Arriving at a picturesque, rural haven for us entails the following, in this order:
- An increasingly frenzied search for parking in a place determined to never have enough, leading to a desperate parallel parking job halfway into some random yard while dodging oblivious tourists (which we soon join).
- Finding the one real restaurant amid the hordes of shacks and shops, getting told of some unfathomably long wait, bailing to one of the shacks for delicious, greasy fried things only to, upon sitting on a bench with our sloppy gains, get the phone call that our restaurant table is now ready.
- While the food coma processes, Nicole and the others declare the incredible cuteness of, well, every little shop around. This, I am forced to admit, is an accurate characterization. Following this judgment, the shopping commences.
And here, friends, is the instant of mortal terror I face every time we find ourselves in an idyllic slice of paradise. Do I join them in their perusal of handmade charms and seashells plucked and polished?
My stamina for such things drains faster than an old phone’s battery, and before long I’ll be standing near the entrance, a look of such resignation on my face that random passersby will ask me if I’m in need of medical attention.
Or… the cafe. A miraculous place, usually small and with some fun name like ‘The Peach Tree’ or ‘Breezy’s Teas and Coffees’. It’ll have fresh-baked scones, espresso and a variety of locally-sourced thingamabobs. Wifi will be there, almost always teetering from the weight of other desperate urbanites trying to LTE in a land of 3G.
If I can, I hide there. Pull out a book, chat with a fellow non-shoppers, or even pull out a computer and tip tap away, leveraging the background scenery for inspiration. Every one of these cafes is special, a Shangri-La in the harsh crags of tourist-town stores. And I love them all.
So next time you’re going somewhere and you’re dreading the souvenir shopping to come, bring that novel, or a notebook, and keep your eyes open for the sanctuary that is the small town cafe. It just might save your day.