As Val and I plan trips, there is always a bit of a tug between his approach to dining and mine. He thinks that serendipity is the best guide and I want advance reservations, carefully selected after weeks or even months of study and will plan whole days around a major meal. He always wants at least one Chinese meal on every trip and would be perfectly happy if all of them were Chinese. I want French—of any type, but mostly bistro—at least if we’re in France and particularly if we’re in Paris and that’s where we were when we participated in this little experiment.
Accommodation to each other’s styles over the years has finally worked into a pattern where we reserve for a few highly important meals and then agree to “wing it” for others—which means that I have to carry lots of notes and guidebooks to be prepared to instantly have a place appear wherever we might be when hunger strikes and he expects to just look around and find the perfect spot for lunch. Here’s how it all shook out on a trip we took to Paris in April 2008.
I hope the information helps those who wonder whether it’s necessary to reserve all meals weeks or even months, in advance, or just have the hotel call a day or two in advance, or just walk in. The answer is “all three” and even some variations on those themes but it varies by type and location of restaurant, what else is going on in town while you’re there and by how critical the meal is to your happiness.
Often we travel with another couple, and getting spur of the moment seating can be more problematic for four than for two. In the past we’ve even had all of our meals prebooked before getting on the plane. This time we left home without a single meal reserved in advance. Before we left however I combed my restaurant guides to develop a list of recommended places near our hotel and on our first day, we did a walk about to acquaint ourselves with our surrounds and seek the identified restaurants out, have a look at their menus and make some preliminary picks of ones we’d like to try.
I also kept my Zagat guide to Paris with me at all times to be able to check places we found along the way and to call ahead if I knew we’d be near someplace I wanted to dine when lunch time came upon us. That, and some honest to goodness serendipity, worked pretty well for us on this trip. Here’s how things shook out.