I have friends who no matter where they are in the world will seek out two things: the best local cup of cappuccino and the best local fish and chips (generally not consumed at the same time!). Other friends have sought out the Duck Boat tours (although this tradition may have stopped), and another friend tries to take a local bike tour to check out the neighborhood.
I too have a few traditions.
One, try a local craft beer. I don't usually go for the well known or exported beer (unless of course the local version is really that much better - like Guinness). I've had some exceptional beers, some not so much, some really bad. But for me, it's not about the beer itself - it's the story behind the beer, speaking to the locals about their favorites, and trying new things. I still remember in Lisbon, sitting at a local cafe, and just by engaging the waiter we all of a sudden had a friendly conversation started across a number of tables with other patrons. Amazing!
Second, visit local markets. Farmer's markets and grocery stores. Both offer insights to how locals live, what they eat. At grocery stores it's fun to peruse the aisles and refrigerated sections. You'd be amazed what you can find. And quite often this is the best place to find small gifts to bring back home. For example, in Budapest, I found authentic Hungarian paprika for a fraction of the price found at the tourist shops. And better quality.
Farmer's markets, indoors or out, is about checking out the fresh foods from the bakers, butchers and farmers. Its a great place to pick up a snack while checking things out (the smoked salmon nuggets in Gothenburg and the freshly grilled sausage sandwich in Regensburg were divine!) Many of the displays are similar to what you might find at your local farmer's market, but there are also plenty of local specialties to pique your curiosity. You just never know what you'll find. I haven't been recently but I still remember walking through a market area in Hong Kong. My eyes were as round as saucers and I definitely had sensory overload! Not sure how much I would actually eat, but the window shopping I'm still talking about. .
I am excited to see Farmer's Market experiences being added to small ship excursions. Chefs on small ocean, adventure and river cruises often buy fresh local foods for the evening meal while in port. Chefs are now encouraging a small number of guests to join them as they seek out some regional specialties to serve their guests. Sometimes you can even have a say in what's being served!
Sometimes I take pictures of just the cobblestone, but I love finding the ones that identify what type of store it is/was. Can you tell by the ones below?
And while seeking out fish specifically is not one of my regular traditions, its not a bad one to have. My "fish experiences" have left me with some of the best travel memories- the best halibut sandwich in Juneau ( a family and friends trip), an unforgettable "caught that morning" fish sandwich at a beach front hole in the wall spot in New Zealand (trip of a lifetime with my parents) and probably the best fish and chips I've had anywhere in Akureyri, Iceland (Mom and I made new friends with four of the best people I know).
So if you have a travel tradition, keep it going, and share it with us in the comments below. And if you don't have one, start one. You won't be disappointed with memories of a lifetime.
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