Sometimes the best part of traveling is the memories you bring home. We’ve partnered with adventure and culture traveler Dr. Cacinda Maloney from the blog Points and Travel, as she reflects on an unforgettable vacation to Santorini, Greece. 

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I had dipped my toes in the crisp, cool water and squealed with excitement, as the yacht sailed away. I couldn’t believe this moment had finally arrived. It was how I had dreamed about it a thousand times before. This was where I wanted to be on the day I turned a half a century old. In the dream, I would be lounging on a yacht, with my toenails perfectly painted red or pink, the slimmest I had ever been. My view would be the color of blue, shades and shades of it. From deep navy, to turquoise to indigo, the shades would shimmer in my eyes like postcards from the French Riviera.

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Two years later, I found the lava rock from the Greek Isles back in the corner of my oldest son’s closet. Cleaning out his room to make way for my teenage son to go to college was emotionally difficult and I dreaded the day that he was going to leave. We had finished packing up his room, loaded the car and dropped him off for his very first day of college. He had lived a lifetime in this room and it was sad to see him go.

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The aftermath of his room haunts me and occasionally I would go in there and lay down on the bed, still missing him like crazy. But today I had decided it really did need a thorough cleaning. “What if we had guests for Christmas?” They would have to stay in this room, so I needed to get it cleaned up. I hadn’t even had the maid come in here except occasionally over the years, still wanting to keep it just like it was the day he left, except for all the things he didn’t take! And I had bags of that stuff everywhere.

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Inching the vacuum cleaner as close to the wall as possible in the back of his closet, I hit something … Pushing up against it again, I had to lay down on the floor and reach as far underneath the shelf that held his shoes close to the floor to figure out what it was. With my stretched out hand, I felt something sharp, prickly and solid. With one more swipe, I was able to grasp it and pulled it out only to realize it was THAT lava rock …

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THAT lava rock …

Not just any ole’ lava rock, but the one that brought back piles of memories, a happy tear and reminded me of one of the happiest days of my life. Don’t get me wrong, the happiest days are the ones when I had my kids, the day I got married, college-degree days, and the days my family had successes. Everything else is downhill after that. But still, there are many highlights, and this one stands out above most of the rest.

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Here I was at the awe-inspiring caldera Santorini on the largest island in a circular archipelago in the Greek Isles. They were literally the remnants of an island that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Which brings me back to that rock that I held firmly in my hand, along with the vacuum cleaner hose in the other. I held on to it tight, wanting to literally grasp every single memory I could get out of this little piece of volcanic ash and see those glistening sun rays hit that water.

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I had arrived on Santorini Island, rented a car and was on a whirlwind tour with my beautiful, blonde tour-guide friend, when she mentioned she wanted to show me this hole in the rock caldera overlooking the coast, that she had deemed “Lover’s Cove”. She told me her own version of how she had found this place. She was riding on the back of a motorbike with a local guy she met when she lived here summers ago. He had brought her here to see this secret site on caldera Santorini. She wanted to share it with me, as she thought it was the perfect place for a guy to propose to his honey. She talked about it incessantly since we arrived, so I had to see it! Typically, tourists who visit Greece would never find their way here, because honestly, it is in the middle of nowhere and completely unmarked. You could have driven by here a dozen times on the local road and never even think to look for it, as it was a part of the cliff down below and completely out of sight. Here is a closer look:

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After she parked the car, we got out and she pointed in the direction we should go. Suddenly a dirt trail appeared and we hiked down the narrow path below to the edge of the cliff to see this stunning view. The ocean waters had etched a heart into the side of the cliff rock. And down below, you could see a tiny, quaint stone-white church, the Chapel of Agios Nikoloas, built right into the rock. I have never seen such a perfect spot!

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It was here I found the rock, well actually, the rock found me.  While my friend had gone ahead, I was slipping and sliding around on the narrow, rocky downhill path in my sandals. I had lost my balance and fell, landing softy on this lava rock that is now in my hand. Without thinking much about it, I slipped that rock into my pocket, as at the time my boys loved geology, rock science and minerals. I must have thought about them at that very moment, as I knew I had a story to tell them: the story of Santorini Island and its lava rocks. I find it funny now how one can gather so many memories out of one little piece of earth. And this earth is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life.

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Thira, Fira, or Santorini as the world likes to call it, grabs a hold of you and never lets you go once you have seen its beautiful blues, and for me, that love went deep. Deep down in my soul and practically tore my heart out. It is worthy of dreams and sleepless nights.

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With its’ multi-colored cliffs soaring over 300 meters high above the Aegean Sea, its’ beaches with red rocks and black sands, and every shade of dirt and rock in between, this island is as pretty as they come.

The Colors of Santorini Island:

RED/BLACK

From the deck of the yacht, you can see the colors of the famous vivid red sand at Red Beach near Akrotiri and the black sands of Perissa Beach.

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YELLOW/ORANGE/RED/PINK

As a sunset chaser, I climbed up to what is considered the most beautiful view in the world in the village of Oia, where hundreds gather every night at the viewpoint. Here I watched the sunset dip below the horizon as the sky lit up a spectrum of yellow, reds and orange and stole my heart forever.

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BLUE/WHITE/CREAM

In the distance, you can literally see hundreds of them, those famous Greek blue domed churches, whitewashed buildings and infamous windmills flapping in the wind.

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So as I grasped that rock in my hand that day, the vacuum cleaner in the other, I decided right then and there, with tears of joy dripping down my face, that I would return to “Lover’s Cove” (this time with my husband!) and replace this piece of ash, lava rock to the place where it (and I) belonged.

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Santorini, until we meet again. I think I am coming soon.

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Cacinda Maloney is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads visit travelocitygnomads.com.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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