How To Look Like A
Girl When Traveling
2002 by Carole Wyatt
So here I am lost in Paradise. The turquoise water laps against the ferry
as I gingerly make my way down the narrow walk way while cars ease pass
me. Athens, city of culture and history, was my original destination. The
twenty-four extra hours it would take to get there was a little off-putting,
especially to someone who was used to driving to the next state in a matter
An overheard conversation which extolled the virtues
of Corfu’s beautiful beaches, inexpensive lodgings, and tourist stuffing
breakfasts was enticing. The sound of a full English breakfast of eggs,
sausages, potatoes, toast, and, oddly enough, baked beans sounded tempting.
Breakfast so far had consisted of rolls and tea. The tea was good, strong,
and plentiful, but the rolls were a serious hazard to expensive orthodontic
work. Blinking against the bright sun, I disembarked in search of the wonderful,
almost mythical, breakfast.
The chaos of tourists meandering through a maze of street vendors, idling
taxis, and hotel mini-buses
was deafening. All
the same, at twenty four years of age and seeing the world on the cheap,
reduced to obsessing
about breakfast. Luckily, although I had managed to capture some of the notable sights of Western Europe on Kodak
chromatic film--Buckingham palace, Big Ben, The Louvre, The Sistine Chapel,
were all pale memories in comparison to the lure of a piping hot English
was a not small touch of irony
that I was seeking an English breakfast in a country that wasn’t England.
than focus on irony
I was focussed on the growling of my empty stomach.
Passengers clutching bags and tattered guide books searched for appropriate
hotel buses while students
backpacks set off on foot. The rapidly dwindling crowd brought home the
my sudden impulse
stop at Corfu left me without any type of lodgings. In fact there was a
in Athens expecting
me in about a day or so.
“Excuse me, could I give you a ride into a town, Miss?”
A bearded dark headed man a little on the short side inquired. Back in
the United States, I wouldn’t
even consider accepting
a ride from a stranger, but abroad everyone was a stranger. Since my plans
to travel with a friend
had gone awry I had spent a lot of time conversing with strangers, eating
strangers, and touring
with strangers. While trying to decide if riding with a stranger was one
level up on
the danger scale,
the bearded gentleman pointed to his truck which had Hotel Jason stenciled
door and had a bed
of back packers who were also intently waiting on my answer. Smiling I
the truck reassured
by the sight of British punk dressed teens who I inadvertently crossed
with. Waving we called
out greetings to each other which consisted of things like: Hey, Hullo,
you since I never
bothered to get their names as we stood in line to board various ferries
and trains. The
ride into town went
life threatening fast as the small truck climbed the narrow mountain road
speeds giving brief
flashes of red tile roofed buildings and pine trees as we climbed towards
The austere architecture
of hotel perched on the highest point of Corfu made it Acropolis wannabe.
Almost there, the
truck’s gears were downshifted for the turn at the same time a loaded tourist
bus careened down the
road missing up by mere inches. A quick glance all around assured me that
was unperturbed by
the close encounter, obviously not an unusual occurrence.
My heart beat was up to twice its normal rate as the driver pulled into
the courtyard. Where tourists
out of the hotel armed with cameras, sunglasses and maps ready to take
on the day.
Before the little
pickup finally shuttered to a stop, the backpackers were climbing
out the back shouting
out their thanks,
Watching intently I saw their humpbacked forms disappeared in the direction
of a campsite I hadn’t
notice before when my life was so busy flashing in front of my eyes. My
headed for the main
doors of the hotel with the bearded one attached. Extremely white, middle
people exited the
hotel in Madras shorts, polo shirts, and sandals with socks, people not
too unlike my parents. That was
enough to let me know I could not afford Hotel Jason. Scampering after
and the bearded one,
I briefly thought of the youth hostel I had stayed at with rooms of bunk
reminiscent of summer
camp or the economy bed and breakfast that usually were in the basement.
basement was referred
to as the ground floor just to confuse Americans, I suppose. Overall it
a floor in the ground
was a ground floor.
Still there went my suitcase all the way to the front counter and how was
I going to explain that I had
didn’t have reservations
or the money to stay there. The bearded one was so friendly and talkative
truck suddenly couldn’t
hear me or chose not to. Holding up a finger, he indicated that he
needed a room
for one to the desk
clerk who was already handing over the key by the time I reached the desk.
not to pant as I wanted
to after my mad dash across the lobby I managed to blurt out.
“ How much?”
The choirboy faced
clerk announced. Six dollars, that couldn’t be right. It was seventy dollars
to stay at
The Holiday Inn with
an AAA discount. Obviously I didn’t understand the exchange rate. Traveling
American Express checks
in American Dollars denominations I had been blithely signing trusting
fellow World citizen
to give me the appropriate exchange rate.
“Six American dollars for a night.”
I queried making
sure I wasn’t walking into some monstrous mistake like $6 per cubic foot.
“Six American Dollars, breakfast is extra.”
Choirboy desk clerk continued to smile at me and nodded his head emphatically
in case I didn’t get the
message. The loud
rumbling of my stomach alerted everyone that breakfast was very much on
Pointing to the waiters clearing off wrought iron tables in the lobby,
Mr. Choirboy clerk mournfully
explained that breakfast
was over. My stomach gave an outraged grumble at the thought of no breakfast.
Maybe I should have
had those hard rolls on the ferry instead of holding out for the English
“You can get breakfast at the beach cafes any time of the day.”
