Here is a new instalment of the Q&A, this time from a travelling kindred spirit. Pamela has been a costume designer for Saturday Night Live and an Emmy award-winning TV art director for Martha Stewart. Now she travels the world and shares her stories and photographs on a blog called Objects.
1. Dearest /funniest/ strangest childhood travel memory?
That would have to be hitchhiking through Europe when I was 19, and all the adventures and mishaps that inherently occurred…climbing down the side of a mountain by a truck stop in Austria to escape from a menacing driver; making a spontaneous decision to go to the South of France via Italy because the driver who picked us up was on his way there; hanging around a mall outside of Paris until it closed and then sleeping in the loading dock…oh, how I love hotels.
2. What was your most comfortable home away from home?
I rented a stone cottage in a village called Coreglia Antelminelli, on top of a mountain in Tuscany. Every room had the most marvelous view of the Appennine mountain range, and it was attached to the bell tower of the church, so the soundtrack was the glorious peal of bells resonating through the valley every hour.
3. Who makes the best travel companion?
Without question: me, myself, and I. I find that traveling alone presents the best opportunities for meeting the locals and for finding hidden treasures.
4. What do you always pack?
My camera (Canon G12), my laptop (Mac Book Air), and my Kindle (loaded up with books for the journey).
And chargers (with adaptors) for all of the above.
And a raincoat.
5. Is there anything particular that you collect/photograph/save on your trips?
I am constantly looking for “style moments” to photograph…intentional or unintentional vignettes that catch my eye for their startling beauty. (I have a whole section devoted to them on my blog.) I also go to every flea market, and there’s no telling what I’ll come away with…some of my most cherished finds are a set of 19th century French porcelain laboratory nesting bowls from Paris; crudely engraved silver cups from Jodhpur; a bronzed baby shoe, complete with hole in the toe, from Barcelona, and a stylized teak figurine of a girl, from the estate of an artist in Copenhagen.
6. What would you change about the way we travel today?
Have a “quiet” section on trans-oceanic flights where people can sleep without being interrupted by the drinks and food carts, useless announcements, crying babies, and loud talkers. I’m just saying.
7. What lesson can you share from a mistake or misconception?
My experience in a city can be marvelous or miserable based solely on the location of my hotel. When I have stayed in hotels that are in a bad neighborhood, or far from the city center, I find that my impression of the place is less than favorable. If I’m in the thick of things, I see more, do more, and am able to immerse myself in the daily life of the city.
8. What’s your trick for blending in, avoiding looking like a tourist.
I try to conform to the unspoken “dress code” of each place. (I instinctively know what’s appropriate.) It’s not difficult to do, it just involves a few subtractions or additions to my standard uniform of jeans and white shirt. In London or Paris I typically wear dark, sophisticated clothing…maybe a navy blazer, and, always, a scarf. In Italy, especially places like Venice and Positano, I dress in light, colorful blouses and skirts. (I would never wear those clothes in Paris.) I was careful to keep my legs covered, and dress modestly in India. I brought black leggings and bought inexpensive cotton tunics. It’s actually kind of fun to reinvent your wardrobe for each new place!
I also try to learn some basic vocabulary of the language wherever I go…typically “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” and, most importantly, “I don’t speak (insert language here) very well.”
9. If you could teleport to another location right now, where would it be?
Hotel Number Sixteen in London. Can I live there?
10. And realistically where are you off to next?
Lisbon at the end of January, Ireland in June, and to-be-determined places in between.
(Photo caption: Temples at Ranakpur, Rajasthan, India, 2011)
And if you missed it, here’s the previous Q&A from Ronit Novak.