Stylishly Solo – A Guide to Dining Solo

One of my favourite parts about travelling is the opportunity to try new foods and to learn about new cultures through food.  One glance at my Instagram and you know that I love to eat, so it should come as no surprise that dining is an integral part of my travel adventure.  While planning my first solo trip, I really didn’t give much thought to how dining solo would be.  I just assumed that it would be similar to every other dining out experience that I had previously had.  Clearly I was naive.  But because I never thought to just stay in and order room service, I strongly believe that my naivety helped me figure out how to happily dine solo. It takes practice and I don’t think that I will always get it right, especially as dining experiences vary from city to city and country to country.  But, there are a few things that I have learned that help to make the experience more pleasant.  Here are my top five tips for having a great solo dining experience:

  1. Get uncomfortable.  Normally while travelling, I like to stick to the a dining format that works for me – a light breakfast normally at a cafe where I can people watch.  Lunch is not normally a huge meal – just some place that looks decent and not too touristy, a place to rest and refresh during my sight seeing adventures.  I like to make dinner an event – I look for fun restaurants to try, I like to get a little dressed up and I take my time and enjoy my evening.  Whenever I speak with people about my solo travels, dining solo especially going out for a nice meal is what tends to surprise people the most.  The most common response that I get is “I could never do that!  I would be so uncomfortable!”  Dining solo especially at a proper restaurant requires a bit of gumption (so to speak) and it is a great way to get out of your comfort zone. The first thing to do is to really think about why it is that you don’t feel that dining solo is for you. Yes, some people might stare at you, you may get a not so great table as the better ones are left for groups larger then one person and the waiter or waitress may not give you as much attention (or forget about you altogether) as they tend to the other diners in their area. All of these things (and so much more) have occurred to me while dining solo.  I survived and I learned – like anything in life, you have to be your own advocate.  This doesn’t mean causing a scene or berating the staff.  It just means that you need to figure out how to clearly communicate when you need to and to not take the other stuff so personally (which is much harder said then done at times).  Even if your first (or second or third) solo dining experience is not the greatest, take some time to figure out what it was that you didn’t enjoy.  Was it the food?  Try another restaurant.  Was it the service?  If so, what was it about the service that you didn’t enjoy?  Did they ignore you or treat you badly?  Did they rush you or was service incredibly slow?  When I was in Madrid last year, I was really excited to try a particular restaurant where I had heard that the risotto was spectacular.  I arrived practically jumping with excitement only to be rushed thru my meal (two courses was over and done with in under 40 minutes).  While the risotto was spectacular I was a little sad that the experience was over so quickly (just to be clear – this was not a fast food place and my fellow diners were enjoying leisurely meals).  Rather then get upset and vow to never go back despite the fact that the risotto was some of the best that I had ever had, I decided to try a different approach.  I made another reservation for the next day and when I arrived I was greeted by the same server as the day before.  I explained to him that I loved the risotto and that I wanted to enjoy my meal at a leisurely pace.  He happily agreed and I had an incredible meal that I really enjoyed.  I even ended up going back again when I returned to Madrid to catch my flight home a few weeks later (yes the risotto was THAT good).  What I learned was this – since solo dining is still quite rare in many parts of the world it can sometimes be seen as something to be embarrassed about.  Hence why they thought that I wanted to rush thru my meal and get out.  The restaurant had good intentions but initially we just were not on the same page – speaking up got us on the same page and enabled me to enjoy the type of meal that I had been looking for, in a gorgeous setting with incredible food.  That is what I call a win! IMG_3730
  2. Do your research.  The majority of us have the internet at our finger tips and are frequently on social media, so there is no excuse not to do a bit of research beforehand.  Research the type of food that the region that you visiting specializes in, suggestions where you can have an authentic local dining experience, is they take reservations and the location as you want to make sure that you can get to and from the restaurant safely.  Doing a bit of research will help you to get more comfortable with the solo dining experience.  It will also get you excited about the food that you are about to eat and the environment that you will be experiencing.  This helps to make solo dining an adventure rather then just any boring forgettable meal, and it will also help you to avoid the tourist traps for a more authentic dining experience.
  3. Enlist help.  Just because you are travelling solo, it doesn’t meant that you have to figure out and do everything yourself.  Asking your hotel for help and suggestions can save you a lot of stress in the long run.  Some restaurants are inclined to give you better service if your hotel makes the reservation for you as they don’t want you go back to your hotel and complain – word of mouth counts for a lot.  Hotels are less likely to recommend a restaurant where their clients are not being treated well.  There is no harm in using this to your advantage to help to ensure that you enjoy a pleasant meal with good service.  It is also a great way to discover new restaurants that you may not have found otherwise.  While in Naples, Italy a few years ago I asked the woman at the front desk for a restaurant recommendation for dinner.  Luckily she was very honest and told me that most people enjoy a popular restaurant nearby the hotel but her favourite was another one a little further away. I decided to take her recommendation and I ended up at a little eight table restaurant where I had one of the best meals of my life!  While the hotel recommendations are not always the greatest, more often then not in my experience they have been really good.  For this reason, I am always willing to ask my hotel for help – they may just steer you to one of the best meals you will ever have!
  4. Eat at the bar.  If you feel that other diners will stare at you with pity while sitting at a table dining solo, ask to sit at the bar.  I always try to make a reservation for dinner but, when I arrive at the restaurant I don’t feel like being isolated at a table alone I ask if it would be ok to just sit at the bar.  More often then not the restaurant has no issue with this especially as it frees up a table for walk ins.  Eating at the bar can feel more social as bartenders tend to make conversation and there are always a ton of people around who you can converse with.IMG_2932
  5. Look up.  It’s really easy to just bring a book or a magazine with you or to play on your phone the entire evening but you will be missing out!  I have had some great conversations with people while solo dining.  If your nose is buried in a book or your phone you are instantly less approachable.  Look up and look around.  I love to people watch and dining solo is a great opportunity to do so.  I love looking at what people are wearing (once a fashion girl, always a fashion girl), how they interact and I especially like to see what others are eating.  Overall, solo dining is a great way to experience the local culture and to get a better understanding of the people and country that you are visiting.

