This is a post by our guest, award-winning travel journalist Mihaela Lica Butler. It is the first of a series we intend to bring to you in the near future, to show you just how much Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa means to our cherished guests.
With jaw-dropping sunsets and Cycladic homes sparking under the skies, Santorini is a “once upon a time” destination where fairy-tales come true. You can never forget it after you bite into a tomato that drew its sap from the rich volcanic soil of the island. The “aspa” also feeds the vines carrying the grapes that make the Vinsanto – Santorini’s unique wine that tastes just like the colorful skies at dusk: full and velvety, vibrant and robust, with notes of caramel and honey.
Sunsets, wines, and volcanoes are Santorini’s best-known features, and its most scenic urban area is beyond doubt Oia, or Apano Meria, which is Greek for “the heaven on Earth,” a village obsessively printed on postcards and travel guides to Santorini to seduce you even before you book the trip.
Yes, Oia is striking like a hetaera, inspiring painters and photographers with its naked beauty: steps coming out of nowhere undulating between narrow passages and rustic homes of sparkling white; churches and chapels with flamboyant blue domes; and snowy walls with cascades of magenta bougainvillea; all against the intense cerulean of the Aegean.
This is an island where chance encounters with celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Shakira are commonplace. It’s a hedonist haven where you can easily forget about the worries of the mundane, allowing yourself to live kalí zoí – la bella vita.
If it is not the birthplace of romance, because Aphrodite was born on Cyprus, Santorini is at least where couples come to fall in love all over again. Here, to hold hands while gazing at the skies happens naturally in an electrifying instance that makes time stand still. The sun lingers on the horizon for a couple of hours or more at dusk, and pairs that find a spot on the walls of the kastro watch it in the comfort of a chaste hug. Although there are many tourists clustered around the best viewing platforms of Oia, when the sky turns honey and amber you are overwhelmed by the magnificent spectacle in before your eyes, and the crowds no longer matter. You are lost in an aww moment.
Everything here has the magic of the first time – or at least this is what I felt last summer when every sunset I watched kept me fascinated for hours, each more spectacular than the other. I watched the ball of fire painting the skies from Sunset Serenade, from the ruins of the kastro, and from the steps from Amoudi Bay to Oia. I watched it from Akrotiri and from a sailing boat at sea, and I remember thinking “this is the most beautiful sunset ever! There’s no way I’ll see something better in this lifetime.”
But Santorini’s sunsets surprised me every time with a symphony of colors, while the clouds and waves swirled in a hypnotic dance impossible to capture in words. Even my smartphone failed lamentably, no matter how many times I tried to get that perfect Instagram picture to impress my friends.
Still, the dearest memory of a sunset on Santorini is not of the most spectacular, but of the most peaceful. It was the second day after our arrival on the island, and we decided to spend the evening on the terrace at our resort, Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa, on comfy sunbeds, with a bottle of Vinsanto and a platter of fruit.
We waited patiently by the pool, eating peaches and melon, contemplating the blue in silence, only smiling at each other at times, when the breeze would caress our skin with the touch of the wings of the nymph that gave birth to the island.
“I am free in paradise,” I remember saying that day when the sun finally dyed the skies with the first shades of rosé.
My husband turned and smiled at me that dimpled smile that made me fall in love with him ten years ago. He said nothing, but that smile brought back our dearest memories: honeymoon in Copenhagen, a winter trip lost in the mountains of Germany, summers on the shores of Lake Constance, and that magic month that changed my life on Crete.
But living in the magic of the moment, the sunset reminded me of Domaine Sigalas and the wine tasting in their vineyard. We tasted ten wines paired with sundried tomatoes, katsouni, capers, olives, and Cycladic cheese. The sunset was as seductive as the only rosé in that lineup, but it had specks of ochre, tawny, and gold, and it reflected purples above the water, where the seas met the horizon. To think of it, Sigalas captured drops of Santorini sunsets in its wines with the blessing of Dionysus himself. The gods of Greece are alive on Santorini, unseen, but their presence is felt in the breeze and in these libations that take their strength and body from pumice and ashes will make you feel like Greek deity too.
Oia is amazing: it looks like a treasure chest at the top of the caldera and at sunset you can watch it from the sea with the eyes of a child who still believes in once upon a time.