Desperate for a winter escape to tropical sunshine and warmth, my family and I recently boarded the Norwegian Breakaway in New York for a cruise to the Bahamas. To our surprise, onboard we discovered an Ice Bar. To our even greater surprise, we decided to try it. Standing around in a giant ice chest was the last thing we needed, yet how could we resist such a one-of-a-kind experience?
We were given silver hooded capes and black wool gloves, led into an igloo-like room that’s sealed off like a meat locker, and served concoctions of vodka and ice wine in glasses made of ice. Our fellow travelers spent most of their time in the Ice Bar taking photos of themselves posing next to ice statues or sitting on the ice throne. My time inside was short—I had to flee the chill after 15 minutes—but the surprise factor was big: The Ice Bar will be one of the things I remember most vividly from our cruise.
Surprises make a trip unforgettable. That’s why, when I travel, I often seek out quirky dining and drinking spots. TripAdvisor’s list of fabulously quirky restaurants around the world gives you a taste of the array of possibilities out there. You can eat underwater in the Maldives or in a treehouse in England. There’s a restaurant in Paris where you eat in pitch darkness, served by blind waiters. There’s a restaurant in Bavaria where your food arrives via rollercoaster.
In all my travels, the quirkiest restaurant I’ve eaten in wasn’t even a restaurant. I spent a magical few days in a desert oasis in Morocco, at Dar Ahlam (House of Dreams)—a property that belongs to Relais & Châteaux but doesn’t even have a restaurant. The staff serves each meal to you and your travel companion(s) privately, in a surprise location on the property. There are no reservations and no menus. When you’re ready to eat, you go to the hotel’s living room, and from there they lead you to a secluded spot and table that’s different each time. You might dine in a garden al fresco, or on a terrace with a view, or in a candlelit-hidden nook inside the kasbah. Wherever you end up, your table is always artistically and sumptuously set to reflect your physical surroundings. It’s a unique theatrical experience.
In fact, I’ve found with restaurants that a one-of-a-kind ambience packs a bigger punch than traditional fine cuisine, perhaps because different people have different ideas of what constitutes fine cuisine. While not everyone agrees on what tastes good, or what’s worth the money, most people usually agree on what’s a unique experience. And it makes a trip memorable. So, on your next trip, think about upping the surprise factor with a quirky restaurant or two.
You’ll find more advice from Wendy at WendyPerrin.com.