‘The Trip of a Lifetime’ – A Perfectionist’s Goodbye (Part 4)

I’ve found it incredibly hard to even begin writing the last blog of this series and it’s taken me a while to understand why.

When it comes to life; when it comes to writing; when it comes to love…I am a perfectionist. I can’t recount a romantic scenario to my friends unless I know the exact words that would do it justice. I can’t start a written project if I’m not in the right mood because that would taint the beauty of it. I can’t fall in love twice because no one would ever come close to resembling the man I am in love with today.

I am a perfectionist.

* * *

Sitting in a fiercely air-conditioned airport at 2am waiting for our flight, I knew from my downturned mouth and pathetically watery eyes that Pefkos was a place we would cherish. It was our first big ‘getaway’, our first adventure of the wider world together. We learnt things about each other that we were previously unaware of and STILL loved in spite of them. And – most importantly to me – we made a promise to each other that we will never break.

It was a difficult little town to leave behind. With all of its hidden coves, gigantic bottles of wine and sugar cube cities just over the next hill top, Pefkos never ceased to be breath taking. Nothing was too overwhelming there; there weren’t too many tourists or larger than life Grecian characters that intimidated you whilst you attempted to ignore the stray cats twirling round your legs, desperate for a scrap of your dinner. When thirsty, you’d find your cure in the nearest cocktail bar (or, in my rather mature case, the local brand of lemonade). As we bad our final goodbye to the beach and turned towards home, I felt the beauty of the trip ebbing away.

There was nothing stopping you from feeling at home and everything stopping you from wanting to leave.

* * *

Some holidays pass in a blur: a splash in the pool here, a bottle of wine there…and some stay with you. Pefkos has now, weeks later, become like a little sun that our world revolves around-now we find ourselves determining the date by counting forward from the day we arrived back in England and comparing each bite of food to the cuisine we sampled abroad, driving our friends and family mad.

When all is said and done, it felt like our adventure had a sprinkling of that magic called Life that we all somehow manage to pass up on in our everyday routines. The memories we now have gleam that much brighter upon recollection in the dreary British summer and the touch of a hand or a kiss at sunset feels that much more poignant now the feeling of sand beneath our feet has faded away.

Stepping on to the outbound plane that (early) morning felt like the end of a perfect journey, the finality of a ‘Trip of a Lifetime’ returning to everyday schedule – but I shouldn’t have felt sadness.

We still have such a long way to go.

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‘The Trip of a Lifetime’ – Echoes of the Past (Part 3)

If you close your eyes and listen – I mean REALLY listen – you can hear the throbbing heartbeat of life, pounding out the rhythm upon which we all dance.

You can hear it in the whisper of a breeze, in the captivity of the stars, in the dust at our feet and in the mighty shadow of a cliff face. All around us is life, built upon the echo of what came before and the promise of what lies ahead.

* * *

When travelling, I believe it can be tantamount to a sin to not go out of your comfort zone and explore. How can you turn your back on undiscovered land and walk away, claiming to know a place better than when you arrived? So in the middle of the holiday, we journeyed up to the capital of the island.

In the Old City of Rhodes, people live wrapped in the blanket of history; they tiptoe around it and bow to the majesty of their past – and it is beautiful.

Surrounded by walls 40feet thick, it is like a hidden gem encrusted in rock. Though giant cannonballs litter the ground outside, they are merely marked failures of invasion: proud proof of the strength of the city within.

And what a city!

Every street you walk upon is built directly above the original walkways of the past. Each house is connected to the next, the only prevention from caving in fine archways spanning overhead. Cats lounge on doorsteps and grapes hug ancient trees. The market trickles through the alleyways and spills out to the harbour where boats bob in contented surety that their travels are not done. It transports you to a different time; one where community is the root of all life and children’s laughter is piercing and true.

The history is what gives this place such intense character. For years, it was guarded by Christian Knights of all ethnicities until it crumbled under invasions from the Turks. Intricate churches were transformed into sturdy mosques; palaces were turned into prisons; and a severe physical divide was driven through the city by the constructing of a fearsome wall.

However, I am not here to give you a history lesson (although I can recommend an excellent guide who can oblige). The city bears its scars with dignity: in the face of all this turmoil, it has emerged years later with its original Christian beliefs intact and its destroyed streets built anew.

This, to me, seems to be the very point of life itself. This city is a living breathing reminder of who we are and who we have been. It has come face to face with utter devastation and lived on as a cultural jewel. It thrums fiercely with spirit and rejoices in that which it holds dear.

* * *

Some people go away to another country and come back knowing a hotel complex like the back of their hand. By experiencing the heat and the pool, they think they have experienced the country.

Other people create their own adventures whilst away and start to listen to the earth around them.

The history within the Old City seemed to be saying that whatever is thrown at you, whoever pulls down the walls you have put up around yourself and challenges you with malice…

Stand tall.

Display your beauty.

