Photoshoot of Victoria’s Secret supermodel Candice Swanepoel on the cover of the Spanish edition of Vogue.
Some eleven years ago a sea-change in travel was heralded and the European skies were opened up, freed of their restrictive monopolies, let loose from the lurch of nationalized, profitless zombies and given over to the travellers. No longer would it be necessary to pay hundreds of dollars (or whatever currency you might have been using before the Euro) to visit another world–thanks to Ryanair, EasyJet, and more recently, a lovely spat of low budget competitors, the continent was finally in reach for us all.
While many of these changes brought negative consequences to bear–overloading of key tourist sites, noise pollution, transport crowding, etc. (there’s a big list)–these are relatively minor in the eyes of the red-blooded, excitable English-speaking male, who is mainly concerned about the greatest fringe benefit of all. Yes, the skies opening did bring out our internal Bruce Chatwins, allowed us to eat better than ever before, and see architectural sites and marvels at a frequency previously reserved only for those damn idle rich.
Lovely and amazing, but not the finest priviledge, no; this specific joy isn’t immediately discernible, but it’s this: budget flights brought us into far, far greater contact with females of the Mediterranean disposition than ever before. Ever. No, they didn’t suddenly become any more accessible as partners or all start speaking English at once–but they were there, living, going about their lives, and suddenly in an average year we could spend a few blissful weeks in their presence.
Who exactly are we talking about, anyway? What’s so great about the girls that we can’t find at home, or at worst–on DVD’s like Malena, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, or Volver? It’s hard to say, exactly. Old stereotypes don’t apply as much as they help us, however simply, to articulate an idea our fantasizing can run with. Don’t worry–this isn’t heading off to Africa or China with 150-year old imperial ideas about the unreachable, mysterious, and therefore erotic Other, the one we inevitably exploit and oversimplify. No, this is rather about landing for a weekend in Spain, Italy, or Greece, and simply appreciating–with the utmost joy and fervour–what there is to see, what time and chance have done in creating the women that live in these beautiful places.
Think of it like this: did you see Vicky Christina Barcelona, Woody Allen’s latest film? Scarlett Johansson is in it, and she’s beautiful, so, you know. See it. The entire plot of this fine film was driven by two American women and their inevitable, insane, magnetic attraction towards the Mediterranean Latin-Lover stereotype, played note-perfect by Javier Bardem. All the greatest thrills from the film (besides watching Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johannson make out) came from how effortlessly Bardem was able to work his magic–how he explained exactly how he was going to seduce the girls and then went about doing it with the utmost charm.
And only on a trip to the Mediterranean can you, faithful male reader, submit yourself (willingly) to this very experience (with the genders reversed), as you allow yourself to be utterly bewitched and smitten by every gorgeous Latin dark-haired beauty that saunters through a piazza, drives by you on a Vespa, or catches your eye while she’s deep in conversation with her other seven, beautiful Spanish friends, their language ensaring you just about as much as their curves and eyes.
Try it–sit at a fountain in one of Rome’s piazzas and watch the girls go by while you slug on a beer. Think of Sofia Loren or Monica Belucci and everything that makes them gorgeous and unique, then try and spot one of the dozens of beautiful Italian girls you’ll see walking by with a hint of those features. Or head off to Madrid, visions of Penelope Cruz hitting your eyes as you turn from the sun, nearly losing your mind at a set of smouldering (and there is no other word) Spanish 20-somethings. Try Greece, and sit on a cafe terrace, eating juicy, plump Kalamata olives while you ponder other things of a similar curvature that keep entering your view.
Go ahead, let yourself get lost in a language you don’t understand. Use those out-of-date stereotypes to your innocent advantage and get on board a budget flight to somewhere warm. Wile away your vacation in the best way possible. And hey, when you’re done, go and talk to them. Being out of your element can put you on your game like nothing else, and knowing you probably won’t be back at this particular restaurant, piazza, bar, or fountain for years to come is the ultimate motivation. You never know.