is the current advertising campaign on CNN, BBC, and other channels, attempting to showcase Montenegro as the perfect place to vacation. I've been to Montenegro before (I wrote a piece in TangoDiva about it) with some girlfriends and since arriving on Friday afternoon, have been pondering whether I am indeed in the same place.
Leaving TASIS was different to what I had expected – no tears, no regrets, only a strange sense of relief, coupled with the comfortable knowledge that TASIS will always be a home for me, a place to return. That is a lucky feeling.
I think I finally let go of the professional frustrations of the past few years today. Lying on the back of a 30-foot yacht, floating in a turquoise cove, a soft breeze cooling the air – it all went away. This Montenegrin visit has been all rock star, all the time. I received a gift from one of my students' parents in March, inviting me for a week's holiday in their resort in Becici, near Budva. As we're heading to Ljubljana for a wedding next Thursday, this week between MSP and the wedding was free. We got picked up from the airport by Stefan and his father, and whisked in a posh SUV along the roads to the coast. The roads haven't changed at all – still all male drivers, still maddening passing 'lanes' – and the tiny villages along the main roads are still run-down, sun-baked and dilapidated. The sea glimmered through rocks and trees as we reached the seashore, and soon arrived at Becici, a town to the south of Budva that is home to numerous hotel and resort complexes.
This place is interesting. There are three large hotels, three swimming pools, a spa, numerous bars and cafes, a few tennis courts, beautiful landscaping and a clean stretch of beach. We've been put in a top floor corner room, with two balconies, a sitting room, satellite TV – it's bigger than my flat in Montagnola. I've never been to an all-inclusive anything, and it's pretty rockin'. You wear a plastic wristband and you do whatever you want. It's even better when you have a piece of paper from the owner (Stefan's dad) which says you get the best spot on the beach. We've been spoiled rotten so far.
There is an 'animation' team that creates various activities for the 1000-plus guests. Last night's madness was called "Celtic Pride" and Matt got to play the pipes for a rather dull crowd of 100 people or so. They had chosen about an hour's worth of Irish-sounding songs, and the 8 dancers put together a Riverdance-style show – parts of it were quite good, and other parts were extremely camp and entertaining. Afterward, we met up with a few of the dancers, very cool Tunesians, and they took us to Budva to a tiny, cramped bar that is owned by Nicos, one of the hotel managers. He's an interesting man, probably in his 50s, with a wife and child in Germany (he summers in Montenegro) and numerous tales of his adventures in various corners of the world. At one point, he told me that he had lived the ideal life, had no regrets, and loved his life – what statements! I only hope I have that outlook on life one day.
At one point, we saw a Vin Diesel-type outside the bar donning a Madonna-headset and dark glasses. He spoke a bit with Nicos, and we didn't think much of it until a bit later, when Matt was told that the guy was one of the Montenegrin president's bodyguards. Nicos wouldn't allow the president inside, as we were already there. Ha! He kicked out the president for us!
Then today, another gorgeous day. Stefan found us at lunch and said to meet him at 2 and we'd go out on the yacht. Um, yeah. Gorgeous, amazing day tolling around the crystal-clear Adriatic in a beautiful yacht.
So here's to free holidays. We're both getting stone massages tomorrow and going into Budva to check it out. Travelling rocks.