard to believe that something this incredible is a hotel. This was my second trip to the island, and I still believe it is the most magical place on earth.
Around 1500bc a volcanic eruption blew out the center of Santorini creating a huge crater (or caldera). What today looks like snow atop the crater's edge is really a cluster of homes, hotels, shops, and restaurants.
It's on the southern tip of the island that you'll find Akrotiri, a city well preserved after being buried by lava and volcanic ash for over 3,000 years. Some people believe this is the legendary lost city of Atlantis. You can walk through the excavation site on your own, but you'd benefit by having a tour guide.
Most people go to Oia to watch the sunset. This view is from our hotel -- the beautiful Sun Rocks Villas in Firostephani, a short walk from Fira.
Sun Rocks has lovely rooms and suites with views of the caldera that can best be described as breathtaking. The staff were most accommodating, and the location convenient.
The most difficult decision to be made here is whether to relax and enjoy the scenery or go sightseeing and shopping. My friend Maritza and I were enchanted with our hotel and spent time each afternoon sitting on our balcony with all our cares far, far away. Once here you can no longer believe there is a real world out there with deadlines and obligations.
This was also taken at Sun Rocks, as are the following several photos.
We were in room #31 (not pictured here), a suite with a bedroom, living/dining room combination, bathroom, kitchen, and large veranda overlooking the caldera. The rooms are decorated minimally, which only enhances the mood. (Note in 2013: This hotel has changed a lot since we were there in 2000 and is now far outside my price point.)
Shopping can be, and frequently is, a major activity during a visit to Santorini. Greece in general has more jewelry stores than you can imagine. Prices on the island are not rock bottom, and be prepared to bargain.
If jewelry is not for you (believe me, you'll have a hard time resisting), there are plenty of other options -- embroidered linens, wines, and (dare I say it) tee shirts.
There's more to Santorini than the caldera. Much of the island is flat, and there are black sand beaches. Along with tourism, wineries help support the economy.
The path between Firostephani and Fira is a pleasant walk. As you get close to Sun Rocks you will encounter a few shops. It was at the sundry shop that we purchased ingredients for a home-cooked spaghetti dinner.
Speaking of food, don't miss the tzatziki, a cucumber dip that's great with pita bread. We included it with almost every dinner. And a favorite breakfast treat reserved just for my visits to Greece is yogurt and honey. You just can't get yogurt this rich and creamy in the States.
Cats rule in just about every place I went in Greece. They go wherever they want, even into restaurants -- ESPECIALLY restaurants!
Once when I stopped at a travel excursion office I encountered a large cat sprawled across the counter. We conducted business over the cat rather than disturb it. No problem.
If you look closely on the right side of this photo you'll see a woman white-washing the roof of her building. This may look tame, but one slip and she's gone. She must have nerves of steel!