Five Thanksgivings, eight countries, no Lions

This will be the first Thanksgiving in six years that we haven’t left the country. Not that I have anything against this country (well, actually, now that you mention it I’m not at all happy with the election results last week but that’s a topic for another day). It’s just that Brian has had to maximize his time off work, and the long Thanksgiving weekend was a good way to do that.

Walk along Rue Petit Champlain, Quebec CityNow that have a house in Detroit that won’t be paid for for a few years our international travel is on hiatus. I don’t begrudge Detroit, but as we roll into this time of year my inner travel clock says it’s time to hit the road. The best I can do to appease that urge is to reminisce about Thanksgivings past. Here, then, is a recounting of five Thanksgivings across the globe.

2008: Quebec

I recall a the fairytale kind of snowy night that’s enough to make me want to pack up and head for northern climes. We ate in a candle-lit, snug little restaurant in the old city as snow danced down the street, then went outside where I turned up my head to let the flakes fall into my face.

What was our Thanksgiving feast? I dimly recall risotto, and in fact, my flickr archives tell me this is so, with vegetables and taleggio cheese, along with a warm goat cheese salad.

This Budvar is for me.

This Budvar is for me.

2009: Amsterdam and Prague

We grabbed a quick lunch at the counter of a sandwich shop in Amsterdam on a long layover en route to Prague. What I remember more than whatever I ate was my new coat; I’d somehow managed to forget my coat on a winter trip to Eastern Europe, so I dashed into H&M to buy a new one.

By dinner we were settled into our “boutique hostel” in Prague. We stationed ourselves at the on-site bar, ordered pizza, and drank beers. I had never liked beer, but ahead of this trip I taught myself to drink it specifically so I could enjoy it in Czech and Slovakia.

2010: Bangkok, Tokyo and Minneapolis

We spent this Thanksgiving crossing the international dateline en route home, so the day started with a very early wake-up call in Bangkok and ended with snacks (probably Nutella) in a Delta Sky Club at the Minneapolis airport as the snow swirled outside.

Our trip home included a layover at the Tokyo airport just long enough to swoop into the Delta lounge for sushi. And let me tell you, this wasn’t the airport sushi you find in food courts elsewhere. It was sushi, and good. Good enough that I kept going back for more and forgot to pay attention to the departures board until we heard our flight announced — our flight at a gate that was far enough from where I sat stuffing my face that we had to do the old sprint through the terminal.

Homeward bound on a 36-hour Thanksgiving day.

Homeward bound on a 36-hour Thanksgiving day.

Steak tartare, a signature dish, is prepared tableside with flourish at Le Relais Plaza at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée

2011: Paris

Ahh, Paris. We started the day with a visit to a macaron workshop, then made our way to lunch at the brasserie at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée. This was my first experience being hosted as media, and it was straight out of a dream (except in dreams you don’t get full and can keep eating all the glorious food).

We started with pink champagne and devoted a long afternoon to the meal to come, a meal that included cascades of truffles, a tableside preparation of exquisite steak tartare, and dessert showered with — I kid you not — gold flakes.

We had dinner a few hours later, after I walked the breadth of the city under the pale November sun, but I don’t recall a thing about it. The Plaza has a way of eclipsing anything in its shadow.

 2012: HaLong Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam-003

This was bad. Brian dined alone while I slept down in our little berth aboard a junk, a traditional boat we took out for an overnight cruise.

I’d started feeling off the day before in Hanoi, but still ventured out on a street food tour, gamely trying everything — including fried wormcakes. The worms plagued my nightmares that night, my stomach roiling all night. The next day, Thanksgiving, I faced a long, bumpy ride to the coast, and could manage no more than a few bites of rice at lunch. I rallied for a kayaking expedition out in the surreal water, but by early evening subsided to bed where the gentle rocking lulled me to sleep. Brian took his Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room on his own.

2013: Bali to Bangkok

Thanksgiving began with the bountiful buffet at our posh hotel where I was staying on assignment. We gorged on exotic fruits and unknowable Indonesian specialties before heading for the airport. This year was Brian’s turn for stomach woes. I plied him with Coke (the cure-all during travels) and by the time we landed to the familiar, wonderful smell of Bangkok (exhaust, steaming rice, galangal, and a je ne sais quoi I’d recognize if you set me down blindfolded) we were both ready for one of the great pleasures of the city – a sweet iced coffee.

Dinner was at the hotel where we were being hosted, the inimitable Mandarin Oriental. We took the sweet little teak boat across the Chao Prayha to the Oriental’s restaurant where we took seats outside under the white light-draped trees and laughed at the boisterous party boats plying the river, the city of angels spread out before us. The tasting menu was surely delightful, but the true feast is Bangkok itself, so I remember not a thing.


What was missing in all these Thanksgivings? Yup, the Lions.

Every year the Detroit Lions play a Thanksgiving game, so Brian fights the time zone and sundry other barriers to try to watch — or at least hear the score from — the game. This year won’t find us 10,000 miles from the action. Instead we’ll be set up just where he wants to be: with TV trays bearing turkey and stuffing, the game on television. And I think that sounds just about right.


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