The bearded one helpfully
replied once again acquiring the ability to speak English. My suitcase
with the bearded one as once again I scrambled after it. Following the
start to get a bit
tiresome. The room door opened to reveal a hardwood floor that led to a
that looked over the
bay. The view was breathtaking with the fishing boats bobbing in the water
The furnishings were
sparse with two twin beds, a small dresser, and a bed stand topped by a
The clean lines of
the furniture echoed Danish modern. A small bath adjoined the room that
had a shower
bath. Translated into
American it meant shower. Still a luxury after sharing bathrooms with a
people at the hostels.
The simplicity appealed to me, but somehow it was different from the monotony
of various motels
visited during our annual summer forays into family harmony often referred
to as the
summer vacation. There
was no television, and come to think of it no phone either. No flyers on
stand about Jacko’s
pizza delivery or Gideon Bible stuck in a drawer. It was different
all right, but a good
a trip down to the beach café, I decided on a shower so I could
start feeling half
way human after sleeping
on the ferry in my clothes. There was something I was supposed to remember
about the shower.
It sounded like they only turned on the hot water at brief times during
the day. Surely,
that couldn’t be right.
Quickly stripping, I stepped into the lukewarm shower only to experience
no matter how I jiggled the knobs.
Did I listen? I scolded myself while blindly reaching for a towel.
There was something in the bearded
one mumble about the
rules of the hotel about hot water being available only at certain times.
At the time
I thought it was humor,
albeit odd humor, but still a joke all the same. Hurriedly I dressed in
a white crop
top and shorts, an
outfit I deemed cosmopolitan. My Candies slides weren't exactly made for
down steep rocky inclines
so I ended up carrying them. Slipping on my sunglasses I was ready
incognito. The bearded
one and choirboy both behind the desk smirked at me as I passed by.
About quarter mile later, and some rather painful encounters with rocks
and vicious vegetation I made
it to the main drag
where I could put on my shoes. A careful perusal indicated almost
every café was
featuring the Full
English Breakfast for prices as low as $1 or $2. Impulsive decisions
never being my strong part, with
the exception of getting off at Corfu, I weighed the pros and cons of each
stomach reminded rather
rudely that we were now considering lunch instead of breakfast and it definitely
wanted twice the food.
The Merry Maid was the place for me which had a hanging display board that
features a red cheeked
buxom maid. Perhaps it was supposed to appeal the English to give them
of being at home.
Still I hadn’t noticed many open air cafes in England. No matter it had
with tomatoes, potatoes, beans, toast, eggs, sausage and bacon. Breakfast
consumed in the company
of two elderly British grandmothers named Lucinda and Ethel. The habit
cramming as many people
at one table as possible was new to me, but not totally unpleasant. Waving
goodbye to my new
friends, I was ready to toast on the white sand beaches with a few hundred
brief inquiry about the beach had the waitress pointing in a number of
directions and rattling
off specifics about
each area. One pointing elicited a tsk-tsking and shakes of the head, the
other a roll of
the eyes, and the
third area she pointed at merited a smile.
Clueless about what she said I decided to head to the area which caused
the rather dour waitress to smile. A crowded
beach full of screaming toddlers and oversized people in tiny European
swimsuits was a bit overwhelming.
Wading into the mass of humanity, I stretched out my beach towel and closed
myeyes to shut out the
claustrophobic feeling of being elbow to elbow with my fellow human. The
eyesclosed thing wasn’t
working especially after I been stepped off twice. Ironically the masses
of people werenot in the crystal
clear water. Gingerly picking my way across the multitude of reddening
backs, arms, and bellies I made it
into the water.
The crystal water, the fishing boats with the sails furled, and the shadows
of nearby caves gave everything a storybook
quality if one didn’t look back at the beach.
Moving away from the crowded shore, I waded north in the knee deep water
in search of other beaches, less crowded
beaches. Up ahead the beach looked less crowded. Even farther in the distance the spots on the sand
were even farther apart. Striding forward, I wondered about the advisability
of not wearing my contacts.
Stories about contacts melting onto retinas had frightened me out of wearing
my contacts to the beach.
Splashing up on the beach, I noticed a few heads turned to me look at me.
It must be the new string
bikini I bought in Rome I assured myself. A close perusal of the beach
were probably not
commenting on the sleek lines of my new suit rather that I had on a suit
at all since none of them did.
The oil slicked bodies laid drowsily in the sun barely registering a blink
of the eye withmy sudden appearance
out of the ocean. No, not my beach, obviously. Strolling back into the
water I decided to head out
for the other beach I passed. Totally nude beaches, definitely not the
Holiday Inn.The next beach was
a little more populated but there were scraps of vibrant color indicating
swimsuits.Perhaps I could rest
here after my long water walk. A large sun warmed rock beckoned me. If
only Icould reach it I could
stretch out and rest. The stone felt marvelous under my water slick
back. Before I knew it I was asleep.
A stray splash hit e waking me up. Disoriented at first, I looked around
to get my bearings. A group
of women were chatting underneath a beach umbrella. One of the ladies started
wavingat me. I recognized
her as one of the elderly British ladies at the cafe. Lured
by familiar face and a friendly smile, I
headed in the direction of the women only to be astounded by the time I
reached them. They were all topless.
Strategically held books or sun reflectors disguised that fact from a distance. Amazed that
women the age of my mother and grandmother were simply sitting around topless
under thehot Grecian sun left
me momentarily speechless.
“So how did you like your breakfast?” One beaming grandmother
“Wow, what a breakfast, I’m surprised you guys don’t get fat eating all
that everyday,” I maintained eye contact
rather than look lower.
“Oh-ho,” the women tittered, nudging each other at the humor of my remark.
“No one eats like that in Britain.”
“Yes, all we ever have is tea and toast.”
Amazed that I had been wanting to experience the real British breakfast instead
I had once again bought into another tourist
specialty, a rather tasty one at that.
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