Many of my fondest memories – travel or otherwise – are of gatherings with great food, drinks, and interesting conversation. I love a long drawn out dinner when everyone is telling stories. While dinner with new acquaintances can be fun, I’m talking about those occasions with family and close friends, when everyone feels comfortable and appreciated and there are plenty of shared references and inside jokes to keep a conversation going for ages.
Trips are very conducive to this experience – such as when you’re on the road with your companions for days at a time. Being in a place where you don’t know anyone else or even speak the native language can foster a close reliance between co-travelers. After sights are seen and as the night winds down, dinner is an optimal time to engage with those sharing your journey, recap the day, plan the next, discuss impressions, reminisce about home.
So many examples from past trips spring to mind. The first dinner during my parent’s first trip to Spain, in the middle of an unexpected festival in Cordoba. Or enjoying amazing Indian dishes in London, while cracking up over Jack’s sudden hiccups. Taking turns cooking dinner during a family vacation at a Hilton Head beach house, or lake cabin. Ordering a ton of different plates to try at a Korean restaurant in New York City with my sister and nephew, or having a wings-and-dessert party in front of a roaring fire in an Eastern Shore hotel. Going to Cafe Dalayrac in Paris several times with my sister, niece and brother-in-law, or to another favorite bistro found just as the four of us were ready to collapse from a long walk. Discussing questions like “what super power do you wish you had?” with my niece, nephew, brother-in-law and sister-in-law during a delicious multi-course dinner at a New Mexico resort. Meeting friends for dinner and (many) drinks at interesting Boston restaurants. The magic ritual of visiting familiar yet highly anticipated restaurants during childhood summer vacations in Florida, followed by soft serve ice cream cones at JJ’s snack bar across from the ocean. Stumbling upon the perfect random places to enjoy late dinners in San Sebastián and Madrid with Jack.
These moments are not limited to travel of course. Cozy dinners at home with friends and family has its own appeal, as does your go-to neighborhood or hometown restaurants. But travel dining has a certain specialness, a specific happiness. There is a particular combination of place, company, and food that generates a warm glowing atmosphere you can’t necessarily predict or plan. So much that I often associate trips with a memorable dinner as much as other activities or landmarks or where we stayed. These travel dining experiences become as important to an itinerary as any tourist attraction.
Happy 2018! Wishing you all a wonderful and healthy year full of joyful travel and delightful dinners with those you love.