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To Donkey or Not to Donkey, That is the Question

Tuesday, May 29th, and we are up at the crack of dawn AGAIN to get ready for our excursion in Santorini, Greece.  We pull in to anchor (we will be tendering over to Santorini), and the scenery is amazing.  There are gorgeous white washed buildings, brilliant blue roofs, amazing blue-green ocean – this is like walking into a post card.

We head up to the breakfast buffet and meet Russell, who is going with us on this excursion.  Dot is going to relax and order room service – now THAT’S a vacation – none of this up with the roosters nonsense!!   We meet our group in the Rendezvous Lounge and we head to the tender that will take us to the bus.  Once on the bus, we climb the mountain to the top of the village of Pyrgos, and we are allowed out to take pictures of what I am certain is a stunning scene below.  Unfortunately, the top of the mountain is covered in clouds and fog, and we can barely see anything. 

The bus takes us back to the center of Pyrgos, and our walking tour begins.  Everything here is built into the sides of a mountain, so where in your neighborhood, to get to your neighbors’ homes you walk straight down the block, in Pyrgos, you climb up the sometimes steep steps.  We wander through the neighborhood, coming across a man and his donkey.  He will let you take a picture of him and his donkey for whatever you want to pay him.  I fork over a Euro or two and have a nice picture of a stereotypical Greek man on his even more stereotypical Greek donkey. 

The tour guide tells us about the devastation the island of Santorini has suffered over the years at the hands of a volcano, and she tells us that people back in the 50’s just up and left when the volcano last erupted.  We can see the remnants of homes destroyed by the volcano, and she points out homes that have been restored to their original splendor.

There are enough Churches here for you to attend a different one nearly every day of the year.  The thing is, most of them are privately owned homes now.  Even so, if you make one of these Churches your home, you agree to celebrate the feast day of the saint for whom your Church is named by calling in the local priest to say Mass and inviting anyone in who wants to come to celebrate.  In Pyrgos alone, there are only 300 full time residents and 30 Churches. 

Our walking tour concludes as we go past the big Church in Pyrgos – completely white washed with a brilliant blue roof.  A crowd is gathering outside the Church and branches are being thrown on the ground, lining a pathway up to the Church.  We never find out what the celebration is, but it seems to be attracting just about all 300 of Pyrgos’ residents.

We load back into the bus and take a short ride to the Pyrgos Tavern, where we are served a plate that contains a sampling of various Greek specialties.  Much of it is fried or has bread, which I don’t eat anymore, but I do take at least a small taste of everything.  The goat cheese is especially good, and the small bit of what looks like crostini is very good as well.  Brighid eats just about everything on her plate – Russell doesn’t even take a plate.  He says he has had Greek food before and doesn’t like it, but this isn’t the Greek food we get back home.  It really is very tasty.

Our tour ends with the bus heading back to the village of Fira.  This is where the shops and restaurants are, so we spend some time wandering around.  We find a great shop where they are selling fresh olive oils and vinegars, and I order some to be shipped home.  I also bought Granuaile a little embroidered blouse, which is so cute.

We know it’s coming eventually, but now we gotta face it.  Once you are tendered over to Santorini and dropped off by bus, you have to get off of Santorini Island.  There are 3 ways to do that.  The first way is cable car.  It looks like a ride from Disney, only straight down the mountain at a very steep incline, heading towards the water.  The second way is donkey.  Yes, I said donkey.  You sit on the donkey, and the donkey walks down dozens of steep steps, eventually getting you to the bottom, hopefully in one piece.  No one guides the donkey – you just sit down and it goes at it’s own pace.  The third way is to walk yourself down the donkey steps, walking in whatever the donkeys have left behind on the journey up and down the steps all day long.  Hmmmm.  Which way do we go?   Do we risk the donkey?   People say you will smell badly after the donkey, and the steps are very steep, and I don’t want to be tossed off of a donkey, into the piles of donkey poop, and roll all the way to the bottom.  I also do not want to walk down the steps alongside the donkeys.  The cable car looks very scary.  Brighid is terrified.

We elect the cable car as the lesser of three evils, and we patiently wait our turn to ride.  Brighid is writing out her will, saying the rosary, bowing towards Mecca, offering her soul to Satan – she is chancing nothing.  She feels certain we will all fall to our deaths before we ever reach the tender back to the Millenium.  It actually turns out not that bad.  It’s a very quick ride, but you don’t feel the steep-ness of it.  You get the impression standing there that it’s like a roller coaster kind of thing, but you certainly don’t feel that sinking feeling in your stomach.  And it’s over so quickly, you don’t even get the chance to die from the heart attack you think you are going to have when you take this thing.  Much safer than the donkeys.

