In 2006, while I was young and very much impressionable, I went on my first international adventure! It was the beginning of a life-long, obsession with world travel and the exhilaration of worldly cultural experiences. And it started in Greece.
As an introduction, and in no particular order, here is a brief taste of the hilarity I encountered on my first adventure. Enjoy!
2. Wandering around in the shops surrounding The Plaka, or the “Neighbourhood of the Gods”, a jewellery shop owner took too much of a liking to my friend and I as we shopped for Grecian jewellery. So much so, he gave me his business card with a written personal phone number on it, asked me to come back and go on a date, while verbally expressing his admiration for the shape of my friends butt.
3. Two of my friends decided to have an epic ‘beard-off’. A challenge of manliness and pure testosterone, to see who could grow the best beard over the course of the trip…We were 17. The results were less than ‘epic’.
4. On the Island of Hydra, my companion and I wandered off like we do…and decided to climb up the side streets of the beautiful, picturesque U-shaped port. We went up, and up and up. Past the squished plaster homes with terracotta roofs and blue painted shutters. I was filming on my handi-cam at the time, through the cobbled paths behind the houses and looking out over the sea. All of a sudden, coming full speed up behind us was a frantic donkey with a load on it’s back and no owner in sight. The animal was reeling towards us at full bore and with determination and a vendetta in its eyes. We did all we could to escape certain doom on the narrow streets of this not-so-innocent island and leapt into action, turned and ran. We jogged in a frenzy up tiny uneven stairs, fumbled around bricked corners and tripped over tiny white fences until we were sure we had lost this demonic donkey who was clearly out to get us. Once we were completely sure we were alone, we took a moment to breathe and look around. We found ourselves at the top of the hill, overlooking the port in all of its’ Saronic splendour. Success! I felt an overpowering sense of personal achievement at that moment in time; as well as a stomach cramp.
4 1/2. On that same island on the way down from our existential precipice, we were asked by a lovely blue man cleaning someone’s pool, if we would do him the honour of to staying for dinner. With a powerful sense of impending regret, we gracefully declined, as we had a boat to catch. The Fates disliked this decision, and decided to punish us later on that same day (see 5.).
5. Visiting the Island of Aegina, with only a few hours to enjoy the delicious pistachios and olives from the market before we had to make it back to the ship, my friend and I wandered into a church courtyard and parked our appealing butts on a park bench. While getting sideways looks from an old man in religious garb we could hear the bellowing of a boat horn. I check my watch, and firmly believe we have lots of time. We meander along, munching on our snacks and then to our surprise, hear it again. After checking the clock tower we realize in a moment of fierce panic that my watch was, in fact, not at all correct. We leap into action, pistachio shells flying in the air behind us, as everything seems to go by in slow motion.
We run in the direction of the booming noise coming from the awaiting ship, with nothing but the fear of being left on a foreign island in the middle of the Mediterranean with only our filled pockets and ugly orange and blue tourist backpacks to sustain us. We run through the tiny winding streets until we reach the main drag. We can see the giant boat, we’re yelling, moving as fast as our feet can take us, whizzing past tourists, locals, donkeys, bikes, carts and other things we don’t take time to notice. With little breath left in our lungs, we reach the boat in the nick of time, before it departed. We fly up the ramp and find the rest of our tour group and classmates who were even more afraid for our well being than we were. Lesson learned. I adjusted my watch. In hindsight though, there are much worse places to be abandoned than on a Grecian island in the Mediterranean.
6. While wandering through the Plaka on a cool breezy afternoon, our group passes the aforementioned jewellery shop, and the man shouts out the front door at the top of his Grecian lungs “I LOVE YOU!!”.
7. One evening in Patras, a town on the Peloponesian border next to Western Greece, we wandered off to explore once again, causing distress to our tour group. On the other hand, the two typical Grecian men in the red sportscar that kept stopping and asking us to join them for the night, didn’t seem to mind at all that we weren’t where we were supposed to be.
8. Throughout the trip, street vendors in Athens constantly approached us with fake Louis Vuitton bags, Gucci sunglasses and shabby roses in the hopes they would make that fabled sale. They are also about the pushiest people I’ve ever met, keeping in mind I deal with North American telemarketers on a regular basis. One night, while sitting at an outdoor cafe’ having a drink, a rose vendor walked up next to my friend, said nothing (assuming he didn’t speak a word of English) and held the rose up to my friend’s face. After saying no sheepishly several times, we all had to chime in and shoo the persistent vendor to greener pastures. Needless to say, the following nights at dinner were used to poke fun at this rather embarrassing public incident.
9. At the Theater at Epidavros which had some of the best natural acoustics in the world, we took turns singing in front of a large crowd of tourists. Personal renditions of of The Beastie Boys, Sinatra and ‘I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts’ by four of my friends was a particular treat. As well as the ‘Braveheart’ William Wallace Speech by “Hot Dave” from New Jersey (Who, after a few years of ageing on my part, seems no longer that hot…).
10. Keeping to the musical theme, on the night of our departure, on the bus ride to the airport at 4 in the morning while everyone else was fast asleep, myself and the two beard-y boys decided it was a good time to practice our vocal talents by singing several Bryan Adams songs. Riddled with drowsiness and sleep deprived inhibition, it was the most enthusiastic and acoustically pleasing performance I’ve ever done! Now that’s a way to make friends! (Not so much…)
11. There was an innocent competition between us girls and a few of the guys on the trip, as to who could “pick-up” the most. It was an overwhelming win for the women. The score was as follows:
Girls: Jewellery store man with phone number and date proposal and an over-enthusiastic, very public “I LOVE YOU”, Blue man from Hydra asking us to dinner, Sports car men attempting to steal us, and finally a “You have beautiful eyes” from the Greek Christian Bale doppelgänger working at a cafe’ in Athens.
Boys: One less than successful ‘get laid’ attempt by a local man at a night club in Tolon called “The Gorilla” which, much to everyone’s surprise, turned out to be a gay bar. If only we had learned this before my friend climbed up on the scaffolding inside and took his shirt off in an “I’m too sexy for it” sort of way. Or maybe it was better he didn’t know…
So that was the humourous aspect of my Grecian Adventure, filled with life, learning and unending hilarity. With any luck I’ll be able to go back again to re-live the experience, and with a bit more freedom perhaps say yes to an invitation to dinner…ahh screw it…I’m going to watch Mamma Mia.
-Miss Hailey Jane