Saturday, March 31, 2012

Home Again, Home Again...

As the view outside the cabin window became more and more familiar, so too did the mounting sensation that maybe I wasn't ready to go home after all.  Suddenly eight months didn't seem quite so long, and seeing the bay from above, looking very much the same as when I left home, put perspective on how little had changed while I was away.
Part of my longing to return home was a fear that everything was happening without me.  Being on the road felt like being on pause, frozen in a fish bowl while life continues on its merry way without you.

And though some things had changed (like the addition of this fantastic little parklettes in the Mission), most had not.  Tartine (my first stop when I got back!) hadn't.  Neither had places Camino, Port Costa, or Santa Cruz, neither had my friends, nor much of anything else that really mattered...
It was a soothing discovery, and one that I thought might have me regretting my desire to come back.  But it was quite the contrary.  Of everywhere I'd been, and everything I'd seen, San Francisco really had everything I had loved, and everything I had missed.  There is probably a city somewhere in the world made perfectly for every person, and I'm back home in mine.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sugar Rush...

In the days leading up to my flight back to California, I kept the sight seeing to a minimum with only three trips to London and Brighton.  The rest of the time, I set about expanding my grandparents' waistlines as only a kitchen deprived baking enthusiast can do.  Rhubarb tarts, cardamom custards, lemon cakes...You name it and I was trying stuff another dessert on the table.  Finally, I got cut-off; banned from the kitchen in the interest of arteries, blood sugar, and simple nutritional health. 
 Left to my own devices, however, I would have kept going and going and going.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

East London...

After a bittersweet farewell to the island that had been our home this month, we set off on the first leg of the journey homeward.  The time that had passed while we were on the road seemed, from this vantage point, both endless and lightning quick simultaneously.  Trying to think back upon the experience in its entirety is nearly impossible.  I've found that it's to remember things hour by hour, methodically walking myself back through a specific day, revisiting sights and sounds and sensations...  I was ready to go home, but I also knew that settling back into real life might prove a little challenging.  It is better, I think to sort of ease back into things.  London was the first stop in this transition.
Deborah and Morgan, our friends from Atlantis gave us the most compelling tour of London; by the end of the first day we spent following them around the East Side, I was just about convinced that I had to move to Shoreditch.  (And this thought even with cold weather!) 
Together we walked along the canals, through the Chelsea Flower Market, street food fairs, and bustling streets.  Sundays in London have a liveliness to them that's contagious and my fears of the trip coming to a close were trumped by an excitement to plan the next adventure.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On The Record...

Before we left the shop, we had one last task to complete.  On the ceiling above the register is a spiral of names; a record of everyone who has ever stayed and worked at Atlantis Books.  We added our names right behind Deborah and Morgan. 

So now we're official.  And we're leaving.  After seven months abroad, I've booked my flight home.  For quite some time, all I've been able to think about is how much I need to go home, and how much I need to be warm.  I was so excited about coming back to California.  Until I bought my ticket.  Only seconds after pressing the purchase button, I began to have a bit of an anxiety attack.  What had seemed like months now seemed like only a matter of days, I had lists and lists of things that I still wanted to do, places I needed to go, things I was dying to eat.  I wasn't ready to leave, I hadn't been here long enough yet!
And even though the months now seem like days, I did have to admit that really have done quite a lot.  
I had the best oysters in the world, every Sunday at the marché in Bordeaux.
I ate at the best street food in Morocco, rode a camel across the Sahara Desert at dawn, and spent the night on a train.
I fell in love with Madrid, and Barcelona.
I roasted pizza in a three hundred year old wood burning oven.
I thought about home.  A lot.
I met up with this boy I really like, and went back to my favorite place in the world.
We went to Spain, and ate ourselves silly.
Through a series of serendipitous occurrences and good friends, we went to places we never thought we'd go and finally, found ourselves here.
I went to places I loved, and to places I hated.
And now, I'm going home.

I'm so glad that I have kept this blog as a record of those experiences.  It began as a way of keeping in touch with my family but now, it's really it's more of a time capsule for me.  Even though I'm a bit worried about going home, this will be a means of remembering this trip and inspiring future travels. And hopefully, those travels aren't too far away!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Oia is know for its sunsets. But I find sunrise decidedly more captivating.

On our last morning at the bookstore, we woke up early to watch the sunrise from the roof terrace.  The air at dawn is so fresh and everything looks clean and alive.  I think that waking up with the sun really adds an energy to your day, and this sunrise kept me glowing for hours.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Santorini At Night...

The only downside of going to dinner at Petros the fisherman's house is climbing the two hundred and fourty steps back up from the Bay of Amoudi to the bookstore.  Especially after a Greek sized meal and several reikis under your belt. 

Luckily, the view from below Oia at night is amazing.  I stop about fifty thousand times on the way up the hill, under the auspices of taking in the scenery, to catch my breath.  The view is difficult to capture in a photo but just imagine a faerie village with twinkle lights and bright stars.  This place is enchanted.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Hate Cats...

I'm not going to mince words here:  I absolutely despise felines.  Currently, however, I am residing with two of the worst behaved cats on the planet.  
Sylvie and Max are the two bookstore cats.  I'm not exactly sure which is which, so I just call them both monsters.  These two devils think it's fun to knock over dishes, chew on my fingers, push books off the shelves, waltz their dirty feet across clean book covers, jump into the middle of a chess game, among all sorts of other imaginable and unimaginable havoc.  And then! they think it's alright curl up on my lap and sleep in my bed!  What gall!
And yet, no matter how much I hate these two heathen monsters and their furry brethren, they are admittedly rather cute.  I still find myself reaching out to scratch their heads when I walk by.  Which is never a very good idea, and always results in a flurry of claws and teeth and sometimes blood...
I'd really like to skip their dinner and lock them out at night, but Ryan, who will always be a better person than I, is adamant that they stay.  Oh, how I wish they were dogs.  I am a dog person through and through- the unconditional love, endless trust, and the healthy appetites-  these are the sorts of characteristics I can really bond with in a pet and I find I have totally new found appreciation for bookshop dogs.

