In 1990 I traveled to Greece with a college group. It was, in many ways, a problematic trip. In many others it was sensational. Several years ago, Neel had a conference that took place in the Peloponnese, outside of Athens, and we all went back. Callum was eight.
Our first night in Athens, we traveled with the group from Neel's meeting to a restaurant at the base of the Acropolis for dinner. It was early evening, that time of night just before twilight begins to fall, not quite the golden hour, but close. Still late afternoon, really. As our busses pulled to a stop so that we could get out and make our walk to the restaurant, I looked up and suddenly there it was.
The Parthenon really does glow in the late afternoon light, you know.
I burst into tears. It felt like coming home.
It was an amazing trip. When we finished Neel's meeting, which was an incredible experience in itself, the three of us took ourselves off for some exploring on our own. I planned a trip that mimicked somewhat the travels I'd made many years ago. I wanted Callum to see the Palace at Knossos in Crete (we took an overnight ferry to get there, and that was pretty awesomesauce), and I wanted him to see the caldera at the volcanic island of Santorini. We did it all.
It was really, really hard to let Neel go off to Greece on his own this summer.
Honestly, I'm not completely sure how to talk about what this place means
to me. How do you find the words to describe a place that feels like
home to your soul? Sometimes I'm a little embarrassed saying it, thinking people think I love tourist traps (Santorini) or I'm a hard-partier (Mykonos). And while I love the beach and the ocean, I'm not really a beach bum either.
Instead, it's the light. A skim of gold across azure water. It's the roar of a crowd of men gathered around a tiny, tinny television to watch a local football match. It's the steadied measured click of worry beads in worn hands. It's the hearty "Yia sou!" ("Hi!") from everyone you pass. It's old women sitting and watching through the hot, slow afternoons. It's every apartment having a balcony. It's the smell of night blooming jasmine and the bright magenta burst of bougainvillaea against the sun bleached walls of white. It's bags of cherries at the market and glasses of Ouzo at the start of dinner. Olives and feta, and fish so fresh you swam with it just hours ago.
If I have dreams of dreams, the kind you know don't come true but dream anyway, it always has a house in Greece, with jasmine at the window so the smell drifts indoors. There's a spray of bougainvillea at the gate and scrap (at least!) of a view of the sea. I can pick lemons from the tree in my back yard and walk a winding path to town or the water.
I can't wait to go back.
Neel's been invited to another meeting. Countdown to Olympia: 243 days.