In Florence, I met a boy at the hostel who had been CouchSurfing throughout Europe. He was telling me all his amazing experiences with locals, how his goal was to leave Italy knowing how to make the perfect spaghetti carbonara and how three Italians so far had given him recipes and cooked with him. He said I was missing out.
I knew that all along. My interaction with new people is most hours of everyday, but this trip lacks interaction with locals. I try by leaving the tourist areas, eating in the local restaurants, striking up conversations in stores… It’s not enough and I’m sure some could easily criticize my trip for that reason.
I’m okay with that. In Pisa, Italy, I made a best friend who is Polish and lives in Dublin. She doesn’t have to be Italian in Italy for it to count as new to me. Barbara, 31, nannies for a living. She couldn’t get vacation at the same time as her friends, so she is traveling by herself for six days. She kept using the word “impressed” when she heard about my trip, and she said her friends and family were so worried about her. “You’re going to a country you don’t know, with a language you don’t know…” and by the end of our time together (dinner, breakfast and then train station coffees before parting) she said repeatedly, “I’m going to do it.” She has always wanted to go to Prague, Spain and Portugal, and now she will as vacation allows over the next couple years. “I’m going to do it.”
Well, nothing makes me happier than that.
I felt bad leaving Italy as fast as I did, but I really wanted to move on to France. Italy is beautiful, it absolutely is, but it has never held the magic for me that it does for 90% of tourists. Prague was magical. I want to return to Berlin. I always love Spain. But I’m okay leaving Italy… I can’t pin why that is.
Oh but I’m so happy in Nice, France. So, so happy. My hostel, 18€ a night, is three blocks from the beach. This was my morning.
So happy. I climbed 400 steps by noon, too, so Nice is good for climbing. I’m staying in Nice for awhile. There will be day trips to Cannes and Monaco.
But thats not why you clicked on this blog. You want to know about the accidental date.
The afternoon was gorgeous. I spent an hour walking along the promenade, past expensive shops, gourmet restaurants and luxury hotels. I ended up back on the beach.
It’s only 3:30p.m., I can’t spend money, I have free time and I’m bookless. While waiting for the superglue on my sandals to dry, I sit on the beach and play with shadows, exposure, color settings, sun and silhouettes. I’d rather never use myself as the subject but the only other options at the time were men in underwear. Silhouettes you don’t want me capturing.
I’m playing because it’s free time that doesn’t cost a penny. Multiple shots made me look like the weirdest Great Sphinx. If this playing didn’t have a story to go along, it wouldn’t even get shared.
As I’m sitting on the pebbles messing around with camera tricks, an old, tan, skinny man arrived. He got in the water, just his feet because he was wearing rolled-up jeans, then laid down near me. About four feet away. Mind you, it’s a coast in mid-November. There is plenty of space.
And then he started masturbating.
Oh, I kid you all not, I could not get away fast enough.
I dropped my stuff elsewhere far down the beach, had a conversation with a lovely woman originally from Mannheim, Germany, played with my camera some more. A new friend, Sefan arrived, asked if he could sit. He offered me a cigarette (I declined).
He hasn’t spoken English in over a year, but you’d never know. He and I argue, he insists California must be nicer than Nice. He tells me people from the west side (of the States) are good-minded, sociable people. He thinks the east side are most complicated. We bond over liking the same music. He really likes Ray Charles, too. He tell me I should come to his town for dinner tomorrow, I hedge discussing that offer. We talk about travel and jobs. We exchange contact information, should that dinner happen (probably not…) and I know from his email address his birth year is probably 1980.
He asks if I want to get a drink or something. He says the word coffee and I’m immediately more comfortable with coffee as opposed to alcohol or dinner together. I say okay. It’s only 4p.m.
On our way to the cafe, we continue talking music. We both like Michael Jackson, except he doesn’t know P.Y.T. and asks me to sing a few lines. Oh, why not.
Crossing a major intersection, I run into Clinton and Sally, my favorite Australians from last night. We catch up quickly before I apologize and say I can’t keep Sefan (already across the street) waiting. “It’sJustCoffeeItsNotADate” escapes my mouth, like they care at all? Clinton said I’m doing exactly what I should be doing.
Sefan’s parents are from Tunisia, and in the next hour, I learned more about the Tunisian culture, politics, revolution and traditions than I ever, ever would have imagined. And it really was fascinating – his focus on relationships with your parents, how women are paid for five hours what men are paid for seven (that might not be a statistical fact, more just a societal custom)… How his last relationship, the girl cheated on him with his best friend and he caught it with his own eyes. He says he doesn’t mean to talk about bad things, and it really was just a moment of bringing it up. He says “I think too many people try to make things work when they know it is not correct. I think either everybody knows it is correct, or it is nothing at all.”
He follows this story by asking if all American girls smile all the time. He told me my smile makes him happy and that’s why he had to sit down next to me on the beach, because he didn’t know why it made him happy.
Aw… Ha… Ha… Let’s talk about correct. If my friend asks me why I smile all the time, it’s going to put a huge damper on his excitement for this coffee date.
Also, yes, it was just implied I sit on empty public beaches grinning like a goober to myself.
It was a lovely time. We exchanged contact information but I probably won’t be seeing him again, although in this small world, who knows. My Milan hostel roommate of one night and I ran into each other in Pisa yesterday. But I won’t be joining him for a bus ride to his town tomorrow…
How awkwardly great is this picture, though.
Every day is an adventure.