“We write to taste life twice,” said Anaïs Nin and I can very much relate to this. But with some memories I don’t even need to pick up a pen, I can just close my eyes in order to relive them, taste them, and escape the now for a moment.
My life is a bit erratic these days. After over six years of living in Cape Town I have decided to give my home another try and moved to Hamburg. As you can imagine this decision didn’t come easy and took a long time to say it out loud and an even longer time of organizing, packing, and moving. I had decided to take a one month break in Thailand in between to make the transition a bit easier and to, well, have a holiday before hopefully landing the job of my life in Germany.
Now I have been here in Hamburg a little over three weeks and while my new old life is treating me quite well, the adjustment is huge and not only the weather proves to be a challenge. I guess any country comes with its set of bureaucracy, but the German one seems especially extensive to me. I find myself constantly phoning, waiting, filling in forms to get my new life in order. While I am eternally grateful for friends and family who offer me their couches to crash on, I also miss a place to call my own to recharge. On top of it all last week my wallet got stolen. The irony of coming from Cape Town, travelling a month through Thailand, and then taking one trip to McDonald’s and seeing it gone. Mind you, I think it is karma’s way of telling me that I’m really too old to still eat Chicken McNuggets.
My usual recipe to make myself feel better would be to head straight to my favorite travel book provider Lonely Planet and start making plans for the next trip. But the book is still being shipped and realistically my next holiday is so far away that the actual planning of it is too depressing right now. So instead I started to think about Thailand and realized that it seemed a lifetime away already and that this was a little sad, because I have literally just come back. It seems that not only my tan is already fading but also my memories. But thinking about it makes me so happy, so relaxed, it is a bit like being there all over again, and makes my reality of dealing with the Mastercard call centre agents all a little more bearable.
I realize that when it comes to holiday dreaming, not only the planning and looking forward to a trip can get you through a rough day/week/month but also the remembering, the little things you experienced which even long after they have happened make your heart beat faster and your whole face smile. So here are my favorite holiday memories for when I need a holiday in everyday life, when I need to taste life again…
1. Happy dreamer. A few years ago I visited a friend in Fort Lauderdale. After a beach day with a lot of sun we drove to Miami for dinner. I still remember the drive and us listening to the song Happy Dreamer on repeat. Whenever it stopped one of us would shout “Let’s play it again!”. At dinner we feasted on lobster risotto and I ended up getting really sick afterwards, I think it was a sunstroke and not the food, but the night that followed wasn’t the greatest. However the memory of that drive and the song still make me the happiest.
2. Flower power. I love local markets, but only the ones where the actual locals go to. I love the smells, the sounds, the sights, even if they include skinned frogs. But my favorite was the flower market in Bangkok especially as it came sans dead animals. The abundance of orchids which were casually piled high, their colours, air that reminded of the rainforest, and of course the smell of jasmine, which will forever remind me of Bangkok, but doesn’t quite smell the same anywhere else.
3. City of love. It was my dad who first took me to Paris. Well, actually I took him the weekend after my parents had gotten a divorce and my mother had moved out. I had always declared I wanted to go to Paris with a man I love, but ended up making a concession with the argument that after all I love my dad too.
After a visit to Notre Dame which due to the gargoyles immediately become my favorite church, we went for lunch in a little bistro in side alley close by. There we ate chicken with morel sauce, my absolute favorite mushroom ever (I actually get a box of dried ones for my birthday every year, because I love them so much!). It was one of the best meals I ever had in my life. Ever since then my Dad has been giving me some extra pocket money when I go to Paris so I can go back and eat at the bistro again.
To my utter disappointment he told me upon his last visit that it has closed down, but luckily I have the memory and a father who makes a damn good replica of the dish at home.
4. Morning glory. Ever taken a night train which arrived early? Been sick once you got off said night train? Hotel room not ready because train arrived early? Yeah, it wasn’t the ideal scenario when I arrived in Nha Trang, but luckily they don’t call it the Nice of Vietnam for nothing. So instead of moping around in the hotel lobby I set off to the beach for the most spectacular sunrise and to discover that my macaroons had not only survived the trip, but that my dodgy stomach was agreeable to this breakfast offer too.
5. Streets of New York. When it comes to New York, I don’t have one particular dream, I close my eyes and spend a whole day downtown. In case you have one day – here is what I’d do: I start with an iced coffee and a raspberry scone at Dean & Deluca on Broadway. Then I brave the, in my dream non-existent, crowds at Century 21 and find the perfect Marc Jacobs jacket at a fraction of the original price and the matching pumps at my favorite discount shoe store on Avenue A. From there I make my way to my old home on St. Mark’s Place and have arepas for lunch at Caracas, followed by a class at Bikram Yoga LES and french-thai dinner at The Elephant. And if I come across a street fair on my way I will have a New York lemonade and know that it was the perfect daydream.
6. Spirit animal. I love giraffes. I think I was meant to, because my brother drew a picture of me as a baby giraffe when I was born as my mother is nicknamed giraffe due to her long neck. I saw some up close for the first time at a game farm in South Africa where I went with a friend for New Year’s a few years back. Our game ranger first showed them to us from far far away, towering over the hills. And then we got up close, so close I could have touched them. I still remember that it was breathtaking and that I kept on jumping up and down in our Landrover in excitement at seeing them so close. Needless to say that ever since any place without giraffes is just not worth going to me.
7. Starry night. I loved everything about Morocco though there are no giraffes. The best night of my life I had at the foot of the Erg Chebbi dune, an hour’s camel ride into the desert. The stars, the wind, the sand made for an unforgettable setting already and on top of it I got a private tour at night by a our dashing nomad guide. And in case you ever wondered – yes, camels do snore!
8. Roommates. One of the reasons I chose a hut at the Baan Talay resort on Koh Tao was the fact that it came with an outdoor bathroom and rain shower. In addition mine came with a tree and some roommates. To this day I don’t know if it was a gecko, a squirrel or a rat who not only gnarled on my soap, but also ate my contraceptive, and destroyed my argan oil spray. And while my patience and appreciation for wild life was a bit diminished when I also found a big hole in my brand new backpack, this place is still my number one escape when I need a little peace and quiet in my mind.
9. Top gun. I was never a big fan of New Year’s eve, so not having a big party in order to be fit for my first helicopter flight on January 1st wasn’t a big sacrifice. That flight was the Christmas present from my dad and the most exciting thing ever (and that coming from someone who cannot pass up any roller coaster ride!!). I was lucky enough to ride shotgun and the views over the volcano and the so called “cirques” with their waterfalls on La Reunion were absolutely amazing. Of course we celebrated in style post flight with punchà la maison.
10. The Beach. For the perfect beach memory I don’t watch The Beach, but close my eyes and go back to Koh Tao or to basically any given beach in the Seychelles. They are lively, but not too busy and just the right amount of crystal clear, turquoise water and soft sands. The only complaint I had in both countries was the too warm water, which yes, I know…how dare I am. But in my memories it is perfect and a little more refreshing.
What are your favorite holiday memories or places you travel back to in mind?
Miami and La Reunion picture via Flickr
All other pictures by Annika