When we left the tendered ship at eight in the morning, we had no idea what we were going to do. This ended up being the best thing we could have done. Arriving at the docks at the bottom of Fira, Santorini, we had two options: take the tram up the steep mountain side or travel up the traditional way, by donkey. From here, there were charters going to Oia and other parts of the island, depending on what a person wanted to do. The boardwalk was small, and other cruise ship passengers were arriving, so we hurried to decide how we would get to the capital village.
Baba had ridden a donkey before and didn’t like it, so she took the modern tram to the left; Julianna and I wanted to experience the donkey ride up to Fira, since we had never ridden one before. Julianna and I followed the sign with the donkey. We paid five euros each (Baba said the tram was five euros as well) and waited for the men to help us onto our donkeys (mine was actually a mule). The cruise staff had told cruise guests to stay away from riding the donkeys because of the controversies surrounding their animal rights (PEETA is all over that).
The donkeys were wearing traditional costumes, each with jingle bells. The leader would shout in Greek at the donkeys every time they would go astray. It was harsh, yet still somehow melodic. Mostly the donkeys knew what to do. The donkeys swayed back and forth, climbing the steps to the top, stepping over manure from past excursions. It wasn’t uncomfortable, and it was nice to look around at the surrounding cliff side.
When we reached the top, we had to walk further uphill to reach Baba at the tram car. She had gotten there faster than we had, and had done some souvenir shopping. We started the day wandering the streets and taking photos, stopping for drinks at a restaurant to refresh ourselves.
The restaurant overlooked the sea far below. We could see our ship as well as others, tendered nearby. The sea was so blue. The mountainside where little Fira stretched was pastel coloured. I ordered watermelon juice, freshly made, and it was yummy.
The town had lots of beautiful shops with excellent prices. We all bought a thing or two, I picked up a cotton dress, white and crisp, from one of their 100% white cotton stores. The streets were hilly, and the steps up and down were only made for walking. If you have difficulty with mobility, this place would be challenging, if not impossible.
When we grew tired again, we stopped for lunch at another cliff side restaurant called Idol. It was the best place we had eaten at thus far in Greece. We were down, third level from the top, overlooking the same sea side. I focused my attention this time on the other nearby islands, one of which was a volcano. There were many advertisements for volcano tours.
At lunch, we shared many different breads with many types of dips, including Tzatziki and mashed olive. We also split a traditional Greek salad, as well as pork gyro. I had the fresh pressed banana juice, which was even better than the watermelon, to drink.
The best part of the day had to have been when we stopped for a pedicure. It wasn’t an ordinary pedicure, it was very unique. It was the best I had ever had, and it was done entirely by fish. These “doctor fish” or Garra Rufa, take all the dead skin from your feet (or other parts of your body) by sucking it off. They don’t have teeth so it doesn’t hurt. It was really ticklish at first, but after five minutes I got sort of used to it and it actually felt like a vibrating massage. There were many fish in the tank, varying greatly in size.
Before slipping our feet in the tanks, we had to wash off all oils and lotions from our feet and legs. A man scrubbed off everything else with a towel to make sure they were really clean. Then he took us to the little chairs elevated above the tanks and put our feet into the glass square tanks with at least a hundred fish who immediately began nibbling away eagerly at our calluses. My feet never felt so refreshed. After, my heels which had been rough felt so baby smooth. It was only 10 euros for 15 minutes.
When it came time to leave, there was a very long line for the lift down, and we were not waiting for the tram. I insisted we take the donkeys, but Baba was stubborn and decided to walk to the bottom, even after I had paid for her. Julianna and I took the Donkeys. The ride down wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the ride up, but it was an experience nonetheless. Baba luckily had help from a kind-hearted Royal Caribbean crew member that also had been walking down.
In the evening on the ship, we got ready for a buffet supper. I tried Bananas Foster for the first time for dessert. It was scrumptious. I had it with vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips, making for one of the most amazing desserts I have ever had. We watched the sun set slowly on the ocean that night. It was a day full of many firsts, and I had enjoyed every one of them.