Santorini, a final resting place for Mom

There is only one reason I went to Santorini. Mom had asked for her ashes to be left there. She first went there in the 80’s with her sister in law. Every summer Mom and Brenda went island hopping in Greece. She fell in love with Santorini. And so did I.

Oia

Oia Santorini

Windmill Santorini

Windmill Santorini

After just over a year since she passed away, I finally decided it was time to take Mom ‘home’. Just before she died she told me she wasn’t sure that she wanted ‘it’ to be Santorini. I think she was worried that it had changed from what she had remembered. And she had since travelled to so many other places she loved. Dalyan, Turkey being one.mom dalyan by the river

After she died, I was not sure where she really wanted to be, her partner and I thought Dalyan and my daughter suggested we took her to all the places she had travelled to. A lovely idea yet limited by money, I was not sure I could fit in Thailand, Egypt, Greece, Malta, Menorca,Turkey, Hong Kong, and goodness knows where else she had visited.

Approaching Santorini by sea

Approaching Santorini by sea

I had three overseas holidays last year and took a little bit of Mom to two of those destinations and one in the UK. I may have broken a Turkish law but I knew she loved it here.Dalyan

And I found the perfect place in Malta too.  I chose Marsaxlokk as it is a colourful village that hosts a lively Sunday market, and no one loved a good market better than my mom. Only after I had scattered her ashes I realised that the curtains hanging in a little house overlooking the spot where I left her are identical to the ones my mother had in her home.

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Mom had also been an actress and one of her very last proper outings was to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see The Tempest. I thought she may enjoy being here, in the shadow of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

In the shadow of The Royal shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

In the shadow of The Royal shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

As time went on, I knew I really needed closure and in my heart I knew I had to take her to Santorini.Oia Santorini

We could only get flights to Crete at this time of the year, yet I was pretty sure that we would be able to get to Santorini from there, by boat. As it was it turned out that the fast ferries were not running until 17 April and we flew home in the early hours of 18 April. At that point I was thinking I would only get a day trip to Santorini and have to spend the rest of the week on Crete.

I was not prepared to give up and with the help of a brilliant travel agent, Paleologos, in Heraklion, planned an itinerary that got us to Santorini on the 15 April via Piraeus. We would be leaving Santorini on the first fast ferry on the 17 April at 6pm, with plenty of time to get our flight at 1am on the 18th. Cutting it fine, and the Sea Cats don’t run if the weather is windy. Ah well I had taken out insurance and enhanced it to cover unexpected events, given our history of holiday almost disasters. If the weather made us stay longer in Greece, so be it.

It also meant that we would get an unexpected bonus of visiting The Acropolis in Athens.The Acropolis

Mom had made her first journey in Greece from Piraeus in 1980 when she travelled solo, flying to Athens and then getting a ferry to Rhodes. She loved Piraeus and the bustle of getting on and off ferries, so I was pretty sure she had had some influence on these plans. She was going to get her last bit of island hopping in before settling on Santorini.Santorini

A twitter friend recommended accommodation in Santorini. What a find! Affordable, comfortable and the owners, Katerina and Nectarios treated us like family rather than guests. And Katerina is a fantastic baker. We didn’t want to leave.Katerina

Santorini has an reputation for being expensive, and yes there are some places that are eye wateringly pricey, yet it is still possible to visit and enjoy Santorini on a modest budget.

We were based in Fira, the capital, but I had an inkling that it was Oia that Mom had stayed in, so we took the bus there with Mom in the back pack.

Oia is stunning. I had seen countless photographs and was worried that it would not live up to my expectations. It exceeded them. And I knew this is where Mom was meant to be.

We got away from the crowds and searched for the perfect place. And found it.

