Serendipity

I just had one of those evenings that great travel stories are made of, and before I go to sleep (to sleep the sleep of the just, or, the sleep of those who are about to spend the following day jumping off cliffs and otherwise “extreme canyoning”) I just wanted to share the vignette. Especially since I have hardly been writing anything, which I blame on the fact that I came down with a cold in Budapest and spent all my spare hours (and hours, and hours) sleeping and/or napping and/or sitting in a steam room at a bath house.

I woke up at 6 this morning to catch a 9 am flight out of Budapest, connecting to Croatia, and by the time I finally dropped my bags off at my Airbnb I was pretty cranky. It was a combination of: being short on sleep, still having a cold, having to schlep all over every (ok, to be fair, both) terminals of the Budapest airport to pay 40 euros for having an overweight bag, the fact that they changed the gate at my Prague layover and then I had to go through such a long security line that it went from not boarding at all to final call before I made it to the front of the line, and then clearly someone had pissed in the morning coffee of the lady manning that aisle because she yelled at me six different ways in a strong accent and then yelled at me again for not understanding her, and then the flight was really bumpy so I started getting airsick and multiple kids were screaming and they made me take my headphones off so I had to sit there and listen to the screams. And then the ride from the airport to Split also made me motion sick, and then the guy who I’m renting from just left the keys in the mailbox and the wifi password on a piece of paper, so I didn’t have anyone to ask questions or advice from.

Anyway. Like I said, cranky. But then that all went away when I was able to wash my face, drop off my heavy bags, and head into town. “Town” in Split, for the most part, means Diocletian’s Palace, which the guy built for himself as a retirement home in like 300 and then has been lived in continuously ever since. People still live there, with their washing hanging out to dry and everything, though it is mostly restaurants and hotels. When I was several hundred feet up a belltower, with the sun shining, and the wind blowing, all became right with the world.

I was pretty hungry, so I googled “best dinner in split” and also checked my e-book guidebook, and they all agreed that Villa Spiza was the place to eat. They don’t take reservations, and the line was quite long, but the benefit of being a solo diner is that they can usually squeeze you in in the corner of the bar, so you don’t have to wait that long. It feels less good to have such a short wait when the guy yells “Single woman! The lady alone!” into the crowd to let you know you can be seated, though. The food was SPECTACULAR by the way, if you’re ever in Split it’s well worth the wait but you should show up early before they run out of everything. I was seated at 8:15ish, and they were out of four or five dishes already. There’s one chef, and she cooks on a six-burner stove in a very relaxed way. And everything gets finished with olive oil, salt, and pepper, very mediterranean. Anyway, near the end of their meal I struck up a conversation with the couple sitting next to me, the kind of thing where if either party isn’t interested it dies after a few sentences, but if both are interested it continues for a while. (I got the sea bass, and the guy (Jack) told me how to get the meat off without getting all the bones. And it looked exactly like what cats eat in cartoons.)

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So we chatted until they paid, and then they said they were going to get a drink and would I like to join them when I was done eating. They were very nice and friendly, and so I ended up joining them for several rounds of drinks and chatting, and we also made plans to get dinner tomorrow night. They’re an Irish couple, she’s a pharmacist and he’s a cobbler, and they both have tons of interesting stories and are also both good conversationalists. I think I’m less likely to talk to strangers when I have a dining companion of my own, so. Score one sociability point for solo travelers.

Tomorrow I jump (well, ok, rappel) down a 60-meter cliff. So that should be fun.

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