Oia, Santorini, Greece

We set our alarms for 5:30am and left our Athens apartment way earlier than we would ever want to, puffy eyes yet full hearts. We really don’t have an extraordinary amount of items to our name, but we’ve certainly got more and more used to these travel days where we pack up the night before (after having exploded all of our belongings all over the place the moment we arrive anywhere) and then throw those bags on our backs and chests and ready ourselves for the next destination, the next adventure. I want to remember this time where we were so optimistic, so carefree, so excited about every day and what the next days would hold. I hope Robbie and I are always like this— eager to just be in the moment, passionate about the sky, the trees, the wind, brilliantly excited about the way travel and even regular everyday life ebbs and flows in its unique ways.

We walked to Monastiraki station, got on board the green line running to Piraeus Port, about a half hour journey, and stood in a long line to pick up the tickets we reserved for our ferry to Santorini. The morning was still black when we exited the metro station and walked to the port. We quickly realized the “ferry” we were taking was easily more comparable to a cruise line. Neither of us had ever been on a ship that large. I mean, come on! We entered the ship via an escalator on board! Amazing! We found our assigned seats pretty quickly, thankful to have a spacious row and very cushiony chairs next to large windows as we began to watch the sun rise on the Aegean. The ship left the port at 7:25am. We grabbed fresh orange juices (they squeezed it in front of us!) and this baked item that essentially looked like a breadstick with sesame seeds all over it and feta cheese inside from one of the many cafes on board. These “sesame sticks” were found all over Athens, so it must be a Greek thing. So so good. The ferry journey was a total of 8 hours! So it was a long day. We spent a significant amount of time sleeping, reading our Bibles or playing cards with each other.

It was 3:30pm when we finally docked in Santorini. We, along with a thousand other people, made our way down into the large empty “garage” of the basement of the boat and waited to exit onto the island. It took ages to find our taxi driver we had arranged through our airbnb because of the crowd of people, but we found each other and had a two hour journey due to traffic from the port and our taxi driver going out of the way to grab gas and air up his tires. haha The driver was a Greek guy from Athens. After much conversation, he told us he’s an electrical engineer by trade but due to the state of Greece’s economy, there was no work for him anymore. So he took this taxi driver position in Santorini for a month of temporary work until the next odd job will present itself. It breaks our hearts. Here we are getting driven to our beautiful stay on the Aegean Sea, while this sweet man provides for his family (working 7 days a week he told us) so he can hopefully go back to Athens soon. We have to be praying for these people across the world. There are countless people in these situations. What a beautiful thing though, that he has work, in any form. We praise Jesus for his life and work ethic. As we drove, we soon discovered the island of Santorini is not pretty. It looks like a flat desert wasteland. It’s all brown, barely any homes or businesses, and almost appears to be an abandoned island of dirt, no grass. We passed several wineries and their vineyards. The vines looked so sad and dry, like they’d been scorched by a long summer heat and were fruitless. In fact it was so much this way that Robbie and I were a little confused if we had come to the right place. This was not what the pictures make this island out to be. Even up until our driver parked the van, we weren’t convinced. Our host walked us up a little passageway, maybe 30 feet closer to the sea side and suddenly everything came into view. The white-washed homes and shops, the cobblestone street and alleys, the blue shutters and roofs that are stacked up the side of the cliff with the blue Aegean and a volcano island in the foreground. But wow! This iconic view is not the whole story of Santorini. This is just one area of the town of Oia (pronounced “EEYUH”). How crazy is that? You’d never know what a very small area this common bucket-list destination actually takes up.

Our place was tiny, but perfect. We winded down the cliff side, opened a blue gate and down some stone steps to our private terrace and bedroom (the terrace was bigger than the bedroom itself, which only had room for a bed and a sink and a bit of walking room around the bed!). Our bathroom was a room outside of the bedroom, requiring entry from a separate outside door. But none of this bothered us. We were so stoked to be there, even amidst the exhaustion of a 10 hour travel day. We could hardly believe we had been in Athens that morning, it had felt like such a long time ago. It was almost 6pm, we excitedly walked up to the main (and only) shopping street and found a supermarket about 300 feet away. We grabbed some cheerios, bananas and milk (we laughed about milk being called “NoyNoy” in Greek. We’ll be calling milk noynoy from now on of course), brought it back and had the best, most satisfying cereal dinner (I’m being serious. Robbie and I love cereal, so this really was awesome to us.) while watching one of the most beautiful sunsets of our lives. The white homes glowed soft pink as the sky reflected off of them. We were happy, content, rejoicing. We watched the remaining sailboats and small motorboats in our bay drift over beyond the cliffside, presumably to chase the remaining light of the evening, leaving soft grey trails in the water as they sailed away. We are nowhere near immune to these brilliant hours where God displays His glory in such a way that leaves us in awe of Him, His dazzling creation, His talent. We will never tire of holding hands (Robbie sweetly rubbing my thumb with his thumb as he squeezes my hand in his), and worshipping God with our awe.

