Lunch ended at 3:00 p.m. yesterday (Saturday), which meant we had 27 hours off until our next required lecture or tour. A bonafide holiday within the structure of our Fulbright tour.
And we were on the island of Aegina!
When I woke up this morning (Sunday, June 26), I was shocked to see the hands of the clock standing at 8:45 a.m. At home during the school year, I typically rise at 5:30, ride on my trusty Life Cycle for 30 minutes while watching the news, take a shower, then simultaneously make lunch for Philip, breakfast for myself, catch up on emails from work, and nail down a fabulous lesson idea that may have occurred to me while riding or showering.
This morning I rolled over and snoozed some more.
When I finally decided that lounging around had become too boring, I grabbed my morning coffee and yogurt and headed out of the Brown Hotel, crossed the street, and sat at one of the tables on the beach to enjoy my breakfast, the Aegean Sea lapping on the sand just a few feet away.
We decided that the perfect thing to do on our day off was to explore the tiny fishing village of Perdike, on the southwest corner of the island.
The bus took us out of the tourist trap of Aegina along a road that hugged the water. For twenty minutes I gazed out of either side of the bus, taking in the sight of the houses and the vegetation. Ever since we got as far south as Napflion, I've been struck with how much the landscape resembles that of southern California. Eucalyptus trees, azaleas, palms, bouganvilla, orange trees are everywhere, and some of the mountains have that brown, scruffy appearance. Red tile roofs line the tops of buildings, which are a mixture of white wash, pink, and tan stucco. Looking inland, I almost felt as though I was looking up Beverly Canyon. But when I looked towards the sea, I found myself gazing upon the Greece that you imagine when someone says "Greek island." Structures dot the canyons, making their way down to the blue and green water.
The main road in Perdike is one street: boats docked along one side, shops and restaurants along the other. When we arrived (at about 10:45 am) shop owners were setting up tables and wares, although there were no crowds anywhere (thankfully). A stroll, a coffee, a chat...it was the perfect way to spend the morning.
Gazing out to sea from where we had our coffee was the island of Moni, a foreboding looking rock that soared into the sky. Someone had been told that there were "great beaches" on Moni, just a short boat ride away. From where we sat, Moni looked more like the perfect place for Survivor Man, not for a day at the beach. The wind was whipping, and there were strong currents tossing a small boat around that seemed to be headed to Moni. Was that the boat that we had been told about? Was there really civilization somewhere out on that rock? We decided to find out.
I loved the way the boat operated from Perdike to Moni. When enough people sat at the bench nearby, a boat "captain" would step up and offer his services. How very Greek. Inside the boat, we sat nearly at water level and rode the waves as we headed toward our destination. After about 20 minutes appeared an isthmus connecting the large rock to a small one; some signs of civilization appeared on the dock near the isthmus.
Deer and peacocks grazing on scraps of watermelon and other delights greeted us as we disembarked. We decided it was lunchtime for us too. Not far from the dock was a patio with a bar and a bar-b-que, ready to service the sun tanners who claimed the chaises on the beach. We were thankful that today's air temperature was at least 15 degrees cooler than yesterday's, keeping the crowds away from our prime spot.
We bonded over Greek salad, fries, and souvlaki in our island paradise.
Everything about our excursion to Moni was perfect. Including the timing of our meal. As we polished off the crumbs, we heard the toot of the boat-taxi as it approached. Since we had no idea when any subsequent taxi might arrive to return us to Perdike, we scrambled to the dock and boarded.
A freshwater shower in the Brown Hotel was rejuvenating upon our return. And now, with 20 minutes left of my day off, I sit on the patio of the Brown Hotel and gaze out at the Aegean.