09/20/2012 03:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Best/Worst Brands: Greek Yogurt, Swarovski Pedicures, Parting of the Red Sea

We, like Gwyneth and Jay-Z, could have gone to the Dalmatian Coast for vacation, but decided on Greece to contribute to their calamitous economy and engage in what I like to call humanitourism. We should be less self-indulgent when we can, I thought, except for the occasional Swarovski crystal pedicure, hair treatment by Yarok Beauty Kitchen, and buying two Starbucks in one day. So we decided on Greece because writing about Greek yogurt and tourism would save their economy, I strategized. Joanna Kakissis from NPR apparently agreed with me.

When I told people like Chatty Gym guy or Super Favorite Neighbor Lady (a self-aware hoarder who is OK with my submitting her profile to A&E’s Show, Hoarders) , they said “It’s dangerous” and  “just not a good time to go over there.” These were young and or open-minded people who recycle, carry Moleskine notebooks, prefer Kuma Inn over Abe and Arthur’s. This was a ruptured economy, not 9/11. Riots in Athens? Yes. But we are going to the Cyclades. They’ll be no riots on the Santorini Promenade. I’ll bet you a Stavros Gyro there won’t be any.

We started out in Mykonos at Grace, one mile from the pedestrian town of Mykonos with its labyrinth streets–mostly painted grey and outlined in white silicone paint to mirror cobblestone. The town of Mykonos has hundreds of tiny stores selling unremarkable works of art, frozen yogurt by the gram, and remarkable bars, open til wee hours of the night like Lotus Bar, which has a natural canopy made from the tree growing in the center of the restaurant. Sit at the bar, smoke a Cohiba (they’re legal there). and don’t mind the incline of place, just lean forward. Riots in Mykonos: 0. Number of days in Mykonos: 3. Am I going to fast? You'll know why soon. 

We took a ferry from Mykonos to Crete, stayed at the very fancy Blue Palace-a place Zeus would have stayed. We had a private pool, were driven from our room to reception everyday in a cute little golf cart, and had gluten free bread at breakfast. Let’s move on, ok?  The Blue Palace, while breathtaking and serene, had nothing on the beauty of the small villages, like Kritsia, where from the windows, roofs, and doorways of every house, flora took over the landscape like delicate beautiful monsters. And in the bars in the little towns you’d see Greek pride with black and white images of their finest exports: Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis. Riots in Crete:0. Number of days in Crete: 3

So we are finally here. This is what all the rush was about. Santorini. Magnificent Santorini. When we arrived here, I’d wondered why we went to Mykonos and Crete in the first place. No offense, but Santorini really was what I’d been after. The only thing this island had in common with the other Cyclades is an immunity to credit cards, otherwise it is a place like you’ve never seen and will ever see again.

Santorini is built on a Caldera-the remaining ash from a volcanic eruption that occurred in 1500 BC, which some believe, like James Cameron, caused the parting of the Red Sea. The houses built on the Caldera are not built the way you and I are used to seeing homes. Looking down a street and seeing the front, the side and then seeing the neighbors’ house a few hundred yards away. They fit together like teeth of a horizontal zipper. You cannot stand in “in front” of a house and see it’s entirety. The master bedroom of one house is right next to the main entrance of another. It was built that way to confuse pirates in the 13th century, so they say. We stayed at the Altana and in the morning while I was dressing, I’d look out the window and see a woman just outside my window, close enough that if I had a dog treat in my hand, the dog would be able to jump up and eat it out of my hand. And this wasn’t a hotel guest, this was a neighbor walking her dog in the streets of Santorini.

Number of riots in Santorini: 0. Number of days in Santorini: 3.