The key to an unforgettable holiday? Just focus on the food | Felicity Cloake

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Discovering a great local place to eat is often the highlight of a trip and a way of understanding a culture
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Though I have a photograph of me standing on the Great Wall of China, my sole memory of the visit is the noodles I had for lunch in a truckers’ cafe afterwards. Equally, while I know our student trip to Venice must have taken in St Mark’s Square, two decades on I can only conjure an image of cuttlefish in ink as dark as a Tintoretto devoured in a hidden trattoria (startling to callow youths expecting pizza and pasta). Exploring the city’s history through its cuisine – rice and spices from the east, salt cod from the frozen north and strudel from the years under Austrian rule – proved far more pleasurably educational than listening to my friend Rick read out endless pages of the guidebook.

While I don’t just travel to eat, it’s always a reliable shortcut to intimacy with a culture. It’s a universal language, especially when you have no shared vocabulary, as happened when we joined a table of Hong Kong pensioners for Sunday morning dim sum, and delighted them with our enthusiasm for fried duck’s tongues.

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