My wife and I were daydreaming the other day. Different dreams for a moment but then we pulled them together for a memorable Thanksgiving that hasn’t yet happened.
We were hungry when we started these dreams. Let me explain.
My daydream was a memory of a cold Thanksgiving hike we spent in Utah’s Zion National Park a couple years ago. Her's was a memory of the streets and gardens of Paris.
How did we pull that together?
Red rock country is beautiful anytime of the year but as autumn turns into winter the colors become even more vivid. Just like the Temple of Sinawava is the last stop on the tour bus ride through Zion, Thanksgiving represents the end of the season for the park. The park shuttles and many of the facilities and lodgings in nearby Springdale are closed for the winter season starting Thanksgiving. We enjoyed the cold, brisk hike during the short daylight hours of Thanksgiving day but drove 45 minutes to St. George after dark. You see, St. George has a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store & Restaurant. Without sounding too much like a plug for them, Cracker Barrel of course serves a filling ‘Homestyle Turkey N’ Dressing Meal’ turkey dinner for when you’re not home for the holidays. Since there are no Cracker Barrels in our home state of California, we actually have to drive all the way to Utah and points beyond for a sampling of our favorite homestyle (restaurant) cooking. We have to search it out and my dream brought us back the Cracker Barrel.
My wife’s day dream was of our recent summer visit to the Louvre Museum in Paris. We had spent a good part of the muggy, warm June day walking the Seine riverbanks, visiting museum upon museum. We enjoyed our packed lunch and sat on a bench shaded by trees at the edge of the Jardin des Tuileries. Across the street awaited the Louvre, our next museum of the day. We finished our Parisian picnic, crossed through traffic and felt the warmth of the sun begin to slow us down. We made it to the row of hedges and expansive lawn of the landmark museum and spread out across the grass for a spell. Young families were out pushing strollers. Dogs ran for frisbees. Lovers sipped wine and shared cigarettes. We sat down on the grass to enjoy the sights and rest our bones, our bellies full, and then we lay down on the grass and slept without a care in the world under the warmth of the sun. The Louvre was still there when we woke, the tip of the glass pyramid beckoning us to continue our sightseeing. We napped a little longer and my wife dreamt of returning for another nap in the grass on the lawn of the Louvre.
So what does this have to do with Thanksgiving? Well, nothing particularly, except in a conspiratorial way where we were able to combine our happy thoughts into one. We shared each other’s moments of peaceful happiness on vacations past. In our new dream version however, we decided that Cracker Barrel should in fact build a new restaurant on Rue de Rivoli just to the north side of the Louvre Museum. We figured that after we finish our huge Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel, we could waddle across the street and lay down in the garden and soak in the warm rays of the Paris sun. No football, no parades, but yes, maybe shopping - we’re in Paris and we’re on vacation. It probably wouldn’t go over well with the authorities and it’s a bit sacrilege to French cuisine but it’s all in keeping on the same page.
Thanksgiving holidays, we found, are a great time to get away. The kids are off school that week and we don’t miss too much work. If we can drive there, we can get there.
We’re cooking in this year but last year we visited family in San Jose for a gourmet meal. The year before we drove up to Carmel and Monterey for the week.
Still decent weather in November, the Monterey Peninsula features the beautiful 17-Mile Drive, and their world class Aquarium. Just south of nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea is Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, and in my opinion, a showcases the most spectacularly beautiful coastline on Earth. Hiking trails, wildlife in their natural habitat, towering views of the craggy coast. We told the boys to stay out of the poison ivy and stay out of the water. Wearing the only pair of shoes they brought with them on this trip, there were able to stay on trail but struggled, as boys often do, with the second part of the two part instruction. They were soon soaked up to their waists, not splashed, but drenched. We had them take off their shoes and pants and covered them with blankets in the back seat of the car for the ride back to the motel. We had KFC in our room that Thanksgiving. It was one of the best.
Many years ago, when the kids were very young, we once flew back to visit their grandparents. It was our Americana “over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house” Thanksgiving. This was shortly after 9/11 and the lines at the airports were especially long. The kids trailed their car seats behind them, tugging them along by their belts and straps, as we worked our way to the front of the line. We spent a wonderful Thanksgiving meal that year with family.
Years before that Thanksgiving, as a young adult just out of high school, I visited Seoul, South Korea, joining my father and sister on a first class trip to the East. Korean Airlines Flight 007 had been shot down by the Russians the previous year during the height of the Cold War. It would be an understatement to say our trip without my Mother left her a little nervous. We missed her traditional Thanksgiving meal that year but made up for it as best we could in a place where an American Thanksgiving would prove hard to come by. We found it in one of the expensive hotels and it was one of the best.
So this year we’re home for the holidays and wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful wherever you are this year. Make it one of the best.
John P Merli
Thanksgiving is as American as apple pie and (American) football. It's a wonderful time to travel and is bookmarked by the busiest travel day of the year and Black Friday. Remember for what you are thankful for - family, great food, places to see, and your country, even if you're not staying home that day.