Date: 16 September 2017
Location: Lachania beach, Rhodes.
“You’re a mermaid!” Paris and I have plopped down in the sand where it meets the water, beers in hand, feet in the warm Aegean. I’ve started covering my legs in sand, then building out flippers beyond my feet.
We used to do this as kids. Her family had a beach house in Venus Bay, out on a spur towards the southernmost tip of Victoria. Our holiday activities included catching yabbies in the dam, hiding in the sand dunes, boogie boarding and sculpting elaborate dripped sand castles and tidal swimming pools on the shoreline, and then warming up in the evenings with custard, ghoulishly picking off the skin that formed as it cooled. How funny to write about your own childhood so nostaglically as this. I hadn’t meant to. I suppose it’s on my mind because of something the hotel owner had said, back in Rhodes yesterday: ‘You girls, you are always laughing. Have you been friends avery long time?’ We said we had — 26 years long. She nodded, and said it was obvious. It was nice.
And now we’re at it again but this time in grown up bikinis and with Mythos in hand instead of juiceboxes, and its not the prickly cold Bass Strait but the warm Aegean thats lapping at our toes and destorying my new tail.
It’s so wonderful to be able to do this and meet here. ‘Do not,’ Paris warns in a dufferent context entirely late one night, ‘underestimate the power of shared history’. (She will prive to be magnanimously and surprsingly profound all trip.)
There is also something else about it, maybe a bittersweet tension of sorts? Paris lives Melbourne now, which seems so sensible and part of me wishes I could want to be there (but I just don’t), and I’m in London — which was her home before it was mine — where I think most of her wishes she could be. But she’s painfully alive to the fact that, even if she was, it would never be the same. Besides, moving to London in 2014, home to Australia in 2016 and back again in 2018 just sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? Or exciting? I can’t tell. All of this to say that we come to this holiday with heads and hearts in very different spaces. But what a place to come…
Rhodes is a charmer. The old town, where we stay on our first night and discover
Rhodsecco (Prosecco, from Rhodes, naturally), is a walled city that is far bigger than I’d expected. You can see the footprint of all of its conquerors: the Greeks, thr Romans, the Byzantines, the Italians. The Knights of St John built an imposing palace. The Italians built beautiful fountains in the city piazzas. The Ottomans constructed the imposing mosque. The sky is brilliant blue and the streets colourful enough, and the people chilled enough, (and that muddy Greek coffee strong enough), to make it possibly the perfect Old Town. We pay €10 to explore the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of St John (them again!) and ogle all of the elaborate wood carvings and gambol about in the giant chessboard-like courtyard, but Paris and I are quickly and predictably sucked into shopping and spend the afternoon picking out silver jewellery and pom pom sandals and beach dresses.
At the very end of the Old Town, weighed down with shopping bags that are bulky enough to make our tiny hand-luggage-only suitcases shudder in terror, we find the prettiest spot of all. Theres a big round gate, franed by bouganvillea. Through it you can see the bay. Across that, a fort and ancient windmills and a fluttering Greek flag. We take about a thousand photos. Then we realise thats it almost 4pm and we haven’t even yad lunch, let alone a wine.
This is a shame, because some wine would have made the ensuing situation — where we find ourselves, sweaty and dusty after an hour-long bus journey, at the wrong ‘Atrium’ hotel — a great deal funnier. However, all’s well that ends well and after being outraged at the prospect of paying €50 for a cab from the Atrium Palace to its sister hotel the Atrium Prestige, we finally check into our palatial / monstrous resort. Tired and no doubt swept us by the package holiday vibe that infuses the, admittedly beautiful, place — a smattering of Germans, a big batch of Brits, too many pools, towel cards — we brave the buffet for dinner. We should have known better. However, it’s ‘Greek night’ (surely it always should be?) and the food is actually quite good and Paris has her second great quote of the trip: ‘Just don’t pause in the eating, otherwise your body will realise you’re full!’