When traveling to a foreign city, you can usually find the cheapest and best-tasting food by looking for menus that are written entirely in that city’s native language.
Generally speaking, these venues are frequented by locals and are found off the beaten path. Travelers will find that restaurants catering to the local population are far less expensive than their tourist-orientated counterparts. Often, the food will be fresher and better prepared, as it has to cater to the discerning local.
Not only will you find the best and cheapest food – it will add to the overall cultural experience of your destination.
One of the best parts of traveling is the different types of food you get the chance to try.
When dining out, consider photographing the restaurant and your meal. If the meal was memorable, request a copy of the menu and make a note while it’s still fresh in your mind what you ate — to go with your corresponding picture. Upon your return home, your menus may help you seek out restaurants in your area that serve the same dishes… or even allow you to give them ideas for new ones.
Bonus: if you have friends visiting the same destination, you can share your menus with them and help them to have a wonderful meal. Consider giving them a travel debit card before they leave town, so they can enjoy dinner out on you.
Really loved your dinner? Get the Chef’s autograph on a napkin or a copy of the menu. Thought your hotel was great, get the Hotel Manager’s John Hancock on a brochure. This way you can remember not only what made your trip special but who made it special.
The greeting you’ll receive at the Hotel Hivernage is pure charm, but it requires patience. Instead of tapping your toe at the front desk while the guy in front of you spills his life story, you’ll be invited to sit in the lobby while you complete your check-in forms. The staff is not in a rush, so set aside your New York-sculpted expectations. This first taste will set the tone for your stay: relaxed, luxurious and high-tough.
When you visit Marrakech, you’ll be tempted to stay in the medina (i.e., inside the city’s walls). Trade proximity for comfort with the Hivernage. It’s a short walk to the medina, though a taxi is prudent (and cheap) depending on where you want to go. Being able to retreat from the craziness of the narrow alleys at the end of the day will be worth the seeming inconvenience. While the action inside the walls is fast and the environs confined, the Hivernage is spacious and clean.
No detail is overlooked, from the melon juice cocktail served at check-in to the rose petals scattered in your room’s sink and bathtub. Stretch out on the king-sized bed at the end of the day, or sip a glass of wine out on your private balcony.
Hivernage offers several dining options, including a bar, full-service restaurant and café (which is great for breakfast). Menus are available in both English and French, and the waitstaff can accommodate both languages (and Arabic), as well. The food is tasty, but neither adventurous nor exotic. Both local and western dishes are provided.
Be sure to block a day off to spend in the hotel’s spa. You can take advantage of a variety of treatments, including several traditional therapies. The contrast to the souks – the shops in the medina – is profound, but you’ll be too subdued to care when the stress of haggling with the medina’s merchants is kneaded from your back and shoulders.
This touch of luxury is not as expensive as you would expect. A comparable hotel in New York or Paris would cost you at least $500 a night. I spent just under $150 a night for the Hivernage … expensive by local standards but absolutely worth it.