December 19, 2018

My history with long train rides

I remembered last night that I've previously taken two long-form train trips, spanning states, provinces, countries, and days, that were some of the best journeys of my life—for completely different reasons.

In 2013, I joined Levi's on the brand's coast-to-coast #StationToStation adventure, where they commissioned an artist to curate a multi-city art-meets-music pop-up event series—with the entire crew, plus artists, musicians, and media, traveling between each city by train.

The Levi's team started in NYC, but I joined them in Santa Fe and rode all the way to Los Angeles. In between we stopped in Winslow, Arizona, where Ed Ruscha's brother made us omelets and Jackson Browne sang his Winslow, Arizona, song.

Then Barstow, where Levi's booked out a massive drive-in theater in the middle of the desert, I saw Beck perform for the first time (wow), and a massive faux-UFO blew in overhead lighting up the sky at the end of the night.
There was a lot more to the trip that I'm not remembering right now—catching Linda Perry at an open mic in Pioneertown, driving down Route 66, a crochet museum at Joshua Tree National Park, and wrapping up the week ensconced in a suite at Chateau Marmont. But it was epic. And epic is an understatement in this case. I'll never forget the feeling of crossing the Southwestern part of the U.S. on a train with a dozen famous musicians, everyone and everything kitted out by Levi's; and I was lucky to make some lifelong friends on that trip, as well.

Then, in 2016, after leaving WWD and before joining Food & Wine, I rode the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff—and, for me, this trip was less emotionally epic (I had fewer *feelings* on this train ride), but mind-broadening and visually stunning in a way that only a luxury glass-domed cross-country journey through the Canadian Rockies can be.
This was also the first time I was introduced to the Fairmont Hotels in Canada, and wow, Fairmonts in Canada, especially the tranformed railroad hotels the chain operates throughout the Rockies, are some of my favorite properties in the world—especially the haunted one in Banff.

I'm on a 30-hour train ride

The last time I tried to sleep on an overnight train was more than ten years ago—September 2008, when Tuomas, Chris, and I booked a "private triple cabin" on the 23:35 from Milan to Paris. We thought taking the train would make it easier to carry Tuomas' collection from the show (in Italy) to the showroom (in France). LOL on us. Our room on the train was minuscule—probably the same size as the Viewliner Roomette I'm in right now, but with three bunk tiers instead of just the two, and only a communal toilet in the hall.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning. It's my first day of real vacation—I have the next week-ish off, including Christmas—and I hadn't planned anything because I've been traveling a lot: the Celebrity Edge launch a couple of weeks ago straight into Art Basel in Miami, then back in New York for just a couple of days before heading out to Aspen for EMP Winter House. I hate wasting vacation days, though, and I'd just done a mini-staycation ahead of Thanksgiving, so over the past week I've been casually looking around for something to do, maybe just for a few days. I looked at quick trips to Asia, Dubai, Aswan—all too expensive because I was booking flights so last-minute. There was one point where I was thisclose to boarding a cruise to Antarctica for New Year's—but that fell through at the last minute, it's OK, everything happens for a reason.

But this morning when I woke up, the first thought that popped into my head was: I've never been to New Orleans. Fast forward eight hours and I'm boarding the Amtrak Crescent for the 30-hour train ride from New York's Penn Station to New Orleans' Union Terminal. Right this minute, I'm about to head to sleep—this time I'll probably really sleep, not like the Milan-to-Paris journey ten years ago when I was younger and could stay up all night looking out the window into the dark as we sped through Switzerland. I love train travel, especially long-distance—the longest train trip I'd been on before this one was a 15-hour trip up the East Coast from Savannah to New York a few years back (the fashion publicist in charge of booking was horrified I wanted to take the train rather than fly and almost refused my request to travel by land). In college, my New York friends who couldn't drive (like me) and I would take the Amtrak Vermonter the seven hours up to White River Junction, back and forth during school breaks. I love how long train rides hold the promise of endless hours of possibility—of doing nothing at all or something potentially really productive (I have two books with me along with the latest issue of the New Yorker—I had a moment today when I thought I might want to bring my laptop so I could bang out a book proposal while on board).

OK, that's all for now. More from New Orleans to come.

December 13, 2018

Reasons I love Aspen

I'm in Aspen for the seventh time—I love it here. It's the quintessential (super rich, very fancy) small American town and if I had a bazillion dollars I could see myself living here, at least part of the year. Here's an incomplete and very random list of reasons I love Aspen, Colorado.

  1. The manageable, walk-able size of town.
  2. Hickory House Barbecue (get the ribs)
  3. The shopping (all the usual luxury suspects)
  4. Speaking of shopping, there's an Aviator Nation here, they make my favorite sweatpants in the world.
  5. The relaxed outdoor recreation culture
  6. You don't need to dress up, pretty much ever. 
  7. The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is the best food festival in America.
  8. The luxury condos and all the marble and dark wood furniture.
  9. The luxury hotels and hotel dining. I love a good hotel lobby bar and this place has them in spades.
  10. Great restaurants everywhere
  11. The oxygen bar at the St. Regis is one of my favorite places, having those tubes stuck up my nose and lounging in a pile of faux fur blankets makes me feel like Edina from AbFab.
  12. The air
  13. All the people I've ever met who live here full-time are A+++++ humans.

December 10, 2018

My Interpol driver

On Thursday morning a black car picked me up from Celebrity Cruises terminal 25 in Fort Lauderdale to drive me to the Four Seasons Miami on Brickell. The driver was a cheerful, chatty, friendly older man who told me he'd been specially requested, that he'd driven from Palm Beach just to pick me up. He asked me what I do for a living, and when I told him I work at Food & Wine, he seemed confused—he said he's usually only assigned to drive moguls and politicians because he has the highest level of security clearance, because he worked for Interpol for nearly 20 years.

We had a pretty normal conversation after that, at least for the next 20 minutes. We talked about restaurants and travel—Italy, China, Canada—and he told me some great stories from when he worked in government, how he used to travel ahead on security detail and how, in training, they'd be given specific instructions on how to speak, behave, and even order food in cities around the world.

And then, all of a sudden, he started to tell me about myself. He sort of glanced at me in the rear view mirror and casually said, "See, I'm just doing this police thing on you." Profiling, I guess? He instantly knew that I'm single, don't have kids, travel a lot, and don't keep a lot of close relationships. It was... weird. But also not weird at the same time, because it was all true. He told me long stories about how he spent decades traveling for work and how it impacted him and his family. As we pulled up to the hotel, I gave him the bottle of Veuve I'd gotten on board the cruise ship. And when he got my suitcase out of the trunk of the car, he hugged me and looked me in the eye. And the last thing he said to me was: "Don't be afraid of love."