We took the bus to Noussa, a dusty old fishing village on the Greek island of Paros. The travel guide had warned of primitive conditions, so we weren't shocked when we noticed a group of fishermen casually talking to each other as they urinated off the public dock into the water. Their catch of the day hung from wooden racks: flat silver fish with sharp teeth, round black fish with white eyes, squid with wispy tendrils of upended suction cups.
We walked through the narrow maze of stone streets past whitewashed buildings, tiny shops, lazy cats sleeping in the sun. The air was heavy with the smells of incense, tobacco, and wild roses. We stopped at a sidewalk cafe near the ocean and ordered sharp cheese, crusty bread with olive oil, and beer.
When traveling, I try to locate water closets (bathrooms) with the same zeal that I search for ancient castles and new wine bars. Noussa was becoming a bit of a challenge, and by late afternoon, I regretted the second beer. We entered a small grocery store tended by a matronly, black-toothed woman. "Toilet?" I asked. The woman shook her head, apparently not understanding. to
"Bano?" I implored, holding both palms up. No response. Words from my Greek phrase book were useless.
Finally, with a bit of urgency, I showed my travel packet of toilet paper and plunked down a euro coin on the wooden counter.
"Ah," she replied, nodding her head. She took a broken pencil and drew a simple map on the back of my book. I smiled and hurried to follow the map like an eager explorer with directions to the Holy Grail. I found the water closet, a tiled room with two foot rests and a hole in the ground. I'd seen these before, and can attest that strong thigh muscles are necessary to be successful. There was no sink, so I washed my hand with the wipes I carry - almost as necessary as my passport.
Later, as we hiked back to the port, we passed the woman's shop and I waved to her.
"Good-bye," she called in English. We laughed, and then turned toward the bus stop.