My Big Fat Greek Wedding
“Yamas” the definition in the Greek language means to “Cheers and raise your glass to good health.” It was a word that would be used more times than I can even count on our vacation to Greece. When I say “our vacation”, I mean 20 plus of some of the greatest people that I know and even got to know better. Before we get into the vacation experience, let me back things up a bit and let you know when happened prior to leaving for my vacation. Let’s begin…
Two Tuesday’s ago would mark my second date with the guy I met on Match.com our first date went really well and I was really excited when he wanted to see me again for a second date. He picked the place and it would be a cute French restaurant in the West Village called, A.O.C.
We both arrived at the exact same time and were seated in the back in the court yard. The weather was perfect where the humidity was low and you received that occasional breeze from the Hudson River. As we sat down and ordered our white wine, we began to update each other on our days. I couldn’t believe how easy this guy was to talk to and how refreshing it was to finally meet someone that can actually carry on a normal discussion.
Things were going extremely smooth and I was finding myself actually getting really comfortable and then the topic of our past relationships came up. We were well into the bottle of wine and so we both were rather free with our answers. When I asked him what his longest relationship was he gave me an answer I wasn’t expecting at all. He said, “I have never been in a relationship before.” I couldn’t believe it. This nice, handsome man who is not only kind but so easy to talk to has never had a boyfriend. When I asked why, he brought up all his insecurities, etc. After that, I knew I had to ask the question of, “How has your sex life been?” The answer I got was a shock to my system and it was, “I haven’t had real sex yet.” Yes. That is right. A legit virgin on my hands and when he asked me what my thoughts were on the topic; I quickly took a swig of pinot and responded with, “That is a lot of information.” The fact that he hasn’t had much experience in both arenas isn’t what frightened me it was would be if things even took off between us. It would be the Bird’s Nest Syndrome, where I teach him all there is to know about relationships and sex and once he got his wings, he would fly the nest and I would be left with nothing. I told him my initial concerns and he said he had never even thought of it that way but that he just is looking for someone to connect with. When he responded with his answer, I took a pause and just decided to change the subject and enjoy the rest of the evening which again was wonderful. We walked to Seventh Avenue South and Christopher Street where I dropped him off at the subway. He wished me a great time on my future trip and said he wanted to see me again when I got back. We hugged and had a quick kiss. On my way home I couldn’t help but think if this was something I wanted to pursue or not. I told myself to shut down the thoughts for now and focus on finalizing all I needed to get done before I left.
On Thursday, I was fully planning on just doing the gym and finishing up some last minute shopping for the trip when the news broke about the U.S. Supreme Court forced the Federal Government to recognize same-sex marriage in states where it was legal. The minute the news broke the entire social media sphere exploded which then prompted everyone to celebrate the historic news. So, friends of mine joined the thousands of others in the West Village at the bar, Stonewall, for several beers. It wasn’t intended to be that kind of night but it was also extremely hot that day and so it was hard to even get drunk because you were sweating so much. It was a great evening had by all and everyone was simply sporting positive energy. I got a text message from my first boss I ever had in New York saying he was driving around in his car with the top down and said he could pick me up. So I left my friends and met him on the corner and we literally drove from the West Village to Harlem and back to Hell’s Kitchen again. We went back to his place for drinks and conversation. I went home that night feeling a sense of taboo. There was flirting between him and I and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there which was why I left when I did.
Friday had arrived, the day that my friends and I were heading to Greece. We were coming from all parts of the world to meet in one place. Our flight wasn’t until 4 p.m. so that meant I had time to finalize any last minute details, including buying just one more pair of shoes for the trip. I literally had to sit on the luggage in order for it to shut and as I was carrying my heavy luggage down my flight of stairs. That is when I happened. I had lost my balance due to the weight and I fell down one flight of stairs. Luckily the luggage fell before me and kind of protected me from doing anymore damage than just a bruised ankle. I was determined to not let my famed travel bad luck become part of this trip. I arrived at my friend’s house to pick him up in Chelsea and he told me that we were now taking a town car and picking up a friend of ours before heading to JFK, where we would meet the others. Of course, there is traffic and it is a summer Friday in New York City. We were all now getting stressed out and our phones were going off with the others asking us what our timing was. When we got to the airport, my friend had a fancy status that let us cut the lines to check-in and we were able to actually meet everyone at a bar for a group photo along with a shot of tequila. I told myself that I wasn’t going to drink on the flight. I wanted to remember everything and arrive in Greece looking as fresh as possible. As I boarded the plane, fastened my seat belt and said a mental goodbye to New York City, the life I live here; and turning the phone off where that phone would remain off for the next nine days I just knew that this trip was not only going to be perfect but intense.
