Ever since I realized that Tarpon Springs was a hidden gem that was really close to my hometown, I made a promise to myself that I'd go there. Preferably in the summer, but during winter break, I delightfully realized that this year's winter in Florida was exactly like this year's summer in Florida.
Sunshiny perfection. So I made a plan with my friend to make the two hour trek westwards to Tarpon Springs so I could see place the set up all the awesomeness that makes Where The Stars Still Shine, shine.
First off, I should say that Tarpon Springs isn't exactly what I thought it would be, but it still was pretty awesome. My only goal was to find an Alex Kosta type Greek guy.
So me and my friend made a game, every time we spotted a hot guy we'd say Opa! (And then I'd try to convince him it was meant to be, except for I was too chicken for the second part.)
The first thing we did when we arrived at the sponge docks was go to a sponge stand, I mean cause really. It would be a lost opportunity, otherwise. Especially because Tarpon Springs is the sponge diving capital of the world. True story.
Newsflash: there are a lot of sponges being sold every around Tarpon Springs. You can just feel the Greek and the atmosphere of it all. It feels kind of magical even on a grey cloudy day, so I can't imagine what it must feel like on a sunshiny day.
Like, this town is so Greek, there's a gas station named Spartan.
Once me and my friend made it to the sponge docks, I could totally see the scene where Callie meets Alex. I could imagine that night and I saw the bench where she would've sat to meet him.
On the opposite side of Dodecanese there is a riverfront esplanade line with rows of fishing boats, their decks heaped with dark mounds of something I can't identify (Trish Dollar WTSSS).
Before anything else, me and my friend decided to walk up and down beside all the Greek tourist shops. I thought it added to the atmosphere and secretly, I tried to imagine Callie and Alex walking along there and being couple. I could also see Kat working at the tourist shop (there's so many of them). I just saw the story coming to life in a way that I hadn't before and starting correcting everything I had imagined. The was now the perfect picture to go along with the story.
Then I insisted that we do the sponge tour despite how touristy it was because, hey, we were tourists. I'm so glad that I didn't skip out because the tour guide was this adorable and cheeky old man. And then came the diver dressed in the old school diving uniform.
Fun fact: The entire outfit weighed over 75 pounds.
Then I remembered the scene in the novel where Alex is the tour guide on the same type of tour. I kind of had an epiphany though: If Callie could find him attractive in that getup then Alex must've been smoking hot. Like, muy caliente.
What I thought was funny was that I actually learned while reading the book. Guess which extremely bookish nerd knew all the answers to sponge quiz. If you guessed me, you're right :)
Trish nailed this tour part in her book. Like one hundred percent. Which is scary and good. Scary because if you read the book then you'll never have to take this tour, because it's like word for word the same thing.
Sad because you'd think they'd change it up a little now and then.
But, nope, down goes diver to "dive" for sponges. Except, I knew from the book that these were pre-harvested sponges used specifically for the tour demonstrates. The only thing is that they didn't say that part in the tour, which annoyed me a little, but whatever.
And then surprise, the diver came up with the sponge. Okay, I wasn't really surprised but I was surprised what the sponge looked like. Icky. If you're wondering, no I did not touch it (pervy jokes aside), I'm a germaphobe. But I got it from good intel (aka my friend) that it feel slimy.
Also here's a gratuitous picture of a boat named Tarpon Springs because, why not?
Overall, I loved it. I loved visiting mostly because I love the book so much. Where The Stars Still shine is so freaking awesome and lovely and it does Tarpon Springs more than it's fair share of justice.
I was sad that I didn't find my Alex, but I was invited to go to the church and watch Greek boys dive for the cross. But, our trip was only a day trip and although I didn't mind extending it, I wasn't going to extend it so I could try to mac on some high school guys. Greek or not. I'm a mature 22 woman, but thinking about it now, there was that age gap with Alex and Callie and that didn't matter much.