There were a few moments in my life that gave me some sort of enlightenment. I can still remember each of them distinctly. From looking up at dazzling billboards in Times Square (in my late teens) to crossing through the streets in Ginza, in Tokyo, from presenting my work at Parsons or to that time in 2019 when I was in a small hotel 30 km away from Rome that prompted me to take some actions. Each of these moments was significant, followed by warmth in my chest and a gentle and empowering nod from the universe.
One of these last moments occurred while I was staying at the La Posta Vecchia Hotel, flipping through the magazine “YOLO” on my pool chair. Somehow, this travel journal filled with rustic, uninstagramable, and breathtaking destinations reminded me of my childhood and unknown desires. I held onto it until checkout and decided to take it home when it was time to leave (I hope the hotel forgave me for that.)
For as long as I can remember, travel has always made me feel alive. Each trip brought me new perspectives and discoveries that allowed me to be more open and compassionate (mostly to myself). As a little girl, I remember all my vacations with my parents. When we arrived for the first time in Saint-Tropez, I was almost blinded by the sun and amazed by the peachy and sandy walls everywhere. It was a hot August day in 1997; everything looked so simple and lush (not like today with stretches of luxury stores everywhere), with lots of sun beams crossing through the port like a web. After many years, when I came back, I tried to find that same spot. Sadly, I couldn’t, but I’ve carried this postcard memory forever, and even now I still visualize it and smile.
In my twenties, when I gained financial independence, I started traveling more by myself. Stepping into the airport with my own ticket felt like the freedom I’d always wanted. Regardless of my situation in life, I was always looking forward to embarking on a new journey knowing I would come back with fresh perspectives and new experiences. Slowly and steadily, my love affair with hotels grew, and I started looking for more excuses to travel, often returning to places I had stayed at before.
There could be great coffee in a small porcelain cup that brought me back, very friendly service and fashionable crowd at the Chiltern Firehouse in London, resembling more of a Saint Moritz ski chalet during the day and turning into a sophisticated private member club at nighttime. The red chairs and interior designed by Charles Zana at the Lou Pinnet Hotel in Saint-Tropez were a selling point to me while I was booking my last stay there. This small boutique hotel was a delightful surprise. It makes you feel like you are in the heart of Provence, yet you are actually in Saint-Tropez, sans party crowd.
I don’t have a favorite hotel, but the South of France and Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc have a special place in my heart. The natural surroundings and “cicadas orchestra” of Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc put me so gently to sleep in my pool chair, which makes me think of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book all the time rather than the Cannes festival that takes place there each year, or the remarkable yachts around the hotel. In Fitzgerald’s book, Tender is the Night, written almost a century ago, you experience the same hotel as Eden-Roc is today; even the guests haven’t changed much. That is what is so special about this place: it doesn’t change. The hotel’s staff is so polite that it makes you wonder what century you are in. There is also something in the air (besides cicadas) that puts your mind at ease. Fitzgerald said in his 1926 letter to Hemingway, “With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Nice and Cannes) I’m happier than I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange, precious, and all too transitory moments when everything in one’s life seems to be going well.” Fitzgerald stayed at a nearby villa (today called Hotel Belles Rives) that inspired him to write Tender is the Night.
Besides the glamorous and old-world charming surroundings, there are the guests who are unbothered and nonchalant and, in all likelihood, influence your mood. The hotel’s frequenters are discreet, and you can see the contrast between them and the lunchtime visitors. The day visitors are dressed in most high-end brands while the regulars scarcely reveal a logo.
I always say I would rather have a couple of exceptional experiences throughout the year than many average ones. I am not so fussy about travel, but I seek unique experiences that will positively impact my mood and bring long term memories to sip on for a while.
That brings me to this small hotel where I stayed in the summer of 2019, La Posta Vecchia. Built in 1640 and once the residence of J. Paul Getty, this small hotel has only 19 rooms yet is big enough to make you feel like it’s your own villa. As a matter of fact, you feel more like the only resident in some aristocratic mansion than a hotel’s guest. Little did I know that the world would be facing a pandemic in the next few months. The YOLO journal that I found there gave me some hope throughout the pandemic, a beautiful souvenir that reminded me of my time traveling. During our first and longest lockdown, I reached out to Yolanda Edwards (YOLO’s chief editor) to tell her that I loved her magazine so much that I stole it from the hotel. To my surprise, she responded right away, saying 1. I made her choke up, 2. I made her day, and that hotel owner (a friend of hers) would be thrilled I ‘took’ the magazine.
Like most of us during the pandemic, I reflected a lot on my past trips and what the future holds. Somehow, all my travel memories became more vivid, and I have become more nostalgic. The memory of drinking a glass of wine in Italy felt luxurious and irreplaceable. I was also glad that I’d taken one last weekend trip to London right before the pandemic started. Back then, I thought it was maybe a bit crazy going back-to-back to London from California within two weeks since I’d been there for Christmas too, but that last trip, celebrating my birthday, brought my friends and me so many memories that we still talk about it whenever we meet. I remember that moment, deliberating about whether I should go. Luckily, I followed my heart (or that warmth in my chest), sensing that this weekend trip would create another cherished memory.