After tendering back to the ship, we head up for lunch.  It’s late in the day, so we don’t eat much, knowing dinner is coming.  After a leisurely lunch, I check my email.  Yay!   I got one from Jim and the girls!!

The options for dinner tonight are open seating in the restaurant or a Greek buffet poolside.  We figure we’ll do dinner in the dining room, and then wander out to the buffet to see what’s cooking.  Dinner is great, and no one is hungry enough for the Greek buffet, but we browse anyway.  There is no place to sit outside, even with all the extra seating they have put in place, so we just wander around, look and smell, and head back in.  They did have all kinds of cheeses, a whole lamb on a spit, shish kebabs, olives galore, and a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t identify, but we were so full.

There is no live show tonight, since we are in Santorini late (we are here until 11 PM), but there is a movie in the theater.  We go see Firewall with Harrison Ford.  Pretty good!

Off to bed, and we can sleep in a little late tomorrow since our tour leaves later.  Yahoo!!

It’s been a long day, but we just keep seeing these amazing sites.  As tired as we are, we can’t wait for the next port!

Monday May 28th – Our First Sea Day

Ah, a day to relax, sleep in, hit the pool, relax, read my book….

We are up at the crack of dawn, and wait patiently until we can go to breakfast and not look like midnight buffet stragglers.  A small portion of hash and eggs for me, with a slice of cheese on the side.

They put in your room every night a schedule of events for the next day, and we’ve highlighted a few things we’d like to try to squeeze in.  After lingering over a cup of tea, we headed off for the cooking demonstration.  The chef is the French Chef from the specialty restaurant on board the ship – The Olympic.  The dish today is shrimp wrapped in parma ham, sauteed, with a dessert of zabaglione.  Brighid is swooning over the chef – who is cute, with a dry sense of humor (gotta like that in a man).  He could be making rat on a stick and Brighid is going to love it.

They pass around pieces of the sauteed shrimp – the flavor is very nice, but it’s a little overcooked for my taste.  Dot is disappointed that they don’t pass the dessert, but zabaglione is not my favorite dessert, and I can’t eat it anyway, so I’m good with skipping the second course.

It’s just about lunch time, so we head up to the buffet.  The soup selections here are limited to one, and it’s usually not great.  But, I can usually eat something like a piece of chicken or beef or pork and be satisfied with that, and I think the choice today was pork.

After lunch, we head to the shopping lecture from Jennifer – the onboard shopping expert.  She knows everything about where to shop everywhere.  She mentions someplace in Santorini that has candied nuts, so we plan to add that to our excursion free time to see if they have Jordan almonds or chocolate covered cashews for Dot.

Jennifer goes on for quite a while, and it is approaching 2:30, which is when Dot and I are going to the make-up demonstration and Brighid and Russell are going to swing dance lessons.  The lighting isn’t very good for the poor girl doing the makeup demonstrations, but she does have some nice products, and after she is finished, we make appointments for Brighid and Dot to get made over on the next at sea day, which is a formal night. 

We rejoin Brighid and Russell, who has two left feet, according to his granddaughter, and we lounge around during tea time in the Cova coffee bar.  We enjoy a cup of tea and a few tea sandwiches and pastries, and then decide to skip dinner in the dining room in favor of the buffet so we can go see a movie in the theater.  The movie is The Producers, and I wanted to see it on Broadway, so I’m up for it.

When we arrive upstairs at 5 for the buffet, we find out that the casual dining is by reservation only, but you can still get pasta from the pasta bar, and they are setting up a sushi bar, which won’t be open until 5:30.  Russ and Dot hit the pasta bar, and Brighid follows, but before too long, it’s 5:30, and Brighid and I both hit the sushi bar.  I eat the fish off of the top of some of the rolls and enjoy a hot cup of shrimp miso soup.  They had this same set up at least a few of the other nights – it was a nice variation on the regular buffet.

We headed down to the theater to see the movie.  It was funny, but I was so tired, I caught myself dozing more than a few times.  It was so hard to stay awake.  The movie starred both Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the roles they played on Broadway, so convinced myself it was just like seeing the real thing – only cheaper 😉   Maybe that allowed me to fall asleep, because I hope if I had paid $100 or more to see them on Broadway, I would have been able to stay awake.

After the movie, it was time for the main seating show, which tonight is called “I Love the Nightlife”.  It stars the performance group from the ship – singers and dancers – and it is very lively and really good.  We all completely enjoyed it. 

After the show, we headed back to our room and Brighid and I ordered a last night snack of chicken soup, a cheese plate and a fruit plate. We watched a little TV then fell asleep.  We have another early day tomorrow!