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Food options determining vacation destinations

Are the food options ever a major/primary factor in choosing a city or country for you vacations? We're thinking of a long weekend to celebrate a 50th birthday in December, and so far the major determining factors are the weather and the food options. Stuff like things to see and do (besides eat), travel distance, costs, etc haven't even been mentioned!

If you're like us, where might you go in Europe?

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  1. Spain. Definitely for a 50th birthday. Start in San Sebastian and work your way in and around.

    Runners-up: France. Austria. Germany. Norway.

    I've been to a lot of places and have only been disappointed going to one place where I couldn't think of what they were known for in a culinary sense. Irrespective of what you want to see, you have to eat, so you may as well choose accordingly.

    You can also throw Italy onto that list; I'm just not that keen. And Poland can be fun but expect really big portions.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wattacetti

      +1 for Spain. The most exciting food in Europe is going on there at the moment - definitely add Seville to the list for their tapas, and as wattacetti says, work your way around.

      1. re: wattacetti

        Norway in December? Not all of it is snowbound - we have family in Stavanger, where the climate is much like northern Scotland. And you might have a chance to see the Northern Lights. But outside the really large cities, food choices are mostly pretty plain. Potatoes twice a day. Fish soup (which I think is always good, no matter which bestemor (grandma)'s recipe they use. Apple cake. There's a smoked lamb that's served in thin slices like prosciutto that's served at Christmas, and a rice pudding that's like kheer. The country pretty much shuts down...can't remember if it's noon on the 23rd or noon on Christmas Eve, but stays that way until the 27th. We spent Christmas there several years ago, and it was interesting gastronomically. But I would also point out that that far south in the country the sun rises around 9:15 a.m. and is gone by 3:45 p.m.

        I love the country, it's beautiful, and would love to do the Hurtigruten (coastal steamer) in the winter under a full moon. But just be aware. And yes, Oslo and Bergen have better restaurants. And be aware: it is hellaciously expensive by American standards.

      2. Most definitely! Aside from my annual food/girlfriends trip which is exclusively about food, dining options are always high on the priority list. Which is why you won't find my family at an all-inclusive resort or on a cruise. I carefully research and read on CH and get as much good advice from fellow CHers whenever we travel. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by the advice given here either.

        As for Europe, I've not had the pleasure of much travel there, however, I have been to and cannot say enough good things about the food and culture of Portugal. Not to mention it's incredibly inexpensive there too. It's often referred to as Europe's best kept secret. The abundance of seafood, cured ham (think Jamon), leitao assada (suckling pig) and pastel de nada (egg custard tarts) is mind-blowing. And they have great wines that you won't find in the U.S. made of grape varieties unique to Portugal. If you care to know more I wrote a lot about it on my blog. There is a link on my profile.

        Happy Trails!

        1. Nine Decembers in Europe. Here are my favorites.

          London for the theatre and especially pantomines. I have it on great authority that British food is no longer boiled for a minimum of 3 hours prior to service.

          Nurenburg for the Christmas market. Drink the hot mulled wine and have the glazed nuts. Head down to Munich for the rest of your stay. I always found the food better there for some reason.

          The chateaus on the Loire. No snow in the Alps so my bride and I headed here at the last minute for our Christmas holiday. Wonderful food in Angers and Nancy. Everything was open. No crowds of tourists and we had some great meals and wines along the way. Never made it to Paris as we were enjoying ourselves so much here.

          Never made it to Vienna or Rome during December. The ski slopes always got in the way.

          Please follow up with a trip report. And Happy Birthday!!

          1. Croatia! Especially in Istria - extremely local and fresh. Some places grow/raise the produce, game, fruit, nuts, wines, olive oil, etc. right outside the door. Not only that but the white truffles are divine and in season in December. And think fresh grilled seafood and fish. PLUS Istria used to be part of Italy so has some Italian influences such as risotto, polenta, pasta, pizza...

            I've been to many countries in Europe and we loved Croatia so much we bought a house there so I am a wee bit biased but with good reason. :-)

            Every country/region we have been to in Europe has had great food - you just need to be open minded and adventurous.

            2 Replies
            1. re: chefathome

              Chefathome, could you e-mail me (on my profile page). Have an off topic question re: Croatia if you don't mind...

              Thanks!

            2. Yes, though more as a limiting factor than anything else. My husband and I are both vegetarians, which can prove to be a pain when travelling, especially if there's a language barrier. We're both apprehensive about international travel because vegetarianism is not very popular or prevalent in many countries.

              4 Replies
              1. re: tazia

                Since you mention international travel rather than just Europe, worth mentioning that India has a huge tradition of vegetarianism, and many of their more well known dishes are vegetarian; many (most?) people in Indian are vegetarians. There are also very strong vegetarian cuisines in China and Japan, largely from Buddhist traditions, which can be largely vegan as well (dairy is not common in the cuisine).

                1. re: limster

                  There are definitely vegetarians in India and it is a well understood concept (very often it excludes eggs too, but dairy is retained). However, it is definitely not "most" people and even "many" might be put to debate if we looked at it in terms of percentage of the population. Still, not only is it well understood, it is also a well respected lifestyle choice here and even non-vegetarians sometimes undergo periods of eating only vegetarian food. Of course, financial factors play a part in keeping meat a bit of a special occassion thing for many people, but also religious reasons may make an avid meat eater with cash to burn go for dal-chawal-sabzi for an extended period of time.

                  Anyway, what a digression, India certainly is worth a visit! You'll certainly get great food and see some amazing stuff.

                  1. re: Muchlove

                    I was under the impression that it was >50% vegetarians in India as a whole but it's possible that the Indians I hang out with who tell me these things happen to be from the vegetarian regions.

                    1. re: limster

                      I've seen figures from as little as 20% to as much as just under 50%. Can't speak for the accuracy of these figures though. A lot of people respect vegetarianism and view it as an ideal but may not follow this through. Remember that vegetarianism in India is actually a relatively "new" thing that was brought into Hinduism to win back followers from Jainism and Buddhism which both stressed non-violence to other beings (though Buddhism itself doesn't actually have to involve vegetarianism at all and I'll go as far as to say most Buddhists aren't veggie). The Hindu epics mention plenty if meals involving meat.

                      The "vegetarian myth" is another one of those things that gets pulled out along with "everyone speaks Hindi", "everyone watches Bollywood", etc. India is a huge country with many different cultures, religions, languages and cuisines. You can say something about one particular community in one particular area and it can be true, but go a mile up the road and ask someone else and it will be false.

                      For the OP, all that matters is that vegetarian food is very common and even non-vegetarians eat veggie at many meals.