Seeing the "major" sites is wonderful when travelling, but I also love spending time doing ordinary things: shopping for food, walking through neighborhoods, listening to conversation - even when I can't understand much of it. Those times help me make bonds with places and people. For a little while, I am not just a visitor, but someone who is sharing a moment of our lives.
Even doing laundry in another city can be interesting. Maggie and I had a washing machine in our apartment in Rome. A nearby store sold detergent in large boxes. We only wanted enough for a load or two so we stopped in a Laundromat down the street and asked the owner if we might buy a small amount of detergent. He was very accommodating and we came away with more than we needed.
Maggie put the clothes in and got it started. A little bit later I saw her parked on a chair in front of it, watching it closely. She was quite taken by how it worked - different from our machines, even front loaders. We laughed - "So what did you do in Rome?" "Oh, we had the most marvelous time watching our washing machine!"
We spent a morning in a market, looking at all the gorgeous produce, the fresh fish, the meats and cheeses and eggs so attractively displayed. You could get wine our of barrels; the man would pull a spigot and pour it into a clean plastic water bottle. The breads and pastries! Flowers and plants!
And there are always signs of poverty, difficult situations - beggars, homelessness, hunger.
One of the things I really loved in Rome was the abundance of fountains - the water is almost always safe to drink and delicious and cold. It is available to everyone. Some people even set out little dishes next to the fountains for animals to drink.
People ask me what I found to be highlights of my trip. It is hard to answer. How do I compare my awe in the Sistine Chapel with the delight of good clean water on a hot day?