After our ferry rocky arrival in santorini (puny no?), we made it to the wildly hectic port where tourists heaved bags and attitudes every which way and locals kept offering their rooms to let. Our driver picked us up and took us through wine country and across endless dry fields to the tiny village of megalachori where our hotel was. The village still maintained its authenticity as we were probably the only commercial entity for miles. The hotel blended in with its volcanic rock walls, some white-washed, and cavernous rooms. The tunnel like shape of every room kept it naturally insulated. Its the method they’ve built for wine storage but later realized it kept an even temp for living in such extreme heat or cold winters. The wine bar is in a 400 year old wine cave and the restaurant is medieval, dark and only lit by torches and candles. The rooftop pool overlooks an old church clock tower that chimes every ten minutes or so and the grounds host dark metal sculpture work, the one out our bedroom window is made of old boat parts reconstructed haphazardly. We were welcomed in with a glass of local sparkling wine and a grand tour. Our room is completely white with hints of volcanic rock peaking through. The floors she tells us are made of sand painted over. Each window is a dark blue shutter with ancient facets and handles. From each you could look out to our terrace or bouganvilia flowers creeping past pomegranate trees full of fruit.
We get settled in and spend the day poolside reading, hearing faint sounds of a dog, sometimes a confused rooster and the ever-persistent clock bell.
After a few chapters and hours we decide to explore the village with its narrow stone paths, quintessential white domed or squared house with blue doors, bell towers and churches. At the top of a hill we could see the mountains in the distance and those fields of grape vines. They train the vines into low wreathes on the ground instead of across trellis because of the high winds. Even the cherry tomato plants look like tiny half dead bushes on the dry sand. But the fruit is ripe and sweeter than anything. We discover a family winery. Gavales winery is 5 generations family run and their method hasn’t changed. The building is over 300 years old. We see grapes laying across the grounds drying for what the daughter Gavales tells us is the method for making the famous vincanto sweet wine. Dimitria gives us tastes of most varieties and tells us they are stomping grapes tomorrow. We could help. Of course we will.
We leave and discover some small art shop. The owner tells us about his work. I, as always, get dinner recommendations. Ill save that for Kate’s birthday.
We go to Rake for dinner right by the clock tower. Its simple taverna tables are shaded by a trellis with pink bouganvilia vines twisting around it. Above that is a giant tree filled with chatty finches. The table next to us has a group of old men gossiping about whatever. Their wives pass by with the children rolling their eyes and hollering across the square. Another group of older kids run and play hide and seek up and down stairs and around the houses. Its more than local. We order the special. The waiter says what it is. Kate repeats “arctic char?” The waiter “yes”. We start with the most fantastic eggplant salad made with their white, sweeter eggplants and then dinner arrives. “Where’s the fish?” “I don’t know” “ohhhh” “artichoke” “ohhhh” it was delicious anyway. We’re bound to lose some things in translation. It was a perfect start to our days in santorini.