Friday 17 January 2014

Hints to Lady Diners

View from Skybar at the Radisson Blu Plaza, Oslo, December 2013
I don’t think I’ve posted this hint before, but I was reminded of it because I was thinking about my erstwhile Melbourne landlady, the unutterably chic Bernie.  (Among other delights she introduced me to chocolate panettone, this amazing perfume - and confirmed my love of polished concrete floors.)  We often discussed travel and we had one particularly interesting discussion that has stuck in my mind about lady travellers eating out on their own.

I regularly eat out by myself of an evening when travelling.  And it’s – fine.  I assure you, the other people in the restaurant are not all wondering if you’ve been a) stood up b) have no friends.  Walk in confidently, ask for a table for one, take it as an opportunity to people watch and order EXACTLY what you want with no one to judge or steal bites from your plate.  Books, magazines, phones are all useful distractions if you tire of people watching and/or your own company.  Eating alone is a much better alternative than not eating or eating crappy takeaway or staring at your hotel room walls.

But – and this is a point Bernie and I agreed on: eating alone in the evening is not always the most comfortable option for a solo lady traveller.  (A lot of our debate was around whether it was easier for male travellers on their own – she thought yes, I’m undecided.  What do you think?)  It’s true that sometimes I feel a bit exposed if I’m by myself – particularly in a more formal restaurant.  Bernie argued that it exposed you to unwanted attention.  We both agreed that not all restaurants are welcoming to women dining alone – or, for all I know, to men dining alone.

So, here’s the hint.  Lady travellers on your own: save your pennies and your appetite for LUNCH.  Lunchtime tends to be more relaxed, even at more formal dining establishments.  For some reason, it’s more culturally acceptable for a woman to dine alone at lunchtime.  (And although I’d say absolutely flout the cultural norms if that’s what works for you, I know it does’t work for everyone.)  In the evening, I’ll more often go to a café or snack place (for gyros, say, or falafel) or – one of my favourite things – visit a market during the day and have a picnic back at my hotel.

Oh, and as a postscript – if looking for a good option to have a drink by oneself in the evening, hotel bars are usually a pretty comfortable bet, and often places you’d want to go anyway.  Three great examples: Housebar at Hotel DeBrett in Auckland, the Skybar at the top of the Radisson Blu Plaza in Oslo and the inimitable Duke's in London.

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