You don’t forget the Taj Mahal. The soaring symmetry, the smooth, creamy stones that glow in the morning light, the calm peace of the parrot-filled gardens after the jumble of noise, smells and people that is India; the majesty, plain and simple. It’s an awe-inspiring, life-changing experience and a trip to India is made that much better for seeing it. Great, beautiful, BIG things, like the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the Duomo in Florence, can change and affect us (beyond taking an “I was here” photo to post on facebook and show to your grandkids); the big things are important for sure. But the very juiciest aspect of travel in my opinion, the real reason we love to do it, are the little things. The particular rhythm of a place. The quality of the light. The rituals of daily life. The man selling bunches of lavender on the sidewalk. The statues that guard drinking fountains. The butterfly flitting from blossom to blossom.
Seeing how the rest of the world works, discovering new and interesting things that open our eyes wider to the large (and yet so small) world around us, are the golden things. Often these are things that locals don’t even blink an eye over, but as a foreigner they’re confusing and fascinating and illuminating: “Oh so I don’t get my coffee to-go in a paper cup and drink it while I’m walking? I sit here and you bring me an espresso in a demitasse, or if I want it with milk I ask for a café crème (which doesn’t come with cream, and I can just forget about half and half) and I drink it and watch the world go by? Sure, I can do that.” You might recognize a few of these things from your own world. The things that are just commonplace and everyday, but that maybe you see tourists taking photos of, or find foreign friends asking about.
Well this is one of my discoveries. A little thing. And if you already know about it, well, you are far more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than I. Or French. This is basically* the best thing ever. You know when you’re looking at the dessert menu, and you wish you could just have like, a few bites of everything? But there aren’t enough of you to order one of each, so you end up with just one choice but you spend the rest of the night wondering about what you’ve missed (no? just me?) Well they’ve got a solution and I am obsessed with it. It is called café gourmand and is on the dessert menu at some restaurants**. It is a café (always always always an espresso) and three or four small portions of dessert, usually whatever is on the main menu, although most traditionally chocolate mousse, apple tart and crème brûlée. Is that not the best? Not only do you get to try a little of everything, but it is just the right portion AND it is a surprise! Like your birthday! I admit that I may be partially biased by my love of all things tiny, but I think I am going to order this forever and ever.
* At a party the other night the French people were saying that the Brits commonly overuse the words “basically” and “actually”. I just laughed because I am so guilty of that.
**This particular one we enjoyed at a great restaurant in Nantes called L’Industrie, which I will speak more in depth about soon!