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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

18 May 2013

The local food problem

16th May 2013

Relaxing final day exploring Dubrovnik old town at leisure, dodging rain showers. Just like in France, the weather is hinting that it’s time to go home.

When I travel anywhere in the world I like to try local food. Not just sample specialities, I mean that I prefer to eat my dinners where the local people eat. Every part of the world has its own cuisine and it is usually simple and delicious.

The trouble is, we like to tour. We like to pack a lot into our holidays, see a lot of different places. This week, for example, we have typically ended every day in a tourist destination – Dubrovnik, Kotor, Trogir, Ljubljana, Dubrovnik. Unless you have time to stay and explore a while, it is bloody hard to find local food in a tourist spot.

Dubrovnik is typical. We had a lovely lunch today: squid ink risotto, then some delicious fried fish with vegetables on the side. You’ll find exactly the same menu in almost every non-pizza restaurant in Dubrovnik old town (we looked) and the only difference will be just how nicely it’s cooked. This was probably one of the best. But I bet you a million dollars that very few Croats eat a simple pan-fried fillet of fish with veg accompaniment very often.

Guidebooks are almost no help. We picked a place in Ljubljana because our Rough Guide told us that locals enjoy eating here. Of the four tables dining, all four were tourists. The same was true of the place we ate in Dubrovnik on our very first night, another spot the guidebook said was beloved of locals. And the place in Split, too. In fact this happens so often that you’d think I’d learn: every holiday we aim for a place the guidebook claims is enjoyed by locals only to find that it is filled by tourists.

Question: how many years after a guidebook claims a restaurant is beloved of locals does it take before every single customer is a tourist?

So, I’ve learned. If I want to enjoy proper local cuisine, as we did on our trip around the world, I’ve got to slow down and create an itinerary that involves staying a while in one area and exploring outside tourist destinations. If I want a touring holiday, I should just eat wherever I fancy and not care whether the restaurants are all cheerfully catering for tourists or not.

Our holiday to the Balkans was great: seven packed days, six UNESCO World Heritage sites, one truly splendid dinner, and a little bit of warmth and sunlight that I’m already missing back in damp Ludlow!

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3 Responses to “The local food problem”

  1. James and Giulia says:

    Hi Matthew and Maureen,

    We live in Singapore and, like you, we also love otters. We stumbled across your fantastic blog a few months ago and it has given us many ideas for planning our own trips to visit otters around the world. However, it makes us very sad that you no longer update this wonderful website. Please write more about otters!

    All best,

    James and Giulia

    Ps. We have even played the otter games and quizzes on your other otter website. 🙂

    • shortclaws says:

      Hi James and Giulia!

      You live in Singapore? Lucky you! It was definitely one of our top-three favourite cities on our trip around the world.

      We do still update this website, but since we are not travelling we only update it when we go on trips. So the next update will be: Costa Rica, this winter, where we have a chance of seeing Neotropical River Otters if we are very lucky!

      One day when we have saved up enough money (again!) we will go travelling around the world again, and then there will be lots more to write. But in the UK although there are otters it is actually terribly difficult to see them because they are almost entirely nocturnal and rare anyway. We have seen only two wild otters in England, and we have been looking for them for nearly 20 years!!!

      Oh dear… but we really must update our other otter website. That is totally out-of-date now. Oops! Life is always busy, of course.

      All the best wishes

      Matthew & Maureen

  2. dee says:

    Actually in Croatia, in the coastal area, people do eat a lot of fish combined with vegetable like Swiss chord, as much as it maybe seams weird 🙂

    But, I see what’s your point, it’s really hard to find genuine local place anywhere in the world without getting to know locals, which can be hard in short time.

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