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Almira became one of my favorite restaurants during my stay in Santorini. Kamari Beach has about 8 km (5 miles) of restaurants, shops, and markets along the beach that is maintained by the city. The walkway is completely pedestrian after 10 am (deliveries of supplies to the shops and restaurants have a few cars using the roadway in the early morning hours.)

Finding the great restaurants along the string of tourist traps is like trying to find the diamonds among pebbles which make up the black beach, but Almira is definitely a gem.

The warm glow of the tables of Almira are a harbinger of the good things that come out of their kitchen. The multilingual and very efficient staff are the perfect balance of professionalism without being pushy restaurant “hawkers” that some neighboring restaurants use to get diners to their tables.

Their Greek Salad was the BEST I have ever eaten; a perfect composition of locally grown ( in volcanic soil) tomatoes and cucumbers, with fresh feta, olives, and red onion shavings. This huge salad was only $6 US and could have been a meal by itself. I ordered a glass of the local wine ($6 US) and I was very happy to have it served cold and dry as I had requested.

My favorite dish here was the grilled Gilt Head Sea Bream in a tomato, olive, and caper sauce (about $18 US), served with carrots, potatoes, and rice. This was so delicious, that I came back twice for this same dish in later days because I could not get my mouth to stop watering for it. It is a huge portion, so on later visits, I skipped the salad so I would have room to finish it.

With the bill came a complimentary shot of ouzo to “ease the pain of paying”, but really there was absolutely no pain, only pleasure at finding a great restaurant on the beach.

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I arrived in Santorini at 11am and I was ready to eat after waiting in Athens airport for 6 hours for my connecting flight from London. I quickly learned that the restaurants in Santorini do not open until noon or 1pm for meals, so my only options were cafes which served coffee or light snacks. I went to several before deciding to go to the cafe closest to my hotel, Splash. Not only did it have a beautiful view (as do ALL the restaurants along the beach), but I loved the decor.

I did not want breakfast, so I ordered the appetizer plate, which turned out to be cheeses, meats, olives, and tomatoes for about $10 US. It was a very hearty plate and I could only manage to eat a few bites of the rich offerings. This was the plate that introduced me to the famous Santorini tomatoes, grown in the local volcanic soil, which burst with flavor unlike any I have ever had.

With my eyes drinking in the view of the beach and my stomach craving something lighter, I headed down the side street to Lolo’s which starts serving food at 1pm (I went by at noon and they were only serving coffee at that early hour). Their garden patio was very pretty and offered plenty of shade.

I quickly learned that water is an essential part of life at this beach and ordered the sparkling water, along with a glass of the local white wine (about $5 US). I don’t know if it was the early service or the heat, but my wine arrived warm and when I asked for ice (yes it was THAT warm I needed ice to drink it), they charged me .8 Euro to fulfill my request.

I ordered the seafood salad (about $12 US), hoping for a taste of the local seafood and something lighter than the appetizer I had just eaten down the street. It was lighter fare than Splash, but the imitation crab in the salad was a sad disappointment; it would have been just as mediocre a salad without the addition, and I would not have been as critical if it had not been the first thing I saw in my salad.

The wonderful local tomatoes, fresh romaine, and bits of fish did help make this a passable salad, but so far my meals in Santorini were not spectacular. I learned later in the evening that there was wonderful food here; I just had to wait until the good places opened to find delicious fresh food awaiting me both on Kamari Beach and along the Caldera.

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My first view of Santorini from the plane.

I stayed at the Oceanis Bay Studios in Kamari during my stay in Santorini and I must say that it was the perfect place for a relaxing beach holiday. I can’t think of anywhere else in Western Europe where you can get accommodations like this on the beach for 55 Euros a night (about $75 USD). As you can see from this photo of me on the balcony of my studio, it is literally across the road from the black beach of Kamari.

Walking to the beach and looking back on Oceanis, I stayed in the upper right studio with a wonderful balcony view of the ocean and sunrise.

Between the studios and the beach, the owners kept a beautiful garden, which provided fresh flowers for the rooms and a marvelous lush green respite from the heat of the beach. People walking on the beach path were constantly stopping to take pictures of the garden.