Buoy yourself up on the heartbeat of life.

‘The Trip of a Lifetime’ – Hidden Treasure (Part 2)

Did you ever go exploring as a child? Did you find the fairytale castle perched at the uppermost fringe of the forests or the secret underground tunnel to China behind the vegetable patch?

Did you continue to look as you grew up?

* * *

The sun was beating down at a cool 45°C and we had veered off the beaten track to see what hidden treasures Pefkos had to offer. Either side of us were beautiful white washed villas with lemon trees growing in clusters around the properties. A shaggy, sweltering puppy lay panting in the shade the sparse vegetation provided, raising its small head in curiosity as we passed. A cactus sprawled lazily into the middle of the dusty road, young couples’ initials carved into the skin as a sign of eternal love. We had to duck to avoid the grape vines dangling over a wall; fat and juicy bunches of the fruit bounced tantalisingly over our heads.

The sheer beauty of these simple everyday structures amazed me – such vibrant life in such a desolate country. England, in that moment, felt impossibly green. And why be green when you can be purples and oranges and pinks and blues…?

A sharp decline led us towards a group of elderly men looking incredibly proud over their collection of mopeds. They guffawed and slapped their swollen tanned bellies, sunglasses perched fashionably on their balding heads. What with us being ‘outsiders’ we received a few curious looks and more than a few grins. ‘You won’t believe what’s around the next corner’ they seemed to be saying.

Lo and behold, we had found the gateway to paradise.

A tiny little bay stretched out before us, with a smudge of warm golden sands and a glittering jewel encrusted mirror of an ocean. Invitingly intricate maps of rock pools were scattered to our left and yachts bobbed just offshore to our right. And best of all? It was practically deserted.

But Pefkos was not done with us yet and we soon found ourselves at the bottom of a dirt track and boarding a boat about to embark on a three bay cruise.

We were living the dream, skipping along the crystalline waves and skirting the idyllic shores of Rhodes. We saw the acropolis of Lindos squatting proudly at the top of a hill and ventured into a tiny bay where a joyous wedding was taking place in a simple white chapel. We motored through a narrow gap in a cliff and swam offshore from the most luxurious hotel on the island (a private pool for each room, if you please dahhling). We glimpsed lazy fish and agile goats hopping up mountains. We dangled our feet from the side of the boat as we swept around corners, the sea kissing our toes and bringing smiles to our faces.

* * *

That day I felt like the child who strained her eyes to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…but found something better waiting there for her.

LIFE.

‘The Trip of a Lifetime’ – Because…Pefkos (Part 1)

The plane touched down at 3am local time, the pilot announcing his usual welcome to the country accompanied with the information that it was 33°C outside.

3am and 33°C. This holiday was going to be a hot one.

I turned to my partner and grinned.

‘Why is it so hot in Rhodes?’ I asked him.

He mused for a moment or two before replying: ‘Because…Pefkos.’

This little routine had become somewhat of a habit between the two of us in the lead up to the holiday. We had been running, eating rabbit food, doing workout videos, going to Zumba classes (I was alone in that one) and generally just trying to make ourselves better for beach exposure. Why? Well, because…Pefkos.

We had a two hour transfer ahead of us until we reached the town of Pefkos-which was clouded by a tiny bit of worry on our part. We had made the mistake of trying to find our hotel on Google maps…and had failed miserably, convinced ourselves the hotel didn’t exist and decided that we would be homeless on a Greek Island for an entire week.

Fast forward a few hours however and you would find a groggy, bleary eyed couple blinking in the bright lights of a clean, modern and welcoming hotel reception, being told our room was in the ‘Gardens.’

It wasn’t until we woke up the next morning that we realised that that meant we had this view from our balcony window:

Excited doesn’t quite cover it. Turns out my frantic last minute search for a hotel on any and every which site I could find had paid off. Smug is not quite the word I would use to describe how I felt…but it was close.

As it was my partner’s first beach holiday abroad and in such a dramatic climate, we lounged by the pool for the first day, sweating contentedly and getting more of a tan in those first 20 minutes than we did for the rest of the holiday. Sipping cocktails and jumping in the pool when our insides felt as though they were starting to literally cook, it was rather pleasant.

The evening crept reluctantly over the tangerine sky and we set off in search of the beach. A sign told us it was 100m away…

…It lied.

This happened to us many a time whilst in Rhodes. The Greeks seem to have a much more relaxed view on distance than any Englishman. If they weren’t sure how far the destination was, it seemed they would simply label it as being 100m away. It took a while to get used to but soon became the norm.

We explored the town that night, ending up in a restaurant sampling a Greek Plate (consisting of mousaka, meatballs, sausage, stuffed peppers and some glorious herb infused potatoes). We also found a supermarket with some rather interesting bottle openers – but more about that later.

For now, we were tired and wanted to get back to our room and sleep. It wasn’t as if it was a long walk.

I’d say about 100 meters.