I’ve got some bad news for all you followers out there… I’m home! My time in Greece came to a swift end last Wednesday when I flew from Kalamata back to Athens. Fortunately for you, I still have many, many stories to tell. So. I’m going to keep writing as if I am still experiencing the glamour and the thrill of life in Greece (while in reality I am just sitting at home, snacking on fatty American food and getting ready to head back to college). You with me?

Switching from the simple, slow life of Vervena to the world of 5-star accomodations and service was rather dramatic. I went with Aunt Renee to the Romanos hotel lobby and then escorted to her room. To be completely honest, I was dying to see the inside of the deluxe accommodations. I was not disappointed. The corner bedroom was a miniature palace, complete with a spectacular porch overlooking the sea.

“Darling, I’m going to a little party at Inbi tonight. You’re welcome to come along. I’d love to introduce you to a few of my friends,” Renee said, before I headed back over to the golf course. Inbi was one of my favorite spots at Costa Navarino. The long, marble entranceway to the restaurant transported you 3,000 miles into a chic New York City club.

“Absolutely!” I replied, thankful that I had stuffed a dress into my travel bag at the last minute. “I’ll see you then.”

The golf course was extremely busy. I went downstairs to help the boys at the Staging Area, washing buggies and giving guests cold, lavender-scented towels after their round. In the back of my mind, I wondered where I would grab a quick bite for dinner. When I’d completed a full eight hours at the course, I went to grab my bag from the locker rooms. Aunt Renee had left me a message.

“Debby, come down to the Lebanese restaurant. I’m eating with Takis and his family.”

Perfect! We gathered around the low tables and relaxed into the pillows and cushions. Takis and his wife were incredibly sweet. Their son, Jean Francois, only wanted a chocolate crepe for dinner. The rest of the family was eager to try the foreign cuisine and, once they realized that I knew the menu well, asked me to order for the table. Hummus, mutabbal, falafel, kebbe, kebab… I ordered all my personal favorites. The food was excellent, as always. We scraped every bowl clean.

The table next to us was overflowing with hookahs (or “nargiles” as they refer to them in Lebanon).

“Do you like hookah, Renee?” I asked casually. When she acknowledged that she had never tried it, I was stunned.

Renee turned to Takis, the avid smoker among us, and asked “Have you ever tried it?”

“Yes, and it was disgusting,” Takis replied.

“Disgusting!” I exclaimed. “Where did you try it? And what flavor?” I am by no means a smoker, but I am fascinated with hookah as a cultural and social medium. I also happen to think it tastes amazing.

He grumbled something about having a bad experience in Turkey with hookah. I felt obliged to change his opinion. I waved at the tall, bald man who ran the small hookah bar outside the restaurant’s doors. He acknowledged my wave and I held up one finger. He nodded, with the slightest hint of a smile. I had never realized how much he resembles the character Jafar in Disney’s Aladdin

Minutes later, he set a green glass hookah down on our table.

“How did he know what flavor?” Renee asked me, curious.

“Oh, he knows I love the grape mint. Its not on the menu,” I said cheekily, proud of my small connections.

I found it incredibly satisfying to see both Takis and Aunt Renee’s eyes light up when they tried the hookah. Success!

We moseyed on over to Inbi later on in the evening. A big-name DJ from Athens was mixing tunes and the bar was packed with hotel guests and a fair number of staff. Aunt Renee made her way over to the terraced seating where her friends were lounging on white couches and sipping passionfruit martinis. I ran into Tony and got to chatting with him. The rest of the night passed by in a blur of color and noise. Eventually, Renee made her way over to tell me that she was going back to her room. I was suddenly reminded that I was tired, as well. We exited together and I started mulling over ways to get back home at this late hour.

“How about you just come back with me?” Aunt Renee offered. “There’s plenty of room!”

So, I got to spend one day feeling completely like a guest at the hotel: arrive, play golf, eat a fancy dinner, socialize at a chic party, and sleep in a glorious king-size bed. Hmm… yes. I don’t mind this at all.

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