My private balcony had two chairs, a table, and an incredible view of the beach; it was the perfect spot to have breakfast or a sunset drink.

The studio is huge, with a full dining area, fridge, hot plates, utensils, plates, cups, pots & pans, and even a tea kettle. It has a great air conditioning unit and even satellite television. I turned it on during my stay just to see what was on, and once I saw they were showing “The Nanny” in English with Greek subtitles, I turned it off.

The bathroom was small with new amenities, but adequate for a beach side stay. Larger people might have a problem fitting into the shower. They changed the sheets and mopped DAILY, providing fresh towels every other day and even gave me a beach towel to use during my stay. This was one of the most spotless places I have ever stayed.

Since Kamari is on the East Coast of the island, sunrise woke me at 7:30am with this view, so I had breakfast watching the sunrise nearly every morning.

Not only was the location superb at the end of the busy beach front hustle of restaurants and shops, but my wonderful hosts Vaggelis & Analypsi who own and run the place made my stay unforgettable. They provided everything from restaurant recommendations to explaining how things work (beach lounges and sunbrellas belong to the city and you pay to rent them all day), and where to visit besides the main tourist attractions (Pyrgos and Ammoundi). The only thing that did not work was the WiFi, but it did not seem to work at any location at the beach due to the winds, so I was forced to simply enjoy being there, not a bad thing at all.

Effaristo to my hosts and I will see you on my next trip:-)

I am back from my trip to Greece, so my upcoming posts will be about my trip to Santorini and Athens (with lots of photos for those who wish to travel vicariously).

My trip to Greece started at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the ultra modern British Airways transportation hub which features shops like Harrod’s selling everything from Thierry Mugler dresses to Lulu Guiness handbags.

Of course I did shop, but my main pastime is food, and with Caviar House in the terminal, I had to stop by for a taste (that is water, not vodka in the picture).

They offer a great selection caviar tastings, smoked salmon, or seafood plates (I opted for the seafood salad since I didn’t want to blow my vacation budget on my airport layover). Considering that I was in an airport in London, this salad was actually quite decent, with fresh greens and tender seafood (about $25 USD); I was not wowed by it, but the staff was so friendly and the location so animated, that I would make this a stop again if I had time to eat or have a drink in Heathrow.

Because Caviar House is associated with Prunier, the French chcolatier in this airport endeavor, they serve their coffees with a taste of their fine dark chocolate; anyone wanting more than a taste can buy some at the shop across from the restaurant to take home (I resisted).

My five hour layover gave me enough time to actually have another light meal before boarding, so I opted for a salad at Plane Food, Gordon Ramsey’s chic take away or eat in restaurant, figuring I had to try his food even if I hated his personality. The space is beautifully designed with a view of their kitchen on one side and the runways on the other.

I ordered the duck salad on rocket (arugula) for about $30 USD, thinking it would be a light tasty meal before boarding my 3.5 hour flight to Greece. The salad looked lovely when it arrived.

But once I ate the top, the middle of the salad was drenched in a sickeningly sweet dressing that made it inedible. For $30 USD this was a total waste of money. Fortunately the waiter did notice that I did not eat my salad and sent the manager over when I told him it was inedible. The manager offered to remove it from my bill but since I had already paid, this was an empty gesture. He offered a gratis glass of wine, which I did accept simply to try to erase the taste of the salad dressing from my memory.

Hopefully I will not have another five hour layover at Heathrow, but if I do I know to avoid Plane Food and head straight over to Caviar House.

On vacation here until Sept 27 (if I come back:)

In the meantime, please read and vote for my essay everyday here. Thank-you to everyone who has voted (repeatedly) for me! As I am leaving, you have voted 242 times to make my rank #74 out of 1581. The contest ends September 30, 2010 so please keep up the voting in my absence!

Have a good Labor Day everyone 🙂

Peace Day is being celebrated worldwide September 21 here in Los Angeles at the Santa Monica Pier. Please go and enjoy the events for adults and kids being organized by my good friends to help our planet live and thrive.




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