Departing from the cruise ship on a tender at 8.30am, we had committed to explore before the heat became depleting. Up the Fira mountainside via a cable car that was less than mechanically reassuring in its jerking, screeching assault, we reached the top to be greeted by the unmistakable stench of donkey dung!
A mission to locate a pharmacist quickly achieved (aloe vera for burnt bits and a potion to combat ‘holiday tummy’) and we left a disappointingly littered and graffitied main road to explore the promised white-washed iconic Greek buildings snuggling up along winding cobbled streets.
And, it was lovely – really lovely. The picture postcard-perfect cobalt-blue sky and turquoise Aegean sea combined to provided the perfect backdrop to this beautiful village of vibrant white homes gently sprawling down the mountain-side to meet the water – just idyllic. However, the thing about cruising is that you only ever get to have time for a quick snapshot of a visit. For us, with our family-wide food obsession, our plans for each port inevitably focus on the identification of a restaurant for lunch. Not for us the long coach trips visiting historical monuments or being shepherded around places of interest by a militant with a lollipop. We’ve firmly cast aside any thoughts of cultural exploration in favour of food…every time! Sorry, but there it is and I’ve given up feeling bad about our lack of cultural curiosity!
So, lunch followed a morning of relaxed meandering through bougainvillea-decorated narrow and winding cobbled streets of artisan shops, tempting us to part with our Euros. Homemade Greek jewellery, hand-blown glass ornaments (picked up a rather lovely albeit large piece for home) jostled with tee-shirts and sneakers printed to order (some rather rude!), core ingredients for every Greek-kitchen and all manner of sweet delicacies guaranteed to expand the waistline (my downfall will surely be homemade baklava). Oh, and what is the Greek obsession with male sex organs and the scary sizes to which they produce wooden versions doubling as corkscrews?!
Moving on. Hot but breezy, our morning of browsing culminated in an al fresco lunch on the mountainside overlooking the sea – the warm breeze and delicious cold local white wine were great accompaniments to a fabulous light lunch, the star of which was John’s choice of a prawn risotto with Pernod (a dish that I have since replicated successfully and blogged).
Back down the mountain in the cable car (after queuing in the sizzling heat for an age) and our view is that we must come back to this little group of volcanic islands for a proper holiday and that we should do it before it is ruined by the hoards of tourists being regularly disemboweled from cruise ships (9,000 in one day when four of them turn up at the same time!)