Mom wasn’t religious yet I thought being in front of a tiny church was appropriate.Church in Santorini

And this field of daisies just seemed to be the right place.Daisy field

This is the view.The final resting place

And I chose the right place, as after I had left her in her final resting place, although off the main drag where tourists gathered, everyone who passed the field stopped to admire them and the view. So she will get plenty of visitors. She would like that.Daisies

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More memories than photos

After I had published my last post about Greece, a number of other memories from that trip in 1979 popped into my head. Amazing that after 35 years I can recall so much. some of the photos jog the memory, like this one that reminds me that the van broke down a lot.The VW, more repairs

As my travel companion commented on my Facebook Page, it was indeed a great holiday. We travelled with a company called Consolas Travel who amazingly are still in business. I say amazingly because I am surprised any of their drivers survived more than one trip, their driving was so atrocious.

They got lost, a lot. Most memorably in Paris. They had no business being in Paris as we were heading for Boulogne sur Mer for the ferry back to Dover. They were following road signs for Bois de Boulogne. We spent an hour driving around Paris looking for the port.

Eventually they decided to ask for directions. Greek drivers in Paris asking for directions. Words that never belong together on one page. They were of the belief that if they shouted in Greek, Parisians would understand them. Arms were waved, by both the French and the Greeks. One passenger made the attempt to interrupt but they were having nothing of it, until she pushed her way off the bus, and asked for directions in perfect French.

She then directed the Greek drivers out of Paris and to the port. Where our ferry was departing.

We were just grateful to be alive never mind in the right Boulogne, as these particular drivers didn’t stop the coach when they switched over. Yup, one guy kept his foot on the pedal, the other took the steering wheel and as one slid out of the drivers seat, the other slipped in.

When we had left Athens we spent all our last Drachma on food and drink for the journey home. We bought bread and tinned sardines. The reason I remember this was because we shared our food around the coach, as many of our fellow travellers had no money left at all. We didn’t quite feed the 500, but our loaves and fishes sure went a long way around that bus.

When we stopped in Venice we were penniless. Beautiful city, and everyone was diving into ice cream except for us. Yet generosity has a habit of being paid forward, and one of the passengers bought us an ice cream each.

Before departing from Omonia Square we spent a last day in Athens. The bus left early in the morning so we needed somewhere close by that was cheap to stay the night. John the Kiwi was travelling back with us, so it made sense to get a room for the three of us to cut costs. Five of us had spent many nights in one room, on one beach, in one VW,  so we thought nothing of it. It was cheap, but not very clean. It was for one night and all we could afford. Sara in Athens

It was only after checking in, and hearing rats scuttling around the room did we realise how dirty the place was. What we also didn’t realise, till much later, was that most people rented the rooms by the hour. We were slap bang in a red light district and most of the rooms were occupied by prostitutes and their clients. We had no guide book or internet, we had no idea. We did emerge unscathed, if unwashed and itchy. Think hovering over the loo, careful not to let anything touch you anywhere.Cathy, Sara and John hanging out by the van

Despite sleeping with prostitutes and rats, that trip to Greece is so memorable. I can still see the sun setting in the middle of the bay, in Matala Crete. That night we slept without a tent, with the Milky Way as our roof. I have no photos of that, indeed much of the holiday is not recorded on film. I have 38 photographs from a trip that lasted about three weeks. I can take that many in a day now, but then film was expensive to buy and develop, when the film ran out so did the photos.Agios Nikolaos Harbour

Another memory was of the time we spent in Athens on a camp site we didn’t pay for. The banks were on strike and non of us had any cash. We couldn’t put fuel in the van and had no money for food. rob drove on the camp site, and we were told it was full, so we told them we would just turn around and leave. Instead we kept on until we found a spot that we could squeeze into. It was right on a beach and we spent the day swimming and sunning.

Ellie and Coral

Back in those pre recycling days, you got money back on empty bottles. We needed cash and people had left empty bottles on the beach. So we collected them and exchanged them for a few Drachma.  And that is how we survived for a couple of days until the banks re opened. Dropping of Ellie to stay with her ex in Athens, we had already lost Cathy to a holiday romance, the four of us decided to visit Crete.KnossosI don’t think I will be visiting Knossos or seeing much of Crete this time. Strikes and weather permitting, I will be going to some islands I have never been to before, The Cyclades. Can you tell I am looking forward to it?