Conquering my Evil Genie in Mykonos
Do places contain negative energies for some people? The last time I was in Mykonos, the mythical beauty of the white and blue notwithstanding, was the time of my last very painful break-up of a relationship that had gone on near-happily for five years. It was the kind of break-up that had me drinking Champagne in the Jacuzzi of the hotel room alone to finish the seven- day romantic trip that ended up with me spending five days alone. The sun was bright, but I only saw dark clouds.
A year later, I was on my way back to Mykonos since I felt I had to "fix it" in my head and not remember it as the place where I was miserable because of all the emotional trauma.
The very day I was getting on a ferry from Athens to head back to the island, however, I got a call from my sister that our mother had stage 4 cancer and I better hightail it back to Jamaica. She died a few months later. What the hell? Was Mykonos the home of my evil genie?
No, I thought, that was ridiculous, so a year later I was in Paris for meetings and I was determined to try to go to Mykonos again. The plan that year was to meet an Israeli friend from Tel Aviv and then, two days before that trip, in a freak Arab-Israeli street altercation, my friend had acid thrown on his neck and upper body. Needless to say, Mykonos was cancelled again. It took eight months of skin grafting and special ointments to bring my Israeli friend back to his former aesthetic glory.
Fast-forward now to summer 2014. It's official, I am crazy. No sensible superstitious Jamaican would ever contemplate testing fate again. And yet I have to be at the wedding of a very good friend in Belfast in early August and since I have already paid the big fare money to get to Europe, I need to tack on something to do after the wedding-why not Mykonos? Evil genie be damned!
I can get from London to Mykonos directly on an EasyJet round trip for under $400. The leading star hotel property on tripadvisor.com is the Rocabella Art and Spa Hotel and thankfully they have a single room left, even though it's peak season. My Los Angeles bestie, Hugo B, happens to be in London at the time, making a music video, and he is game to go chill in Greece for a week. So I get the flight, I get the room and I get the company. Maybe, just maybe, my Mykonos luck has changed. Still, I anxiously await bad news for days before getting on the scheduled flight. Thankfully, none came. Mykonos, Take 2!
We get on a 6:00 am flight at Gatwick airport after an all-nighter in London. The evening started with an exceptional production of the Greek tragedy Medea now on at the National, after which we go ambling around the city with a late dinner at the Wolseley and then an endless series of bars in Mayfair and Soho, at which point we realise it makes no sense to go to bed or we will miss our pre-dawn flight. So we push the envelope to stay up and then simply pass out on the flight to Greece. (Did I mention that I am almost 50 years old?) We arrive in the scorching August Mykonos heat at 11:00 am and I am feeling dazed and smelling funky.
The tiny Mykonos airport is so overwhelmed by the volume of arrivals that the customs officials don't even check the inside of your passport (illegal immigrants and deportees take note!). They merely need to see that you have a passport or an ID card and they wave you through. Despite the crowd crush, I dare not remove my party jacket because I know that beneath the fashion garb of Ritz-Carlton blue lie some sweat stains that will brand me an Ebola arrivee. Don't get it twisted, to be black and sweating in an airport arrivals lounge is to be high-risk! I keep envisioning being surrounded by an army of Greek airport police with guns pulled: "Step aside, sir, we need to swab your mouth." Lord, let me get through the airport.
I am thrilled to spot the Rocabella Hotel pickup van (no swabbing required) and beyond thrilled that the airconditioner is already on full- blast. I am given a cold rag and an icy water bottle which under the circumstances feels like the Holy Grail. Thank you, Jesus, I can finally remove my jacket. And then, almost on cue, as I lean like a child against the van window looking out over the dry moonlike landscape and the famous white and blue cubic architecture, mythical Mykonos begins to cast its magic spell once again! Beauty and the beholder blend.
Rocabella Hotel is all it's reviewed to be and then some: edgy, stylish, cosmopolitan, like Mykonos itself. The restaurant has an extensive repertoire of interesting meals of Greek and other European variety. The staff is impeccable with careful attention to detail and exceptionally friendly demeanour and ever-ready helpful advice. They recommend we get a smart car and then took the time to mark out the various routes we should take and where to stop for beach lounging or lunch for each day we are on the island.
Walking around Mykonos town or Chora is an adventure of discovery. The cosy streets are bursting with shops, churches, restaurants and hordes of attractive, easy-to-meet people. The beaches teem with sexual energy. The rocky terrain provides hidden alcoves for the naturists and the daring. Unexpected strong winds can disrupt a setting but also add mystery to the island experience - you usually walk down this path to get to your hotel. But guess what? Tonight you can't; it's too windy so you need to find another route.
In a couple of days we settle into a routine. It begins with a late breakfast, usually poolside, with the high-UV dark glasses hiding the jaded eyes. There is a mid-morning nap in the AC, to wait out the sweltering heat. A drive into the mountains or the town for lunch by 1:00 pm. Hit the beach around 3:00 pm. Early-evening cocktails or sunset parties at 7:00pm. Nap and shower before heading out for a 10:00 pm dinner. By 1:00 am we are at some bar club testing, developing and fine tuning our global lyrics. The net is cast and we saddle up for nocturnal adventures. We crash at 4:00 am and start the whole process all over again. Mykonos for us, and all the other 750,000-plus visitors per year, is suddenly our island. Everyone is eager to find and share their stories and their special spots. Somehow I have managed to put the evil genie back into the bottle.
At the end of the Grecian sojourn, as I board the 8:00 pm EasyJet flight back to London, exhausted and exhilarated, it strikes me that there is absolutely no reason for Jamaica to have a high season and a low season. Mykonos is 33 square miles with only 10,000 inhabitants, yet it gets nearly 100 visitors per resident a year, most of whom come between April and October. Jamaican summer days and summer nights are just as spectacular as this little Greek Island's and honestly, not nearly as hot. All we need is a reason to come. The hoi poloi flock to Mykonos in the summer for the open hedonistic vibe, the lazy undisturbed beach time, the simple fresh food, the chic party circuits, and the award-winning cocktail bars. Why o why can't this be Negril?