Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From Visiting To Visitors

The last day of any cruise is always a bit of bedlam. Assuming you are all packed and ready to go, there is nothing much to do but eat more food then sit in your room with your bags until you are allowed to leave the ship. You are supposed to leave any large bags in the hall the night before, so with any luck you haven't left something crucial for the morning's pampering, which is just about the main event until port. We ended up choosing the last exit time, since our flights and plans weren't massively early in the morning. It ended up still being a bit of a rush once off the ship, though, simply because so very many people were waiting to take public transport and flee Venice for the airport. Dancer Friend had made plans to stay in Venice for a few days as tourist and my flight wasn't until the evening, so we put all of our efforts into getting the two U.S.-bound ladies safely en route. With just a moment or two of anxiety, we got them safely on a bus and shed our nostalgic tears goodbye. It was insane to think that the week of cruising and island hopping had at long last come to an end.

While the U.S. gals began their trip back home, Dancer Friend and I headed to Venice proper, were we were going to eventually meet up with the acquaintance who had hooked us up with a gondola ride the week before. It was so terribly hot with nowhere to escape and since our rendezvous time got pushed back several hours, we basically camped out at a cafe, randomly ordering more food and drink to entertain ourselves. When we finally met up with our guide, we all went to drop Dancer Friend's bags at the apartment and regroup. Unfortunately it didn't make sense to leave my suitcases behind, so we had to take them with us for our last few hours of wandering. Thank goodness I had already seen Venice before or I would have been slightly disappointed by how incredibly exhausted I was. Still, it was great to be out and about and spend a few more precious hours on vaca. Not to mention that the one photo I took all day long was of me and a Unicorn. Perfection.

At long last, it was time to head to the airport where I could at least sit with my book for a few hours before takeoff. The combination of dehydration, the sun, exhaustion and end of holiday blues tragically created a bit of an anxiety cocktail that caused my flight home to be less than pleasant. I seriously almost asked the flight attendant for some vodka. In addition, I booked a super shuttle because I wanted a quick way of being escorted home at such a late hour. The gods of travel seemed to be against me, though, and it took several minutes of waiting for the driver then waiting for other passengers followed by various false starts before we actually got on the road. When I eventually made it to my tiny little apartment up 6 flights of Parisian stairs, I practically collapsed on my bed without a second thought.

This was of course, not the end to my adventures by any stretch. A very good friend of mine from college and NYC and studying abroad was in London for work while I was in Greece. While I love her to death, she has a tendency to make plans a bit spontaneously, so it was only a week or two before my cruise that I discovered she did in fact want to hop over to Paris before heading home to the States. I had to subtly not so subtly insist that she avoid taking the Eurostar TOO early the next day, as I was pretty sure to be mostly comatose. I woke up on Sunday morning feeling supremely jetlagged even though there is no time difference between Paris and Venice. My morning goal was to get to the grocery store so I had some sort of food on hand since I had approximately zero inclination to do anything but veg all day. After a quick trip to Gare du Nord, I escorted my dear friend back to my sweet abode, where we were able to girl gab and catch up and all the rest before yet another escapade the following morn.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wind, Whoppers, and Waterslides

Our final day at sea was full to the brim with lounging, lazing, and liquoring up as best we could. We therefore attempted to get up as early as possible so as not to waste our last day under the sun. I actually ended up hearing Doctor Friend stirring from the bunk above rather earlier than expected, so I joined her on the treadmills at the gym! Surprise surprise! That was actually my second time visiting the exercise room, having gone once before with Dancer friend when we figured out that a modern jazz class we showed up for was actually more like latin pop zumba dancing with 6 year olds. After a lovely run, Doctor Friend and I went back to the room to find our two compatriots fast asleep, so we went up on deck to scope out some lounge chairs.

It was a violently windy day at sea, to the point where towels actually flew off the ship if not tied down. And since it was everyone's last day on the boat, the decks were filling up quickly. After about an hour of trying to keep our books from becoming lost in the ocean, we decided to head in for some breakfast, making sure to hold our deck chairs by leaving our towels strategically tied to the back. This is in fact the universal symbol for, hey don't take my chair because I will be back soon. As luck would have it, we met our two sleepy friends at breakfast, so the four of us went back out to brave the winds together. That is when we discovered that our coveted deck chairs had in fact been coveted, and an Italian family of three had appropriated our seats! When we approached them about this issue, they told us that there had not been any towels on the chairs and basically gave us a very direct "too bad, suckers" sort of look. I admit I was so baffled by their blatant lies and rudeness that my impulse to push them all overboard was completely thwarted by shock. Instead, I gave them a scathing look and we hovered long enough to make them feel vaguely uncomfortable, if not ashamed. There was no way our towels had flown off and if they felt comfortable teaching their children the arts of evil so early in their youth, then godspeed. My troupe and I instead found chairs toward the back of the deck which were much more shielded from the wind and therefore we won. Done and done.

