Thursday, September 24, 2009

Armchair International Travel by Caitlin Crews

Fall is here (not that you can tell this from the 90-plus degree weather we are having here in southern California) and that always gets me in the mood to travel.

Not that I am traveling anywhere outside my computer screen, mind you.

When I was a graduate student in England, fall was when I took most of my trips. Prague. Paris (more than once). Italy. My husband and I have been to Hawaii several times in the fall, and have taken a few trips up and down the California coast, too.

These days I must rely on my imagination. Not only because our travel budget is not as robust as it might once have been, but because our work schedules are far too demanding. I've talked before about using the books I write and read to transport me to exotic locales. But I also like to do the same thing with food and drink.

There's an Indian restaurant just down the street from us that makes curry the way they did where I lived in England. It's two degrees of separation, but it tastes like those nights out in York, UK, so long ago now: naan and a curry and a casual conversation about great literature with rain all around.

I've been searching for the perfect fish & chips in every faintly British-inspired pub in southern California, to no avail: none of it tastes as good as the fish & chips I got at least once a week from the chip shop just over the road from my flat. I would smell the scent of it on the evening breeze and sooner or later, head over. Nothing in California comes close to the vinegar and salt rush, the newspaper print staining my fingertips.

There's a French place nearby that feels as if you're really in France. Pastries and strong coffee. Actual French-speaking staff and a Nicoise salad that could make you weep. It attracts a European clientele, complete with strong, imported cigarettes and that careless elegance that American men just don't possess.

I drink a lot of tea. Jasmine. Roasted rice. Yorkshire teas from Harrogate. PG Tips. Every sip takes me somewhere else.

I remember the first time I found a bottle of Amarula outside of Zimbabwe, where I'd first tasted it. Every sip was another adventure under wide African stars, even so far away.

What takes you far, far away, like Alice through the looking glass? Or even Calgon?


Emmanuelle said...

Pecan Pie... one bite and I'm back to the US, mentally at least ;-)
I'm a french and live in France. My favorite vacation is traveling with my family in the US (everytime a different place). We have many good things in France but truly, nothing can beat a good pecan pie, nope, not even an éclair au chocolat or a Paris-Brest or a Mille-feuille... lol
Great blog !

Mary said...

Great blog and interesting question, but for me the only things that can make me feel that way are a good story or a good movie.

Now the story doesn't have to be in book form, it can be a short story or a series I find online and enjoy reading.

A really good movie, mostly horror will take me away.

Linda Henderson said...

Books take me away. I can always visit somewhere else in a good story. Experience things I've never done and probably will never do.

Trish Morey said...

Ooh, Caitlin, you take me back! We lived in England too, in a pretty village near St Albans. Close by there was a fabulous Indian restaurant where I fell in love with Peshwari naan (among other things:-))

Back home I found garlic naan, plain naan, cheese naan, but never combination of naan, nuts and sweet sultanas, and I thought i never would outside the olde country.

Then, in a chance restaurant visit in Auckland NZ of all places, there I found it on the menu. And gosh, it took me back!

Thanks for reminding me.

And don't start me on the fish and chips we had in the little chippy under the pier at Southend!