There is so much I love about traveling. Seeing the iconic sights, exploring the hidden streets, finding the perfect boulangerie, immersing myself in the local cuisine. Even going to the pharmacy is an adventure, checking out the local beauty products. In France, there are nearly more skin lotions in their pharmacie than in a US department store. In Japan, there was an enormous section devoted to contact lenses...not lens care products, but the lenses themselves. They were available in a myriad of colors!
But the experiences that make a trip most memorable are the touch points with the people met along the way. This last trip was full of these touch points. On our first day in Tokyo, we went in search of a craft beer bar that Billy had found on the Bento website. It was a tiny place on our way between the Edo Museum and our hotel. There was a small bar and about 6 tables. Once we seated ourselves, we started chatting with the server, who was the epitome of a Japanese hipster: dark horned rimmed glasses, cap on his head and a really serious beer enthusiast! He made great recommendations on the Japanese craft beer they served and once he realized how into craft beers the boys were, inundated us with brochures, magazines, and recommendations of other bars in Tokyo to try. He seemed so excited to have us there.
Then there were the Uzbechi guys from the "stick" bar in Akasaka. They were working in Tokyo and were out with their office for the end of year celebration. The boys had squeezed in next to them and had a fabulous time talking to them, listening to them complain about their boss, but rave about Tokyo.
We all fell in love with the women working at the ryokan in Kyoto. They were so charming and hospitable. Ayako, was amazing: a bubbly, enthusiastic force of nature. She gave us perfect recommendations and seemed delighted to help us. When we asked for a photo with them, they pulled out the NYE paraphernalia for a funny group shot. And as we left, they waved to us for 2 blocks!
In China, we stayed two nights at a quirky inn in Yangshou, the countryside where there are views of the most amazing limestone mountains. There was a waitress there who had the cutest chortling laugh. We had two slightly inebriated dinners at the inn so she had a lot to laugh at. The name of the inn was the Giggling Tree and we figured it must be named for her.
Then on our last day of vacation, we were riding the subway in Guangzhou. Alise and Cathy were making funny faces to an adorable two year old who was amazed and enchanted by the western women. I was sitting a bit away and laughing at them, when a Chinese lady about my own age sat down next to me and said hello. I was responded and she asked where I was from. We then had a lovely conversation. She had just spent the entire morning at the US Consulate getting a visa for a trip to the States. She was very excited to tell me of the trip with her husband and teenage daughter to visit San Francisco, NYC and Washington DC. I gave her advice on the weather and how cold it could be and we had a lovely conversation. She was from the countryside but had a sister in SF. This was really unusual as very few people spoke such good English or were so outgoing to a stranger. She was obviously excited about her trip and it was a bit as if I was talking to a Chinese version of myself!
The people, the sights, the food ...all the memories now shared between our gang of travelers.