Up In The Air

On Monday this week I boarded a plane for the first time since March 13th

As someone who pre COVID-19 traveled about 125,000 miles per year, the last three-plus months have been strange for many reasons, including because all plane travel in my life came to a complete halt. I have had many conversations with myself about how much I have missed flying, I have loved and reposted travel memes about “walking down the aisle again,” and have told anyone willing to listen about how I could not wait to get back on the road. 

Now that I have done it, however, I am not sure that is the full truth and nothing but the truth. After imagining for so long how it would be to get back on the road, here is what I learned on Monday. ( For context, I flew American Airlines, from New Orleans to Washington National, a flight leaving at 7:30 am). 

  1. If I am honest with myself, I must admit the day leading up to this flight was filled with anxiety (which I have never had about traveling, ever). Anxiety at leaving my two kittens (who have I become?!), and anxiety about the actual travel experience. Would I be safe? Would I remember what to do? 
  2. I was surprised by the number of people at the airport. I imagined it would be deserted, yet the crowd felt relatively normal for an early morning flight.
  3. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people wearing masks. I can count on one hand those who had their masks around their necks instead of in front of their faces. 
  4. The only face shields I saw were those the TSA personnel was wearing as I walked through security. I imagine this is because they ask travelers to lower their masks (to check facial features against your ID). 
  5. Few of the amazing restaurants in the new New Orleans airport were open. Emeril’s  was… and the very nice gentleman who brought me coffee (Carlos) told me that some places had not yet reopened, and some only were open 11 am to 6 pm. 
  6. I missed random conversations with strangers, such as the one with Carlos. While I am not one to have random conversations with strangers, I apparently do so at airports, and I enjoy them. 
  7. Everyone on board wore their mask and kept it on for the duration of the two-hour flight. I wore a N95 mask, and while it was uncomfortable, it made me feel safe. 
  8. The mood on the plane was definitely subdued. Lots of empty seats, everyone being very careful with their personal space, flight attendants definitely caring more for our “safety” than our “comfort” – no food or beverage service for example. 
  9. I forgot how beautiful the clouds are from 30,000 feet up in the air. And how that view helps my creative thinking. 
  10. Overall, traveling was like getting back on a bicycle. Call it muscle memory or automatic pilot… that memory kicked in the minute I walked in to the airport. Checking in. Working at the airport. Working on the plane. I didn’t have to think about it, I just did it. I am grateful for that muscle memory. 

Did I love it? No. Do I think I will be back to flying 125,000 miles per year anytime soon? No. Will I be anxious next time I fly? No. Did I feel safe? Yes. Do I miss my kittens? Yes.

July First Musings

July 1. New month. New quarter. 2nd half of 2020. 183rd day of the year, 183 days to go. Today, I choose to celebrate. celebrate. I have once and for all put to rest all of my grand 2020 plans (made pre-COVID-19), I have once and for all accepted that this current reality is indeed the new normal and will be for quite some time. Today, I choose to celebrate. 

I celebrate the first half of the year.  

  • My family and I are alive and healthy. 
  • My Mom got COVID-19 and beat it. 
  • I have spent 107 days and nights in a row with my husband and we are more in love than ever. 
  • I am still in business.  
  • I work in an industry that will never go away and that makes people not only look better, but also feel better. 
  • I did not lay off or furlough anyone on my Alchimie team. 
  • I became a cat mom. 

Today, I also choose to focus on all that I have to look forward to in the second half of 2020.  

  • My sister Rachel’s wedding (praying to the travel gods).
  • Botox at Forever Institut (praying to the travel gods).
  • A couple of weeks in Tinos, Greece (praying to the travel gods). 
  • Hamilton on Disney Plus
  • The elections. 
  • Quiet dinners at home with my husband and cat babies. 
  • Quiet dinners out in those places that are excelling at safety measures and social distancing (including Bourbon Steak and Peacock Café
  • Getting back out in the field. 
  • And, I am sure, many (hopefully good) surprises…   

 Here’s to the second half of 2020! 

Summer 2020 Reading List

I can’t say It really feels like a “normal” Summer, yet we are officially in Summer! Every year, I craft my Summer reading list thinking about reading these books at my favorite beach on my favorite Greek island. I would typically be there right now… but then again, this year is a little bit different than most. Nonetheless, I am excited to read these books before Fall is upon us. 

I have writer friends, including the witty, funny, and glamorous Karin Tanabe. I finished her latest book, A Hundred Suns, this past weekend as the Summer Solstice was upon us. I could not put it down. 

Possibly the opposite of a “summer read,” yet I don’t think I need to explain why this is on my reading list.  White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo.

 And because it’s all about balance, at the other end of the spectrum, a summer crime series read: The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women  by Barbara Hackman. Because my friend Marc Ross said I should read this, and Marc Ross is very smart. 