Oia ended up being one of our very favorite places we’ve been so far. The romance of our small villa, waking to the sunrise most days at 7:15am, and walking right out of our room to an uninhibited view of the sea, the cliffs, the slow and quiet town. Our mornings were consistently made up of cereal eating at the edge of the terrace, reading our Bibles and sharing what we’re learning and what God is teaching us, grabbing smoothies from a cafe down the way and bringing them back down to our place. We never wanted to leave this little plot we called our own. I don’t know how many times we said, “I love it here” throughout our five days there, but we really did. I want to write to future Chase that may read these in years to come, wondering if I really appreciated this adventure the way I should have, and say this: We truly are so thankful, so present, so full. I have never spent less time communicating with people back home— with full intention and dedication to prioritizing communicating with Robbie and my Heavenly Father the most. I’ve realized that relationships back home will be there and last, if they’re as strong as I believe and know they are. But I will never have this season of my life back, and I’m putting everything I have into what’s right in front of me. I still adore taking photos, as I know I always will, capturing to the best of my ability what these precious moments truly looked like and felt like. I love sharing them on instagram with the people I love the most and even scrolling through and seeing all the wonderful moments my loved ones are experiencing back home or somewhere else. But my heart hurts at the thought that spending any extraordinary amount of time online or writing time-consuming letters back to people would keep me from a moment with God or Robbie. Somehow God has truly blessed me with a lack of homesickness, although Robbie and I agree we would be more than fine to return tomorrow, if God called us back. It’s not so much that I don’t miss home, as it is that I am so certain we are where the Lord has asked us to be that I can’t put myself in a different mindset right now.

We tried out a Greek restaurant with traditional dishes one day for lunch with another unique perspective of the sea and homes from our table. I had a dish called “pork cooked in a pot” (haha so straightforward) that was so tender and sat on top of rice cooked in beer and honey. Amazing! And Robbie had the Greek’s version of lasagna called pasticchio. Great too! We wandered the length of the main street in both directions, looking into the many shops—both touristy shops and other more local shops. We found some amazing hill top views, a couple different tiny squares with churches, and a garden. But most moments of the day, we just wanted to be right on our little porch, admiring it all, talking and snacking on fruit from the supermarket.

Greece is infamous for stray cats wandering the streets, and this Greek Island is no exception. There really are friendly cats roaming all over. Our particular home had a regular who we named Daniel (lovingly coming to call him Danny by the end of the week) before we realized Daniel was a girl. But her name really stuck so we didn’t change it. Right away we realized Danny was consistently going and finding food, whether a random cherry tomato or a piece of pasta we assume she found under a table somewhere, bringing it back and jumping over our terrace edge and down into the dirt. We peered over to find a litter of seven kittens!! Three were Danny’s color—sort of a brown and grey calico, and four were the cutest light orange. Oh my!! My heart!! They were so precious, most of the time cuddled together, some on top of one another, cozy and sleeping. I was obsessed from the get go. I needed to hold these kittens!! But the edge of our terrace was about 2 feet higher than my arm length if I were to just lean over it and try to pick one up. So it became my mission to figure out how to get down there and grab one. But they were just so so darn scared of me. On several occasions I embarrassingly climbed over, full body, to get to them but each time, without fail, they fled so hurriedly down the hill into a mess of bushes at the first sound of me coming. There was no way. Robbie is deathly allergic to cats. It really is almost an immediate reaction. His eyes become bloodshot, puff up, drip tears from how watery they get, and he’ll be sneezing for an hour. So you can imagine how much he hates cats, which really is sad for me (pity party starting now) because cats are like the only animal I really like and it pretty much means I can’t even hold them or pet them due to having their hair on me and then being around Robbie. haha But this is actually all to say how sweet sweet sweet my husband is. He totally tolerated Danny (even coming to really love her. My mom would understand this.. my dad never liked animals really either, and certainly not cats, but kindly let her get a cat years ago and eventually he sort of came around to her—maybe even *gasp* liking her. hahaha Even though neither my dad nor Robbie (with Danny) would like to admit this). Anyway, Danny was a great cat who wasn’t the needy kind who is always trying to eat whatever food you have, jumping up on your table or even rubbing against your legs every second. She just laid near us most days, sometimes in the sunshine, other times in the shade. We’d feed her some noynoy occasionally and I just thought she was the sweetest. And even Robbie would get worried about Danny when she wouldn’t come back to our place at the same time she was usually back by in the evenings after an hour or two of hunting down food. It was adorable. Then one night Danny came back and her kittens did their usual gathering right next to the terrace wall waiting to be fed and they were all adorably meowing away in their baby kitten voices and I heard one jump up on this air conditioning box outside just beneath our bedroom window. It was past dark and I think these kittens can’t see perfectly in the darkness just yet, so she didn’t know I was reaching down to her. I grabbed an adorable orange one and Robbie ended up grabbing a calico one that did the same thing and we let them run around on the terrace together. Poor things were so terrified though. After I played with them and held them for half an hour, it was better to put them back with their siblings, but it was still a fun little adventure for me. haha

