Monday Question – What Slightly Weird Thing Do You Like To Do In A Foreign City?

Tara is in Vienna this week and she and I are enjoying a few days of sightseeing, perfume hunting and chatting over tea.

On Thursday we are going back to London together to do the same thing over there.

I thought this was the perfect occasion to ask you about city travel.

Aside from the obvious, what do you enjoy doing in a new to you city?

Any strange or slightly weird things you like to see or do?

Do you like to bring back something from your travels?

Is there something in particular you like to see in every city?



My Answer:

Tara’s Answer:

I guess the fact that I like to visit niche perfumeries in a new city would seem alittle strange anywhere but here, otherwise I normally do the touristy things because they are usually popular for a good reason – except Madame Tussaud’s in London (and in Vienna too as Birgit tells me). I like to bring back a handicraft made locally and/or a bottle of perfume so I can remeber the trip whenever I spray. For others I tend to bring them back food that is typical of the region, preferably something sweet. From Vienna it will be most likely some Mozartkugeln.

Olfactoria’s Answer:

I love to visit supermarkets and drug stores to see the day to day essentials particuar to the country I am in. I find it fascinating to see the different things that make daily life in a strange country. I buy a lip balm (of all things!) in every city I come to, always the one that seems to be the most exotic looking to me. I have a nice collection of interesting lip products by now. As I said, slightly weird… 😉

What about you? 

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About Olfactoria

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54 Responses to Monday Question – What Slightly Weird Thing Do You Like To Do In A Foreign City?

  1. cookie queen says:

    Tara – It will most certainly NOT be Mozartkugeln. The original handmade ones come from Salzburg. Take a schnitzel or Sachertorte back. 🙂

    Birgit – A supermarket for me too. I always take a hot sauce or bag of chillies back from wherever I am.

    See you soooooooon. Bussis.

  2. I do the same thing – visit the local supermarkets and little corner shops. I love to see everyday products from foreign places. Even the packaging alone is enough to interest me, the more ridiculous looking the better 😛

  3. Sandra says:

    I visit a supermarket and try to bring something back from that city. For example Paris is usually mustard and/or cheese and Italy is gluten free products – they have the best noodles. But one of my weird things is that I pretty much always come back with a pair of shoes or two or three made in that country. Have got to get back to Brazil! 😀

  4. annemariec says:

    I travel for work quite often but I never have time for lingering and browsing. But, dining alone in the evening, I make a point of wearing VC&A’s First. I love to sail into a restaurant in a cloud of First, not caring what anyone thinks. I keep a decant especially for this purpose. I never wear First any other time because it is (to me at least) too opulent for day wear.

    Foodwise, if lasagne is on the menu I order that because I can never be bothered making it at home. I’ve built up quite an association in my mind between First and lasagne. Strange but true. 🙂

  5. Ana Maria Andreiu says:

    Supermarkets seem to be a very popular choice.I definitely check them out,wherever I go.In terms of things to bring back home,it’s always a fridge magnet and maybe something handcrafted.

  6. In any new city, I am always looking for a special park, a special landscape, a special botanical garden–and a bustling sequence of urban places that are not dominated by the noise and presence of autos and trucks.

    I look for places dominated by people–certain kinds of people who do not feel obligated to impose themselves on my ears and personal space.

    And if I find all of that, then I have found a new city of places where it will be fun to return.

    Would Vienna be like that? Always wanted to go…

    • Olfactoria says:

      You would love Vienna, many wonderful gardens and a pedestrian zone all throughout the inner city. As for te people, the Viennese are friendly if need be, but in general prefer to leave you alone and be left alone in return. 😉

  7. Supermarkets and Chemiists always interesting – nothing like a fancy farmacia for a good cleanser. I always try to find a family owned hardware shop. They’re so often like Aladdin’s cave and you never know which tools, handles or drinking glasses you’ll come across, usually at very reasonable prices.
    Have a great time in Vienna and London girls!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hardware stores! Huh! That is interesting. There are many of these here (although the old family owned ones are sadly a dying breed) that you would enjoy.
      Hugs to you, dear Lila!

