We were touring Northern California. It was absolutely grand. Sunny, comfortably warm; beautiful scenery, we couldn’t hope for more.
At one time or another, we have all shared that joy of being on the road on a beautiful Spring or Summer’s day.
This was one such day. You could not ask for more. We had got an early (ish) start and were driving through rolling hills, farmland; very picturesque and enjoyable.
We were looking forward to the next small town, which apparently had a great weekend market; and, we’d be getting there early enough to take it in, buy a coffee, get a few bits and pieces for an al fresco lunch and head on our way.
We turned another corner, in the middle of nowhere in particular. There, just down the road was the most extraordinarily beautiful sight: A rustic, old timbered shed smothered in roses.
Just an old shed, on a country road; one of the most beautiful sights I have ever come upon.
A village market in rural France; so many new sights and smells; it is truly wonderful.
One doesn’t know where to start; all of the colours, textures and scents; flowers, foods, livestock; all manner of wonderful stuff.
Vendors generously offer samples of fruits, preserves, breads, pate and sausages. It is overwhelming.
It is an embarrassment. You are travelling and can only take away small packages of the wonderful treats you are being offered.
You are offered a tray full of beautifully-crafted cheeses; all sorts of shapes; soft and creamy, blue-veined, sharp and firm. All too much; all utterly wonderful.
I had just spent the day touring Himeji Castle; a beautiful white castle on a hillside 50 km. west of Kobe, Japan.
For anyone interested in history and architecture it was an absolute treat. Firing embrasures at all angles to defend the walls from attackers; twisting, turning passageways that would not allow an attacking force to gain any momentum or find advantage; singing floorboards especially designed to squeak when an attacker crept into the room.
Time was getting on by the time I finished my tour and returned to the neighbourhood where I was staying.
I was famished.
I came upon a nice little local restaurant; not a big place, three or four tables and a bar that sat five. I took a seat at the sushi bar and ordered a sake.
It was May, warm but not uncomfortable. Cool, unheated sake in a little wooden box-cup, a masu, is the custom when the weather warms up, and it is delicious.
Not long after I got settled in, a family came in; young parents and two kids, one maybe six and the other eight or ten; good healthy, rambunctious kids but very mindful of their parents. One stern look from their father and they settled down without a fuss.
I ordered some bits and pieces, using my best bad Japanese. The chef was very solicitous, chortling to himself at my terrible accent but generally working out what I wanted.
The food was great.
The chap with the wee ones took an interest. He spoke a little English, better than my Japanese.
He encouraged me to try some of the house specialties; and, wonderful confections they were. We shared several masu of sake and just generally enjoyed ourselves.
Good company and a shared meal with some lovely people.
It is moments like this that make travel wonderful. New places; beautiful scenes; extraordinary experiences; delicious food and drink; kind, hospitable people really making an effort to make you feel welcome.