Here’s my jet lag strategy: Don’t sleep on the plane. Instead, watch all the new movies that looked good, but you didn’t want to pay for seeing in the theater. Every three hours get up to stretch by the bathrooms in the middle of the aircraft for 10 minutes (that’s the most spacious place). Stay up until at least 9pm local time, take a walk or a run and do not drink any coffee or alcohol. The worst jet lag I ever had was after enthusiastically trying all the local beers at the hostel bar in Iceland. I did not recover for a week. You’ve been awake for nearly 30 hours. Take a melatonin, go to sleep and make yourself get up no later than 10am. If you wake at 5am feeling fresh as a hen, don’t be fooled and stay in bed.
Next day take it easy, walk around, read a book. Some books are so good they make you want to read the whole thing out loud. Before page 25, Theroux’s The Happy Isles of Oceania has me laughing and crying and dreaming and remembering.
Lo sad Paul Theroux
How I have missed you so
Many times you have met
The thoughts in my head
And rekindled memories
With your musing and stories
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been. Travelers don’t know where they’re going.”
I don’t want to put it down, but I am so very hungry and I want to kill the dogs downstairs in retaliation for barking from 7-10 this morning which to me felt like midnight to 2am. Instead, I set out at the break of 2pm to see parks, ocean and people.
Under a Segafredo sign a few blocks off the beach I join the old men (best sign of a good place to sit down) to order a cappuccino and the only distinguishable thing on the menu called hamburguer. The waiter explains it contains an egg and fries which sounds about right. What turns up is a shallow soup bowl with a meat paddy swimming in a light brown cream sauce and a runny egg topped with a heap of fries. Brilliant, this is exactly what I wanted. Europeans, for a lack of great cuisine, have resorted to making inspired sauces and this one is incredible. In true American fashion I eagerly dig in, eating the fries with my hands. I quickly remind myself this is when those strict table manners my parents insisted on come in handy. One day you might dine with the queen, they would say when an 8-year-old version of me asked them what the point is of eating clumsily with a knife and fork. My hands seemed perfectly suitable for the job of transporting what was on my plate to mouth, soup being an exception. What if I don’t want to dine with the queen? was my defiant reply.
Allow me the opportunity to praise the elegance of European waiters. They see you sit down but will give you a few minutes to settle in. You may eat in peace. I will never miss being interrupted three times to make sure I am loving my meal and the insistent waste of free drinking water. You need to sign them to pick up your plate by laying your silverware together to the right. If left ‘open’ with the fork handle to the left and knife to the right, you imply you are not yet finished. It is profoundly pleasant and a refreshing change from seeing your dishes plucked away while you’re still chewing — the bill slid under your nose with the most saccharin expression of gratitude as you are considering desert. When you are ready to pay, you flag down the waiter or walk up to the register. Charge: €7,80.
I forgot how it’s always windy on the Atlantic coast and skirts are not the most practical thing if you’re not a flasher. Tomorrow I’m wearing pants. Trying to retain decency I stand clumsily on the sidewalk as a car encroaches, seemingly wanting to run me over very slowly. I guess this counts as parking space.
At 5pm I walk to the beach and lie in the sun for a few hours. The water looks, feels and smells just as I remember it on the Dutch coast 1,500 miles to the north. A cute casual restaurant hangs from the cliffs and offers relief from the wind. Here, I successfully order dinner and a caipirinha, one of my favorite drinks. I ambitiously consider getting a second one, and even though it’s only a three minute walk down quiet streets, it would have brought me home pretty well drunk at 9pm so I decide against it.
These are the long lazy days I cherish and chase.