The September Tourist

The September Tourists

The two of them follow the golden leaf that skips lazily down the road,

Listening to the clamor of the crowd several blocks away.
Peering down the side street, they spy
A bus that has stopped there,
Groaning a bit as its human cargo spills out
Into an entryway once reserved for the devout brothers
Walking silently to prayer.
A place now resonating with dissonant voices and camera clicks.

The leaf flips over and over, swirling up with a little eddy of air,
Changing direction and leading them down the next narrow alley.
They eagerly pursue the leaf as it flees from the noise.
The street becomes darker and green under the canopy of trees
That form an archway between the buildings.
A flowery scent wafts past and they look up and see baskets of
fragrant blooms flowing over the wrought iron balconies above.

A lazy black cat sees the leaf and springs to life, catching it under her paw.
The tip of her tail twitches as she tries to eat it, but
Finding it distasteful, she shakes her head and saunters off down the next block.
Having lost their guide, the couple follows the cat instead,
And finds themselves in a tranquil square
Where a young man sits on a terrace, drinking his coffee,
And writing in a serious looking journal.

Two women sit at the next table, comparing notes
About this and that, keeping a close eye on the
little boy and the little girl scampering after a red ball
on the grass in the center of the square.

The calm scene is broken momentarily by the church bells ringing.
The women collect their bags and their children and walk purposefully
Down the street that the couple also walks down.
This church, though small, is masterfully built,
Even older than the large one nearby whose once quiet corridors are now filled
By so many tourists, eager to fill their already weary buses
With spangled tote bags, t-shirts, and plastic Marys.

The door of this smaller church is now open,
Inviting those brave enough to leave the groups with
The unmistakable sound of an organ.
The couple ventures reverently inside and sits down,
Just in time to enjoy the music while the organist practices.
A priest walks in and nods at them silently.
It is as if they have discovered their own private concert,
The music of Bach filling their souls and their senses.
When the music stops, they rise, and, leaving a few coins in the offering box,
They walk out into the sunny street
Where the residents of the neighborhood are emerging,
Chatting softly to one another as small groups of them
begin to gather at the various cafés in the square
because it is time for lunch.

So…what is the “September Tourist?” It’s more than just a time of year, it is a state of mind. Yes, it refers to those who travel in September, when the “high” season is winding down and the children are back in school, and everything is just a bit calmer, and cooler, and quieter than in mid-summer. When lines are shorter, when you can take a photo of a monument that is not obscured by 200 people you’ve never met, even at major tourist attractions. When a place relaxes from its people-filled summer and the locals begin to resume their normal lives.

However, this page is not just about traveling in September. It’s about finding that state of mind no matter when you travel. It’s about discovering what is real about the places we visit, even though we too are tourists. My husband used this term during a weekend getaway we took in August. We still found ways to be “September Tourists” even though we were traveling right in the middle of the busiest season.

In this space I hope to share with you my experiences and some tips to being a “September Tourist” as well as some random poetry and a few Zentangles® that are inspired by my travels. There are different kinds of travelers, those who travel to say they’ve been somewhere, grab a couple souvenirs from a tourist shop, complain that the food is strange,  and get home with a few selfies to prove they were there. And then, there are those who seek out something more, les souvenirs in the French sense of the word, meaning memories, more than a photo or a plastic reproduction of a famous monument, something that changes them from the inside out, because they have not only “been there”, but they have experienced “there.”

I hope you will enjoy this page, chers lecteurs, and if you too are a September Tourist, I hope you will share your tips and recommendations in the comments.