I love traveling abroad. Not just because there are some fantastic airlines that take you there, gorgeous hotels to stay in and museums galore, but also because it is a gastronomic paradise.
When eating abroad, sometimes it’s difficulty to find the right meal because of either a language barrier, or because you think you are being steered wrong by your hotel, who is most likely making a commission off of their recommendation.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to go to Nice, France with my Uncle and Aunt, an experience I’ll never forget. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the scenery, culture and camaraderie, but I also learned what is probably one of the most valuable tips I’ve ever learned when it comes to travel.
Eat where the locals eat, and if the menu is in any other language other than the native one of the area, go somewhere else.
It’s very sound advice, and is something that will always stick in my head as one of those “aha” moments that my Uncle has shared with me. It’s funny, really – you’ll walk down the streets of Nice and you’ll see all sorts of what looks like really good places to eat. When you take a step closer and browse the menu posted outside you notice the menu translated into multiple languages other than English and French; usually, you’ll see translations in Spanish, Russian and German, just to name a few. That’s the kind of place you want to avoid, as you know it’s a tourist trap, just out for the money from some unsuspecting foreigners. Now, to clarify, I do understand when a menu is also translated in English. With English being the universal language, and even some local folks of the native area not being fluent in the home language, it’s understood that English could be included for convenience. However, if you can find a place with just a French menu or just German menu or just a Spanish menu, you won’t regret it.
For me, I always choose a place based upon what I see on the menu – if I’m in Paris, and the menu is solely in French, I know I’ve found a good place to eat. When I was in Paris over Memorial Day this past year, I got a recommendation from the concierge at the Park Hyatt Vendome. Ordinarily, I probably wouldn’t have trusted his advice, but because the restaurant was about a 50 minute walk from the hotel, and the concierge guaranteed to me it was his favorite personal restaurant, I went along with his recommendation. Upon arriving at the bistro, I was greeted by a middle-aged Frenchman in flip-flops, who introduced me to his wife inside…who was the chef. It was perfect. The menu had not a hint of English on it, and the bistro was located well off of the touristy sections near the Notre Dame. It was my kind of place, and one that I knew would be delicious…and boy was it ever.
So, if I can leave you with one tip that will forever change the way you eat abroad: Eat where the locals eat, and always ensure the menu is printed in the native language of the area, and nothing more. Bon a petit!
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