Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Off the beaten path

So I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain "No Reservations: Rome" this past weekend. Aside from my now insane craving for cacchio e pepe (and Bourdain's sardonic personality), he makes the best point when not revealing the name of a restaurant in the episode. He just calls it Restaurant X, since he doesn't want it to be ruined by tourist traffic. Ok, yeah, I'm a miffed because I wanted to try the restaurant when I'm in Rome this summer. However, how many times have you been to a destination and all the food places are filled with tourists? Have you ever ventured out of the tourist zone on your own?
This past summer I was in Greece for a couple weeks. My first stop was Crete. One day during a day trip to the island's capital of Heraklion, I was trying to find a little museum except I got it confused with another one. I had a map of the city so I thought I was good to go. Except all the street signs are in Greek letters. I don't speak Greek, but after one day there I was able to sound out the letters thereby helping me figure out the words in Roman letters. During this little adventure I found myself walking through little lanes, side streets off of main squares, and alleys. I found a yummy sweet shop where I ate warm bahklava and a drank an ice cold mineral water (it was BEASTLY hot this past September!). I found some other cute shops where I bought some spices to bring home.
Another day I was on the island of Hydra in the Saronic Gulf. Since it was lunch time, I walked away from the port into the little neighborhood for a place to eat lunch. There I found a little cafe that was just opening at noon. The lady who owned the place didn't speak English, so I pointed to the papoutsakia (eggplant with tomatoes, onions and cheese) on the menu and said please in Greek. No one else was in the cafe and it was a hearty lunch that kept me going for the rest of the day.
How adventurous are you? Would you stray out of the tourist area to find hidden food places or small shops? Does not speaking the language freak you out? Even if all you learn to say is please and thank you, it's always appreciated.
Now back to my Rosetta Stone to learn some more Italian!


  1. When I was in Egypt with my Dad, we got to know our guide very well (we had hired a private guide for just the two of us), and we asked her about local places to eat. We didn't want to be stuck eating at the hotel (the Le Meridian Pyramids hotel was lovely, but the food was standard "Americanized/Europeanized" Egyptian food). She recommended a little hole-in-the-wall that we probably wouldn't have even thought to enter without her recommendation. The food was absolutely amazing, and completely different from the food we ate elsewhere. Later we tried a couple other places, and I learned the Arabic for "please suggest something delicious" -- so that's how we ordered. One meal was kinda icky, but the rest were really good (even though I have no idea what they were).

  2. I even go off the beaten path in L.A. ;)