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  • Writer's pictureChris Edwards

Letters to Mom: Vanishing Act 2022

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

I wrote letters home to my mother when I travelled in the 1970s and later, when Elaine and I roamed the globe in the 1980s. This in the days before faxes and the internet, when calling home was prohibitively expensive. We relied on “poste restante” services, where we could pick up our mail waiting for us at post offices in far flung destinations, for those of us of “no fixed address.”

Angela Edwards, my mother died in 2012. She was a “larger-than-life” figure, deeply cherished by those who knew her well, including my five siblings. To honour her spirit and joie de vivre, and perhaps as a different way to blog our adventures, I have imagined writing letters, then her reading these notes; somehow it makes it easier to preserve the stories.

November, 2022

Dear Mom:

Currently we find ourselves in Istanbul, in the striking and iconic Galata Tower neighbourhood. In fact we are less than 100 yards from the famed tower, a bustling lively area popular with tourists and locals alike, madly taking photos with their phones!

Which means it get very noisy. Not to mention the little tea and coffee shop directly below our flat where men gather to hang and smoke. And smoke. Which drifts up to our room and fills the entrance - a nasty habit. The national pastitime is puffing themselves to death as cigs are less than $2 a pack.

It’s always something…

We rented a small AirBnB apartment for two weeks as we thought it good to have a place to rest after our whirlwind tour of New York, London and Paris. Lots of walking: at least 15,000 steps a day according to our smartphones.

This AirBnB was overhyped. The listing for the apartment promoted a “view room” which is a bit of a stretch, unless you like staring at a wall. The rooftop six floors above does have an incredible view of the Bosphorous Strait but it is a fairly dangerous negotiation to reach the top floor, especially the final climb up a narrow steel staircase. Negotiating a narrow steel stairwell is not my idea of fun especially with a bum knee.

The district does have a ton of restaurants for world-class Turkish food; we have often frequented the SirinFirin Bakery to partake in those incredible breakfasts featuring all manner of small plates: olives, jams, honey, cheese, meat, borek pastry, a hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and cIke’s- and lots of mouth-watering pastries.

As food is cheap, delicious and plentiful we have foregone the idea of doing any cooking in our unit. We have a small living room with an L shaped couch so we are able to stretch out but it is much tinier than that great apartment in Paris.

Backing up a bit, it took quite some effort to prepare for our six-month- a seemingly myriad details. Winding down business activities, preparing the house for our six-month absence etc… The last two weeks were a blur as we checked off our massive to-do lists. Soon it was time to depart- we packed everything into two carry-on rollers, two small backpacks and travel pouches. That’s it- everything we’ll need for six months.

And at this point we already realize we brought too much stuff.

Ready or not - it’s departure day!

On to New York City. Our friend Annie Shannon graciously drove us to Detroit. Uneventful which is as we like it- no problems at the US border, check in at the airport was a breeze. We are TSA pre-approved travellers and sailed through security- a concern after all the nightmare news stories regarding massive line ups. Flight was uneventful excepting it was my first in two and a half years (Elaine flew to Montreal in September).

Go ahead- bite the big apple!

After landing at LaGuardia, we rolled on toward the public transit to the city. Subway does not connect to the airport so we had to catch a bus to the station, packed with people. We found the right stop, got off, purchased senior passes for NYC subway- only $11 for the week unlimited use.

The subway ride into Manhattan seemed very long- it was raining cats and dogs, not off to a great start, weather-wise. We transferred somewhere in the bowels under Grand Central, it was dark and dreary, a bit spooky and disconcerting. The next subway took us downtown to lower Manhattan; after a rainy, long walk we eventually found our hotel. Elaine was not happy as the entire affair seemed rather arduous, but following check in we found a Japanese Ramen joint for some comfort food, then all was well.

Note to self- no more public transit to get from airport into city.

Comfort Food in Lower Manhattan

Six nights in NYC flew by. We stayed at the AC Hotel, a Marriott product. By signing up for two separate AMEX Marriott cReddit cards (business and personal), we earned enough points for six nights downtown in lower Manhattan. Room was good but staff were indiffferrent to rude - not what we have come to expect from Marriott. They get a bit of a pass as it is difficult to find good staff post-pandemic. But still and all, it left something to be desired.

AC Hotel NYC

Room With A View

We took in the sights, just like I pictured it. Last trip with the kids to NYC in 2009. We had also been as the penultimate stop on our round-the-world honeymoon in 1987. That time we were hosted by our friend Bill- who knows what happened to him?

Bill and Elaine, NYC, 1987

One of the first things we did was walk the Brooklyn Bridge on a gorgeous fall day, the weather a bit cool but thankfully, sunny. Chinatown for Dim Sum, lower Manhattan for history, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Times Square, the HighLine walk, World Trade Center Memorial (sobering), ferry boat up the east river, dirty dogs at Papaya King. Of course in your honour we stopped in at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Oysters and champagne, clam chowder- what a throwback to your generation and time.

Brooklyn Bridge

One funny story: we walked through Central Park and thought it would be great to see Harlem. The park is bounded on the north by 110th street, made famous by the great soul artist Bobby Womack. This is the traditional dividing line between Harlem and Central Park that functioned as an informal boundary of race and class in New York City.

”Been down so long, getting up didn't cross my mind But I knew there was a better way of life, and I was just trying to find You don't know what you'll do until you're put under pressure 'Cross 110th Street is a hell of a tester.”

Here’s is happened. As soon as we crossed 100th street, not half a block up towards Harlem, some crackhead mofo comes up to us holding his shoes- better so we could see the holes in his socks.

”How about a few bucks.”

I offered him a dollar bill. “Come on man, that aint’ enough.”

So we are negotiating now?


We soldiered on.

Another crackhead not 50 feet on.

Wasn’t our day to walk up to Harlem. We turned around.

Better to take the subway into the heart of that great community.

Next time.

Before we knew it our six days were up and it was time to book out of NYC.

Here is a video we produced with highlights:

Next Stop on our Vanishing Act: London Calling

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