  8. Ariane says:

    I love this Monday question!I travel a lot with a group of musicians,and while most of them do all the touristy things,I like to stroll for hours and stop off at perfume shops and cafes-and apart from buying presents for people I try to find a little something that will remind me of that trip,like a candle holder or earrings-or from Vienna a cute little white tea pot,which I treasure because of the memories it holds!Wishing you a wonderful week-I so loved talking to the lady at that tiny Parfuemerie Fitz and the lovely woman at Duft und Kultur who started ranting about people splitting bottles and therefore not supporting small companies!LOVE Vienna!!

  9. Annette says:

    There’s nothing like visiting other cities and immersing oneself in it’s culture. Apart from important landmarks and galleries etc, I love to seek out PERFUME shops and makeup stores!!. I love meeting new people but it is so nice to have a pleasant chat over a pleasant subject with people you would otherwise not get an opportunity to etc. I have met lovely people in so many places and would even go so far as to say ‘perfume is a great ‘ice-breaker’! Also local shops and supermarkets are great. Hope you both enjoy London and Vienna!

  10. Asali says:

    Enjoy Vienna and London, how lovely with a 2 in 1 visit 🙂

  11. Heya Girls,
    I love to land in a new city and until I met Jin I would just randomly wander around and be surprised but would always stop in a chemist and buy local soap (you wanted weird right?). Since Jin arrived on the scene the first thing we do is buy Hop On Hop Off Bus tickets and scope the lay of the land. It’s a great way to get the Must See attractions done easily and quickly, then we can wander the streets and do our own discovering.
    I feel cheated if I’ve been in a city and haven’t seen at least one Art Gallery or Art Museum.
    Portia xx

  12. Supermarket – I love walking into the local stores. 🙂 Another place I love visiting in a new city is antique shops. Everywhere I go, I usually buy a silver charm to add to my charm bracelets. I need another chain soon. 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      Ah, that is cute. Buyig ready made charm bracelets is so on trend, but I prefer the way you do it (and how it was intended) to gather them slowly so each one has significance.

  13. Farouche says:

    Other than perfume shops, I like to visit pharmacies (especially in Paris!) when I’m abroad. So much better than my local CVS, they usually carry a wide variety of skin care and cosmetic items, and I usually bring a few home with me to remind me of my trip.

  14. Mine is a strange one. I must have at least one Chinese meal and one cocktail in each new city that I visit. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been that hard to find a Chinese restaurant in most cities (even some of the smaller ones)!

  15. Vanessa says:

    I have travelled quite a lot for work in the past, and managed quite a bit of sightseeing along the way, mostly at the weekends. I agree about poking around in the local supermarkets and chemists – I am often in the latter anyway because I need more bandages or headache tablets, cold remedies or (once famously after I had attempted to iron my trousers whilst wearing them), burns cream. Beyond that, I always head for urban waterways – canals, rivers, parks with lakes or ponds. I quite like cemeteries too, and the Europeans often do a good sarcophagus. And I also like to check out the rather hip, often slightly crumbly districts in any city if I can find them – like Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg in Berlin, for example, or an area in Hannover with squats that I never did find the name of. To counteract the touristy / chocolate box impression of a city which you can get by focusing mainly on the tourist sights. Oh, and memorably, my hunt for a launderette in Vienna took me to all sorts of unlikely parts of the city, as Birgit may recall. 😉

    • Vanessa says:

      Oh, have just seen Portia’s comment about a hop on hop off bus approach, which is a great idea, enabling you to take in the main attractions AND get a feeling for the everyday bits of the city that lie in between. I did that in Barcelona once and recommend it. When you travel by metro everywhere you only pop up at your next point of interest so don’t get such a good sense of a place.

