More Christmas travel memories
I was remembering some of our Christmas memories in far-flung places in yesterday's post, but it prompted many more remembrances.
One of the most raucous was a Christmas Eve in a small beach town in the Yucatan, where the local men drank beer outside our hotel and partied all night. We had been fortunate to find a small restaurant to have a bit of local fish, fried simply, for that evening's dinner. (We’d left Merida in our rental car, without provisions, uncharacteristically, perhaps because the shops had already closed for Christmas Eve.)
There was an open food distribution truck in this small beach town, distributing staples, on Christmas Eve, but no open shops with actual food that I recall – just one with snacks and beer.
Christmas Day included flamingos and a back road drive that ended up at lunch at a fortuitous hacienda hotel restaurant (fortuitous, as it unexpectedly appeared), followed by an overnight stay near a remote Mayan ruin site in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula.
We were saved that morning by chicken sandwiches for breakfast, from the snack bar at the nature preserve we visited Christmas Day (home of the flamingos).
I was also reminded again of the Christmas Eve and Christmas at the end of our camping safari in Tanzania some years ago. We had been warned not to leave the safari hotel in Arusha after dark (we were dropped off about 4 pm). Uncharacteristically, we didn’t pay attention, tired of having been constantly in tow and accompanied on safari, we thought we’d walk to dinner, also ignoring the Lonely Planet advice of the same ilk (don’t cross the bridge over the river at night).
Yikes. Not a good idea. But no harm was done aside from minor trauma – the only mugging attempt we’ve experienced in all of our years of traveling. The scariest part was seeing how the locals reacted, hauling the perpetrator off with excessive force and dire threats, we thought.
We quickly absconded to a nicer hotel for Christmas Day and hung out with families by the pool, after walking some distance to find the one machine that we could use one of our credit cards to withdraw cash (this was long before ATM’s were widespread!)
Another memorable Christmas Day was spent along the Carretera Austral in Southern Chile several years ago, where we fortunately came upon a fishing lodge that had a room available. They were doing a family-style Christmas dinner, which we shared with a vacationing family group from Santiago.
In Hanoi, on our first trip to Vietnam, we had a wonderful feast at an excellent non-profit restaurant - not a traditional Christmas meal, of course, but delicious. It followed an adventurous 5-day guided jeep trip through the mountains near Sapa, close to the Chinese border, ending up in a hair-raising return to Hanoi in the most remarkable traffic mix of vehicles both engine and animal-powered, with our driver weaving (very rapidly!) in and out wanting to get back as quickly as possible.
An especially sweet memory was probably was our first Christmas dinner together when it was just us: in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We'd had holiday dinners with our respective families, back when we were graduate students, but here we were on our own.
|A souvenir postcard from Grindelwald (it was on the wall near my computer for decades)|
|The Eiger and Jungfrau surround Grindelwald|
It was during the year I spent in Germany after graduate school, so at winter break, Tim came to visit and we traveled a bit through the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy. As poor post-docs (so definitely we were really budget travelers then), we didn’t spring for the fancy Christmas dinner at the local hotel, as it seemed unaffordable at the time.
We shared smoked oysters, chocolate and red wine in our hotel room for our Christmas dinner that evening after an afternoon of ice-skating.