I take great pleasure in helping out people looking for directions or guidance, in so far as I am able.  Here in London, exasperated tourists will approach me with varying  degrees of English competency on the regular, looking for assistance in locating their destination; I am always delighted to point them in the right direction, when I can, drawing maps on a notepad or even walking them partway if I have nowhere important to be.  Even though this is not my home country, this is just good hospitality, and I like to do my best to send folk on their way with a positive impression, just as I rely on fellow Londoners to help me out when I’m in an unfamiliar part of town.  I am a big believer in asking for, and offering, directions.

So this is, as I said, just good hospitality, and ultimately good karma.  It’s not a big city, but it is a busy and twisting one, and we all need a little help from time to time.  I was recently thinking, however, about the people I call Travel Angels.  These are the people you meet in the course of your journey who go far out of their way to assist you, and leave you with a warm feeling in the pit of your belly, the people who replenish your basic faith in humanity, however grand or small the gesture.  These gestures are always poignant, but especially so in a foreign setting when you are wary of your vulnerability.

This is more than essential kindness, and more than giving directions.  These acts require the Angel to take time away from themselves to see you safely to your destination, or extend their welcome to the point of invitation into their own lives.  It’s the person who sees you on your own in an unfamiliar place and invites you to a Lebanese family supper, or offers to drive you 30 miles out of their way (both experiences from my own life).  With that thought, I wanted to detail four instances of Travel Angels and invite you to share your own.

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I have something that happens to me often that is as perplexing to me as who the hell listens to Enya other than people lying on massage tables, why are bagels hotter than hell when you take them out of the toaster and why the hell won’t Trader Joe’s sell some of their shit online?

And that is this: How come whenever I cook a big turkey dinner, I can hardly eat it?

It’s happened again today. Stupidly, I decided it would be a good idea to cook a 12-pound turkey for me and my son, who really doesn’t like turkey. But I didn’t care because I was seriously jonesing for turkey — the big feast, all the side dishes, the notion of turkey sandwiches for dinner for a week. I didn’t eat all day as I made stuffing and stuffed the turkey and put it in the oven. I peeled potatoes. I prepared to reheat the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts gratin that I made last night (and ate part of for Thanksgiving Eve dinner). I made the corn casserole. All day I didn’t eat, excited with anticipation about the meal.

And when  meal time came, and the turkey was carved and the potatoes were whipped with cream and butter and the gravy was rich and thick and the side dishes were bubbling and fragrant, here’s what I ate: a heaping spoonful of stuffing. Two bites of white meat. One spoonful of mashed potatoes. And then I felt sick and could eat no more.

This happens every Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner, by the way.

Is it psychological? My sister is borderline obese and I am always worrying about food intake/diet/weight, for fear there is an obese woman inside me struggling to get out (she almost succeeded with both pregnancies).  My kids tell me I eat like an anorexic (which is not really true, I just don’t eat a big dinner and nibble on smaller things all day). Do I subconsciously freak myself out about hoovering down a huge meal and so my brain tells me I’m full and nauseated?

I don’t nibble all day when I cook the stupid bird, so it’s not like I can possibly be full.

Is it something about turkey? Could I be allergic? No, because the leftovers never bother me.

Does this happen to anyone else? What IS this phenomenon? All this work for two bites of turkey, a half a cup of mashed potatoes and not much more stuffing. The dog ate more in stuff that fell to the floor than I did. The kid who doesn’t like turkey ate more turkey than I did. I am pissed, and still feel like I could barf.

turkish bath classicI just returned from a week in Turkey with the boyfriend, and it was, as expected, fantastic.  We hit the beach, took a cruise, went parasailing, and traveled to Pamukkale (the cotton castle) and the ancient city of Hierapolis, which boasts an amphitheatre from the second century and a natural spring bath.  We visited a carpet factory and watched the creation process of handmade carpets, drank loads of traditional apple tea, and hit the local market and bazaar.  A high point of a great trip, however, was taking a Turkish bath (the Hamam).  I’d heard of Turkish baths plenty of times, but didn’t really understand what one entailed.  Figuring that the best way to find out would be to try it, I signed the two of us up for one the second day of our visit. (more…)

messy_suitcase_blogThis Friday, I am going on a trip to Turkey for a week.  I am looking forward to Turkish baths, the market, some culture and history, and most of all, some sun.  The Boy Person and I booked an all-inclusive resort for what I can say was a seductive price, and we are primed and ready for a week off of work and some serious B&B time (Booze & Beaches). 

The only fly in the sunscreen, which is not really a snag but sort of an inconvenience, is my little “anxiety attack.”  In more clinical terms, I mean my “spells,” those wee dashes of the vapors I get when it comes to packing.  While I am somewhat prone to spells in general, and have a glass pill bottle of modern remedy in urgent hand, I don’t understand exactly why the act of packing for a trip – any trip – sends me into a swoon. 

I understand that when other people have a weekend away (I’ve witnessed this), they gaily toss two pairs of socks, a toothbrush, some fresh undies, and a travel guide into their bag, and declare themselves ready for action (I have found this sort is typically male, and they will readily borrow your deodorant and clean tee-shirt when they have none, which your nostrils usually regard as worth the sacrifice).  There are also people, like my friend Kadinsky, who have packing down to an art form, and are miraculously prepared for any situation – be it dinner at the Ritz or mountain rescue – by the virtue of one smartly-packed bag,

I think of these two types as the Nonchalant (the former), and the Superhero (the latter), and however much I might wish to emulate either, it is a psychological impossibility for me.  I have read articles on packing; I make pre-trip lists that document exactly how many band-aids I will need for my blisters and AA batteries I will need for my camera; I attempt to pack a week in advance, for a trial run:  And yet, none of this helps.  (more…)