As the plane began to touch down in Athens I looked outside the window to see an ocean the color of blue that I have never seen before in my entire life. We gathered our luggage and suddenly it dawned on me that Alex Johnson is now on vacation! Luggage was all gathered and now we were in cabs that were taking us to our hotel. We arrived in the morning there and the hotel was gorgeous. The front desk told us that our rooms would not be available until 1 p.m. so we all took that advantage to do some sight-seeing. Then as we passed one of the many churches, there she was…Acropolis in all her glory. I was told that we would be going to that later once we were able to check-in the hotel and that is exactly how the plan went. Dropped our luggage in our rooms and then we walked to the Acropolis where we were all in awe. We took a ton of photos and the trip had already surpassed my expectations just based on this experience alone. We all had an early start to the next day so after the visit we went back to the hotel for drinks on the rooftop with Acropolis as our backdrop. We said our good nights to each other and the next day some of us would be boarding a ferry to the island of…Santorini.
I was nervous that this trip would be a constant state of “waiting for someone to get ready” but we all knew that our time was scheduled in order to not miss one adventure. The ferry ride was very rocky with most of the passengers getting sick and we didn’t realize till midway through the ride that we should take a Dramamine which certainly helped our situation. As the ferry began to pull up to the port in Santorini all of my stomach issues instantly vanished and we were greeted by a personal driver that was taking us to our private villas. Who the fuck was I? Where the fuck was I? Those were my first thoughts as the poor driver lifted my 52 pound luggage onto the van.
We were the last to arrive, those that took the ferry versus those that flew from Athens to Santorini. As we walked up the white cobble stoned narrow sidewalk, it was something I had never seen before, not even in the movies. Finally, we arrived in front of two big wooden doors that when you opened them you were greeted with a private pool. My friends were already on the top floor outside taking photos and I took a look inside the private villa. Inside everything was made of stucco but the best part was the bathroom. It was HUGE and my favorite part of the house. We all hung out by the pool and of course, drank. Drinking played a big role on this entire trip. We all got ready and had a nice dinner in town. Again, we had to be in bed by a descent hour for the next day would mark a truly transformational day for me.
Bright and early we were up and after the delicious Greek coffee that I required each morning we were ready for our private boat ride along the Santorini islands. Our driver took us to the port where our boat crew was already ready to greet us. One thing I must point out before I go any further was the people of Greece. Hands down, the nicest people I have ever come across. So genuine, so pure and so honest. We got on this type of boat called a Caprice. Again, I had never even been on a boat like this but we all sat down as our instructor gave us a prep talk about what our ride will consist of and then the dreaded question came, “Who here cannot swim?” I was the only one on the group that couldn’t but desperately wanted to. I raised my hand and then he said with confidence that I will be just fine. The engine started and so did the white wine that would be passed around for the entire tour.
As we went along, my mouth was open at the views that we got to see from that perspective. I swear, the color of that Aegean Sea was breath taking. There were moments where I literally didn’t say a word. Just watched, took in all of my surroundings. I was on a fancy boat, with the people I love so much and I was having this experience. We finally came to the part where we stopped the boat and we had the opportunity to swim in the sea. It was now or never and the crazy part was that I wasn’t nervous one bit. I had never been in a sea in my entire life, I wasn’t a good swimmer and so I put on my life jacket and looked at my friends that were cheering me on from the water and so I plugged my nose and jumped. My skin reacted instantly to the water, it was healing, and it was certainly a spiritual experience. Everything washed away that I constantly worry about back in New York. I splashed around and I could not control my smile. This would be the first of three times on the boat trip that we got to swim in the sea. I was hooked. When the ride was over with I had already felt myself changing and all for the better. We got back and had to get ready rather quickly for we were going to have a nice dinner at the top of the mountain called, Oia. I was one of the designated drivers so my driving experience was certainly limited but I had confidence that I could do anything now that I swam in the sea.
We arrived to the top of Oia and I was a tad shaken by the tiny roads and crazy drivers but as long as we were safe; I didn’t care. We walked around and made it to the top where I had never seen anything a sunset like it before. I hadn’t even thought about my romantic life back in New York until I witnessed the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen in my entire life. It was there that I said to a friend, “This is where I want to be proposed to” right at the top of the mountain at sunset where you literally feel the love from the town and from all the unexplainable nature. Once the sun was set, we had a beautiful dinner with the sea as our view. The drive back was hands down the most nerve racking experiences, I was certain that I was going to have to change my underwear once we got back home and all I could think was that I have to do it again the next day.