We had but a few things on our agenda before the day passed us by. Dancer Friend wanted to make an appearance at an art auction, I wanted to attend a martini tasting, and we all needed to experience the water slide and hot tub at least once. In the end, things unfolded in exactly that order. I went with Dancer Friend to the auction, feeling no one should have to go on their own, and I actually enjoyed looking at the works of art and pretending I had real money to purchase them. After a while, it all got a little boring, though, so I made way back up to my sun chair and book with a juicy cheeseburger in tow. The martini tasting wasn't complementary, but as it was the only alcohol we paid for on ship, I thought it would be fun to try a few new tastes. After that, we took turns going down the large yellow water slide, snapping pictures of our gracious landings... or raucous plummets, either one. Finally, we ran to the room to grab our last bottle of Italian prosecco and kicked out a group of pretentious looking teenagers hogging the hot tub by staring intently with our elder (yet beautiful) eyes. I think there may have been a round of trivia squeezed into all of that as well.

We ended the day at our favorite of the dining rooms, making sure to take full advantage of food options and drinks. We also made the rounds to our favorite bartenders and liquor spots, hitting up the casino for some gambling, as I was the only one who can't seem to fathom losing money on nothing. Coincidentally, I am somehow the least financially viable of the group. Go figure. It was hard to believe that our trip was almost at a close and that the next morning we would be heading back to our respective homes in our respective areas of the globe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Olympian Greek Drama

Despite current economic crises and the fact that the Romans were the flashier big brothers who appropriated much of the early Greek culture, when I think of Greece I think of philosophic freedom of thought, a triumphant amount of scientific exploration and of course, the mythology of gods and goddesses galore. I have long since considered myself an expert on Greek mythology, due to the fact that I once wrote a short musical entitled "Step on Beelzebub's Toes, Aphrodite, Crush Them" and read all of the Percy Jackson books. So the reality of course is that I know very selected pieces of information, based on whatever whimsy I take into my magical little brain. Even so, before the ladies of the sea and I even stepped foot on the Greek Isles, we had all chosen Greek goddess names, based on our personalities. I assisted with the process as best I could, trying hard not to be too anal retentive about what I thought we should all choose. Since I had already gone a bit bonkers via the rules of color coordination when choosing the palette for our t-shirts, my only caveat for goddess names was that they must in fact be goddesses, not muses or various other mythical creatures.

In the end, Dancer Friend chose Iris, the goddess of rainbows, because she is a cheery, upbeat, creative sort. Coincidentally, Iris is only one letter away from Irish, befitting a gal who currently lives in Ireland and who spent her formative years being a competitive Irish Step Dancer. Our lovely Doctor Friend chose Nike, goddess of Victory, quite an appropriate name because she is the only one of us who consistently runs to the point of marathons and frankly wins when it comes to responsible and admirable careers. I will call the other lady, Rally Friend, because despite the fact that she was and is currently preggers, she was sort of amazing when it came to putting up with our tipsy antics and oddly enough seemed to have more energy than the rest of us despite being banished to the trundle bed on the floor. Interestingly enough, her chosen goddess name was Hygeia, representative of hygiene, sanitation and cleanliness. Though not the doctor of the group, she is known for a hysterical love of organization, domesticity and borderline OCD. I was, of course, Aphrodite, for all of the obvious reasons including obsession with love, pink, dresses, and overwhelming narcissism.

Now that we have our characters in order, I will commence to describing the setting of the day. Our final stop on the cruise was to a port called Katakolon, on the mainland. The small little port village offers very little in the way of entertainment, the real reason for stopping at this location being to visit Olympia, the original site of the Olympic Games. While it absolutely would have been nice to see another island and enjoy more of the typical summertime nautical excursions, I really do love history and frankly relish any opportunity to hob nob about ancient ruins.

Now, onto the plot! It's possible this was the hottest of all the days on our trip, though it's also possible that it only felt that way because there was no raging wind to cool us down. We took a bus from the port to Olympia, fully equipped with air conditioning, wifi, and a tour guide. It was a lovely ride and offered up a bit of history as well as current events about Greece. We were told it would take a couple of hours to wander the ruins and peruse the museum and that the bus would be waiting to bring us back at a designated time. We weren't entirely positive how much interest we would have in the museum but it ended up being a welcome respite from the blazing sun. First however, we walked through the ancient ruins of the Olympics, a true wonder of the ancient world. At the entrance, there was a cordoned off area where excavation was still underway. Throughout the site, there was stone and rock piled up everywhere, sometimes very discernibly a building and other times nothing more than a lingering memory of what could have been. We obviously took many photos, ranging from the serious to the absurd, utilizing the modern efforts of technology to manufacture shots of us in our greek goddess t-shirts amongst the pillars and pieces of yore. Despite the fact that there are strict areas where you absolutely cannot touch or even lean against the ruins, some are much less severely guarded. Every once and while, a member of security would whistle out to make it clear someone had been naughty, though I was told by one man sitting in a little security booth that he would not yell at me if I touched the ruins because I am too pretty... Damn straight, Aphrodite... love scene in every true heroic tale.

As our adventures came to a close, we headed back to the port where we were able to finish any last minute souvenir shopping and search for an authentic Greek gyro... will they find it? Will they not? Climax! Followed by our long-awaited feast and accompanying glass of ouzo. Rumor had it that the ship would be hosting a toga party in one of the lounges that evening so me being me (costume and props!) I went out of my way to buy a bright pink scarf and turquoise necklace so that I could really fulfill my role as Aphrodite. The party was of course, lamer than lame, since it was primarily young children who were allowed to be up and about after 10pm. Too bad for them I was one of the only ones who looked awesome enough to really be a goddess. So after one drink, we quickly ran from the scene (plot twist!) and settled ourselves down in a much quieter lounge where we could loudly play Heads Up and end our mythical tale in peace... denouement.