Arts/Culture: People: Best of My Travel 2010
Best of My Travel 2010
As Indagare’s features editor, I travel a lot and am often asked about favorite discoveries made while on the road. And even though every trip is unique and memorable in its own way, there are definite highlights. Here are some from 2010.
A tie: the Peninsula, in Shanghai, and Babuino 181, in Rome. The Peninsula is impeccably run and has an amazing staff that seemed to anticipate my every need. At Babuino 181, I loved the spacious rooms, which were beautifully designed and very functional (a rare combination), as well as the hotel’s central location.
Another tie: I will never forget the dinner at Napa Valley’s Restaurant at Meadowood, perhaps the single most interesting meal of my life, which also had pitch-perfect wine pairings (young chef Christopher Kostow has since been awarded three Michelin stars). And a very simple pasta lunch at Rome’s Le Mani in Pasta, which cost less than a glass of Prosecco at the Hotel Eden and was unbeatable for its congenial ambiance and melt-in-your-mouth pasta.
François Pinault’s Punta della Dogana, in Venice, is one of the most stunning contemporary museums, designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando and an exciting addition to the city’s rich art scene. I also liked Munich’s Museum Brandhorst, although you have to appreciate the artist Cy Twombly to get the most out of this private gallery, which was built to house some of his major works.
Indagare contributor Tiffany Schauer wrote about a Cambodian dance troupe, Amrita Performing Arts, and I caught one of its shows at New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center, which often hosts lesser-known troupes that are absolutely worth seeing (if you live in New York, you should go). Amrita was amazing.
Favorite Travel Moment
In Napa: I will never forget tasting the new vintages from the barrels with expert winemaker Michel Terrien, of boutique label Kazmer & Blaise (their Pinot Noir is one of the best coming out of Napa Valley right now). In China: getting to join the Buddhist monks of Hangzhou’s Yongfu Temple in their morning prayer, which is a very special excursion arranged for some guests by the Amanfayun (the temple and the resort are neighbors).
In San Francisco, I spent some serious time in the Mission, especially at dress boutique Weston Wear, a fabulous spot for shopping for girlie attire (I would recommend it to anyone traveling to San Francisco with a teenage daughter). In Prague, the only boutique to know is Artel, a Czech glass emporium headed by Karen Feldman, an American whose designs are contemporary interpretations of 20th-century Czech design. And having a sweet tooth, I also loved the Sweet Palace, in Philipsburg, Montana, the second-largest candy store in the country.
How easy it was to get off the beaten path on Maui, which I assumed was going to a honeymoon factory. But finding really local spots is fun and doable. Most memorable were the ahi burgers at Pa’ia Fish Market and spending time on quiet Po’ Olenalena beach (dubbed Secret Beach by the locals).
That learning to speak Italian properly is a lot more difficult than I had assumed; luckily, the teachers of New York’s small but excellent language school Parliamo Italiano, on the Upper East Side, are very good—and patient.
Favorite Travel Literature
Anyone headed to Venice should read Venice Is a Fish, a gorgeous love letter to the city by Italian poet Tiziano Scarpa. In preparation for my China trip, I was fascinated by Socialism is Great!, A Worker’s Memoir by journalist Lijia Zhang. And I adore Vienna, by young Austrian writer Eva Menasse, a novel that traces a Jewish family from the 1930s to the present.
Where I Want to Go in 2011
I finally want to visit Berlin, to explore the city’s art and culinary scenes (and to return to the fascinating nearby city of Dresden). I am also dying to go to Cambodia, to see the temples of Angkor Wat, and to Laos before it changes too much with more tourism. And I always want to return to Paris, especially to see if the Haut Marais, reportedly one of the hip new neighborhoods, lives up to its buzz.— Simone Girner 01/03/2011