I grew up with this magazine, learned about food and travel by reading the exquisite editorial features, and still treasure each edition like a favorite book.
From today's New York Times:
Gourmet did not lack for impassioned readers. Alice Waters, the California restaurateur, said she nearly started crying when she heard of the closing. Gail Zweigenthal, a former editor in chief of Gourmet, said she was saddened. “I think it was the first magazine that taught people how to navigate the intricacies of foreign travel, where to stay, what to eat,” she said. “It was such a special magazine. It had such history.”
Over the quintessentially American farmer's breakfast at Beechwood Cafe in Jersey City, I made a list of all the places I want to travel to in 2009. The list seems to get longer each year as I fail to get to each destination, and the criteria changes. The economy has kept me grounded for the last few months, and will affect how I travel next year. Over scrambled eggs, biscuits & gravy, and a lot of coffee, I read Wendy Perrin's post The World On Sale, which has great tips on how to take advantage of travel deals in this economy. She mentions several locations where the dollar will stretch (always a good reason to travel somewhere), like Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, South Africa, and more. Not on that list is Paris, which is unfortunate, because it's always on my list. It will never be a 'deal' to be in Paris, I imagine. Cheap isn't a word you associate with the city, even if you can find a way to travel there on a budget. The experience transcends currency. On my list, Paris is not ranked and numbered - it simply exists, patiently waiting for me to get there.
During my recent domestic confinement, I have armchair-traveled via Gourmet magazine. Though it's a food mag, Gourmet has some of the best travel writing around. The September 2008 Paris issue is a sensory gift, and reads like great fiction. I lost myself in the essays, and earmarked the recipes so I could travel to Paris one meal at a time. We've gotten through a few - Poached Eggs with Mushrooms Two Ways, Steak with Lemongrass Peppercorn Sauce, Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes. Up next is Ginger-Cardamom Oeufs a la Niege, a dessert that makes me think of Paris during the holidays, dusted with snow. And, the photo is gorgeous:
(Gourmet photo by: Romulo Yanes)
14 days ago, I sat in this hospital for 12 hours waiting for my father to get out of surgery. He was in with cancer and the doctors were removing the tumor. I anticipated that the end result would be a better quality of life, to be sustained for another five, ten, maybe even twenty years. It turned out that the surgery was too late. The cancer had already spread to his brain and is now inoperable. I don't know how much time we have... could be 2 weeks, could be 2 months. For now, the great big world I happily move around in has been reduced to room 6N29 in New Brunswick, NJ and armchair travel.
...and hoping for a miracle.
In the June issue of Traveler, Wendy Perrin authored a smart and thorough account of renting a villa while traveling. As a proponent of villa rental vs. hotel every now and then, I found her article full of smart tips that I wish I'd known several years ago.
Nine friends and I headed to Portugal for a three week holiday and rented a villa through an online agency. Like Ms Perrin, the villa we landed in didn't quite fit the needs of each guest (details that should be sorted out before the trip, as I learned the hard way; but that's another post altogether) and wasn't as pristine as promised - a few appliances fell apart mid-stay, the housekeeper had a nasty disposition that kept her from doing her job on a regular basis and the interior climate was unexpectedly cold and damp - something both the rental agency and the owners neglected to mention.
It took a solid week for us to work out the kinks with the house and find our rhythm as a group, but once we did the trip was absolutely unrivaled. The best part of renting a home away from home is the freedom you experience without the pressure of life as usual. Simple things like cooking your own meals and having people over for dinner become exotic adventures. We traded traditional American dishes for traditional Portuguese dishes with the house manager on several occasions, enjoying the culinary contrast in our lovely villa dining room. We could sleep late and have breakfast at 3pm without the pressure of restaurant meal turnover, stay up chatting as a group until 4am, or wander around the house all day in slippers. The cost savings are an added bonus, of course - our 12-bedroom villa was $1100 per week: 10 people = $330 per person.
The invauable resource of a rental agency rolodex accompanies the article, and I've begun an inspired search for a villa to rent in the Carribean this summer. Now, if only I could do something about hurricane season...
While I try to figure out how in the world I am going to write about the stunning, enigmatic city of Prague, I will use this post to recommend A.A. Gill Is Away, a book I could not put down while traveling this week. Incredibly fresh and inspiring travel writing.