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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Life in the Mediterranean Sunshine.

If you were to ask me what I have done thus far on this trip, I would respond without hesitation or pause for thought that I have EATEN! I've eaten like it's going out of style, determined to stuff my groaning belly chock full all the specialties from the places I have visited.
On my first day in Rome I had gelato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yes, I am a glutton and of course everything better here. I'm of the opinion that all the calories one eats on vacation do not count as the body is still disjointed and maladjusted to the current time zone and climate so all food ingested just passes right through the body as waste. This is my belief and no can convince me of any alternate truth. Lol!

My journey started off on thursday, August 26th. Left work early and made my way to JFK for my 5 o'clock flight to Athens, Greece. Except I really wasn't going to Athens. I had booked a flight with Alitalia that was to have a stopover in Rome and I only realized belatedly that I wanted to visit Rome for a few days but I wasn't trying to pay Priceline or any damn airline company upwards of $500 to get off the plane early! So I boarded the flight with only two carry on bags and proceeded to walk off the plane in Rome and caught a train into the city. I must confess I was scared shitless! What if they started an airport-wide manhunt for the Nigerian girl who had boarded the plane in New York and was currently nowhere to be found. In my trademark overly dramatic manner I rushed off the plane in a James Bondeseque manner looking over my shoulder for the imaginary government officials who were no doubt trailing my every move. SMH at my damn self.

Through out my whole trip I have wondered how someone could leave a place like Rome, or Rhodes and move to the US of A. What on earth could possess you to do such a thing? Everything is just… better over here. The sun is brighter, the water tastes better, cow dung somehow does not smell as repulsive, life is just beautiful. I am in awe of the European way of life. One of the things that struck me when I first arrived in Rome is how expensive Soda is over here. A small bottle of coke costs 2.5 Euros (about $3-3.5) and a bottle of water of the same size costs 1 Euro. You can get a giant can of Arizona Green Tea in the US for $1 but the corresponding size bottle of water costs at least $1.50. No wonder we are all obese beasts over here. With food, it is also a similar story. Unlike the US, one almost has no reason to go to a place like McDonalds as good, simple food is so much cheaper. For example, I got the most delicious salmon, prosciutto, and tomato sandwich in Rome for 2.80 Euros and it tasted so much better than anything I could have gotten at Micky Dee's for 6 Euro. Everything is made so cleanly and simply that you are forced to eat slowly and savor every bite and flavor of the food you're eating.

I discovered in Rome that I am getting much too old and set in my ways for the hostel experience. Like a person who eats alone for a long period of time and is now thrust suddenly into the most fancy dinner party only to discover that their table manners have absolutely gone to hell, I was not prepared to live in the same space as other people. When I come home to my apartment in New York from a hot, humid day in the city, the first thing I like to do is take all my clothes off and just chill. It has become my habit. But I was cognizant of the fact that there were 5 other people staying in the room with me who could pop in at any moment so I modified my behavior by putting on a robe, but sadly this still was not enough. The shame is just too great, so I will spare you the details of the resulting encounter but needless to say kids, it is imperative to wear something under that robe!!!!
Also, I discovered that I have become a bit of a snob and will not talk to just anyone and I guess this is part of the reason I'm going on this trip on my own. The very few people who I felt I would be fine taking this trip with were unavailable to come with me and frankly, I'd rather travel alone than with someone who's company I do not enjoy. There are very few people I can stand to be with for 10 days nonstop!
The hostel was full of bloody Americans. It was ridiculous. Like dang, I left the country to escape you people for a few days and here you are, just waiting for me with your loud, brassy voices. I swear I saw more Americans in Rome than actual Italians and I belatedly came to find out that most Romans had fled the city in anticipation of the hordes of tourists that descend upon the city at this time of the year.
I was particularly irritated by these three American girls who I had the displeasure of being on the same train with, talking in ridiculously loud voices about how much money their parents had and how they cheated cheated to get by in school. I was mortified, shamed, embarrassed, name any negative emotion, I felt it. Oy vey. Vulgar Americans apart, Rome was quite nice. I did all the usual things: Sistine Chapel, Pantheon, Coliseum (well I actually just walked up to it and left as I was tired and too cheap to pay 12 Euros to get in when I had only 1 hour before closing to look around). The city was quite lovely, but I wish I had taken time to write about the city before I got to Rhodes as the experience I had there has completely been eclipsed by my visit to RODOS!

