Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lost and Happy

By Supriya Savkoor

I’m not supposed to be blogging today because of asundry reasons happening in my non-virtual life, but I just couldn’t resist this topic! So I’ll keep it short…

With young children and so little vacation time on our hands these days, we tend not to go meandering around a new place, relying on chance to find a good restaurant or adventure. Of course, I haven’t traveled to any place new since Yelp and all such fancy apps have come out (not counting Disney), so we’ll see how that plays out the next time I’m wandering around a new country.

But I know I’m not the only one who’s discovered new interesting and sometimes favorite places after getting lost.

On a trip to Switzerland over a decade ago, bad weather in the Alps forced hubby and me to meander around Interlaken, the town where we were staying but which all of our travel guides said was forgettable, kitschy, touristy, and just not worth exploring. As a result, we hadn’t mapped out our every move. When we had no choice but to spend a day there, we started exploring anyway and discovered the guide books had got it all wrong. There was nothing forgettable about Interlaken. We loved it and found it adorable. It’s just a tiny little village nestled in the Alps – yes, one catering to tourists, with boutiques full of Swiss army knives and cuckoo clocks, but even back then, it seemed far less commercial to us than the local sprawling shopping mall near our suburban home outside Washington, D.C.

In Interlaken, we walked and walked, admiring the wildflowers in the green hills around, always hearing the sweet sound of cowbells tinkling in the distance. We finally stopped at a local pharmacy to ask for a restaurant recommendation, and the friendly woman there suggested her very favorite restaurant in town, one that I would now rate as my favorite restaurant anywhere. It was a small hike, a lovely one at that, but we were skeptical when we were seated in the rustic lodge next to an open window that had a gorgeous view but the smell of, you know, cow dung drifting in. (So much for steak!) 

But Café du Nord was an amazing experience. They brought out complimentary cocktails, a sweet concoction of something or other with wide, sugar-rimmed glasses, more like bowls than cups. I discovered the glorious dish of raclette, a type of Swiss cheese simply grilled as a starter. Absolute heaven. I can’t even remember the specifics of what other dishes we savored, only that the food, the service, and the presentation were all so wonderful, we canceled another event on our trip just so to make another visit. Our sweetest dining experience ever…

On another Europe adventure, we got lost at night in a part of Florence that locals had warned us was not a good part of town. It looked dodgy too, with no street lights at all and young gang-like teens wandering around in the shadows. So how surprised were we when we ran right into a small dive of an Indian restaurant, bright and noisy, in an otherwise empty back alley? Loud bhangra music blared from its open doors, the day’s specials written in Italian (pollo tandoori) on a chalkboard hanging in the scratched window, framed by a string of colorful lights. 

Made us laugh and reminded us to keep our minds open, keep walking, and find out what other unexpected discoveries we could make. As all of life's journey's should be, right?


  1. You've hit on one of the things I love about Switzerland - the touristy kitch side by side with "real life." And the Swiss really do know what to do with cheese...

  2. Being lost can take all the joy out of an experience so we have to look out for the happy,inspiring bits along the way. Lost in Turin we found an Indian restaurant with a Ganesha murti in a back street, we were hungry,cold,tired and despondent bunch of Hindus, but after this our journey was much easier.