The Edge of Heaven
"Now this is far more civilised" I said as we sat down for lunch in Manchester's terminal 1. This was a far more convenient time to fly.
Our last few trips have been 5am starts from a London airport but this time it was a nice early afternoon flight to Santorini, Greece from an airport 90 minutes away from home.
Julie seemed somehow less anxious.
Over the past few days she's had this dark cloud hanging over her. The news hasn't helped. Air disasters have dominated. Last week it was the investigation into the shooting down of flight MH17 over the Ukraine and then yesterday the Lockerbie plane crash made the headlines again. But today for some reason she seemed calmer.
We arrived and auto-bag dropped our suitcase. (It was the only option unless we were an EasyJet speedy boarder) "I've always wanted to do this" said Julie as she looped the label through the handle, placed the suitcase on the converyor and pressed the button to send it into the bowels.
"Let's hope we see it on the other end" I said only half joking.
By the time we were in the departures lounge it was time for lunch which we headed straight for a Giraffe. Not the actual long-necked gentle giant but the resaurant chain of the same name.
Because we were on our way to Greece we thought we should share the meze platter. The random bites on the plate were really delicious but not remotely Greek.
We were raising money for a cancer charity by "Going Sober for October" but we had an exemption for today as Christine, (Julie's sister) had donated £10 and bought us a Golden Ticket.
Our first drink of the day was at 11am. It was a free shot of Stolychanya vodka as we walked through the duty free. It certainly wasn't the last as we had a few vinos with lunch and a few more sitting in Cafe Balzaar waiting for our gate number to appear.
The closer we got to our departure time the less together Julie became as the nerves kicked in.
She was becoming quite animated, telling all and sundry that we were celebrating our 29th Wedding Anniversary and that I had survived cancer.
I love her so much.
As we boarded the plane, the cabin crew who greeted us got given our reason for celebration and once we had done with the formalities of take-off we ordered ourselves a half-bottle of champagne.
The four hour flight was the longest we'd been on in recent years.
The sun was setting beautifully behind us as we headed East when one of the cabin crew made an annoucement.
"The couple in seats 18E and 18F are celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary. Julie would just like to say that she loves Colin very much and will follow him to the ends of the earth. He has also recenlty overcome a serious illness ans she is very proud of him."
The entire plane applauded. I welled up with tears and got a tad emotional. It was such a lovely thing for Julie to have done.
It wasn't long before we flew over what looked like the island of Santorini but we kept on going.
"Has he missed it?" asked Julie "Does he know where he's going?" She had earlier expressed her concern about how young he sounded.
She was now unravelling. Thankfully we didn't have long to wait before we did come in to land. It arrived without much fanfare and in total darkness.
After a little bump and slamming on the breaks we came to a stop. Julie clenched her fists and pumped the air in celebration.
"Thank you" she said. I'm not too sure if she was thanking me, the 12 year old in the cockpit or God.
Passport control was quite relaxed. They checked if we were EU citizens or not as we entered the terminal and that was it, straight to baggage reclaim and out.
We had pre-booked a taxi to pick us up and take us to our hotel in Imerovigli. Santorini Taxis charged €20 but it was worth every cent.
We shared it with a pair of young girls weighed down with their rucksacks. They were dropped off first near Thira. Five minutes later we reached a small square near our hotel in Immerovigli.
The rest of the journey we had to do on foot. It wasn't far, just a down some steps on the left. We found it on the second attempt after firstly walking into the reception for a completely different hotel.
Ours was called White. The name didn't help us find the hotel as all the buildings were white washed cubes placed one on top of each other on the hillside.
We entered our hotel over the rooftop and down some steep steps between the buildings. The hotel reception was just to the right.
We must have been the last to arrive as the receptionist knew who we were.
He then gave us the amazing news that we had been given a free upgrade to their honeymoon suite.
We couldn't believe it. It's never happened to us before. When I booked I had dropped a subtle hint that it was our anniversary but it wasn't an intentional ploy.
He showed us to our stunning room. The centrepiece was this huge circular bed.
The walls were whitewashed with the exception of a feature wall painted in a dappled grey. It was a very effective painting style giving the impression of being in the clouds, on our way to a celestial plane.
We felt so lucky. Julie even gave the young lad a hug. We had only booked their cheapest rooms, one at the bottom of their complex, half the size with a shared pool. The honeymoon suite had it's own private patio with a heated jacuzzi.
Once we had caught our breath we headed out to find somewhere to eat. The nearest restaurant and the one recommended by the receptionist was back in the small square where the taxi dropped us off.
I began to laugh when I realised it was called Avocado. I had already made a reservation here for tomorrow night. If the on-line reviews were anything to go by it was the best in town. It was certainly very popular.
We sat outside because it was still warm enough to do so. The summer back home hadn't been the best so it felt great to be dining outside in mid-October.
I was impressed by their menu. They had gone to the trouble of flagging each dish with a sequence of letters, such as V for being suitable for vegetarians, H for Halal, GF for Gluten Free or LF for Lactose Free.
They also had V* which meant Potentially Vegetarian. It made us laugh. It came across as meaning "Oooh, it might be veggie but we're not too sure?"
However it was for dishes that could be vegetarian on request by eliminating a few items.
Strangely enough we didn't feel that hungry so we just ordered some appetisers. Three plates to share.
The fava bean hummus was verging on bland with only a hint of cumin attempting to add some flavour. It was served warm which felt a bit odd at first.
Then came the Domatokeftedes, a traditional Santorini dish of savoury tomato fritters. Unfortunately they were very disappointing. Over cooked and greasy. It was a big shame as I was really looking forward to trying them.
The final plate was described as Country Potatoes, small cubes of fried potatoes, which were again over cooked and greasy, seasoned with dried oregano and a very salty cheese.
In addition to what we ordered we also had a complimentary glass of ouzo each and a free plate of nibbles which ironically was the tastiest thing we ate.
I also enjoyed a bottle of a local craft beer called Yellow Donkey which was as tasty as it was amusing.
Despite the food falling short of expectations the restaurant itself had a good vibe, the staff were incredibly friendly. We were served by four different people each one as nice as the other.
When we came to pay our €34 bill we had a chat with one of the waiters. I talked football and compared our nation's differing fortune. Greek football is in the doldrums at the moment whilst Wales have just qualified for their first major tournament in 58 years.
He also paid Julie a complement when he said she looked too youmg to be celebrating 29 years of marriage. "If you just colour your hair you would look 37." he said. He was working hard for his tip.
We were getting tired, so we left Avocado before we fell asleep at the table and walked the short distance back down the hill to our beautiful honeymoon suite.
ęCopyright 2000 - 2020 Colin Owen