You accumulate and collect odd things when you travel. When I was younger, my dad travelled a lot for work. Our bathroom closet would be full of tiny bottles of hotel shampoos and tiny bottles of hand and body lotions. Our cutlery drawer was full of tiny souvenir teaspoons. It was tiny town at our house back in those days. One of my colleagues collects amenity packs and pyjamas from business class flights. My partner inadvertently keeps a stack of hotel keycards equivalent to about three packs of playing cards – because he keeps forgetting to return them.
“Score! They have slippers!” I notify my colleague Branique as I peer into a closet in our hotel room.
Guess what I collect?
It’s our first weekend in San Francisco and we’re getting sick of going out to eat. Staying in a hotel for more than a couple of days can take it’s toll on your stomach and your wallet. We also want to take a moment to pretend to be locals. Does anyone else do this when they visit another place? I just love spending whole days doing normal things like grocery shopping, going for a jog around a park, or sitting around indoors watching foreign television. I did a lot of this whilst I was in Japan and it almost made me want to pack up all my things back home and move to Osaka. In contrast, I also try to do a lot of this whenever I’m Sydney or Perth – and concluded that I won’t be in any hurry to move to another Australian city from Melbourne haha. It’s too darn good.
Branique and I decide to visit the local Saturday market by the piers to pick up some groceries for breakfast. We’re at the Hotel Intercontinental, and our nearby breakfast options are: the Michelin star restaurant downstairs, a 24 hour diner with insanely large portions, and expensive, trendy brunch places. We’re a little overwhelmed by American bacon and American portions, so we go on a mission to find some things we’ve struggled to find at restaurants: fresh fruits, non-sugary bread, and real cheese. A farmer’s market would surely be home to these things.
Our mission to get food is cold and harsh. San Francisco weather hasn’t been very friendly to us since we arrived. It’s been overcast and foggy for the past 3 days, and it rains every twenty minutes. The wind is icy, and a 20 minute walk down to the market feels brutal – even to us Melbournians. Despite this, the city is still so picturesque. It has a lot of character, it’s eclectic and colourful. I love cities that still look lively in dreary weather.
There are a lot of tourists walking towards a particular direction so we remind ourselves to not get side tracked and continue to make our way to the market. Today is not tourist day. We are going grocery shopping, we’re going to have a long lazy breakfast, and we’re going to watch American infomercials. We still stop to take photos though.
The problem with Branique and I travelling together is that we are both slightly obsessed with cheese… It’s almost as if we have no self control. Once, I received a snapchat from her that revealed the contents of her fridge. Another time, we had a cheese platter brought in for a client meeting and when no one touched it we took the whole thing back to our desk after the meeting. So it is no surprise that we choose to return back to our hotel with three different cheeses…for breakfast. Why not?
The first cheese we decide to take home after sampling is a triple cream brie – soft, creamy and decadent. Not sold in small portions. We are not complaining.
The second is a goats cheese washed with beautiful, earthy red wine. It is rich, salty and fragrant. I am obsessed with wine-washed cheeses.
The third is possibly our favourite: a nutty, firm gouda with sweet and savoury notes and a strong caramel flavour.
Back in our hotel and we’re ready to tuck in. So much for being sick of American portions…let’s face it – we’re probably going to eat most of this cheese in one sitting. We turn on some good old American TV and call up room service to bring up some knives and tableware to eat our market goodies.
10 minutes pass.
Weird. It’s been a while. Branique and I are hungry and start to snack on our strawberries. Gee they are sweet! As we snack away, we watch an infomercial try to convince us – the viewers – that the horrific side effects of the acne product it is trying to sell is worth the risk.
I call up room service to ask for ETA of our cutlery and tableware.
“So sorry it will be up soon, we are incredibly busy at the moment,” says the slightly distracted staff member on the other line. We feel bad so we wait a little while longer.
30 minutes later and we’re too hungry to wait. Also, we realise American TV is pretty awful, and we want to go outside and do some more exploring as the weather seems to be clearing up. We scramble around the hotel room to find something that can cut up the cheese at least. The bread can be torn by hand. The strawberries don’t need any chopping up. But the cheese…
In the bathroom I spot a sewing kit and suddenly I’m reminded of a time where a group of us were stuck at a picnic without any knives to cut with. Someone had suggested we use the string that was tying up a bag of muffins to cut through softer items like cheeses and sponge cakes. To my memory it worked, so we decide to try it out with the thread in our sewing kits.
Tricky at first, the thread works out even better than expected. The thinner the thread, the cleaner the cut. It doesn’t cut through the rind of the gouda, but we are able to cut around it.
So there it is folks. Hotel hack number 1. Next time you’re stuck in a hotel in need of cutlery, steer clear of the unfamiliar and possibly unhygienic objects out in the open – and opt for the sealed and packaged sewing kit.
Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners.