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Live From Jacmel, Haiti (Part 3)

1/15/2010

I hear a plane overhead just now. We have heard that they cleared the airstrip and moved the people to a nearby park. Gerard was out until after midnight digging a latrine at the new site, to try to keep the health risks down. He is one of the many international aide workers who has been part of our lives these last few days. Part of the core crew, and now when he is not here, we wait for his return. We have our regulars who come and go. Last night, a group from UNICEF came and ate with us and stayed the night. We were treated to fresh salad and Camembert by a French woman who lives here and runs the Aliance Francaise. I'm not sure a cucumber has ever tasted so good. The building of the AF is still standing but is not inhabitable. It will need to be razed and rebuilt. I have spent the morning speaking with Danielle, discussing her organization Femmes en Democratie and their work here, empowering women, working with them to run their own businesses, be self sufficient and to be a part of the political process. Their work will continue. As well as the work of Kompay, which does sustainable agricultural programs.

Rumors of who is coming in and who is going out abound. My family thinks that they have found a plane or a helicopter to come in to get me. But then we learn that the airspace is closed to private transportation. They are working on a boat. They are pulling out every contact they can find. I have never felt so loved in my life. The tireless work of my sister and so many friends is incredible to follow on FaceBook. And thank goodness for FaceBook! It is amazing that I am still in touch with people. Just watching the ideas and connections flying is unbelievable! The people who don't even know me—friends of friends of friends—who are giving their all, making phone calls, sending emails, making introductions. I don't know how I will ever thank them all for their efforts.

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Live From Jacmel, Haiti (Part 2)

I awake to another blue sky, and two UN vehicles in our drive. Is there news? No, nothing. No updates on aid coming in, or anyone going out.

Pistare, Pistare is a phrase that keeps going through my mind. If you have trekked in Nepal, you will know what I am talking about. Slowly, Slowly. Everything happens slowly here, and it will continue to move that way. It is both a cultural norm and the current physical reality. Life works differently here. And infrastructure, or lack thereof, predicates the slow pace of building, rebuilding, responding.

I have taken to keeping a bottle of water nearby. But not for drinking. Every time I think the ground is shaking, my eyes jump to the bottle to see if the water is sloshing. Each time, it seems, it is in my imagination. There have been some ongoing aftershocks. A few big ones during the night, but I slept through them. A couple during the day as well, but not nearly as many as there are in my imagination.

We get more and more news. None of it good. An American who got safely out of their hotel, only to run back in after a computer, and not return. A family member of one of our crew, buried in rubble in PaP. They are trying to dig her out, using cars and ropes to pull the concrete blocks off of her. Without the proper rescue equipment they are now risking their own lives.

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REPORT: Live From Jacmel, Haiti

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We recently learned—via Facebook—that an intrepid friend of Travel + Leisure’s is trapped in Haiti. Never having been, Ruth Bender, who works for the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, decided to stop in Haiti en route to a wedding at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. She, nor anyone else, could have imagined what disaster awaited. Below is Ruth’s first-person, on-the-ground report from 40 miles outside the capital city. She tells a different, slightly more hopeful story than those coming out of earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince. Read on. And watch Ruth on CNN here.

JACMEL, HAITI—Mid-way through our third bottle of wine, I pull out my camera and we look through the photos I took of downtown Jacmel. I have an obsession with photographing architecture; doors in particular. My friends know about this, and often skim my photos when I post them. This time, they may take note.

These may be the last photos taken of many of these buildings. Between early yesterday when I took those photos, and today as I write this, Haiti experienced the largest earthquake they have recorded here in 200 years. The town of Jacmel has been decimated. Lovely, historic structures are piles of rubble. The paper-mache creatures the men had spent days and weeks carefully building and painting for the upcoming Carnevale are crushed. But more devastating is the loss of life, and livelihood, and the lack of emergency services available to the region. While Port au Prince has been decimated, they are also receiving all of the news coverage and are able to receive international aid.

Jacmel has up to 10,000 people without homes. Telephones are not working and there is no electricity. The road from Port au Prince to Jacmel is not passable. The airport in Jacmel is being used as a refugee camp for the townspeople, rendering the landing strip useless. No supplies, no aid has come to Jacmel. The townspeople are dependent on the limited supplies at the UN station here. Schools have fallen. The hospital is badly damaged and of limited use.

