Everyone has their preferences, and this is ours.
There are, however, three places we go in every city we visit. You can learn a lot about people and culture in these places and you're sure to have memorable experiences hat outweigh the pricey souvenirs offered in the tourist shoppes.
When we travel we always visit:
1. The local market.
A local market tells you so much about the people that live there. Look at what is for sale, what is grown and sourced locally, and more importantly, notice the interaction between the vendors and their patrons. When we go to the market, we get a sense of the dynamic of the neighborhood, something that is lost in the supermarket chain.
Cafe culture is so much more than having a drink. When you go to a local bar, at least overseas, you can enjoy your coffee and read the paper or chat with, both the employees, and the cast of characters from every walk of life who come in to enjoy a coffee or some other drink.
Unlike a typical coffee chain store, where there is an assembly line of workers to take orders, make drinks, and deliver drinks, a local cafe or bar has one person (maybe two) who does it all. It's not complicated. There's no fuss, and rarely are you given a paper cup from which to drink your coffee or your drink.
More civilized? Maybe not, but it certainly feels like your time...the time you take to sit and enjoy your coffee...is more your own.
3. The main plaza
The main plaza, like a Plaza Mayor in Spain, is always a treat because you can go and feel the pulse of a city.
You see people, locals and tourists alike, attending to business and enjoying some retail therapy. You may see friends gathered for a drink or enjoying a gelato.
In Spain, at least, you see the old Grandpas chatting about local politics and what's on their radar.
You see what businesses have won that prized real estate and you can often catch live music or some other cultural event close by.
While I wouldn't' recommend eating in the main plazas because of the tourists, it's always fun to people watch and take in what draws people in to this hub of city life.
When we travel, the city landscape changes, and, if we're lucky, so does the language, but the one thing that remains constant is our desire to live like locals, enjoying the people, the sounds, the flavors, and the magic that each place brings to life.
When you travel, where are the places that you frequent? Do you prefer to travel like a tourist or a traveler?