The next day was our last day in Santorini and so we all got ready and drove around to see the views and have a few drinks. We were lucky enough to witness another sunset and that is when it happened. I was starring out into the sunset, with my friends and I began to cry. I couldn’t hold my emotions in anymore and so my emotions decided to express themselves out of my eyeballs. After a big group hug, a light dinner it was time to go home and get to bed for once again, we had a big travel day on Wednesday.
Shower, Greek coffee and onto the van we went as they took all of us to the port to catch the ferry that would be taking us to the island of Mykonos. We each popped a Dramamine and went to bed. As we pulled into the next port that was taking us to the island, I couldn’t get over how each day was out doing the next one. Every single damn day was getting better and better and better. When we got in our own van that was taking us to our hotel, we all were in wonderment as we saw the town become more alive. We were staying at the Hotel Rochari. Once again, greeted by the nicest staff and then when we got to our room and opened the terrace doors there my view was…the island of Mykonos along the Aegean Sea. We quickly got our shit together and went to the beach of Elia. The sea water was becoming one with me and that is where I learned how to swim. I had no life jacket and just my friends to support me. We swam, we drank and we got tan. When we got back to the hotel…the schedule reminded me somewhat of Fire Island. You have to make the sunsets and afterwards you can either eat or just continue drinking (most of us opted for the drinking).
We went to the bar, Elysium, where their gimmick is drag shows along a sunset view. That was so entertaining and would be our spot for the next five days. After that, we went to the town and that is where you go to the gay bars of, Jackie O’s and right next door to Babylon. I thought New York City was the party capital until I discovered this town. It was intense and we loved every single minute of it. I even took up smoking (sorry mom) but it was just for the trip!!!
The next day, hungover as hell, we still had to keep to a schedule in order to get to the beach, get the chairs and then you can relax. So, once again, I am driving to a new beach and this is where we would be having a fancy lunch to celebrate my friends’ birthday. Well…that was the intention until we decided to just take over the back room of the restaurant and drink our faces off with some of dancing on tables and making some serious noise. After the day at the beach party, it was back to town, shower, Elysium and repeating the same performance as the night prior.
I was amazed at how not one thing had gone wrong and by that I mean that no one was fighting, no one was injured and everyone was having the time of their lives. We all kept saying how we have never had a vacation likes this, how we missed several people back home and how this was the best weather ever.
We arrived the next day at a different beach called, Super Paradise, where just when I thought one beach couldn’t get better than the next…there must be a reason why the word, “Super” is in there. Because it was just that…super. Gorgeous. Stunning and I can’t even begin to process the amount of attractive people that roam not only the beaches but the town as well. We danced, we drank and we sang our asses off by the pool party with the sea behind us. Our drive back was magical as the sun was setting and then I turned a corner to a row of goats and our entire car just shrieked and then we laughed at how silly we all were being.
The trip was beginning to wind down because by Sunday all 20 plus of us were standing watching our final sunset together at Elysium and once again my emotions ran over and I began to cry…I was just glad that I wasn’t the only one was having a bad case of the water works. I met a new friend along my travels and he offered me a ride on his scooter and I jumped on. No helmet just a body full of margaritas and a smile. We drove through the town and it was magical. Afterwards I took him to the famous gyro place, Jimmy’s, where they loved me and then we all sat outside the town drinking and smoking. We went back to the hotel to see the town by the pool where we talked till 2 a.m. I was dreading having to get up at 5 a.m. but it was the price you pay. We said our goodbyes with a hug and kiss and of course the exchange of personal information. I went home and passed out.
Yesterday morning and my entire friends all looked exactly the same…beat up. Mykonos kicked our asses in every way and it was all worth it. We had an early flight, followed by a long layover and a ten hour flight back to New York. The entire flight back I had waves of emotions, I was completely depressed that I had to leave, I was totally shocked that, dare I say it…I didn’t miss the city. I guess that was all proof that I had a successful vacation. When we touched down in JFK, there was a million times I had to tell myself that reality is here and what I just experienced was something very unique.
As I walked into my apartment everything looked and seemed smaller but after a long shower and a quick walk around the neighborhood, I realized that I could love a place other than Manhattan. It was my first love and will probably be my last love and while I will probably be eating ramen noodles for the next several months to pay off what I spent. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. So, Greece…I raise my glass to you, the people, the friends that came and the friends that were unable to attend and say…YAMAS!
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