I sat on a chalk-white step, sipping on a bottle of water and looking up at a piercing blue sky. Behind me, I heard the jingle of a chain of donkeys heading down the steps of the caldera toward the sapphire sea. Just like Instagram promised. Oia, a small village in the northwest corner of Santorini is simply stunning. Everything is vibrant, bright and clean.
As you know, I do love to photograph derelict places, graffiti-scrawled across alleyways and the grunge of city life, but I found none of that here. Every turn brought another postcard-worthy view. Picturesque is an understatement. And I found myself seeking the imperfections – the peeling paint, the grime, a discarded melting cone of gelato – but found little of any of this.
What I saw over and over again were designer jewellery shops, perfect blue pools dotted along the cliffs, pristine white churches, freshly-painted blue gates, cacti thriving under the sun and immaculate Greek salads.
At this time of year, mid-October, the tourist season was winding down, but shops were still open for a few more weeks, so we didn’t battle with the cruise ship crowds or queue for a seat when it was time for lunch. The weather was still hot but not scorching. Cats lounged in sunspots, barely moving but for a stretch and re-position.
And we made the most of it. This was a surprise trip for Jorge’s birthday, a trip with no plans, a trip for relaxing, for lazy walks, for late mornings, for sunsets and gelato and delicious food.
We spent mornings lying by the pool at Oia Suites (which was empty but for us) reading, listening to the slow flap of umbrellas and the trickle of pool water in the stillness of the day. A sparkling blue-grey Agean sea stretched off into the horizon, interrupted only by the volcanoes, the cliffs of smaller islands and the ships that looked like small bath toys sailing in the distance.
From our terrace at Oia Suites, we could see the white capital village of Fira – a four-hour walk down a dusty trail if you feel so inclined – perched on a black jagged cliff in the bend of the islands. Couples walked along occasionally, in hiking gear and sunglasses. And there was rarely a cloud in the sky, just the long fuzzy streaks of plane trails.
While the excitement of London life was welcome by the time we returned, we loved the five quiet and beautiful days we spent in this surreal paradise of a village.