After writing this post, we decided to separate Santorini and Mykonos into two parts. First because the post was getting long, and Google Analytics says that attention spans are getting short. That's total preposterous, I can't believe- Oooh look a cat!
Planning a multi country European trip can be a major pain. You start with an idea of where you want to go(this can sometimes be more difficult the more people you add into the equation). One person wants to go to Scotland to visit the castles and the moors, the other wants to go to the coastal villages in Cinque Terre, Italy. So Santorini and Mykonos it is!
Santorini and Mykonos isn't really that hard of a sell to most people. The beautiful white buildings, the warm dry weather, the beaches, and of course- Greek food. So after coming up with the decision to make Santorini one of the go to destinations on our European trip we needed to figure out how to get there.
Santorini was one of the first destinations that we wanted to visit, so from there we needed to decide the other locations. We eventually ended up picking Vienna Austria, and the Alsace region in France. So now the question is how to book a trip from Vienna to Santorini.
A part of the headache when trying to plan multi-destination trips is trying to find a flight that has a reasonable flight time. I mean you could decide:
"On July 1st I need to fly from Vienna to Santorini! Hmm well it looks like it has four stops and takes 20 hours to get there..."
Some might say that's not a great way to spend a day on your vacation- but hey you do you. A trick we picked up was using the airports codes.
Use airport codes to find better routes- typical codes are 3 letters i.e. JTR, VIE, SGN,LAX,JFK
Once you have the code, input them into your search engines and see what you can come up with. Once we knew we were flying from VIE- Vienna to JTR- Santorini we began our hunt for the flight- Laudamotion to the rescue. Laudamotion is a subsidiary of Ryan air (a budget airline) that flies around Europe. But one thing Laudamotion does right is having a direct flight from VIE to JTR. The only issue- there is only 1 or 2 flights... a week! So now the plan of "I got to be on Santorini on July 1st!" turned into "Looks like i'm going to Santorini on July 6th." Lesson of the day- don't book the hotel before the flight.
Here comes the next issue. Finding a flight from Santorini to Alsace. Same problem, 13 hour flight with two stops. You got to get creative, open a map feature and find what airports are near where you are trying to go. Some of the smaller airports sometimes have the flights. After looking around where to fly into from Santorini we came up with...nothing. All of the flights required multiple stops that took up too much valuable vacation time in the airport. Lewife began her flight plotting and eventually found a solution- fly from Mykonos Greece to... Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg. A smaller tri country airport in the south of the French Alsace region near the Swiss and German boarder. Now this trip was growing legs! So we added 2 days to our Greece adventure to explore Mykonos.
Budget Flight Story Time
We arrive at the Vienna airport ready to spend a few days in the warm sun of Greece. We check into the kiosk and make our way through security. 24 hours earlier we get an email requesting us to check in for the flight to confirm that we are still going on our trip. We do the customary online check in process and get a receipt. This is where the budget airline part really kicks in. In the email response it says this link is your boarding pass, if you want a physical boarding pass you must pay 55€ check in fee at the kiosk. 55€ for a piece of paper!
So after we decide not to purchase a boarding pass our phones became our virtual boarding pass. Typically this is fine since the smart phone is literally everything else- computer, phone, boombox, fax, laundromat you get the point. In order for us to get this amazing offer of not having to pay for a boarding pass, we needed to download the Laudamotion app.
One the "unique" qualities about the app was you only get 2 free hours with access to your boarding pass. 2 hours? Shouldn't be a problem, we don't look at the boarding pass after leaving anyway.
So right before we need to show the pass to security we upload the boarding pass, 2 hour countdown initiated. The incoming flight is late...obviously, and time is running down on the boarding pass. Lewife did the smart thing and took a screenshot of the boarding pass and saved it to her phone. I...forgot. The incoming flight arrives and we get in line to board the plane. I try to open the boarding pass on the app, and it says the timer has ended; have a nice flight. Well I haven't made it on the flight yet! I talk to the ticketing agent and tell them about the issue. The ticketing agent was getting bombarded with other issues- and when I told them about the boarding pass they said they didn't know what to do. "Ok, thanks for your wisdom and helpfulness." We walk in the line to get onto the plane and explain the same thing to the boarding agent. Again, they were distracted and didn't know what to do. To paint a better picture, the boarding process was more of a group of passengers barreling forward to get onto the flight than a calm and organized queue. The boarding agent told us to walk past them so that others can board the flight. So Lewife checked in, and I didn't. But hey, we were already past the boarding agent and they didn't care so we walked onto the flight. We had the tickets, paid for everything, this was just a computer error. Due to the budget airline business we weren't sitting together, Lewife was on the right side of the plane, I was on the left. I was sweating a little bit, wondering if a flight attendant would come and try to kick us off the flight. But none ever came. All checked bags were loaded into the plane and the engines turned on.
