Flying Solo

I’ve spent a lot of my adult life traveling and more often than not it has been solo. Sometimes that was by choice and sometimes it came with the job. When I was 25 I spent 6 months wandering around Europe with my guitar and for 19 years, as a Pan Am pilot, I was on my own for dinner in strange locations at least half of every month. I learned how to do things on my own early and that probably made it seem normal even if it wasn’t.

Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to deal with so much solo time and how to think about eating out as a solitary traveler in a strange new place. Those questions seem a little odd to me, but that may be because I’ve done a lot of it. I learned to like the quiet time that lets me savor new places, new tastes and people watching without the distraction of other voices and other eyes. I do like traveling with Marilynn because her eyes are seeing foreign places for the first time, and it adds a layer of newness to places I’ve already seen. But I still like going it alone too.

Saigon is a new place for me, and I love the newness. For the first month, while Marilynn was here, we explored it together. She’s gone now, and I’m flying solo again. As an inveterate list maker I’m working on a list of all the new (to me) Saigon restaurants. I started on September 5th, and there are 31 Saigon and 3 Danang restaurants on the list now.

There are times after a long work week when I’d rather veg out on the couch with a beer, a few pieces of cheese, and some olives than haul my ass out to dinner. But today was relaxing and tonight I tried a stylish new place called Sandals that I’ve walked by a dozen times. It’s in the heart of town, just behind the Opera House. If it was on Venice Blvd in Santa Monica the place would have had a line around the block, but I walked right in and got a great table on the 3rd level where the street-side is open to the air and lined with containers planted with bamboo like a tropical screen. The menu is simple, which I like. I picked the 3 course set menu – a delicious tropical fruit and grilled prawn salad, a Greek souvlaki with pita bread, and a dessert of star fruit, melon, kiwi, and coconut ice cream. I had two beers and finished with an espresso and the total bill was $20.

And did I tell you that the service was terrific and included a visit by the owner, Louie, and an absolutely gorgeous Filipino hostess named Lani? Eating alone is not always a hardship – but sometimes it can be a little lonely. Take along a book or a paper and you won’t feel so conspicuous.

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