By Flore der Agopian

Greece, by Michelle Schwartzbauer

Michelle Schwartzbauer

The sun was beautiful in Greece. The weather was perfect and I don’t remember a day of rain. I dressed in cool summer dresses and sandals. Somehow, it was a dream. We could do whatever we wanted, my sister, a girlfriend and me. What freedom!

I’ve traveled a lot from my home in Paris and discovered many countries, mostly in Europe: the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus, and Greece. But it was our visit to Greece during the summer of 2009 that is my most memorable. Somehow it was the dream.

We were about twenty in our group of teenagers and parents traveling together, but this year was different. We used to take one week in a foreign country with many friends for the Easter holiday, which became sort of a tradition for a few years. We changed our habits and left in August for two weeks in Greece and stayed at a hotel club.

I hate the plane, but was very excited at the prospect of traveling to Greece. We landed in Athens (a direct flight from Paris), and were driven in a bus dedicated to our group to a little village not far from the airport and hotel club. There weren’t any stores in this village, just some houses. When we arrived at the hotel there were a lot of young people waiting for us. They had been there for one week and wanted to know “the news.”

I shared a room with my big sister and a friend of ours. We’d packed clothes dedicated to summer: light dresses, shorts with simple T-shirts and tank tops, thongs and sandals, and of course swimsuits!

We had a beautiful view of the sea and palm trees from our window, but not of the beach. We heard the sound of waves. We could hear all the people shout, having fun. The children were playing in the swimming pool. At first glance out of the window each morning, I could decide what I would wear for the day, but it was easy because every day we had nice weather. In Paris, I am not used to seeing and hearing, what now is so near, the sea. It changed all my habits, and maybe that was what I liked. I realized the huge opportunity I would have to wake up every morning to see and hear this wonderful place.

There were two huge swimming pools located outside: one for games and another for relaxing, which was a little smaller. There was even a bar in the pool so we could take a cocktail in the swimming pool itself. In the big pool there were many children, their parents and teenagers. Even in the early mornings, there wasn’t a free deck chair because of the numerous people. In the smaller of the two pools were the adults who wanted to be calm. It was funny, our time in the swimming pool. We were all together. I remember that sometimes guys wanted to throw girls into the pool with all our clothes. There was a spa where I didn’t go, woe is me! But I did so many things that I don’t regret. I used to spend part of each day on the beach near the hotel. The beach was made of pebbles. It was really unpleasant. It hurt my feet! I brought with me sun creams from Paris and used them all because I have fair skin. When I was in Greece, I didn’t realize that I had tanned. But when I came back to Paris, I saw other people and also our pictures and I understood that I had become café au lait.

I was happy. We could Jet Ski and sail. The problem was that there wasn’t wind so it was difficult, but very funny. We could be four on the boat, I think. Sometimes we couldn’t come back to the beach easily. One day some of my friends took a sailboat and they went very far away. Unfortunately for them there was no wind that afternoon. They had to wait three hours for somebody to notice their absence and go look for them. We could take a parachute, which was wheeled by a boat, and also air mattresses on the water. I suppose that the favorite activity of teenagers was the Jet Ski, because they were always in use with two of us riding. One afternoon, we took a pedal boat with a slide and we swam far from the beach. The water was so blue and warm, and I liked that; but a jellyfish stung my friend and it wasn’t so funny for her.

Every evening there were shows and parties. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was very bad—when it was bad we didn’t stay. There were theme parties: one night it was black and white, another night we danced on the beach and everybody was there! After the typical evenings the teenagers went to the discotheque. It was almost only international music and summer hits. One night we were on the beach and made a fire for a BBQ. Another night we swam in the dark and it was so great because it was still hot and we could play in a different way.

I love Greek food. I tried food I didn’t know, like Mousaka—it was the best I have ever had. I ate the typical bread, pita. I ate feta and so many vegetables, which I generally don’t eat so much. But there, it was so amazing. The fish was very good too. In Greece, all foods are natural and we noticed it when we had one mouthful. You feel the real taste of the dishes. In France we have some exceptional restaurants, but it can be really expensive when you want to have the same sensation of taste. I am of Armenian origin, so I knew some kinds of foods and I like them. There is a meal that I like, it is called tzatzikis: it is cucumber with yoghurt, olive oil, garlic and chive. You can also add mint. It is fresh for summer and really good.

We went to an open-air market not far from the hotel club. There were so many sorts of fruits and not very expensive. The market was in a little village. I don’t speak one word of Greek so I used English. Some of the people could speak French and it was easier for us. But I think we spoke with our hands too. Sometimes it is not easy to be understood in a country where you do not know the language. So speaking with your hands can be the best way. I really loved the raisins and we even bought some to take home to Paris. Some were brown, some were yellow, and if I’m not wrong, some were a kind of green. It was very beautiful. We could try, on the spot, the different sorts and choose which we liked the most. In France some raisins are really good, but I did not find the same raisins. They were so special. I mean, their taste was very different from all we can find in the other countries I’ve visited. I think it is because they are grown with the sun and also totally in a natural way. There were numerous colors of all the fruits and vegetables offered for sale in the market and every thing smelled good. The smells of seasonal fruits mixed with the smells of spices. It was so exotic.

Our group visited Athens, not the entire city, but we did see the Parthenon on the top of the Acropolis. It was impressive. I used to see it in pictures in history or travel books and magazines, but when you are in front of it, it is different. A little destroyed, but such antiquity. Another day we took a ferryboat for a cruise between some of the numerous Greek islands. We could stay indoors within its many rooms or go outside on a huge terrace deck that was exposed to the sun. We woke up early for the boat ride and took lunch on the islands. I think I just bought a sandwich with puff pastry. We could walk wherever we wanted throughout the ferry within its three floors to see the islands. We stopped on the islands and they were very cute and picturesque. There were little fishing harbors with sailboats. It seemed timeless. The architecture of all the islands was ancient, as if they didn’t know about mass consumption.

I dream that one day I could return to Greece. A bientôt, peut-être dans cette si belle Grece ! See you soon, maybe, this so beautiful Greece!

Flore der Agopian crop portraitFlore der Agopian was born in Clamart, a southwest suburb of Paris, where she grew up and lives today. She is in the final years of terminale, which is equivalent to the senior year of high school in the U.S., where she is preparing for her Baccalauréat at the Lycée Françoise Rabelais de Meudon. If accepted into the language program, Flore will study history, literature, and the culture of anglophone societies and will hopefully study abroad in the U.S. or Germany.

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Text copyright ©2012 Flore der Agopian. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Michelle Schwartzbauer. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.