    • Olfactoria says:

      You are very brave to venture into the shadier areas of a city, I’m such a wuss, that I often miss great things beacuse I’m afraid to leave the well beaten tracks. 😦
      Your laundry odyssee in the 4. district is still fresh in my mind. 🙂

  16. Rob Hack says:

    I always love it when a friend asks me pick up some item from a shop in the city I’m visiting. It makes for a good excuse to explore a neighbourhood I’d likely not have visited. The harder the challenge, the more fun!

  17. Anna in Edinburgh says:

    Another vote for visiting a supermarket/local pharmacy. It started when Sprog was small and we discovered that you could get unusual plasters, for example, in another country. That set us off and the novel, to us, plasters distracted said Sprog if ever a plaster was needed! (We only recently finished a pack of Swiss plasters that we’d had for years; I was quite sorry to see them go.)

  18. Sun Mi says:

    Like so many others I too love to visit the supermarket, but I love looking at the beverage section. I’m always enthralled at the exotic juices and other drinks that are available in other lands. I have a photograph I took in Denmark of a wall of beverages that just makes me happy.

  19. Figuier says:

    This is wonderfully apposite for me; Vanessa’s comment in particular: I’m off to Barcelona at Easter, for just a few days, and as I’ve never been to Spain I’m getting quite excited. I’ll definitely consider the bus option, and if anyone else has suggestions do let me know!

    I rarely travel by myself, but one of the attendant pleasures is dining alone. Sitting in a Paris bistro eating my steak and drinking my glass of red wine, shamelessly eavesdropping on the Frenchies around me, is supremely pleasant. Also visiting pharmacies, definitely, whatever the country; and bookshops, which isn’t weird I don’t think unless you consider the fact that I have in the past bought books in languages I can’t actually read…

  20. BEAUTYCALYPSE says:

    OMG, I’m so with you B.! Drugstores, pharmacies, supermarkets 🙂 Nothing else teaches you the place you’re at better.

    Other than that, when travelling for business, I always make time for an important local moment of sightseeing (like booking a time slot in advance to see the Last Supper in Milan, or going to a theatre in Moscow), for a spontaneous local moment (call a local friend in advance, if I know anyone there). Oh, and also rather than bringing postcards, I would buy something I actually need like an iPhone case, a fountain pen, a watch, I don’t know, an agenda etc. instead of tourist-ey souvenirs. Before iTunes, I would buy music CDs. Things get more meaning and personal history shopped ‘concsiously’ during travel – I like that 🙂

  21. Ines says:

    Oh, I go to drugstores too just to see different cosmetic products they have and I usually come home with something (body lotion or hand cream quite often). 🙂
    And I don’t really think niche perfumeries are strange. 😉
    I always go to stores that aren’t available here and to as many churches as I can. I love old churches. 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      Old churches hold such a good atmosphere (at least most of them), I enjoy going in too.
      Perfumeries are only not weird for the likes of us, I guess… 😉

  22. Alexandra Tsitlakidou says:

    Hallo dear B.!

    I always try to visit a hairdresser’s for either a hairdo or even a haircut (in Tokyo they had special sheets where the customer could draw the preferred hairstyle, along with armchairs turned into beds for a long relaxing massage). It’s such an interesting thing to do, looking around the locals interacting, their body language, together with small talk with the hair stylist! And I do have lovely hair for at least two days- good for profile photos and selfies!

    My best wishes from Greece!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hello Alexandra,
      what a lovely way to get to know people! I would be too nervous to do that but it sounds like you had plenty of great experiences at the hairdressers.

  23. Ana-Maria says:

    I like walking around a lot and visiting museums. I love discovering new museums ,palaces and archaeological sites: Latest on the list were Pompeii and Herculaneum. What a treat!

  24. Etomidac says:

    Oh my gosh we are travel twinsies!
    One small difference is that I would go to local markets instead of supers. I am really interedted in knowing the types of fish, veg etc that the locals eat compared to home and not to mention all those exotic cooked delicacies that one can find!
    I also like to visit the bakery of that country and I would buy the interesting breads for breakfast or snack. Exotic cuisines may be available back home but bakeries are rare!

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