Leaving Sorrento was another memorable experience. We caught the bus back to Naples at 6:30 in the morning, and I believe the only humans to have travelled at a similar speed before were the astronauts on the Apollo Space Missions. Not only that, if one could imagine the Great Ocean Road being half as wide, surrounded on one side by century-old buildings and on the other by 1000 foot drops, and every man and his dog, and bus, and bike, and hay cart and practically every other mode of transport known to man sharing these confined tracks of fragmented asphalt, then you’ve got some idea of what Mr and Ms X experienced on their way to Naples. Pope Benedict would have been impressed with Mr X exiting the bus and kissing the ground, such was his relief at surviving the journey to retell the story for you all.

Caught the plane to Athens airport, an impressive legacy of the 2004 Olympics. Situated about 40 minutes by train (140 minutes by a Naples train), it is a gleaming structure that impressed us greatly. So much so that an 8-hour wait for our connecting flight seemed to take no time at all, and after 480 minutes in the one airport we felt just like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal”. We knew every shop, face and toilet in the place, and it was with some relief that our flight to Santorini eventually took off at 10:00pm that night. And upon arrival, we got an immediate taste of what a laid-back lifestyle they have on this Greek resort island, because the terminal was closed and we couldn’t get off the tarmac because their one and only exit door was locked. That didn’t deter one official casually sauntering up after about 15 minutes, unlocking the door and strolling off. Even better was by the time we collected our bags and walked outside, there was Pensione George holding up his sign for the weary O’Dowds to see – beautiful….a lift to the hotel, where we were then greeted outside by George’s English wife Helen. They certainly are friendly in Santorini.

A terrific room awaited us, complete with air-con, a TV, en suite, kettle and a view of the pleasant Mediterranean. And all this for the bargain basement price of 35 euros a night. Throw in the taxi service here and to the port, the free bottled water and the magnificent outdoor pool, we thought pretty soon they would be paying us!
Next day we arose, showered, embraced the heat and hired a smart car for 70 euros for 2 days from the first car rental company we came across. The laid back style continued, because when I first of all said I would like to book a car for tomorrow, he said, “OK, its booked”. I stood there waiting for him to take my details down, but he repeated “I remember you…its booked!” We then reconsidered and decided to take it for the 2 days, so he asked for our credit card and proceeded to take its imprint by using the back of a biro and rubbing it over carbon paper. You’ve got to love the Greeks.
Driving around the island, the place is full of car/vesper/4-wheel motor bike rentals, and just about every tourist was driving one. Didn’t matter about the narrow roads, or no helmets, or no speed zones, and sheer unprotected cliffs…everyone seemed to be in a happy, jovial and courteous mood. And all over the island were dogs. Big dogs, little dogs everywhere. Not one of them on a lead and most of them sound asleep in the middle of roads, footpaths and shops. Everyone simply walked or drove around them. We checked out Thira, the capital, then drove down to Pirreas Beach, a lovely area full of volcanic black sand (really pebbles), crystal clear water and lovely idyllic restaurants right on the beach. We found one where the service was impeccable and the drinks extremely reasonable. Returned to Pensione George and sat around the pool for a couple of restful hours, then had a chip and a dip followed by a traditional Greek meal around the corner. Ms X had moussaka and Mr X had chicken schnitzel….very traditional!
The next day we got up early and dumped our dirty clothes around the corner at a laundry service, and then went for another drive, this time down to the Port, where the entry road zigzagged its way dangerously down a precipitous mountain, with every second vehicle being an enormous bus that disregarded anything or anybody in their path. We quickly bought out return ferry tickets for tomorrow and escaped back up to the relative safety of the top of the mountain, where we once again returned to our nice restaurant from the night before, had a dip in the Mediterranean, attempted to lie on our towels on the extremely uneven and uncomfortable stones, then retired to the bar and had a couple of well-earned drinks. Returned to collect our washing and found another local restaurant where we once again savoured Greek food, with both Mr and Ms X choosing pork and chicken souvlaki respectively.
Santorini indeed was a delightful place for some R&R, so it was with some regret that we had to leave the following day. I returned the dinky toy to the rental business, then Pensione George’s cousin drove us down to the port. I’m sure he was related to the bus driver from Sorrento, such was the break-neck speed and wanton disregard for anyone else on the road, let alone the horrific cliffs we were descending. However we somehow got there in one piece, climbed aboard the fast-track ferry and wound our way for the next 4 hours back across the Mediterranean to Athens.