And, oh HEY!  Look-y there!  Evidence that I was actually on this trip!  It's not a terribly flattering picture, to be sure, but, as I'm always taking the pictures, this is really the only picture there is of me in front of the camera...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Romantic Evening...

There is a teeny-tiny kitchen at the back of Atlantis Books and, after months of eating out, all I wanted was some home cooking.  Lucky me, I have a duel traveling companion/budding chef who is all too happy to whip up stuffed peppers and Greek omletes at my beck and call.  Trouble is, we quickly learned, when you plug in the oven here, the lights go out, so we spent our first evening in the dark with candles to light our plates.  I tried my best to imagine it being romantic, but I have to confess I was mostly just terrified the shop would catch on fire. 
I am happy to report it did not.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Tisket, A Tasket...

I recently rediscovered An Apple A Day, a blog created by Brooklyn-based florist Amy Merrick.  I spent a couple of days pouring backwards through the archived pages, reading it like a book.  Her flower bouquets are absolutely amazing and I found them really inspiring.  I've always been fond of having my menagerie of indoor plants, but now, after fawning over her beautiful bouquets, I think I need some floral arrangements too.  
Wasting no time, I set out on a walk around the island, and picked and pulled a whole bundle of green and yellow foliage.  The island is just on the cusp of spring and the palate of the earth is turning from brown to greens and yellows.  I spent an hour on the roof munching popcorn and doing my best to put something together à la Amy.  Though nothing like this jaw dropping arrangement, I am a little bit proud of my first attempts with the weeds and jam jars I could find.

I think this could become an addiction.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Take A Hike...

Among the many safe and scenic hiking routes in Santorini is one treacherous cliff side path that stretches between Thira and Oia.  Of all the pleasant walking paths this, of course, was the route we chose to do.
It was an absolutely lovely trek- blue skies, pleasant weather, a tiny puppy to greet us at the half way point, incredible views back across the towns, over the ocean on either side, and down...well.  Down wasn't quite so captivating... It's a very long and scary tumble to the sea.
We ended up getting a bit lost about half way through, and got back to Oia just in time to see the sun set.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Atlantis Books...

I'll never forgive myself for not taking pictures either time I stayed at Shakespeare & Company, and I was adamant about not making the same mistake at Atlantis Books.
The shop is everything I expected; cozy, magical, and stuffed to the's a bibliophile's play land.
Like Shakespeare & Co., beds are hidden around the shop, doubling as reading benches, or tucked behind curtains, and like the other houses on the island, it's built like a cave with round sloping ceilings and has a secret passageway that leads out onto the terrace overlooking the caldera and out onto the Mediterranean Ocean.  
We were welcomed by another couple from London, Deborah and Morgan who had been minding the shop the week before we arrived.  They showed us the ropes of running the bookstore in winter.  Because we're here "off season",  we'll be lucky to see any visitors.  But we have other tasks: making bundles, checking the post office, feeding the cats, and maintaining the air of charm should an unexpected visitor stop by.  Deborah and Morgan spent three days with us; just long enough to get us hooked on chess, co-cook great meals, and introduce us to the neighbors.

I couldn't be happier here.
Traveling from place to place, even at the relaxed pace we were going, had been really exhausting.  In Madrid, we'd met backpackers who'd visited 18 cities in one month.  This sort of tourism just doesn't appeal to me.  Settling down in a place, getting to know the neighbors, shop keepers, and village dogs is much more my style.  And I think, watching after Atlantis books for several weeks will be the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


We were admittedly rather grumpy when we arrived in Santorini; the result of a taxi scam at the port, the tribulations of a broken suitcase,  and the fact that we were trying to go somewhere that had no actual address.  But, when we finally arrived in Oia (pronounced ee-uh), all our mauvais tempéraments were forgotten.  Oia was absolutely beautiful, exactly the iconic Greek village that I had been expecting.  
This is what we saw as we dragged suitcases over the cobbled streets and staircases:  white houses with blue doors and roofs, windmills, churches, volcanic rocks,  and too many friendly cats and dogs to name.  It reminded me quite a bit of this little movie.

The island of Santorini is crescent shaped, the result of a volcanic explosion thousands of years ago that is thought to have wiped out Minoan civilizations.  The houses are built high on the island, precaution against pirates, and every house is partially a cave, built back into the cliffs.  In several guidebooks, it said that Santorini was known for being the highest concentrated vampire population in the world.  This myth, we learned, stems from the soil; bodies decompose more slowly here.  
We didn't see any pirates or vampires when we arrived.  In fact, we didn't really see anyone.  Santorini is a tourist destination, the number one honeymoon island, and wedding destination, but only during "the season".  Right now, in winter, the island is desolate; beautiful, but haunting. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Odyssey...

We caught the ferry from Piraeus Port in the wee hours of the morning.  The sky was dark but static; the dock lit up every few minutes with a crack of lightning, and then shook as the thunder reverberated around the harbor. Once  aboard the ferry from Athens to Santorini, I slept most of the morning away, waking only after the storm had subsided.  I felt quite like Odysseus out there on the Mediterranean with the dark blue waters, and matching sky.  We sailed past islands, harbors, lighthouses and little towns, snacking on my new favorite chocolate bar (Ion brand that I bought from the Proton market, haha), and grateful that our trip was only ten hours instead of ten years. (Not for lack of scenery, but rather for the terrible Greek soaps that were projected throughout the cabin.)