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I am always impressed with Jennifer. Not only is she a mother, the hardest job in the world imho, but she founded and runs Britmums.com, writes her own travel blog, and is from Texas! I was lucky enough to meet her at the first Traverse Mingle (a travel-blogger friendly cocktail party) I ever attended. There she was welcoming in the newbies of the blogging world and I was caught in her net. That was about three years ago and since then she has become a dear friend. She has even invited me to contribute to BritMums – my Best Bits of Cyprus. a real treat. Here below she lets us in on her Best Bits.
Where do you feel you really “savored the authentic” in your travels?
I think you can savour the authentic on any trip simply by exploring, talking to people and doing what the natives do. In Ubud that meant getting a massage at the place recommended by a local friend (still the best I’ve ever had). In Taos, that means climbing Wheeler Peak. In Tokyo, that meant eating yakitori by the station and meeting a bus driver. In the Cotswolds, that means attending the annual point-to-point horse races. I don’t feel too worried about whether an experience is authentic as long as it’s interesting and engaging.
Where do you feel you experienced the most luxurious travel bit – depending on your own definition of luxury?
Japan, specifically Kyoto, specifically the Hotel Kanra Kyoto. The exoticness of the city, the manners, the customs and the food combine to create a transformative experience. The hotel combines modern Kyoto design with traditional tatami mats, cypress tubs and serene rooms. The moment we arrived at Hotel Kanra, Tabitha at the front desk sat with us for 45 minutes discussing what we wanted to do on our visit, making suggestions for drinks and dinner and arranging a car, even advising us on the menus and the level of English spoken. We had dinner at Sakuragawa, a kaiseki restaurant where we ate superb, intricate dishes that are Japan’s version of haute cuisine. We’d had a problem finding the bar recommended by the hotel beforehand, and when we arrived back (to relax in our yukata – light Japanese dressing gowns), there was a small gift outside our door: a little lacquered box filled with hard candy, accompanied by a note from Tabitha, apologizing for the mixup and wishing us a good stay. It was an unnecessary but thoughtful gesture that summed up the grace with which we were being hosted.
What keeps you going back to your favorite haunt/city/Best Bit?
I love to return over and over to certain places until I know my way round by feel. The things my favourite places have in common are beautiful, natural settings, interesting architecture, great food and a distinct culture.
If you had to pick one anywhere in the world, what would be your following Best Bits:
Best Bed – I’m a big fan of the Four Seasons – my husband and I stayed at the one in New York the night we got married. My favourite locations: The flagship in Toronto, which features loads of Canadian art; the New York one, which is pure Manhattan chic; the London ones on Hyde Park and Canary Wharf and the Paris hotel, featuring head florist Jeff Leatham’s dramatic flower arrangements.
Best Bite – My family loves barbecue and in the words of my stepson, “If it’s at just a regular restaurant, I don’t want to go.” We’ve waited hours to eat at Franklin’s, named the best barbecue in America and haunted small towns with famous pitmasters. Last summer we continued our quest by getting up at 7am, driving an hour outside of Austin and queuing for barbecue at Snow’s, in the little town of Lexington, Texas. Smoky ribs, brisket that collapses when you touch it with your fork, tart pickles, even a beer if you fancy it at 10 in the morning. You have to get there early because it’s all gone by noon. Seriously.
Best Brew – There are so many! One of my absolute favourites is the Met Roof Garden Bar, on top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It’s a casual open-air bar overlooking Central Park, often with sculpture installations. I wait every year for warm weather so I can have a glass of crisp white wine while watching the sunset.
Another don’t miss: the hot chocolate at Angelina in Paris. Mind-blowingly rich.
Best Binge – Food. Buying local delicacies is surely one of the best aspects of travel and cheese is at the top of the list. In Bologna we stumbled upon a shop that sold nothing but parmesan. I bought a wedge to bring home. If only the entire wheel could have fit in my suitcase!
Where have you left your heart?
The year I spent in Paris cemented a childhood infatuation into a lifelong love affair. It’s perfect to visit with girlfriends, delightful to explore with children and, of course, wonderfully romantic to see with a lover. Even loneliness is something to savour here.
Jennifer Howze is an award-winning journalist and co-founder of BritMums, the UK’s largest parent blogging network. She blogs about family travel with flair on her personal blog Jenography.net. Previously she worked as The Times’ Online Lifestyle Editor and Alpha Mummy blogger and has written for Travel+Leisure, Frommer’s Budget Travel, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Independent and Yahoo Travel, among others. She contributed to the book ‘Standing Up to Supernanny’ and Frommer’s Budget Travel ‘Secret Hotels of Cornwall’.