Sunday, October 19, 2014
Today I am grateful for side roads. I do most of the driving in our family and it isn’t unusual for me to take a side road for no reason other than curiosity. I recommend it. John calls it getting lost, but it’s really not. Honest.
I love side roads. When we were in Bermuda we rented mopeds so that we could explore the island far away from the tourist traps. We figured it was an island and eventually we’d get back to “go” anyway, so why not? We saw houses where the real people live, a school and a mini mart with the most interesting characters at the lunch counter.
When we were in London we stayed at an out-of-the-way place, down a side road called the Edmund Lear House. No “lift” but climbing three flights of stairs gave us a spectacular view of rooftops that I can bring to the surface in my mind whenever I want. And the bathtub was ancient and the size of a swimming pool. But I digress.
In Bandung, Indonesia, we were walking with friends when I decided I had to veer off the main road, and I am using the term “road” loosely since it was Indonesia. All of the roads look like side roads, so the one I turned down was barely a path. One of the women went with me and we stumbled upon a spectacular house that had been turned into a store by the family in residence. It was great to drop a bundle in their necessary gem.
In Yogykarta, Indonesia my mom thought I was crazy for going down a side road with a man who said he had a shop with masks. She wouldn’t come. She stayed on the main street and fretted. I had a blast. Children followed me like I was the Pied Piper and I have a picture of me with them. . .always in my mind. . . someplace on paper.
While driving from Melbourne to Sydney in Australia, we happened down a side road, then realized we were nearly out of petrol. Aren’t I so worldly? If you think this country has remote areas, you should see Australia. I was a little, um, concerned, until I saw a sign, “The Big Nothing” at the next crossroad. It wasn’t much. It was everything. We got gas and went inside to pay and the Aussie man was baking bread. Honest to God. We dropped every plan for the day and hung around until it was done. He brewed tea and plopped a full loaf of hot bread on our plastic table cloth, along with a small, chipped, china bowl with pink flowers and a huge glob of real butter. Can you smell it? I can! Best lunch we ever had. Ever. Anywhere. And we would have never found something so simple on the main drag.
When my sister and I took our mom to Austria, we got on the wrong bus in Salzburg and instead of heading towards our hotel, we went the opposite direction and got a real-life tour of the charming town, filled with front yard gardens and people chatting over fences as they hung laundry on sagging lines. Even mom settled down and enjoyed it once we assured her we would find our way back. . .eventually.
I run on instinct so I am not afraid to turn down a side road in any country. If my guts tell me not to stray down a certain road, I don’t. But remember stuff happens on main drags, too. When we were in Nice, France, on a main road, a couple of gypsy women with a baby jostled my husband until he took his hand out of his pocket to push them away. In that second I turned and saw her hand coming OUT of his pocket. I never saw it go in. Wallet gone, me screaming bloody murder, gendarme running, paddy wagon loaded with us and the gypsies and the drugged baby, police station, reports in carbon on the first ever Remington and a lost vacation day, left us spinning. Still dazed from the experience, we were a block away when a cop, waving something over his head yelled, “Monsieur, Monsieur, zee vahlet!” They had shoved it under the carpet in the paddy wagon.
If you have the funds, the desire and the incredible luxury to travel, try to find a moment to check out side roads. They are rich with real culture, not the prescribe tourism many areas promote. But if you don’t have the means right now, like us, you don’t have to travel far, either. We take side roads, different streets, in our travels almost every day, discovering unusual houses, great gardens, or spectacular forests and I am grateful for every one of them.