- All that is gold does not glitter,
- Not all those who wander are lost;
- The old that is strong does not wither,
- Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
- - a poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien for his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings.
What is your favorite thing to do with your time? For me, it has always been wandering/exploring. All those long walks, bike rides, road trips, living on campus and travels always lead to us wandering the town. My biggest nightmare is becoming that person who goes to an authentic chinese restaurant and orders spring rolls or that person who goes to a new city and and only spends time bar hopping. A new activity that i enjoy as much lately has been reading the Kinfolk magazine/book/website. It contains the most beautifully written stories and essays. I have done some blogging till date. But reading this book makes me realize what a bad job i have been doing trying to tell my stories. Each story has to have that depth, its own history. context and an author who takes full ownership of it. And plain reporting of events with a few pictures is definitely not the way to go.
It would have been an uneventful Tuesday. At noon, it was time to get out and explore. Something that has been on the back of my mind since my Seattle trip was Russian Pirozhki, their street food item which is a sort of stuffed bun. Asian stores give a great insight into the life and food of various countries in Asia. I have been to a Persian store. But i have never been to any place that would lead me to learn about Russia. I packed my satchel and headed out to Samovar Deli. The place is run by this sweet Russian couple who were very friendly and hospitable. They patiently took me around the store, answered all the questions i had and encouraged me to be curious. They asked me questions about India and told me some of their stories. A touching moment was when the lady showed a cologne that has been popular for the last 100 years and told me about how it reminds her to her elders. Apparently, the newer generation doesnt care for it anymore. But it always brings her memories of people gone by.
They got me some fresh brewed Russian Coffee and pilaf. I am not a coffee drinker but how could i refuse trying it when someone makes such a gesture? She then picked out this soft drink that i had to try. Its very unique and nothing like i have ever had. And maybe the first i ever, i tasted a soft drink that wasnt out right sweet. It tasted like cherries and spices. She gave me a chicken recipe and the necessary spices. “The Russian way”, she said.
Harsha was finishing up a meeting in Mountain View downtown and i headed out there to join him. We spotted these bikes for rent, with an attached vending machine to put money. Makes me happy. What followed was a walk along the beautiful streets. And lots of interesting stores that let us take pictures inside.
( These two sun figurines are supposed to be good luck charms. Subtle huh? )
Random Passerby gentleman: “looks like you are having a good time, <wink>”
Store owner: “No pictures please”. Me: “But i am a traveller from India who only takes pictures to document my travels. There is nothing commercial about it.” Store owner: “hummmm,…. okay.”
Above is a picture from a Chinese Tea Store. They have two hundred kinds of teas that regularly win tea awards. But more interestingly, they have backside to the store filled with these sort of antiques. I have tried repeatedly to go in a take a look but was turned down. This picture sneaked into my camera when the lady of the store was yelling at me to step away from that restricted area. I am so going back to see more.
me: I want to go to Stanford. Him: I want to go to SFO. My Cal-train virgin and me ended up in San Francisco an hour later.
And the wandering started. We didnt have a plan or a destination. But hunger caught up with us soon enough. After being punished with long waiting queues at several restaurants for not making a reservation, we ended up deciding on a French Bistro called Chez Mamas, that yelp seems to be unable to shut up about.
There is a point in life when even the most enthusiastic of people who call themselves wanderers catch up with their enemy. Hunger. Fatigue. And a destination that is located at the end of an uphill. So we set out, encouraging each other with kind words so that we would not give up half way and sit down cross legged on the street ( me ). When we got there, it turns out to be ‘Chez Papa’, the sister restaurant of ‘Chez Mama’. Oh well, it will do.
This was our first time at a real French place. And, all my francophile-ness did not prepare me for this event. Every time the French waiter said something, i would try repeating his words in my head with his accent. So beautiful and French. We were unfamiliar with most of the dishes and ingredients on the menu. I kept thinking of Julia Childs first meal in France. We ordered some dishes that we could not pronounce and hoped for the best. My first time trying mussels, wine that originated from Bordeaux, frisee salad leaves, poached egg and raspberry tart. Harsha had many firsts and would have had more if he hadnt refused my offers ….. But we slowly warmed up to this new cuisine and quite enjoyed it. I may have eaten the best bacon i have ever had. And the bread dipping sauce (freshly ground olives, anchovies and garlic) was wonderful. The portions are much smaller compared to American entree sizes and the food less starchier. The desserts were subtly sweet and extremely well done. And our maitre d was kind enough to go into the kitchen and ask the chef for the ingredients in the dishes i was curious about. And every single time, after he would have served us and would be about leave, he would say in his jovial voice “BON APPÉTIT!!”.
Walking down hill outlooking the entire city after a great meal, SCORE ! We missed the last fast train, and eventually found a slow train that would take us back after significant waiting time. I had my Kinfolk magazine to read. While Harsha napped like a baby.
By the time we reached Mountain View, the whole of the downtown had shopped, dined, partied, closed its doors and gone to sleep. The streets were ours …..
Two hours of sleep and we head out to the airport. I have to make it back on time to teach. And Harsha to work.
to be contd….. during Thanksgiving Break.