Solo dining is nothing to be afraid of.  It just takes a little bit of planning and a little bit of gumption, soon you will be on your way to enjoying an incredible culinary experience regardless of where in the world you may be.

I hope that you have a beautiful day and happy dining!  XXS

Inspiring Interior

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Spanish designer Katty Schiebeck’s work. Clean lines, a mix of textures against a beautiful colour palette of bright white and bold colours are all hallmarks of Katty’s signature style.  So when I saw pictures of a recent Barcelona based project of hers, I was pleasantly surprised to see the evolution of Katty’s style.  There were still clean lines and a contrast of layered textures, but this project was darker, moodier and dramatic all the while maintaining a modern vibe of class and elegance.

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Grey walls, gorgeous marble and dark herringbone floors provide the perfect backdrop for the minimalist aesthetic that Katty excels at.

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This is gorgeous apartment has large windows and a large outdoor space. The cohesive design and colour palette successfully integrate the outside with the inside of the apartment making this apartment even more swoon worthy.

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Overall, this apartment is a work of art and will be serving a design inspiration for future projects.

All images from http://www.kattyschiebeck.com

I hope that you have a beautiful day! XXS❤️

 

 

Inspiring Interior

Today’s Inspiring Interior was love at first sight for me. Lately, while researching design projects for Stylishly Zen I have struggled to connect with any of the projects that I have looked at. That is until I stumbled across this one while scrolling thru Instagram one day.  Templeton Architecture in Australia have created some phenomenal design projects and I am officially in love.  This home combines my love of grey, black and white interiors, clean lines and minimalism with unexpected details and accents.  Needless to say – this home is positively swoon-worthy!

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Located in Australia, Templeton Architecture worked with Lou Prentice Interiors to enhance the original character of an older home while still giving it a modern and contermporary feel.  One of the challenges of working with a large space is to create a space that feels intimate yet not stuffy or overwhelming.  It is a lot more difficult to achieve then it sounds, yet here the designers make the intimacy of this space feel effortless and calming.

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The archways and paneling throughout the house are further highlighted with contrasting paint colours making them both stand out and blend in seamlessly with the rest of the house.

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While I love everything about this home, I am completely enamoured with the kitchen.  The dark cabinetry, marble and appliances contrast beautifully with the stunning tile floor and gorgeous archway. Love! Love! Love!

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Overall this home is a slice of design heaven, and I cannot wait to see what else the very talented team at Templeton Architecture design next.

All images are from http://www.templeton.com.au

I hope that you have a fabulous day! XXS❤️

My Favourite Closet Staple

Hi Everyone!

according to the calendar it is finally spring, and while in reality the cold weather has decided to stick around a little longer (as I write this, it is currently pouring ice rain and snow is expected shortly) I am ready to start shedding a few layers of clothing.  Closet staples are a personal thing that depend on your lifestyle and fashion needs but there are a few key items that work in most people’s wardrobe – a white t-shirt and a well fitting pair of jeans are  perfect examples of this.  Then there is my favourite closet staple – a white dress shirt.  This key item has the ability to elevate any look that you may be rocking, be it classic, sexy, conservative or modern to name a few.  I prefer my dress shirts to be loose fitting so that I can easily half tuck it into jeans or dress pants.  Here are a few of my favourite looks featuring the white dress shirt:

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What is your favourite closet staple? Let me know in the comments below!

I hope that you have a beautiful day! XXS

 

Inspiring Interior

Hi Everyone!

I love discovering designers and beautiful spaces on Instagram, which is exactly where I discovered the designer of today’s Inspiring Interior. I was especially excited to discover Montana LaBelle’s work because she is Canadian just like me.

Located in Toronto, this Lytton Park residence is elegant and modern perfection. The bright white walls contrast perfectly with the darker touches and details such as the beautiful banister, frames and black grout in the bathroom (which I am particularly obsessed with).   Contrasting marble in the kitchen, the light filled living room and floating bed in the bedroom sharply elevate the fabulous factor of this home. Love! Love! Love!  Here are some of my favourite pictures of this gorgeous home.

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All images from http://www.montanalabelle.com

I hope that you have a beautiful day! XXS