Another Summer read, on the theme of female friendships, that I can’t wait to dig in to, is Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, which comes highly recommended by two of my Book Club girlfriends. 

And The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille, which I have been carrying around with me since I last traveled in March. In true escalation of commitment, I will not stop carrying it around until I read it cover to cover! 

What are you reading this Summer? 

Big Apple + Little Sister = Best Day

I go to New York every few weeks, and I write about my visits every few years (including here and here). This week, I had the pleasure of spending a day in the Big Apple with my youngest sister Roxane who was visiting from Switzerland. Here is what our perfect day together looked like.

Mimosas at the Loews Hotel

On Park in mid-town, this is one of the most civilized places in NYC, whether for coffee, lunch, or drinks. I love it for meetings, I love it alone when I need to catch up on emails or write, and I love it for everything in between.

A facial at Heyday Upper West Side

Despite family businesses involving a spa and skin care, Roxane is not a facial aficionado… so I had to gift her a Heyday facial. Not surprisingly, she loved everything about it – the setting, the treatment itself, the post-facial glow, the wonderful team members. No better way to start a day in the city!

A stroll through Nordstrom 57th street

Both of our first times in this gorgeous new store, we were in awe of the beauty offering. Not just the ground floor beauty store (which was packed with shoppers by the way), but also the first floor Beauty Services area. Featuring various “shops in shop” including Heyday (yes, they are in all the right places), Drybar, Face Gym and more, as well as wonderful niche brands, this area gave off a cool, chic, inviting vibe that made you want to shop and treat yourself.

A haircut at Fourteen Jay 

Roxane is addicted to her short haircut, and to Aveda. When she asked me for the best Aveda salon in the City, I had to recommend Fourteen Jay, a project my friend (and celebrity hairstylist) Frank Rizzieri was involved in creating.

Apero at the “new” Pastis

Pastis reopening last year after a five-year hiatus was to me some of the happiest 2019 news. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner there still feels like a party, something utterly “New York” that can’t be replicated anywhere else. A must.

We didn’t have a chance to visit all of the places on my list… here are a few left for her next visit.

The bar at Morandi

Another Keith McNally creation, Morandi in the West Village is on my list of places to try.

An afternoon at Great Jones Spa

One day I will make the time to have a long and perfect massage at this legendary spa, and I will take advantage of their amazing amenities, including the River Rock Sauna, the Chakra Light Steam Room, the Jacuzzi, and the Cold Plunge. One day…

Two New Favorite Spots in Geneva

I love going home to Geneva, Switzerland, partly because I feel like the city is the same as when I left it in 1995. I love going to the same places over and over again, and have written about my favorites both in National Geographic and here.

Yet, as I leave after three days in my childhood home, to go back to my adult home of Washington DC (go Nats!), I was thrilled to discover two amazing new places that I look forward to visiting again and again.

La Comtesse Champagne & Cocktail Bar

My sisters and I had an apéro there last night, with Mom. A 6th generation family business run by the lovely Anaïs Leconte, this elegant yet cozy bar is an expansion of the core business, which is making champagne. Highlight: the champagne cocktail list is the longest I have ever seen. I will need to go back many times to try them all! 

Le Decanteur

Nestled in the Quartier des Eaux-Vives, this modern Italian restaurant and wine bar is my new favorite. Amazing pasta, amazing Italian wine list. Luca Ragnelli, the owner and master chef, has been cooking since the age of 13, studied at the Ecole Hoteliere of Geneva, spent time in Parma, and worked at the Noga Hilton (now Kempinski) before opening his restaurant. My favorite factoid? One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is inspired and named after is aunt Tina.

Reminders

This week, I am in Tinos, Greece. Not my first visit, but my first visit during the low season. The magic of this island is as strong as ever…

Fewer people make for stronger connections – those of us here really want to be here. The cooler temperatures make for new experiences – walking through the villages and heading to the Chora (town) more frequently. And the lessons of the island are as insightful as ever.

  • Feeding the island cats feels like the day’s most important project. AKA taking care of others, with no expectation in return, makes me happy.
  • Leaving the book I just devoured (The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda) in the unofficial “sidewalk book exchange” of Isternia village, and seeing it gone the next morning makes my whole day. AKA an act of random kindness for an unknown stranger, makes me happy.
  • Going to the bank (inside the building, not the ATM) feels like an enlightening, welcoming, kind, human connection. AKA taking the time to enjoy every human interaction, even in the form of an “errand,” makes me happy.
  • Slowing down and watching the sunset, grateful for nature and her rhythms, no matter the season, is good for the soul.
  • Finally, as the Greeks say, “eteron ekateron.” AKA “it is neither here nor there.” And/or “it is said of two things that can both apply simultaneously, different from one another, without affecting one another.”