Note that this post is not about favorite restaurants or even what I consider the “best” meal or dish that I have ever eaten while traveling. Some of my favorite and most memorable meals were due to the overall experience, including the view, the food, the people, the location, my travel companion (usually Steve) and the overall ambiance. I dug through some old photos to find pictures of my favorite meals while traveling.
Sunrise Breakfast on the Serengeti (Kenya)
One of my favorite trips to date was our safari in Kenya. We stayed 5 nights in the Masai Mara area of the Serengeti during the peak of the Great Migration and we were blown away by the landscape, the game viewing and the people of Kenya. Our lodge, Kichwa Tembo, arranged for a breakfast in the bush one morning. Game drives are always early in the morning (5am start) and late afternoon/early evening as that is when the animals are the most active. Our driver during our stay, Jackson, took us out to the middle of the Mara and after inspecting to make sure no lions or other dangerous wildlife was around, he set up a hot plate and served us quiche, fresh fruit and potatoes with coffee and juice right in the middle of the plains as we watched the sun come up. It wasn’t the best breakfast food in the world but it was definitely an experience I won’t forget.
2. A Night on the Tiles in Madrid
We have visited Spain a few times and we’ve spent enough time in Madrid to know exactly where we want to go for tapas hopping. Right off the Plaza de Santa Ana are several narrow streets just crawling with tapas bars. We love Casa de Abuelo for the garlic shrimp and Casa Toni for patatas bravas and padron peppers. Another great place is the indoor market of San Miguel in central Madrid. Finally, my favorite bar for sangria and tapas is the Torre del Oro bar on Plaza Mayor which is a shrine to bullfighting (I don’t care for bullfighting but the bar has a great atmosphere and many bull heads and gory photos inside).
3. Wine Country Picnics
Wine is food, right? Steve and I love visiting different wine regions as we both love wine and I am very interested in learning more about the wine making process. We have been lucky enough to visit the Central Coast wine region near Santa Barbara, the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Champagne region of France. Later this year I’ll be making a quick visit to Napa Valley and we have planned a 5 day stay in Sonoma over New Years. Our most visited wine area is the Central Coast region of California – this area is blessed with warm, sunny days and cool evenings so it’s almost always perfect picnic weather. We usually load up a small basket with gourmet sandwiches, cheeses and sides and head out to do some tastings. Once we find a nice picnic spot (in the shade, picnic tables and nice view), we will relax and enjoy a casual lunch with a glass of wine and cork whatever we don’t finish for later.
4. Classic Creole Cuisine and Cocktails in New Orleans
We visit New Orleans on a fairly regular basis given that it’s just a little over an hour away via plane. We’ve even been during Mardi Gras on a number of occasions, which is far more fun and enjoyable than I ever thought it would be. However, one of the biggest reasons to come to New Orleans is for the food! We have so many restaurants that we love and visit over and over again. Our favorites are Felix’s for the chargrilled oysters, Mr. B’s Bistro for shrimp & grits and their BBQ shrimp, Commander’s Palace for a special occasion dinner and Napoleon House for their warm muffaletta sandwiches….and that’s just scratching the surface. Of course, you can’t forget about the cocktails in New Orleans and I don’t mean hand grenades and hurricanes. So many restaurants in New Orleans make amazing hand crafted cocktails – Dickie Brennan’s for an apple martini, The French 75 Bar for a cosmopolitan, the Hemingway daquiri at Commander’s Palace and the moscow mule at Emeril’s are some of my favorites.
5. Pizza and Pasta in Italy
Italy had been on my bucket list for years and we finally planned a trip in Spring 2016 to visit Rome and the Amalfi coast for one week. Of course, sampling as much pizza and pasta as we could during this trip was a must. My definite favorite was the cacio e pepe, which is a simple pasta dish of spaghetti noodles, loads of cracked black pepper and a heavy handful of pecorino cheese. That dish with a glass of red wine was heaven. We also enjoyed the lighter pasta dishes of the Amalfi coast made with a light dash of olive oil and fresh seafood in its own salty brine. I think we ate pizza about every other day during this trip as well and while some were better than others, we never had a bad pizza the whole trip.
Steve and I certainly don’t mind splurging for a special meal on vacation and we’ve done fancy lunches and dinners at places like La Tour D’Argent in Paris and Gramercy Tavern in New York but we often find that we’re happier doing something simpler and more basic that takes advantage of the local scenery, culture, wine and atmosphere. It’s been some of the more relaxed meals like conch fritters on the beach in the Virgin Islands or arepas and an agua fresca from a street vendor in Mexico that we remember the most though I have to say that our fancy dress-up dinners have been memorable as well. Every trip is what you make of it – whether on a budget or spending top dollar.