Greece Part 1: Santorini

IMG_1905Some Background
So – this wasn’t our first trip with the baby but it was the first international one, so in the spirit of starting with a bang, I thought I would start here. This was a family trip celebrating my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday. This meant that we had a little extra help from Arya’s grandparents. We planned on Greece because it was the right flight time, weather, and budget, and has decent healthcare infrastructure (which factors in when you travel with old people and babies). I have to admit – despite all the support, I was a bit nervous about taking my 7 month old on an 8-day trip with long-ish flights.

Getting There
We checked her into business class with the grandparents while we enjoyed some alone time (read: peacefully watching a movie or sleeping) in economy – ok, fine, we cheated a little. But I have to say… Emirates hospitality and baby friendliness surprised me! They had age appropriate toys, allergen free brand new blanket, diapers, Similac formula, and Gerber baby food. It took us 20 hours from the time we left home to when we arrived at our first hotel in Santorini. (Handy Tip: Buy disposable bottles and spoons if you can – washing and sanitizing bottles and spoons and sippy cups at the airport was not fun)

So, Here is the Play by Play…
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We arrived in Santorini at about 6pm local time. Not much to do that day since it was 8pm by the time we settled into our hotel – Oia Suites. This is probably the best hospitality I have experienced in Europe – ever! Although they don’t typically allow babies, (they made an exception since it was low season and we were booking three rooms) they went out of their way to accommodate the baby. They got us one of those pack and play cribs – which was a God-sent! And through some stroke of luck – Arya adapted beautifully to local time. She slept at 9pm in the crib and woke up at 7am (with her regular two feeds at night). Being a crib sleeper – I think she felt comfortable in her crib, while we enjoyed being horizontal and comfortable in our double bed. (Handy Tip: If your baby is a crib sleeper request a crib – everywhere. If you request in advance they may be able to help you)

We woke up at 6am to enjoy the view of the entire island and the volcanoes from our hotel. Saurabh went for a run up the scenic trail to Fira while I enjoyed a quiet coffee with a view from the balcony outside the room, and waited for Arya to wake up. Arya woke up chirpy as ever – oblivious to the beauty of the view – just happy to see us and her grandparents. S and I tag-teamed bathing the baby in a shower – this is definitely a two people job – one person hold the hand shower while the other cleans the baby. (Handy tip: hotel bathrooms do not have tubs for babies. So, bathe the baby before you shower because you will be drenched)  

IMG_1914Minor Bumps Along the Way…
So, everyone was ready to go by about 9:30am – happily fed on Greek yogurt, bacon, toast, muesli, juice, coffee and more… when we were told that we might have difficulty getting around because many establishments and monuments were closed due to Greek Easter (May 1st). The lovely receptionist came to our rescue – she suggested that we rent a car for the day and drive ourselves around for a tour of the island. She also suggested that since it was 8 of us we do a private boat rental the next day to visit some of the must-see sights like the volcanoes, hot springs, and Red Beach. I thought she was going to drop a price bomb on us – something ridiculous like 2000 EUR. But the whole private yacht rental for 5 hours which included pick up from hotel and drop off to the port where our ferry to Mykonos would board, butler service, unlimited food (including barbeque and drinks), and sightseeing would be 800 EUR. Not bad – I thought the catamaran looked really posh with three bedrooms, slick leather covered indoor seating area, and a pretty deck. So we went for it. (Handy Tip: If you are willing to risk availability – these things are much cheaper to book when you are there – I looked up prices for pre-booking and they were at least double what we paid) 

A Laid-Back Day 1
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We packed ourselves, some sun hats, a snack bag, and a diaper bag into the SUV and drove away to Fira – the main town in the Island. While the rest of the group enjoyed walking around for some street shopping, S and I headed straight for the bar with the view. Handsome daddy with baby in sling sure gets the attention of the hostesses! We enjoyed the chilled beer and chardonnay with some olives and handed a piece of fresh baked bread to Arya to nibble at. (Handy Tip: we invested in a comfortable sling that works in both inward and outward front carry positions. If you buy sling models from earlier than 2014 they probably wont be designed for comfortable front facing carrying. The sling is great at keeping a baby of that age engaged and manageable at the same time. Just be sure to move plates and glasses out of her reach!)

