It’s been a couple of days since our ship landed (as opposed to my ship coming in) and arriving in New York City by ocean liner is a rather extraordinary experience. Even more astounding is that I actually was able to wake up at 4am to catch the underside of the Verrazano Bridge as we glided below it, then slowing crept up on the softly glowing statue of liberty and all of Manhattan as it was waking up.
Results tagged travel from David Lebovitz
Whenever people ask me “How often do you get back to the states?” they always seem to be taken aback when I say “Never.” It’s not that I’m turning my back on my home country, it’s just that the idea of sitting in a dismal gray airport (with abysmal food choices), waiting in lengthy lines, going through the frenzy of stripping down for security, getting my privates x-rayed ( – yikes!), then sitting in a cramped seat unable to move for thirteen hours, isn’t my idea of fun.
So when the folks at the Queen Mary 2 offered me a trip to compensate for canceling a culinary journey I was to make last year due to the irksome volcano, I jumped at the chance. (Although considering it’s a multi-story boat – I should probably use a different word than “jump.”) Instead of arriving somewhere all crumpled and jet-lagged, I’m looking forward to sleeping horizontally, in an actual bed, and arriving in America as a normal person. Whatever that is.
A Swiss local in Lausanne was the first to tell me about Café Romand, “It’s one of those places where – and how do you say it? – those men who are very pretty, that sometimes dress as women, go. You would like it!”
I’m still trying to figure out what that means because no one’s every called me “pretty”, and my only experience wearing women’s clothing was trying on my mother’s Emilio Pucci pumps (how could I not?) when I was around eight years old.
The TGV Lyria train makes the trip to Switzerland is just about three hours. If you buy your tickets in advance, first-class seats aren’t that much more expensive than regular fares (sometimes the difference is little as €5) and as a friend said to me, “Since I don’t use drugs, I spend the extra money on first-class train tickets.”
Lest you think first-class is elitist, I often go second-class. The good thing about first is that the seats have electric outlets, which is great for getting work done. As in, all the 119 pictures you saw on the Swiss posts I processed on the train ride home. Plus there isn’t the usual “seating scrum” that happens in second class trains in France where it’s not surprising to board the train and find someone in your reserved seat. Then the process is you go sit in another seat. And when that person comes, they go find another seat. I always want to say, “Why doesn’t everyone sit where they are supposed to sit?” But Romain tells me, “C’est comme ça. You don’t understand.” And you know what? He’s right.
Aside from having a seat with an electric outlet, and even better—no one in it—when I looked at my ticket it said “Meal Included.”
Everyone once in a while – and I could likely count the number of times on one hand – I’ve put something in my mouth that silenced me. Unfortunately for the people around me, it doesn’t happen all that often. But when I was told that there was a special lard made in Nyon, I changed my plans for the morning because something inside me (perhaps my rumbling stomach…) told me that it was something that I just had to check out.
When we pulled up in front of Chez Philou, the windows were blocked by stacked crates of cabbages, no doubt destined for saucisse aux choux fumé, or smoked cabbage sausages, a specialty of the region. But a pile of raw cabbage didn’t really interest me as much as the smoky aromas clouding the windows of the shop and wafting outside whenever a customer went in or came out.
I’ve worked in the service industry since I was sixteen years old and realize how hard the work is, and how much the people who work in it are undervalued and generally underpaid. On a recent trip I stayed in quite a few hotels, a different one every day for a week, and realized they could be doing a few things that would make things more pleasant for guests, as well as make life easier for the good people that work there:
1. Put amenities in large refillable bottles.
I’ve stopped taking home those tiny bottles of shampoo and body lotion. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I’m no longer that cheap and don’t mind spending a few dollars every couple of months to buy my own. I suspect most people that take them aren’t merely using them as travel-sized bottles for their carry-ons. I’ve always wondered what happens to those little bottles if I use them once. Do they get refilled, or tossed away? I assume they’re tossed, so I no longer bother to use them and bring my own. But for those who just have carry-ons, let’s all make the switch to using large refillable bottles.
2. Give me a checklist with checkboxes asking me what level of service I want.
I am sure there are people out there that like it when someone knocks on their door in the morning, asking if they’re in there so they can clean the room. And I am certain some people like it when they’re watching television and relaxing in the afternoon and someone stops by to see if they need the minibar filled, then thirty minutes later, another person comes by to lift the top of the sheet from the bed and fold it down, otherwise known as ‘turndown service.’
I was recently joking that when I’m forced to wake up very early in the morning I’m not sure if I should feel sorrier for myself, or for the people around me. So when my friend Jean-Louis, who works with the people who make Comté cheese finally gave in to my incessant pestering to join him for a visit, I was excited when after three years, he finally said “Oui”. Actually, he speaks very good English. So he said “Yes”.
Everyone has a story about the Swiss, which sometimes ends up with them getting reprimanded for moving something out of the exact place where it belongs. Or arriving 12.5 seconds too late and missing a train. So I was freaking out when I was en route there because I filled out the blank spaces myself on my railpass that asked for my name and passport number. Just after I did that, I read that it said not to do that: the station agent must be the one to take care of it.