Rodos (Rhodes in English) is an island in the northern part of Greece, quite close to the border with Turkey. I arrived in Rhodes on a Sunday and was immediately alarmed/filled with dismay at what I saw. I was staying in Old Town which is the world's oldest inhabited medieval town. In other words, I was staying in a legitimate, honest to God castle! Anyway, when I arrived on Sunday I was thoroughly alarmed because there was absolutely nothing going on. All I saw was closed store fronts and old, strange looking Greeks who barely spoke English. I was like what the eff have I gotten myself into? I eventually found my hostel (after being severally misdirected) and still did not feel very encouraged about my stay there. The hostel keeper was a Greek guy with a considerable belly named Dmitri. There was also this strangle-looking English dude with a lazy eye hanging about the bar below the hostel rooms. I felt like I was in the movie 'Dusk Till Dawn' or something. In my mind I immediately began formulating plans for my great escape. I was mad as hell because I'd had doubts about coming to Rhodes at all and felt like I should have listened to what my subconscious had been trying to tell me.
I went up to my room, freshened up, put on some red lipstick and attempted to calm down and get my wits about me.
I got talking to Dmitri and he encouraged me to take a walled about the town as what I'd seen on my way in was the back side of the town but the city center was supposedly popping, so off I went. Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty that is the beauty of Rhodes Town at night. The city center was full of restaurants, tavernas, shops (Cartier included!), and bars. I felt like I was in a completely different universe from the one I had seen on my way into the city. I asked one of the store owners where I should have dinner and I was directed to a little outdoor restaurant presided over by the most impassive looking little old Greek man. I was shown to a table and when I asked for a menu I was instead shown to a display case full of all sorts of fresh seafood. I chose a nice, juicy looking octopus (my first and best!) and it was prepared for me and served with a kick ass Greek salad and a white wine. The meal was not that large but it took me about an hour to eat, good food cannot be rushed. Ladies and gentlemen, I was in heaven! I chewed every morsel about 100 times just to taste every nuance of the food. I don't know what they put in Greek wine, but it was excellent! I had one glass and immediately became tipsy. Now everyone who knows me knows that I am NOT a lightweight, but that shit was good! I finally finished dinner and asked for my bill and the waiter walks up to the impassive looking Greek to ask how much he should charge me and he looked at me, sizing me up from head to toe and said an amount. I seriously feel like the amount was arbitrary and he charges people based on some quality in them I am as yet unaware of. Apparently I was worth 22 Euros and I wish knew if that was a good or bad thing….
Took a walk about the town center and fell even more in love with the city. It is like the perfect mesh of medieval and modern. Even though the town was enclosed within old time castle walls, there were all these ultra modern, luxury shops like Cartier and Swatch. There were tons of people everywhere in restaurants and tavernas or just generally milling around doing touristy things. After a bit I went back to my hostel and had a Triple Orgasm. Thats a drink you naughty people! It had Baileys, Cointreau, and some other kind of liqour in it. Possibly the best drink I've ever had in my entire life!

Beaches in Europe are quite an experience although I don't have much to compare them to as I have not been to very many beaches here in the US. Random topless women roaming around and it wasn't even a nudist beach. I liked it though, as I feel like we Americans are so obsessed with how me look at all times. There were all sorts of people in bikinis: old ladies, young girls, people with guts, bowlegged people, wrinkly people with overhanging arm fat, everyone! I love that they were confident enough to wear whatever they wanted and rock the hell out of that shit! I'm not quite there yet, so I was there chilling in my halter-neck one piece suit which was quite glamorous if you ask me. What I noticed about the Europeans is that their bodies always matched whatever stage they were in life. The young men and women had slim, taut bodies and for the women with children, it was okay if they had a bit of a pot belly or a bit of cellulite. I never, in all my days there saw anyone running about in the streets huffing and puffing all in the name of exercise (how I hate that word!). I felt like everyone was just very content with themselves, like this is my body, this is where its supposed to be and I thoroughly accept it. I hope one day I will reach that point in my life.

The most fun I have had thus far was on my last night in Rhodes. I went out to dinner, had a few drinks, came back to the hostel and chilled a bit then to ready to hit up Bar Street. Bar Street is this long street where all the Greeks go to while away the long, hot nights with friends, alcohol and music. There are actually two bar streets in Rhodes: The one for tourists and the one for the locals and you know me, I live for the locals so mini Bar Street I went to!
As I walked along, I came to hear the sound of Jazz. Now, if you know me in the slightest, you will realize that Jazz is my favorite genre of music in the whole wide world. I live for drums and the sounds of the right saxophone player turn my heart to mush, so can imagine my shock/glee/delight as I came across this band! I tried to play it cool, I wanted to see what else was out there for me before I committed myself to this place for what I was certain would be the rest of the night, so I walked away. But I didn't get very far. I took about 5 steps and after hearing the loud techno beats that represented the majority of all the other clubs that were out there, I did an about turn and came right back where I belong. I went in, sat at the bar and what greeted by this beautiful black lady and the first thing she said to me was 'hey gorgeous' and thus I was welcomed to Besara's place. Besara was the name of the restaurant and also the woman who greeted me. It was her place. The band was pretty good, the drinks tasty, the people friendly. I was home.

Besara came over and sat with me and I immediately felt a connection with her. Maybe it was because of the similarity of our names, or the fact that she was the first black person I had seen in all of Rhodes, or her fiercely independent spirit. Whatever it was, we were sisters (at least for the night). She introduced me to her friends Cristos and Pablos (finest specimens of the Greek male ever!) and some other people. There was drinking, dancing, laughing, hugs, shots, and general good times. Felt kind of like a family, a little sad to have left them now :(. I am however certain that I will see then again someday as Rhodes is the kind of place you go to over and over again.

The only complaint I have had thus far is that all the men here are either married or with long-term girlfriends! WTH! I guess it is the culture here as even the American men I have met have been married with children. I'm talking 28 year old men! I guess if things aren't looking up by my early thirties I will be moving to Europe for love. The only single man I have met thus far is the Fabio, my Italian amor. Only he was in his 40's and I have sworn off men more than 10 years older then me. Real talk. We met at a bus stop in Rome and we ended up hanging out till 3 o'clock in the morning and then he walked me home like a true gentleman.

My trip has been brilliant thus far and tonight, I am embarking on a 17-hour boat ride to Santorini. I hope I survive it. I hope the good times roll on. If I know myself the least bit, I am certain they will.


One3 guest blogger.

A few pictures of me, Besara, Fabio, Cristos and Pablos at pla... For some reason its only letting me do 5 at a time but will be back with more. Promise!

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