During this time Lewife was looking out the window. Something caught her eye. After all the checked bags were loaded, one was getting sent back out... our luggage. She hit the assistance button on the seat and talked with a flight attendant. She explained the issue about the boarding and that it looks like our bag was getting taken off the plane. The flight attendant told her that a lot of bags look alike and it wasn't ours. Lewife asked the flight attendant to check and see if it was our bag to make sure. The flight attendant wasn't interested and just tried to assure Lewife it wasn't our bag. Our bag was a bit distinctive- and had a plastic wrap around a grey hard shell- it was more noticeable than not. Since it didn't look like this attendant was helping, Lewife got out of her seat and spoke with the head flight attendant at the front of the plane. The head attendant said the same thing, but agreed to talk with the baggage handlers to see if it was ours.
Turned out it was...VINDICATION! Due to the bag being registered under my account, and due to me not "boarding" they removed the bag-for security reasons; or maybe for the absentee flier who gets too drunk in the bar before the flight and has their underwear sent to a destination they're not at. The bag was loaded back into the plane and we were now on our way to Santorini.
Santorini is a place that's completely unique to anywhere we've ever been. The topography is so unique with little villages perched on top cliffs. The major areas (Fira, Thera , Imerovigli) are all interconnected by one walkway on the top of the cliff. The whole island has a view. Whether you are looking at the volcano or the water this destination is unique to its own.
One of the most unique things about this location has got to be the cave hotel rooms.
With the limited amount of space, a skyscraper hotel is not a viable option for Santorini. When life give you mountains, you get cave rooms! or something like the life to lemon proverb. The cave room was different than any room we've stayed in before. It didn't feel claustrophobic as one might think being inside of a mountain. The room itself was large and had a lot of natural light (from the front of the room). Santorini was staggeringly hot(in July) in a hot desert dry type of heat. The cave room kept it's cool during the day but didn't get cold at night. It was a very nice reprieve from the heat. The cost of the room was expensive ( here is where hotel award points come into factor) but due to only being there for a few days, emptying our savings account, using all award points, and selling our first born we can say it was totally worth it.
The Stairs of Doom
As beautiful as Santorini is, there's something you might want to know before you pack a bag of stilettos- the streets/walkways is an intricate stairmaster! When we first arrived to the cliff-side hotel we were met by a bellhop who was assisting us with our luggage. Typically we don't need this service, but in Santorini we needed him to bring US down. The walkways are pebbled and have a slight incline everywhere you walk. To get to the cliff-side hotel we walked probably six flights of stairs to get to our destination. Arriving at the hotel was the "easy" part since we were able to walk down from the top of the cliff. Leaving the hotel was a workout that required multiple pit stops. While you may want to bring high heel shoes for those romantic sundown dinners- be mindful of the calf and glute workout that will proceed it...maybe leave for the restaurant 20 minutes in advance for the breaks.
What to do in Santorini?
The island is pretty small and it's manageable to see the entirety of the island within a few days. One of the MUSTS that was on our(Lewife's) list of things to do was a photo shoot. We are very accustomed to photo shoots at this point (Paris, Provence, Carmel) but Santorini has a photo shoot that is unique to Santorini- The Flying Dress
The title pretty much says it all. It's an extremely large dress that you manipulate while taking photos to give a flying effect. And yes, to answer your question this WAS a major pain walking up and down stairs with a tail on a dress that extended over 12 feet. But it's what you got to do for the shot am I right?
After our photo shoot we took the rental car around the rest of the island.
We went to the black sand beach in Perrisa- the sand boiled our feet but the water was nice and cool. There were store fronts along the water walkways, as well as expensive restaurants (you pay for the convenience).
After that we drove to the opposite side of the island to Oia. When we finally managed to park, we made our way into the village. Among the swarms of people from the cruise ship we saw similar sights, and similar souvenirs to our home base in Fira. We didn't stay very long after that.
In Fira there are cable cars in the center of the town that can bring you down to the port of Santorini. You also have the option of taking a donkey (or you could just walk it yourself) but it's quite a long trek.
For those that love to shop, Santorini has tons of options to fit your style. Mostly white fabric clothes come to think of it, but stores galore with interesting oddities to look at.
Ok now how was the Food?!
This is going to be a brief discussion on the food. It was alright...
Told you it was brief.
Santorini has a lot going for it. It is one of the most unique spots we've ever been to. The cliff side...everything, really took our breath away- or maybe that was the stairs. After our exploration around Santorini we continued our journey to Mykonos. See part two here!