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United Eats of America

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I’ve been traveling a lot, both for T+L and to visit some far-flug friends--which means that I’ve been eating a lot, too. Here are some of my favorite recent restaurant discoveries in cities around the country:

NEW ORLEANS The Big Easy may be a foodie’s paradise, but as a vegetarian I had to look beyond the sausage-heavy jambalaya joints to find my dinners. Two eateries that offer both NoLa flavor and expanded menus are Café Atchafalaya and Bennachin, an East African spot with a Creole kick in the French Quarter, where all the regional dishes (spicy jambalaya, gumbo, etc.–all of which derived from Africa originally) can be made vegetarian.

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Berlin's Historic Temples of Ease

On a recent visit to Berlin I was impressed with a renovated open-air urinal next to the French Cathedral in the Gendarmenmarkt, arguably the most beautiful square in the capital. The location is fitting, as this particular pissoir (the Germans have adopted the French word) is arguably the most beautiful one of its kind in Berlin. Built of steel and painted a traditional hunter green, the Gendarmenmarkt public convenience is sturdy without being merely utilitarian. The building's eight-sided construction, stamped with shell-and-flower medallions, is another traditional feature, giving rise to the generic nickname Café Achtek, or Café Octagon. The ornate cupola, with its horizontal grillwork, is a practical venting system that is also aesthetically pleasing. The paravan, which screens the doorway and gives privacy to those entering and leaving, is topped with lanterns that would be equally at home in the courtyard of a stately manor.

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Hiking the Hollywood Foothills

I recently returned from a trip to Los Angeles where, truth be told, I wanted nothing more than to steer clear of the typical tourist hot spots while in town. But with my having, oh shall we say, a moderate-to-borderline-obsessive interest in all things celebrity, the one thing I simply couldn’t pass up was a photo op with the infamous Hollywood sign, perched atop Mount Lee. The approach I took, however, was decidedly non-touristy.

What many people don’t realize is that you can actually hike to the very top of Mount Lee. It’s such a guarded “secret” that even the official Hollywood Sign website will have you believe it’s illegal to hike anywhere near the sign. Not the case. There are several roads—devoid of vehicular traffic, save for the sporadic security car—that wind around the mountain, one which goes to the top. As long as you stay on one of these roads, you’ll be fine—just make sure you’re off the mountain by nightfall.

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Traveling to Australia? Keep it short.

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Australians are an aggressively casual people. Their insistence on a defiantly relaxed, “no worries” worldview has turned them into chronic abbreviators and nicknamers. This happens whether you like it or not. In Australia, for instance, I have never once been called by my proper, two-syllable name (which I greatly prefer). Instead I am forever “Pete.” Or maybe “Petey,” or “Pete-O.”

I hereby offer this brief glossary to aid in translation.

chardy = chardonnay
voddy = vodka (though you’d rarely order just one, hence the more common “voddies”)
pokies = video poker machines in Aussie pubs
brekkie = breakfast
arvo = afternoon
mozzies = mosquitoes
sunnies = sunglasses
ute = utility truck
spag bol = spaghetti Bolognese
Darlo = Darlinghurst, the SoHo of Sydney
footie = football, as in Australian Rules Football, the national obsession
blunnies = Blundstone boots

Sometimes abbreviating seems inappropriate. On a December visit to Sydney I kept noticing signs in shops saying “Sale for Chrissie!” or “Buy Something Special For Chrissie!” and wondered who this lucky “Chrissie” person was until I realized they meant Christmas. Really?I thought. I mean, “X-Mas” is irreverent enough, but “Chrissie”?
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Other times the diminutives are just baffling. Some Sydneysiders abbreviate their hometown into something kind of like “Sidd-y,” which, having no fewer syllables and only one fewer consanant than the original -- and also being easily confused with the word “city” -- makes no sense whatsoever. Would it require THAT much more effort to pronounce the “n”?I think I know the answer: No worries on the ‘brevvies, Pete-O!

Peter Lindberg is Travel + Leisure's editor-at-large.

 

Photos by Peter Jon Lindberg

 

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