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How to actually eat like a local while travelling

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When looking for restaurant recommendations at home, we rely on friends, magazines and review sites. Yet when abroad, we fantasize about a mystical “local,” someone who will guide us to the best meal of our lives, preferably somewhere “authentic” and “off the beaten path.” Though we would never expect this of a stranger on the street at home, we expect it abroad from citizens just like us.

Chicago, where I live, has a fantastic food scene. That doesn’t make every Chicagoan an expert. If you asked 100 random people where to eat, you would receive dozens of different answers.

Keep in mind that TripAdvisor restaurant reviews are written by tourists, not locals, which means high or low ratings aren’t indicative of the best food in the region.
Keep in mind that TripAdvisor restaurant reviews are written by tourists, not locals, which means high or low ratings aren’t indicative of the best food in the region.  (LARS LEETARU / The New York Times)

If we don’t expect locals in our own city to be food experts, there’s no reason to assume locals everywhere else are.

But if the all-knowing local doesn’t exist, and we don’t want to resort to overpriced, chain restaurants, how can you actually find the best local food while travelling? Here are some tips.

Do your preliminary research

Before you go, do some research on the types of cuisine your destination is known for, its local ingredients and its most-beloved dishes. Then do a quick search for places to eat, keeping in mind that review sites aren’t always accurate (more on this later). Eater is usually a reliable source, and places such as Bon Appétit, Saveur, Roads & Kingdoms and, of course, the New York Times’ Food section are all good options that use locals or experienced international journalists who have gone through these steps for you.

Curiosity Magazine, a publication I started specifically to help travellers find their way and get advice like this, hires exclusively local writers eager to share their local food culture with visitors. Local food blogs, which you can often find with a quick Google search, are also great resources. If you see a few places showing up again and again in a variety of publications and sources, that’s a good sign.

Sign up for a food tour

Food tours are one of my favourite things to do while travelling. They give an outsider a great overview of the must-eats in a city, and are easy to find. Ask your hotel concierge, search the web for vacation packages that include food tours, check with a travel agent, or check with a local or regional tourist office. Sure, the portions are small and you’ll wander around amid a group of tourists, but you’ll also learn something and try a variety of foods in an effortless way. Most importantly, your guide is a local who obviously loves food. Ask where she eats when not working and you’ll get plenty of tips to try once the tour is over.

Trust bar and restaurant staff

“Bartenders know best” is my motto for drinking around the world. Bartenders work with and drink with other bartenders, who work and drink in other bars. Whether you’re looking for a dive bar or a fancy cocktail, your bartender — whether it’s at a hotel bar or a restaurant you stumbled into — will point you in the right direction.

The same goes for your restaurant server, who works all night with people in the food world. The advice from your bar and wait staff is some of the best you’ll get. Tip accordingly.

Don’t (blindly) trust reviews

I spent a few years living in Rome and was always baffled with some of the top-rated restaurants on sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp. “This is the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life,” someone would write about a mediocre restaurant outside the Vatican, while my favourite (and very popular among locals) pizza spot was way down around No. 200.

But keep in mind that TripAdvisor reviews are written by tourists, not locals. Maybe it is the best pizza that person has ever had, because he’s on vacation and atmosphere matters when it comes to taste. That doesn’t mean it’s the best pizza in Rome. Reviews can help you pin down suggestions in a region, or if you have specific dietary needs or preferences, but that’s about it. If you must read, look past the stars. If someone has given a place a two-star rating because of “a misplaced fork,” or something else you know wouldn’t be an issue for you, disregard the review. Service speeds, for example, are cultural, and prone to bias. Look for reviews from locals, especially those who comment on certain dishes. “This Bolognese is as good as my Grandma’s.” That’s what you’re looking for.

Don’t shy away from street food, especially when there’s a crowd

Street food is usually cheap and widely available, and can give you insight into the local food culture. Just as with hot dogs in Chicago, most people can tell you where to go. However, while street food can be delicious, it can also carry the risk of food-borne illness. Watch how its prepared and handled, and follow our tips. If you’re skeptical — either of the location or the ingredients, or in a country where food-borne illness is a common problem for travellers — don’t risk it. If you see lines of locals waiting outside a street cart, though, that’s a good sign that turnover is high and food is popular and good.

At restaurants, make note of long lines of tourists waiting for the No. 1-rated place on TripAdvisor, but also look for crowds of locals spilling out into the streets, and eating happily at local restaurants or cafes where the lines are long before the doors even open. There are a few food experiences worth waiting for, but for the most part a comfortably crowded spot beats a long line any day.

Ask the right locals, not just any local

If you’re going to do it, let’s talk about how to do it right. Keep in mind that, especially when visiting a non-Western country, American tourists will often be pointed toward the most “western” place, which also tends to be the most expensive. The intentions are often good — avoidance of funky flavours or spice, for example — but the results are often disappointing.

Instead, get specific. Ask where to try a certain type of food. This is where your preliminary research comes in. Discuss your price range and the atmosphere you’re looking for, and convince them you really, truly do want to try local dishes, regardless of ingredients. Plus, there’s always a chance you’ll get lucky and run into the local who is passionate about and really does know a lot about food, and then you’re in for a treat.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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