Wednesday, 17 July 2013

WordPress Daily Prompt: Stranger in a Strange Land

What’s your favorite part about visiting a new place — the food? The architecture? The people watching?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us NEW.

Marrocan Dancing Girl
Dancer in Moroccan night club

Strange or not, I remember Mr. Swiss quite enjoyed that evening, He felt at home straight away.

In my younger active days, when I was a working woman and still ready to go, the fact that I visited another place in another time was enough. Just to get away and see something different. Luckily Mr. Swiss and I agree to the same sort of thing, so we went everywhere and saw everything we wanted to.

All countries have their own flavours, smells and style. Paris memories are the smell of Gitan cigarettes in the subway, in the restaurants or even on the streets. Of course I am talking of the time when cigarettes were suave, they were part of daily life (if you smoked). It was allowed and yes, it was part of the local colour. I can hear some of you coughing while I write this. I also no longer smoke, since fifteen years, but Paris was Gitan. Of course it was also good food. I remember a restaurant on the left bank that Mr. Swiss and I discovered. That was French food pure. The kitchen was just next to the door when you entered, two young men were looking after the meat and veg. There was an older man, probably the owner fetching cooked potatoes from the cellar. Upstairs they had a musician strumming his guitar and looking like something from a tango film. Just around the corner there was a seafood restaurant where Hemingway was a regular visitor when living in Paris, according to Mr. Swiss (a Hemingway expert).
They also have three interesting cemeteries in Paris. 

Architecture is the first thing that hits you when arriving somewhere new. Everything in mainland Europe (do not forget I am a child of the after-war time of London) seemed to be built solid, to last. There is architecture in Europe that is preserved on the streets as well as in museums. Of course, I cannot imagine the Empire state building collapsing through old age, but the States is a young country. 

American food is ok, but keep to the basics. A hamburger does it just as well, and it is 100% an American invention. One of my impressions of the States was “do not drink the water”. I am talking of New York, and the quality of New York water is very good, so really I am not complaining. You have ice cubes in your drink, then hope that the restaurant froze bottled water. I found a distinctly strong chloride taste to all water in New York. All part of the New York state of mind life; although memories of my arrival in Portugal and Spain were similar. Mr. Swiss and I wondered why everyone was walking around with five liter mega plastic bottles of water. Was this some sort of magical cure the natives drank? No, the water was not drinkable, it had a distinct “you will suffer if you drink me” taste: the next morning you could see Mr. and Mrs. Swiss both walking to the holiday village struggling whilst carrying two five liter bottles of water each, just to clean your teeth over the next two weeks.

Morocco was really something different. They even gave you toilet paper before you entered the toilet, just 2-3 pieces at the airport. I then realised that things were different in Moroccco. Toilets are basically no problem if you are a man. We women usually like to relax and sit down, but you can get used to everything. The food in Morocco is ok, just do not ask or think about how it was cooked, just eat it.  The street atmosphere was great. Do not look a native in the eye, he has the impression you want to buy what he is selling. Mr. Swiss made a mistake and showed interest. The seller was eventually even knocking on the window of the coach when we were departing.

“What is wrong with him” I asked.

“I was looking at something he was selling” was the answer.

Different countries, different sales tactics, but all part of the atmosphere.

So, basically, on my journeys around other countries, I learnt that we are all different, our ways and habits are different and this is correct. If we were all the same life would be boring. We discover other countries, other places to learn and not to criticise. Do not judge, but enjoy is the main thing. Now I am older and do not wander so much. I just take a trip to London once a year to visit my father. I lived twenty years in London, grew up in London, but today I feel like a foreigner when I am there. You get used to your own way of life and after forty-six years living in Switzerland, I even now wonder why the English put vinegar on their fries, and in Europe you would not dream of eating fish with French fries (chips). You eat fish with boiled potato, or even rice.

My favourite part is just being there and seeing it all
and if possible, visiting the cemeteries.

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  1. Apart from the already-stated problem with not drinking local water, and having a good supply of bottled, I like to immerse myself in a country as much as possible, the food, the culture, the's all important to me. I am visiting a country to see what it is like in it's entirety, not to lay on a beach. I can do that just as well three miles down the road.

    Having a go at Creative Challenge this week? Took me a while to think of something, but I got there eventually!!

    1. I might try something tonight - no East Enders to watch on the TV, so have a bit more time. At the moment I have no idea what to write.