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TRAVELING IN STYLE | CORRESPONDENTS' CHOICE

Someplace Like Home

It's A Common Traveler's Disease. It Doesn't Come From Tap Water In Chichicastenango Or Street Cart Kebabs In Ankara. It's Homesickness. And It Can Strike Anyone, Even Foreign Correspondents. So We Asked Some Of The Times' Far-flung Reporters Where They Go When They Really Need A Dose Of Americana.

March 16, 1997

John Daniszewski, Cairo

Outside, classic Egyptian chaos--watch out for that donkey cart!--and decay. Inside, bowling, with electronic score-keeping, gleaming lanes and the only menu in town bearing "low fat" symbols. The thrill, at least to my wife, begins when you survive crossing the endless traffic lanes in central Cairo's Tahrir Square and get to the parking garage with real magnetic-strip parking tickets. One can even pull in next to the only known handicapped-reserved parking spaces in the city. Zip up to the ninth floor and the elevator doors open to Misr Bowling Center, which also has pool tables and a Chili's restaurant. The bowling alley is straight out of the United States (old-timey radios, lanterns and bikes hang on the wall). My family's favorites from the somewhat Mexican menu are the quesadillas and the "guiltless" grilled chicken sandwich ("7 fat grams"). This being Muslim Egypt, though, the margaritas come alcohol-free.

Maggie Farley, Hong Kong

It used to be a garbage dump, but now Lan Kwai Fong has become an expatriate's mecca catering to all my hometown cravings: Tex-Mex at California, burgers at Al's Diner or cheesecake on the veranda at American Pie. On weekends, Lan Kwai Fong's cobblestone streets transform into an outdoor cocktail party. Pierced eyebrows mix with pinstripes in front of blaring bars; martinis share tables with bottles of beer. One recent evening, I saw U.S. sailors wandering about on shore leave, visiting congressional aides mingling with bare-midriffed models and a rowdy crowd doing airborne orange Jell-O shots.

Dean E. Murphy, Warsaw

In L.A., nothing beats a lazy day at the beach, settling in somewhere by Pacific Coast Highway for the sunset and a meal. But Warsaw has no ocean, darkness can descend by early afternoon and the smelly riverfront road is best avoided. Thankfully, there is Malibu, Poland's tasty morsel of Southern California. In a country where the finest eateries serve up wild boar, Malibu's big draw is grilled salmon (fresh from Norway) in a lemon and ginger vinaigrette. Owners Anna Fuchs (formerly an L.A. surgeon) and Stewart Haverlack (once a Beverly Hills clothier) have spared no detail, even cultivating hard-to-get California salad greens in their own greenhouse. Aquatic mosaics feature imported shells and tiles, and the head chef, Robert Drozdzyk, trained at Wolfgang Puck's Spago and Granita. English is spoken everywhere. Even the prices are California chic: With wine, it's nearly $100 for dinner.

Marjorie Miller, Jerusalem

When Jerusalem feels a little too somber and shut down on the Jewish Sabbath, we pile the kids, towels, toys, hats and water bottles into the car and head for Tel Aviv's Mediterranean beachfront. With bathers and boardwalk hawkers from the world over, the people-watching is superb--as good as Venice beach and a lot safer. We listen to the folk musicians from Peru while our small children pick out the most wicked punk hairdos and henna-gone-haywire. After a week of hummus we are ready for Pizza Hut or Ben & Jerry's. Then it's on to Tower Records for a final bit of Americana before heading back up the hill to the Holy City.

Mary Walsh, Berlin

Born and raised on Mom's brownies and peanut-butter cookies, I find German baked goods disappointing. So on the days when I crave something sticky and satisfying, I go to Barcomi's Kaffeeroesterei, a hole-in-the-wall cafe in Berlin's working-class-chic Kreuzberg district. There, I can stuff myself with bagels, muffins, carrot cake, cinnamon rolls, New York-style cheesecake, brownies or apple crisp. They have a complete range of Celestial Seasonings teas and many types of flavored coffee (another Americanism that hasn't caught on in Germany). The service, however, is European: you get a small glass of fizzy water with your coffee, a china cup instead of Styrofoam and the freedom to sit for a couple hours with a newspaper.

Rone Tempest, Beijing

What I miss most about America is its variety and internationalism. The one-block strip of cafes, bakeries and specialty grocery stores on Beijing's Sanlitun Jie street in the eastern part of the city is not exactly Main Street USA. But it has several espresso bars, wine bistros, creperies, bakeries and art studios just like you'd find in Santa Monica or Waxahachie, for that matter. Sanlitun Jie also has a wonderful small grocery--Jenny's--where you can buy out-of-season vegetables, Kellogg's Raisin Bran and California wines.

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