[Editor’s Note: This post is excerpted from Eric’s Dating Dad blog. For the full post, please click here.]
...a late-night jaunt through Kyoto sounded lovely.
Because that’s pretty much my favorite thing when traveling (other than eating, of course) — whether it’s a drunken, 2 a.m. ramble in Budapest with my best pal, a solo street food experience through the Night Market in Hong Kong, an unexpected midnight kiss in south London after we’d closed the pub where we’d met, a crazy New Year’s Eve BART ride out of San Francisco, or a 4 a.m. breakfast in a shitty 24-hour diner in New Orleans, exploring a city at night inspires me.
That night, the cobblestone streets of Kyoto were still shiny from the day’s rainstorms, puddles here and there reflecting the lanterns in front of bars — sounds of laughter, shouting, and that unmistakable clink of a glass being set down with just a little too much enthusiasm leaking through the curtained doorways. I passed a middle-aged couple, swaying slightly as they staggered down the narrow road, arms over shoulders, the man slurring something sloppy and the woman giggling. A few well-dressed younger guys were perched outside another bar, smoking silently, and they peered at me as I breezed by. I’d learned long ago that you’re less likely to be bothered if you walk with a purpose, as if you belong there and know where you’re going. It works well just about anywhere, though less-so in the souk in Tel Aviv, or the textile market in Marrakech.
Late night is when you get a look at the real life of a big city. In Hong Kong, I could swear the streets were busier after 10pm than they were during the day. Nighttime is when a city sparkles with potential — for adventure, for transformative dining experiences, for trouble. It’s when you find yourself drinking with the locals, telling stories to the bartender, or getting the scoop on what is absolutely not to be missed.
It’s also when the magical stuff can happen. After I’d retrieved our umbrellas from the restaurant where we’d left them, I decided to walk back by way of one of the many awe-inspiring temples that make Kyoto such a wonder. I didn’t realize a festival was in the works that night, and as I squeezed my way through the throngs who were on the temple grounds to leave offerings and watch the monks with their gongs and drums, I considered running back to the ryokan and rousting my daughter to take it all in.
But I knew she was done for the day, probably already in the big bamboo bathtub by then, or texting her friends, who were just waking up back home. So I stopped for a few moments to enjoy the festivities, breathing in the scent of incense that wafted through the temple compound, and then dropped a coin in front of the shrine of a smiling buddha, quietly voicing the intention of love and prosperity, before directing my aching legs back to the inn.
I’ve found myself in potentially compromising or moderately dangerous situations in my midnight rambles through foreign cities, but for the most part I’ve been able to steer clear of the worst parts of town (except maybe that one night, in Madrid, when one of my buddies made the bad decision of leading us into what we thought was a bar, but wasn’t. The realization, the quick exit, and the attempt to lose a couple of pimp thugs via trash-strewn alleyways and public transportation became a good story to tell).
But that’s part of the allure when I travel; the romance of late nights on the move.
—by Eric Elkins
As CEO and Chief Strategist of WideFoc.us, Eric brings nearly two decades of of experience to our clients. In his other life, he’s a single dad, a good eater, and a bourbon aficionado.