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Behind the Scenes: My Favorite Place, Jason Reitman

Selecting celebrities for T+L’s back page column, My Favorite Place, is no easy feat: we want to highlight notable people who have interesting stories to share. That’s why we’re thrilled to bring you director and screenwriter Jason Reitman on the back page of the January 2010 issue.

Many of you know Reitman as the director of Juno, and you’ll surely hear about his newest project, the film Up In The Air, based on the novel by T+L contributor Walter Kirn and starring George Clooney. (T+L hosted a special screening in New York this November.)

Before he started filming, Reitman visited airports around the country and stayed in numerous business hotels (in fact, Hilton was a partner on the film).

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The Radio City Christmas Spectacular—On Tour

Full disclosure: I used to be a Radio City Rockette. And even though I retired a decade ago, this time of year always brings back memories of the start up of rehearsals and the build of excitement as kicking season approaches. I still like to check in on the ladies, just seven blocks up from our offices, and each year I am amazed that I was ever a part of that giant, glittery, moving entity that I always think of as a hyper-size, surreal, living version of a Hammacher Schlemmer music box.

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Cool T+L Outtakes - Shanghai Edition

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Hello, hello!  I'm at a place called Vertigo!  I stumbled on these outtakes the other day from a shoot we did at the Park Hyatt in Shanghai. Gorgeous shots. Our man in China, Andrew Rowat, had this to say about his shots taken from the observation deck at the top:

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The Best Restaurant in the World?

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He’s been called a mad scientist, a molecular gastronomist, a culinary genius, and the Best Chef in the World, but Ferran Adrià (with me, above) is mainly obsessed with Flavor with a capital F.

Last week, I was among the lucky 7,000 (out of 2 million reservation requests per year) to score a table at El Bulli on Spain’s Costa Brava. To call this the Meal of a Lifetime seems trite but on point: our six-hour dinner was like nothing I’d ever experienced before—or probably ever will again—yet it was delightfully entertaining and, for what seemed at times like a zany chemistry experiment, surprisingly delicious.

Don't miss my El Bulli slideshow--it's full of tips, must-know facts, and behind-the-scenes shots.


Niloufar Motamed is the features editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Peter Jon Lindberg

Behind-the-Scenes: Venice Shoot

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This was my third trip to Venice for Travel + Leisure magazine, and this time I came directly from the Paris fashion shows in order to save a trip across the Atlantic. Our crew—model, stylist, photographers—stayed at the Bauer Hotel in the center of town so we could easily reach all the locations our Italy correspondent, Valerie Waterhouse, covered in her April “T+L Guide to Venice.”

The first day of the shoot I was thrilled to see a new hotel in Valerie’s story called the Ca’ Sagredo. The beautifully restored monastery (think walls are covered with Renaissance art and crystal chandeliers dangling from the ceilings) has wonderful view of the Grand Canal and a grand stairway and drawing room, where we shot with the golden afternoon light. As usual, we had to keep a low profile and not disturb guests—which was tricky with all our equipment and clothing, but photo crews just forge quietly ahead.

Like with so many Venice spreads, it was imperative that we shoot in St. Mark’s Square—but the only way to avoid the crowds was to be ready to shoot at 6 a.m. Mary Wiles, the make-up and hair stylist and the model, Fabiane Nunes, were the first to get up and start working at the unfortunate hour of 5 a.m. I put Fabiane in a shirtdress from Hermes’ spring collection that I had just seen on the runway three days before. Off we went to bear the morning cold for as long as we could stand it, and as long as the light was right. After a freezing start in the square which included lots of pigeons—and huddling together for warmth—we stopped for breakfast at the Bauer.

Next we headed to a little square next to Venice’s opera house, Teatro La Fenice, where we did some shots of Fabiane, with the some waiters (from Ristorante al Teatro), sitting in the piazza looking very chic. Later we ate lunch at Vino Vino (cash only). My simple dish of pasta al pomodoro was divine, and the sun was shining down on us: it was a perfect day.

For dinner we wanted to find a place that only locals go. We set out with a map to find the concierge’s recommendation. We walked through foot wide alleyways, cobblestone streets, and little arched bridges that you only find in the fairytale city of Venice. At Taverna Del Campiello Remer, we sat at a long rustic wooden table and managed to order (no one spoke English there) a huge plate of prosciutto and parmigiano, family style. It was totally authentic—and just the experience we were looking for.

On the way back to the hotel we walked through St. Mark’s and heard an orchestra playing Chopin outside one of the restaurants in the square. Only in Venice.

Photos by Mimi Lombardo, fashion director for Travel + Leisure magazine.

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