Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us DISTANCE.
I was there
The farthest I have ever travelled from home? Now is that physical or in the mind. I am travelling all over the place sometimes, and where is home?: where the heart is, the mind, or the kitchen. I have just come back from London and woke up in my bedroom. Just a midday sleep, but dreamland got hold of me and I was attending a school reunion which was not my school but some familiar things happened. The brain was wandering.
My first holiday to another country was Italy. I thought it was the end of the world. A different language, the sun was shining most of the time (so different to London) and people closed down over lunch time for a siesta. Try getting a cup of coffee in a restaurant in Rome after dinner, no chance, siesta, all closed too hot. Of course all those good looking Italians riding around on their scooters and whistling – the happy sixties.
The farthest in land line and time was actually New York and that was a long time ago. Judging by the photo I still had a slim figure and long hair. I know that Ground Zero had not yet happened, so probably around 1998 when I was young and lovely. I even had a meal in the restaurant at the top of one of the twin towers. We decided to see New York when the going was still good. Flights were cheaper and we had a hotel in something like 44th street, just off Broadway, although it seemed to me that everything was off Broadway in New York.
My first meal in the evening after unpacking our clothes was in a restaurant in Broadway: eggs and bacon and a bowl of pickled cucumbers on the table. Was it a Jewish restaurant? I am still not sure. I always thought you did not eat bacon if Jewish. Anyhow it was good and king sized. Three fried eggs (sunny side up) a pile of crisp bacon and there were chips (fries) to go with it; the beginning of a cholesterol friendly diet.
Actually I noticed most things were king sized in New York and everything came with ice. Order a coke and you had to be a weight lifter to carry the cup, full to the top with ice cubes. One evening we went to a genuine US restaurant near Broadway. Actually we walked past at first, because all I saw was raw meat hanging in the window, something like a huge frozen meat depot and I thought it was a butchers. We then discovered a door and entered. The meat was the menu it seems. We were set back in the States in the pre war time. Black and white photos on the walls of the old baseball and boxing stars. We ordered. Mr. Swiss took a steak and I had Lamb chops. You got two plates, one for the meat, the other for the rest. Yes, the meat occupied a fully sized plate. Mr. Swiss had a steak from a king sized cow (do they breed them like that in the States?) and I had six lamb chops straddling my plate from North to South (that was a lamb? how big was its mum and dad?). That was our genuine, 100% American meal. Mr. Swiss washed it down with something called Mexican beer. I am not sure if he like it, it looked very yellow, but it seemed to be the thing to drink. I stuck to a coke, although perhaps a thimble full of coke and the rest ice cubes.
We did all the touristy things, like up the twin towers, walking from Wall Street to the big hotel at the end of Broadway, the Plaza. Outside the Plaza was the first time I had seen a stretch Limo. It was then I decided when we returned to JFK airport for the home journey, we would book a stretch limo and we did. Of course Central Park was on the list, but only the bottom half. I did not have my sturdy Swiss mountain boots with me to do it all from top to bottom.
The helicopter trip was also on the list. I had never been in a helicopter before. If I had known that they have to fish them out of the Hudson River now and again, I would have left that one out, but we all have to take picture of New York from the air (although there would have been plenty of post cards to buy). I was there and did it, although I was pleased to get my feet on solid ground again afterwards, feeling rather barfy after the experience.
We also did a trip to Harlem and survived. Of course, the real genuine way would have been to take a yellow cab and have a walk around, but we decided our life insurance might not cover a mugging, stabbing and robbery, so we went on a nice safe tourist trip in a coach.
We stopped off at a church where the vicar was an ex drug addict, preaching to the congregation in a sort of Billy Graham style, saving a few souls on the way. Then he had a built in show, asking us all where we were from. Of course we all had our hands in the air, me saying proudly near Bern, Switzerland and he telling us he would be doing a visit to Bern that year. I remember the sermon “You have money, then you are nothing”, “you have a big car, you are nothing”, “you have god in your heart, you are something” and you can imagine how they were all clapping and going with the inspiration. I must say it was very impressive, not like the Swiss reform church, which goes in a more conservative direction.
We saw the Coumbia University, also in Harlem, from a distance and also visited George Washington’s headquarters in Harlem, the Morris Jumel Museum; clever bloke guy that Washington, he chose the best place to see all the ways of approach to his headquarters in New York in case the British wanted to take it all. I am sure he was not worried about getting mugged or robbed. I noticed that part of the new Harlem rejuvenation scheme was to plant nice flowers on abandoned land.
So, drawing to a close, my impression of the big Apple was that it was very big. You can buy blue jeans at midnight on Times Square, they have a few good jazz clubs down in Greenwich Village and taxi drivers always look good on the photos stuck in the yellow cabs, but in real life you have a problem to recognise them. There is also a Macdonalds restaurant and the hamburgers taste exactly the same as those back home. Let us not forget Liberty and Ellis Island; Ellis Island where my great uncle entered the land of his dreams to settle somewhere in Kansas City with his family. My grandmother even had letters from him to prove it.
I did make a journey to St. Peterburg (Russia) in 1964, but will save that one for another time.