The combination of coffee and anticipation produced a vibration in her body that she remembered from her college days. Not the long days of classes, studying and writing but the precious times in-between when she escaped reality and responsibility by taking a road trip, finding an adventure.
She lifted her eyes over the rim of the bright blue coffee mug and watched the trees with their young green leaves swaying gently on the courthouse lawn. Hidden behind the tender leaves was the center of this town, the old stately building whose weathered red brick perfectly contrasted the fresh green foliage.
“Can you see the faces in the gable of the center dormer?” asked her husband as he basked in the sunlight coming through the huge windows of their flat. “I read that the top three represent Roman gods of the countryside, and the bottom three - which I think look like fiddlehead ferns - represent nature.”
His curiosity was one of the things she loved best about her partner of twenty-five years – 25 years today, in fact. They were celebrating their anniversary by visiting a new National Park and staying in the most charming small town.
Having already showered and dressed, they headed out of their flat and down the grand old stairway to the front door, pausing periodically along the way to enjoy pieces of the contemporary art collection that adorned the plaster walls.
The air outside was cool but with the promise of warmth; a forecast that perfectly complimented their afternoon plans.
With a spring in their step, they turned right and walked a couple of blocks to the old church, passing a friendly woman sweeping the sidewalk outside town hall - unbeknownst to them, the mayor of this quaint little town.
As they entered the old church and found their seats, she was mesmerized by the high stained-glass windows and the way the colored light moved across her body before resting on the worn hardwood floors. The place smelled of coffee and biscuits and bacon, the holy trinity of breakfast and perfectly appropriate for its present-day iteration as Cathedral Café.
After nourishing their bodies and satisfying their souls - the way only blueberry pancakes and rich maple syrup can - they stood to leave smiling and waving goodbye to the lovely young couple at the table beside them.
“Are you ready for our wildflower extravaganza?” he asked before gently taking her hand and leading her out of the café and back onto Court Street.
She smiled and whispered yes while kissing his slightly scruffy cheek. She’d viewed so many beautiful photos of Appalachian wildflowers while preparing for this trip. She was excited to try and identify the ones they encountered today on the Southside Trail.
“We’ll probably see trilliums, trout lilies and spring beauties, but it’s Dutchman’s Breeches I’m most excited about. They actually look like little white pantaloons,” she said with a giggle.
“Speaking of pantaloons,” he chuckled, “check out the ones on ol' Lafayette.”
Standing proudly on the courthouse lawn was a statue of the Marque de Lafayette, the town of Fayetteville’s namesake and trusty advisor to George Washington. She couldn’t help but admire how the sculptor had so perfectly captured Lafayette’s fancy French uniform.
“Let’s pop across the street to Waterstone before we head out. I’d like to pick up a new jacket for our hike,” he said as they passed the beautifully restored old bank building that served as their home-away-from-home this week. “I saw that they have some locally baked goodies in there, and I might need one of those Yumbel cookies to take with me – you know, energy for the hike.”
This small town was full of great food. That breakfast and the dinner they had last night at Secret Sandwich Society. It was incredible. She had the Washington (a ham, cheddar, and apple sandwich with rosemary mayo) and he had the Lafayette (juicy fried chicken, ham and Swiss with blue cheese spread).
“Good thing we have so many hikes planned,” she laughed, “or we both might soon need bigger pantaloons.”