IMG_1924We then drove through the hilly area of Pyrgos, to Perissa Beach. Since it was Greek Easter the traditional restaurant at the beach there was roasting a lamb outdoors spreading a yummy smell all around. We goofed around at the pebbly beach for about an hour taking selfies and pushing each other in the icy cold waters. May is NOT a good time to go if you want to really go into the waters – its still a butt freezing 15-170C. But you can enjoy the blue hues and sunshine from a distance. We had a really late lunch at the traditional Greek restaurant and headed back to hotel to rest and change for the evening.

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Since sunsets are pretty late at around 8:30pm we had ample time to rest before heading to Amoudi Bay for a dinner with a sunset view. Happily settled into our table by the edge of the cliff, listening to waves hit the rock, when we hear a shrill clink… in the one nano second while we were sitting to enjoy the view and the waiter went to bring the high chair, she had knocked off a plate from the table into the sea! A bit embarrassing, but hey its their job to embarrass us once in a while or they wouldn’t be babies, right? (Handy Tip: dress the baby warm in the evenings, duh-you-knew-that, and bring a warm cap that covers ears – Arya looked ridiculous in the napkin we tied around her face to save her from the wind)

Definitely not ideal for vegetarians, most of the restaurants in Amoudi Bay are known for their sea food. We picked our fresh fish, and ordered a whole bunch of sides, salads, potatoes and Greek yogurt for the two vegetarians in the group. If you have a dominantly vegetarian group skip dinner there and get Pizza at Oia instead! We wrapped up the day with a gorgeous view and some dancing to local music. By 9:30pm my happy little trooper was turning into her evil avatar James Cranko. So we headed back to hotel.

Our Day 2 in Santorini is the Stuff Bollywood Movies are Made Of…

13133274_10154818222389097_3843568759735820669_nWe packed up from the Hotel and were picked up by our lovely catamaran crew at 8:30am sharp. They took us back to Amoudi Bay where we ended the previous night, and we boarded a brand spanking new 60 foot catamaran with 3 bedrooms and “butlers’ quarter” (ehm… fancy much?). With six adults, two babies, two crew, and a fridge full of food and beverages, we departed from Amoudi bay for the volcanoes. We spent the next 4 hours on that beauty, being pampered by our personal chef and butler. I was a little bit paranoid about having Arya, who was just learning to crawl, on the boat. So Saurabh and I carried her in the sling for nearly the whole trip – she slept for about half of it.

13164333_10153769124694121_7571832907814032100_nOur first stop was the supposedly “hot” springs at the volcano. Ok, the captain did warn us that the springs weren’t exactly hot but warm. Saurabh was the first brave soul to jump in. Of course he was freezing his butt off – but didn’t tell us that or I would not have jumped in after him. These were NOT EVEN WARM springs… freezing-effing-cold springs is more like it!!! I swallowed a whole bunch of that sulphurious water because I was yelling so much from being cold and had a scratchy throat for the rest of the day. Oh well – you live and you learn, right? (Handy Tip: uhh dips toes first to check temperature before jumping in, and also carry goggles – I did, and they helped!)

 By the time all our “hot” springs shenanigans were over the butler had finished cooking our meal and put a whole bunch of meat on the barbeque. I ordered some white wine while I dried myself on the deck. We enjoyed a great meal and some great views of the pristine blue waters, red cliffs of the Red Beach, eerie lighthouses and churches, and hill top villages.

We headed back to Amoudi Bay and then to the Fira port in a van to board the ferry to Mykonos. Arya and I were in the back seat – enjoying the quiet ride and the picturesque Santorini views for one last time.

IMG_1920Summing up… My Top 5 Tips/Takeaways for This Post…

1. Try to broadly stick to the baby’s nap-sleep schedule during the flight and during the vacation as much as possible. This will make the jet lag adjustment process a lot easier (of course this only works when the time difference is 3-4 hours or less)
2. Babies tend to sleep more on vacations in day time – especially when they are warm and cozy in a sling. I prefer to let her sleep because that keeps my hands and mind-space free to experience the holiday.
3. If you are giving them solid foods – feel free to experiment with some of the local food (as long as its baby safe) – Arya loved Greek yogurt and homemade bread there.
4. Email hotels in advance to let them know that you have a baby in the party so that they can offer you the suitable equipment and room.
5. Most important of all: leave as much time for yourself and the baby as possible… happy mommies and daddies make happy babies. Talk to them about how much fun you are having, and how beautiful the holiday is… positivity is infectious! 

Stay tuned for my next post on Mykonos and Athens. And feel free to email me if you have questions about traveling to Santorini with a baby, or if you would just like to share your own experience.

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