Food, Drink and Nightlife
Hey Lee and Sachi,
When I was in Barcelona my sister took me to a local family run restaurant that served a multiple servings, family style meal that was fantastic and unlike anything else I ate in Barcelona. It's called El Cargol and is somewhere in the outskirts of Barcelona (you need a car to get there). I'll update with more location info and possibly a local contact to go with when my sister gets back to me. I'd highly recommend it if you have a car.
If you're experiencing local music on your trip- assuming you like tradtional or semi-traditional Scottish folk music, which I recommend- a must-go is Sandy Bells in Edinburgh. They have a seisun (session) mostly every day, great bartenders and great food nearby. It's at 25 Forrest Road, not far from the Royal Mile, but also near U of Edinburgh where there are a ton of great and mostly cheap places to eat. If there's a mad Australian with bushy red eyebrows behind the bar, his name is Toby, and tell him I said hi.
There's a great vegetarian place called Bann's around the corner on Blair Street (the address is 5 Hunter Square). Get the soup.
On the east end of town is the Broughton Street neighborhood, more or less the gay neighborhood, so it's naturally where all the good stores and restaurants are. Great place for a walk around and to get lunch.
The city has a WEALTH of guided tours through its abandoned underground (modern E-burgh is built directly on top of old E-burgh), Mercat is among the best, all their people are historians, supposedly (http://www.mercattours.com/home.asp). I go on two or three every time I am there, but beware the scare-factor only tours. Mercat is the real deal. There is a museum through which you can enter Mary King's Close, which is cool, but I would be tempted to check out the Mercat tour since they give one now, also. There are plenty of aboveground tours as well, and some of them are so good, you see locals on them.
It has a strange transition from old city to new, like much of Scotland, but Edinburgh is well worth the trip. If you're traveling overland and you're into history, York and the Lake District are well worth a half-day each. It breaks up the trip nicely.
So much to say about food in Japan! Here are just the foot notes on some reasonable and easy places to eat:
- Ticket vending machine restaurants are easy, cheap and great if you're a limited or non-Japanese language speaker. Look at the pictures or fake food in the window, match the characters, press the button, pay the machine and a ticket comes out. Take it to the person at the counter, have a seat, and within minutes (usually not more than 3) your meal has arrived. These diners are scattered everywhere throughout major cities in Japan and target businessmen and commuters who literally inhale their food and are out the door within minutes
- Similarly there are GREAT gyudon (beef on rice) restaurants. They cater to the fast pace crowd but you can find a yummy bowl of steaming teriyaki-ish beef on rice for $3. All you need to do is point at the picture in front of the register. No speaking necessary. My recommendation is Yoshinaru (bright orange signs with a bowl with steam coming out of it - EVERYwhere in Tokyo and major cities - www.yoshinaru.com) $3/bowl and always satisfying.
- 7-11 (Seben ereben) and any convenience store are also an easy and affordable place to grab food on the go, and much better quality than the states. They have a variety of musubi, sandwhiches, ramen, pasta, salads and pastries everyday. Not to mention all your regular 7-11 stock. Again, absolutely no speaking necessary. This is the perfect place to stock-up for a Shinkansen or long train ride (bentos on trains run pretty steep and aren't quite so tasty). No place to sit down and eat at these stores though, and don't forget eating in public (on the streets, on transportation, in stores, etc., etc.,) is frowned upon unless you're on a long train ride or on a bench in the park. Big metropolitan city with Starbucks popping up everywhere, but rarely do you ever see someone walking with one anywere!)
We were fellow travelers of Lee and Sachi for a wonderful cruise of Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. It doesn't sound like Lee and Sachi plan to go to Tasmania, but here is a food idea for anyone going there. Kate's Berry Farm (just south of Swansea on the east coast) has wonderful treats and a setting with a beautiful view overlooking Great Oyster Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula. I am attaching a photo of a fruit and almond tart and scones. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal nice! We stopped there twice because it was totally delicious.
John & Michele Weddle
A nice and fun place to eat has the unlikely name of Cabbages and Condoms. Don't let the name turn you off - the food is great. Sukhumvit, Soi 12
If you haven't had mango with sticky rice at the Spice Market restaurant at the Four Seasons in Bangkok, you haven't had the best. It isn't the place for backpackers, of course, but if you can clean up a little and don't mind going "high end" for dessert, you will not be disappointed. Think you've had sticky rice and mango before? Think again. This is the sh*t.
Hey, a Seattle-ite will need a fresh brew at some point. Try the Londoner Brew Pub - Basement of UBC II Building, Corner of Soi 33, Sukhumvit Road
Before China's capital was called Beijing, it was known as Peking... which is where that famous duck comes from. Just like going to New York for infamous thin crust pizza, there are just as many places to get Peking Duck in Beijing. When I was there in March, we went to a restaurant chain called, Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. This place has been in existence since 1864 and since has opened 5 additional restaurants with similar names. Unlike the peking duck you get in the states, the serving and preparation comes from 13th century China, when only the upper classes could afford it.
When they bring the duck out, a carver (wearing a surgeon's mask) rolls out a cart and cuts the duck in front of you. We were told that expert carvers can consistently cut a duck into 120 pieces, with each piece having a section of meat and a section of crispy skin. Amazing. I can barely cut a turkey into 10 pieces without the whole thing falling apart. Throw in those thin pancakes, some scallions and a little hoisin sauce and you're in HEAVEN!!!
If you're in Beijing, don't settle for the inferior ducks.... go to the original. One caveat though.... it is rumored that there are 2 menus. One in Mandarin and one in English. The dishes listed on the English menu may not be as "adventerous" (read: sea cucumbers and pigs feet) and are probably not as cheap. Why do they discriminate and charge non-chinese more for the same dishes??? Because they can. But it's still so cheap (probably $10 per person) that you won't care. Wo Bao La = "i'm full"