In writing about Bali this month, T+L editor-at-large Peter Jon Lindberg raises the “Authenticity Question,” referring to the way resort brochures recast such location-specific pleasures as lounging by the pool or enjoying a massage in spiritual terms, as “an opportunity to meditate” or to “participate in a healing ritual.” I get it, of course: travelers are clamoring for a taste of the real, or the near real, and hopping on the authenticity bandwagon makes good marketing sense for hotels in this destination. But, hey, isn’t quasi authenticity better than no authenticity at all? The way I see it, these lushly appointed properties provide a level of beauty and serenity that evokes feelings that are, well, as spiritual as most spiritual agnostics ever experience. Take it from me.
To borrow a handy term from the French, it may be a case of faute de mieux (lack of better) that the word authenticity keeps cropping up in this magazine. It’s an instance where a perfectly good concept has been sullied by overuse, or by the very appealing and promotable nature of the quality it represents. Finding the real—the intimate and everyday, the private face rather than the one put on for visitors—is in fact the holy grail for Travel + Leisure readers. Thus, Les Abbesses transplant Alexandra Marshall’s revelation of her favorite Paris haunts, featured in the cover story of our annual Style and Culture Issue, will strike a chord; one thing’s for sure, it is going into a folder for my trip to Paris the month after next. The New York City spaces that are being transformed into vital public gardens with the help of actor-entertainer-activist Bette Midler are intended as oases in neighborhoods where authenticity could be said to be in oversupply. And as for the Armani Hotel Dubai, nestled into 11 floors of what is currently the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, it’s authentic in a Gulf State–luxury-to-the-max way.
There’s more, of course: the re-creation of an early-20th-century garden by the renowned American designer Beatrix Farrand at Glenmere Mansion, an imposing upstate New York manor reinvented as a country-house hotel; an expert tour of the pleasures of Sydney; a report on the rediscovery of classic Ottoman cuisine; an insider guide to some seductive regions in Italy; and T+L’s annual Culture Special, a preview of upcoming exhibitions, performances, books, music, and events this fall.
Oh, and let’s not forget our Packing Primer, with advice on everything from the latest roller bags and wrinkle-free travel clothing to the airlines with the best and worst lost-luggage records. It helps to be comfortable and well equipped in order to get the most there is out of the real.
Where to Find Me
Some of my recent favorites, via Twitter.
New Andaz 5th Ave, across from NY Public Library: Blue Bottle Coffee, great open views, light and airy spot for breakfast.
Art heaven: at the Freer, #Washington, D.C.—Whistler nocturnes, Peacock Room, Chinese paintings+ ceramics. Next stop: the Sackler.
Oyamel Cocina last nite. Fried oyster po' boy at Hank's Oyster Bar near Dupont Circle, #Washington, D.C. Secondi, good secondhand clothing shop.
On Hunter Creek Trail, #Aspen. Great hike—rocky up, then through meadows. Lupins, aspens, birches.
Pilates, around the world: Maya at Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong; Erika Bloom, New York; Little Venice Pilates, London; Ivana Daniell Studio, Singapore.
Lamburger at the Breslin, in #NYC, with extra-crispy French fries: not a light lunch but totally irresistible.