NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — Friday’s appearance by President Joe Biden in Nantucket was a surprise.

Biden spent over an hour wandering downtown Nantucket’s cobblestone streets. He stopped by small mom-and-pop shops unannounced to buy items and pose for photos with astonished business owners.

Some of his grandchildren were with him. Biden and his family spent Thanksgiving on Massachusetts Island, renting a sprawling compound owned by billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein.

Biden was passing by on a rainy and cold day when some shouted “Hey Joe,” “We love your, Joe,” others shouted. One man told the president, 79 years old, that he looked younger in real life.

These are the interactions that Biden enjoys with ordinary people. He hasn’t enjoyed them as much since COVID-19.

After speaking with reporters about the new COVID-19 variant in South Africa and his decision Friday to join other countries in restricting travel to southern Africa, Biden began the walk.

Friday’s opening ceremony saw the president go to lunch at a restaurant with Jill, his children Hunter and Ashley and their grandchildren. It is a post-Thanksgiving Day family ritual. The couple then went to a nearby bookstore and browsed before Biden set off on their stroll.

Before he returned to Nantucket for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, he stopped by a leather goods and gift store.

Biden’s walk around downtown reminded me of the time during Barack Obama’s presidency, when he rebelled against his Oval Office responsibilities. Modern presidents don’t usually walk.

Obama declared, “The bear is free!” One day in 2014, he left the White House by foot instead of riding in a motorcade and walked to the Interior Department. This shocked ordinary Washingtonians.

Biden did not make a similar declaration.