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Whether it's taking a daily ritual from expected to extraordinary or discovering the wonderment and beauty of anew travel destination, J.R. McCabe elevates the everyday with timeless taste and comfortable confidence.
The Sergeant and I are active travelers — we like to unravel a destination in our own intimate way and seek out hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here are our top five tips to discovering more than meets the eye while traveling:
#1 Dine in Local Restaurants
Google and concierge recommendations only get you so far. When we’re traveling and picking a restaurant it’s not about the location, decor, or hype, the test for us is always: “is the food good?” Plain and simple. Most often you’ll find the best food is where the locals are, so look for crowded spots, with local license plates. Also, see my Sergeant McCabe’s Seven Rules for Travel post for his golden rules on picking a restaurant!
#2 Patrol the Place
The morning after we arrive at a destination my husband is up by dawn and in the car doing patrol. A hard habit to break after 32 years as an NYPD sergeant. However I’ve come to appreciate his method of discovery. Early morning is the best time to get your bearings — there are few cars on the road, few people out and you can cruise around at a slower pace, pull over, make impromptu stops, check things out. Early mornings are also when you can catch locals — whether at the coffee shop or walking their dog —to pick their brain about where to go and what to do.
#3 Local Hobbies
When you arrive ask folks what the locals do for fun. Is there a local band that plays at the pub on Sundays that everyone loves? Is there a bonfire every Thursday at sundown at the local beach? You’d be surprised how many great activities are under your fingertips for the taking.
#4 Visit the General Store or Outdoor Marché
Soon after arrival find the general store or local gourmet market. If the kitchen is the hub of the house — the general store, gourmet market, or outdoor marché is the hub of a community. Aside from finding fun provisions and all sorts of regional merchandise, you’ll likely find the most interesting characters who will generously offer their wisdom and tips!
#5 Stay in Constant Conversation
All of these tips have one common thread. Talk to everyone! The guy walking his dog — talk to him. The woman at the grocery store — talk to her. The construction worker, the housekeeper, the guy unloading lobster traps, your restaurant server . . . the list goes on and on. When I was in Santa Monica for the first time, on my way back to the airport for departure I got into a conversation with the cab driver about my trip and he said, “wait, you didn’t visit the Venice canals?” I had no idea what he was talking about. Within five minutes he’d pulled over and brought me to the most enchanting spot. If you’ve been to the Venice canals you know. It was the most lovely farewell to my beautiful vacation.