I have to say that I really enjoyed my week’s stay in Mykonos, it was relaxing and fun. I made a few new friends and spent some quality time with my friend Arnaud. I think if I were to go again (and I can very well imagine I will), I might arrange things a little differently. The logic of this place is very group heavy, and although I had a great time with Arnaud I think larger groups in the context of Mykonos are more fun for everyone, because there are many more interactions and stories to tell. Kind of like Fire Island, a group (or house) dynamic can really make a vacation that much more wonderful. We were lucky to spend a couple of evenings in the company of some of Arnaud’s friends from London and I had a great time getting to know them a little. As for transportation, I was actually fairly happy with my ATV choice, it felt like a good compromise between the safety of a (closed and more difficult to park) car and the game of Russian roulette that a scooter+Mykonos appears to be. I also really enjoyed riding it in the beautiful open air of the island and the unimpeded view it afforded me of this very beautiful place. As I mentioned before, this is one of the first beach vacations where I actually enjoyed my time on the beach. This is entirely because the climate means it was super comfortable and I wasn’t sweating like a pig the entire time. Add to that the crystal clear water and easy swimming (I think in part due to the very salty/buoyant Mediterranean) and this is a place I definitely want to come back to.
What with all the good feelings that surround a trip to Mykonos, the weather, the water, the socializing and flirting, you would think a trip to the main gay beach, “Elia” would be paradise unblemished. And you would be wrong. While it is a mostly wonderful experience once one is settled in with a spot and beds, there is a disturbing social darwinism that prevails in determining how people get their spot, what type of spot they get, what type of service they can expect and what reception they will get from the pecking order of gays around them. Elia beach roughly divides into left and right to either side of the restaurant (when facing the water), with the gays being on the right and straights on the left (although fortunately not enforced as there are some stragglers who make it to either end by mistake or outreach project, who knows). Within the gay section, the nicest chairs and spots are in the front rows and center right on the beach, followed by center left, the sides and then further back in distance from the water (and the parade of bodies making their way from one end of the beach to the other in an endless mating dance). And people use all manner of influence peddling to get their desired spot: sweet talk, high tipping, bribery, A-gay bullying, and the most egregious to me, “reserving” spots a day or days in advance. Even when one gets to the beach early and all the chairs are seemingly empty, most of the best ones are mysteriously unavailable (until a bribe is offered anyway). People who have “reserved” may not even arrive until very late in the afternoon, making those empty spaces all the more frustrating to look at while others search in vain for a spot. All of these ugly tendencies come to a head in August, when the beach is busy like at no other time of the year (due to coinciding with European holiday schedules). At this time, beds are packed in so tightly that it makes it somewhat difficult to re-adjust to the moving shade of the sun, and some feathers get ruffled as people pack in wherever they can. Some groups forgo spending on beds altogether and just lay down their towels in the thin alleyways between rows, which can make a bad situation worse (especially with the more snotty A gays). And then there are the “extras”, such as pillows that are only on some of the beds. While it is a no-no to take a reserved spot (well, without a bribe anyway), it is apparently completely socially acceptable to play musical chairs with the limited pillows, and people can be seen pilfering them from other spots unrelentingly early in the day.
Although all of this can be rather like a snotty restaurant or club, and it can bring out the worst in people, once one is settled in the experience can be rather pleasant, believe it or not. You lounge, swim, rest, read, eat, drink and socialize in an endless circle, and come away quite relaxed at the end of the day.
I haven’t been to a European vacation destination in quite some time. It isn’t that I haven’t been to Europe in a while, or even that I haven’t been on vacation in Europe, but those others were not places that masses of people from different countries were on vacation themselves, as it is here in Mykonos. And so I had forgotten some of the cultural adaptations people make to get by. Chief among them is the use of English as the lingua franca. Somehow it tickles my funny bone to hear everyone chattering away in their own languages until they meet others from a different place or need to order a beer or pay for a sunbed. This “English” is transactional and simplified, more of a pidgin really, and I even find myself speaking it when dealing with anything service related. After the transaction is complete, you can see people switching back to their primary language to drop some offhanded insult or complaint or complimentary but semi-lewd reflection about an admired body part. The risk of people understanding that second language here is quite great, so I think it is more about providing a fig leaf for otherwise socially unacceptable remarks. I notice even Arnaud and I adjust our language choice to who is around us (French or English) and thin layer of desire to be understood or not, or subconsciously to be perceived as from one place or another I suppose, which can have its own uses. If there are a bunch of embarrassingly loud Americans or an annoying French couple behind us, for example, we will choose the opposing language to communicate in ourselves. And this is another feature of this type of vacation that I find hysterical; No matter the country of origin, everyone has notions of what the “others” are like, and look for people to fit the stereotype they hold in their head or to break it. And given the various proportions of nationalities represented here, the fixed assumptions are greatest for those groups (such as the Italians who seem to outnumber other groups). Still, one of the chief motivations for people to come here is precisely to meet and interact with (and potentially bed in some cases) a variety of people from a variety of places, and to feel more connected to each other and our common humanity. And that is kind of sweet.
It can be difficult adjusting to doing almost nothing. I mean, I was raised in a certain way, and one can feel a little guilty not doing anything but luxuriating on a beach all day, reading and sleeping and swimming and staring at the water. But I persevere. Still, today Arnaud and I stopped at a couple of small sites of interest in Mykonos on our way to the beach today, and took in some spectacular views (as we do most days). Check out the pics below…
It sure is easier to relax on a beach when one isn’t always sweating like a pig. The air here is dry and there is always a breeze, making a day of lounging at the beach a more pleasant experience than any other beach I can remember. The last couple days we have been doing just that, plus having drinks and dancing with the bevy of gays that seem to love this place so much, eating, and riding around a bit on our scooters. Speaking of scooters, I decided to rent one of those four wheel ATV things instead, they are slightly more expensive and slower, but feel a whole lot safer to me. (And despite Arnaud’s evident disappointment with my choice slowing him down, I felt completely justified when on the first day of driving around we passed an ambulance, scooping the remains of some young Italian scooter driver off the side of the road where he had crashed.) Our drive to the beach is a particularly beautiful one, on back roads with some really fantastic views from the hills. I will try to take a few photos of it today or tomorrow and post.