A Sunset Serenade for Santorini

I stare at the heavens. I don’t gaze. I stare with eyes wide open and lips parted, gasping to breathe in the colorful air of this sunset as if I could take in the magic of this sky. I am lost in an aww moment. Suddenly, I reach down the back pocket of my jeans […]

I stare at the heavens. I don’t gaze. I stare with eyes wide open and lips parted, gasping to breathe in the colorful air of this sunset as if I could take in the magic of this sky. I am lost in an aww moment.

Suddenly, I reach down the back pocket of my jeans frock for my smartphone with perspired palms – it’s hot in August on Thira.

Click, click, click, I tap obsessively, aiming what’s supposed to be a good camera at the stunning-beyond-words display above the seas and nothing seems to work. The digital capture is pitiful. It looks blurry and weak, void of substance and plain. Where is my Monet when I need him?

“Cheap piece of crap!” I hear myself saying, and I regret the words in an instance. It’s as if my voice spoils the colors of the sunset with a high-pitched, creaky tone.

In the distance, the Aegean crushes its waves against the soaring cliffs of the caldera, and I reach out to a glass of Vinsanto resting on a small table next to my sunbed. I am thinking about how fortunate I am to enjoy this blissfully quiet moment with my husband in the privacy of our terrace at Santo Maris resort in Oia, ever so grateful that my mom took Paul-Jules, my baby boy, out for a donkey ride this evening.

“I am free in paradise,” I am thinking out loud and giggle.

My husband looks at me smiling his dimpled smile, then turns his eyes back to the fairytale in the sky. I look up too and I imagine pixies flying. It must be the Vinsanto, or the couple of cocktails I had after lunch… Or I could keep an open mind and embrace this sunset like it truly is: that life-defining moment when being a late riser suddenly makes sense.

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Yes, rise late if you want to enjoy Oia’s sunset like a child. You’ll need to take your sweet time finding the best spot, and you will face the madness of the crowds if you are not booking a premium location like Santo Maris (which is wonderfully close to the Sunset Serenade point). But the spectacle lasts – granted, a generous couple of hours – or more.

We did watch it like tourists the first day we arrived. It’s hard to understand the hundreds marching up to Oia’s Sunset Serenade point. They are loud and sweaty by the time they reach the perfect spot. They are off-putting chatty if you care for such things. I don’t. But my husband complains with a bass whisper:

“Could they be any louder?”

“They speak in tongues,” Grandma would say if she were alive because it is hard to understand them. Awws, and wows, and oh-my-gods come through, as loud as day, but the rest of their conversations are lost in a Babel soup of idioms.

Yet the hubbub ceases at unison the moment the sky turns amber-yellow-and-red, and the sea below is a reverie of violet waves with silver-glossy whipped-cream crowns. Oia’s postcard-pretty dwellings glitter in new shades of gold under the firmament and patches of magenta bougainvillea against the walls make the view indescribably beautiful. No wonder that the tourists cluster around the high vantage points of the village to see as much of this spectacle as they can.

When we see the sunset the second day from the peaceful terrace at Santo Maris in front of our suite, the dream gets even better, because we both love solitude. That evening, for a moment, I thought that Vinsanto tastes like the sunset, but the next morning, when I bit into a Santorini tomato at breakfast, I changed my mind: the tomatoes taste like Oia’s sunsets. They do. Or I’ve never had a real tomato in my life. Ever. Even the tomatoes I grow in my garden don’t come close to this medley of delightfully fruity, savory, and earthy, colorful flavors.

But how do you share the experience of a sunset that gets better and better every time you raise your eyes to the sky? Our third day caught us in Finikia: Paul-Jules wanted another donkey ride, and we were anxious to see something new.

Unlike busy-touristy Oia, Finikia is calm and unassuming, not so self-absorbed, and although it does have some traditional Cycladic homes, it looks more like an unfinished urban project because of many villas under construction that come in sight like eyesores. Heck, most of the island looks like that – I guess it’s an effect of the tourist boom. But even the ugly abodes under construction cannot take the poetry out of the most unbelievable sunsets on Earth. And who knows? Maybe when we see Finikia again, these homes too will look like gems dropped by the Gods of Greece in their flight above the Aegean.

We also caught a glimpse of the sunset from the donkey steps to the old port of Naoussa close to our departure – yes, we had a thing for donkeys during this trip; after all, we travel with a child. We had a romantic sunset cruise, and we watched the sun setting from the terrace of Argo Restaurant in Fira. Somehow, we ticked all the boxes to an imaginary “best places to watch the sunset on Santorini” list. And every sunset of Santorini was different and more spectacular every single time.

I wonder what I would do if I were 20 years younger? Would I love the place as much without more nightlife and bars? Now all I want is to go back for more sunset cruises, and for more sunsets from a private terrace with a Vinsanto glass in my hand. My little boy is one year older now, and he still talks about the sunsets. The donkeys were fine, but they were “smelly with sad eyes.” He wants his sunsets back, he wants to paint them, and he’ll probably capture their magic with innocent artistry. There are childhood dreams in the skies of Oia at dusk, and my little Monet is ready for another adventure.

“You have to pack my easel next time, Mommy!”
Paul-Jules says, and I smile nodding. I know exactly what he means.


Travel notes:

Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa is one of the best places to stay for idyllic sunsets far from the tourist hubbub.
Mama Thira Tavern overlooks the caldera and is perfect for romantic dinners with sunset views.
Book a sunset cruise with Sunset Oia to see the island from a distance glowing like a jewel under the colorful skies.

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