The only way you can get down to a tiny swimming beach in Oia is if you walk down 280 non-level cobblestone steps. This is quite time consuming and hadn’t seemed too appealing to us in the days preceding, since we just loved our space so much as it was and we have had plenty of beach time in the last couple of months. But we figured we are only here once, so we should probably make the journey. So we walked over to the steps and had a nice walk down with the bay coming into view. There were a few local expensive fresh-catch fish restaurants right along the water (that we ultimately decided were too expensive to eat at) that we walked through to arrive at this rocky shore line that we needed to traverse around a corner to get to the swimming area. We found it and the water was unbelievably clear, as every body of water we have encountered on this trip so far has been. I hadn’t worn my swimsuit down, but rather, just wanted to enjoy watching Robbie out there. I sat on this concrete wall dangling my legs just above the sea line. This wall was built to allow for people to sit on because there’s technically no beach, per say, here. No sand shore. Just a cliff edge towering behind us and this concrete wall with concrete steps down into the sea. Directly ahead was an enormous boulder in the water, with another concrete slab put in to allow for adventurists to jump from. Daring Robbie swam over to it, climbed up and went for the jump. He, along with a few others who did it also, were telling me how scary this jump really is because the water you’re jumping into is so clear that you see everything you may potentially hit (i.e. other big rocks beneath the surface, the fish and even sea urchins). But he jumped three times and it was so fun to watch. The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cool. Robbie dried off while I talked to some girlfriends in their late twenties who were traveling from Alabama together. They didn’t really know each other before this trip to Greece, but were acquaintances that wanted to travel. Different, but cool!

We walked back to the bay where the 300 steps emptied out at to make the dreaded journey back up. We had heard you could ride donkeys up these stairs but didn’t see any donkeys and didn’t know who to ask. As our feet hit the very first step, there were these two older Greek men sitting near the steps that called out to us, “Donkeys?” hahaha and we were like, “yes!” and after a sketchy and odd interaction with them, giving them 10 euros total, one of the men led us up three or four steps to where he had a bunch of donkeys tied up. We hopped on and had one of the funniest, most memorable experiences of the trip. Hilarious! These donkeys were strong and were nearly racing each other at times. It was nerve-wracking! Robbie and I both were laughing so much, making the people walking up or down the stairs around us laugh a ton too. It was great! Robbie’s donkey was huge and dark brown. Mine was a littler guy, a light brown-grey with the prettiest colorful rug and saddle on him. They both had the funniest high-pitched bells ringing on them with every step. All of a sudden, in less than 6-ish minutes we had already reached the top of this enormous hill. The guy who sold this trip to us had ridden his donkey behind us, yelling, “donkey” in his Greek accent the whole way up trying to get our donkeys to behave themselves. Man, we got off of them laughing about how it was the best use of 5 euros we’d ever spent. hahaha Such a great memory. We went and grabbed an amazing (and huge) kebab gyro from a local shop and brought it back to our terrace for our last sunset. Everything was brilliant and wonderful. And for a grand finale, after a week of perfect sunshine and still skies, the clouds rolled in just as the sun was almost gone and it poured rain. Robbie and I stood beneath our wide, heavy canvas patio umbrella as the rain beat down from above. The sky was a perfect hue of dusty magenta, spilling rain down onto the reflective sea. We watched the sea splash with precipitation, the air nearly silent except for the melodic pitter patter around us. We loved watching our last night fade away with a small storm. It felt romantic and right. We held hands under the umbrella and played some worship music. We felt glad and grateful, blessed for sure.

I’ll never forget our afternoon walks through the town, our daily sunset talks for hours and smoothie runs, our kitten escapades, the delicious Greek food, and the incredible Aegean Sea. God is good. We couldn’t have been more pleased with Greece. (and if you’re wondering.. we do truly feel that Oia is worth the trip, even if most of the island of Santorini isn’t picturesque. you just have the get the right place to stay at, because then you’ll never want to leave). We left at sunrise our last morning and said goodbye to some of the most stunning views we will likely ever have outside our front door again. ❤