Cynthia from The Perfect Life Blog and I became friends several years ago thanks to the world of blogging, and I continue to be inspired daily by her incredibly chic life. Cynthia lives in New York with her equally chic daughter, Alice, and their adorable mini Aussie, Chase. Cynthia and Alice are old souls like myself who appreciate the “old fashioned” pleasures in life… They are gourmet chefs, gardeners, and accomplished needlepointers who are passionate about classic interior design, handwritten notes, and elegant living. Alice is an accomplished pianist, calligrapher, and crocheter who speaks multiple languages. A former model, Cynthia is no stranger to international travel which continues to be one of her passions. She loves traveling the world with her daughter in tow, and I love following their glamorous adventures which always make me think of an old Turner Classic Movie.
A modern-day Hitchcock Blonde, Cynthia makes traveling appear effortless always elegant. In my experience, plane travel these days is anything but elegant, and so I have asked Cynthia to share her secrets and tips…
A: My love of travel most likely started when I was a little girl. My father was an interesting, well traveled man, who always brought home fascinating stories and tales from his exotic trips. Once he went to Turkey and came home with beautiful dangly gold earrings for my mother, and he was so good at describing all the sights and experiences he had. He was like a character from a novel, always wearing a rumpled old trench coat and tweed hat, and I loved the old hard shelled suitcase and briefcase he used to travel with. Wanderlust kicked in early for me, and I really wanted to be like him when I grew up, and to a certain extent I guess I am. Ironically, as a very young adult, I had a job that required a lot of exotic travel, and I didn’t love it at all! I think because I was always leaving loved ones behind. Now I have Miss Alice, who is my built in travel companion, and ever since she was three years old, we have been exploring together. Showing my only child the world and how to travel is a privilege and a pleasure for me.
My favorite places to visit are not surprising! London would have to be my most comfortable and frequently visited city. China and Japan are amazing. Italy though is my favorite country, and I am planning to visit again soon. Last fall took us to the Hotel Adlon in Berlin for a few days. Last summers’ stay in Oxford at The Old Bank Hotel was lovely, and made class very accessible. In the U.S. I have a bucket list that is a mile high, and would love to see every part of our beautiful country. We love to visit friends in Northern Virginia horse country, and we stay at The Red Fox Inn in Middleburg. We love Wellington and Palm Beach in winter and stay at The Colony. The Beverly Hills Hotel in L.A. is Alice’s favorite. Vail is our usual ski destination in the States, and we love the Sonnenalp. I love skiing Lech, Austria as well. The classic all-American road trip would have to be my favorite way to explore. Nothing beats hitting the open road with Miss Alice at my side, great music to listen to, Cinnabon in hand, and no set itinerary. Uncharted bliss… Chase has been quietly smuggled into so many hotels, partially zipped in my duffel more times than you could imagine.
That said, one of the nicest travel experiences of the last year was a quick drive upstate to charming Saugerties New York. Alice and I had just returned home to NYC from Paris, and friends invited us to the horse show held there all summer called Hits On The Hudson. We threw some rumpled clothes into one bag, and stayed in a Comfort Inn. We watched movies all night, bought chips and cheap coffee at a convenience store, rode all day, and met a big group of friends for burgers and fries at a charming unpretentious little bar/restaurant on Main Street. It was the highlight of our summer!
Q: When in England, where do you like to stay, eat, shop, explore?
A: When visiting London we have a tradition that can not be deviated from! Staying at Claridge’s is non-negotiable. The whole process of checking in, then taking a bath in one of their massive marble tubs just makes me feel at home, and is transformative. Having a drink at The Fumoir before dinner or bed every night is maybe my favorite part. Its always a James Bond in Moscow. The Club Sandwich is my go-to.
Of course, like everyone, I am beyond sad that Colefax and Fowler on Brook Street has closed. Stopping in, or just checking out the window display was always a part of my London ritual. The Wolseley is a favorite place to have dinner. Alice loves their Croustade of Quail Eggs and Hollandaise. Dinner at Sketch was a new experience for us on our last trip. La Petite Maison is a favorite spot. Alice is obsessed with the Turkish Delight from Fortnum and Mason.
Q: Sadly these days, travel is anything but glamorous. However, you always travel with such style… straight out of a Turner Classic Movie! What are your tips for maintaining elegance when you travel?
A: In summer often I wear a little black knit dress and cork soled wedge sandals for flying. I always wear a hat, sunglasses, a wrist watch, and a few scarves. In winter, black flare leggings, a turtleneck and leather jacket. Alice always wears leggings, ankle boots, t- shirt and blazer. I can’t fly without my mini Evian spray bottles and a mini container of Nivea. Alice does a full in-flight beauty routine.
Q: Do you carry on or check your bags? I never can seem to squeeze everything I need into carry on bags, especially the liquids! Any tips?
A: More and more I try to carry on only, but if I am going somewhere for an extended period of time, I do check bags. I usually check a duffel bag full of big things like coats, and the items I know I could live without if the worst would happen. Always I tuck my favorite pair of shoes in the carry on, and then put the less beloved pairs in the checked luggage.
Where liquids are concerned, I just collect a lot of mini bottles and sample containers of the products I always use when I can. Alice orders little containers on Amazon and also decants our fragrances into mini travel atomizers, or I just take sample size bottles.
Q: What is your preferred luggage, and which pieces work best for which trips? Which pieces are worth an investment, and where can one skimp?
A: When I was in my 20s, my then husband surprised a very casual, young, bohemian me with a Louis Vuitton Keepall duffel for my birthday. When Alice was two, I got my beloved LV train case, and it has been one of my favorite travel pieces. The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs West Virginia was its first destination, and I remember being so excited to pack it full of my things. Back then it was a string of pearls and Fracas perfume. Having it made me feel like such a glamorous grown-up. Like a Hitchcock Blond! There I was a brand new mother with a cherubic toddler and a sleek new train case! Life and my style have changed so dramatically for me over the years, but I still adore it, and love all the wear and patina it has acquired. I have a very worn out garment bag that needs to be repaired before I use it again, and my most used piece is my rolling carry-on suitcase, Pégase Légère. I was the last person on the planet to get wheels! They looked so modern and aesthetically wrong to my critical eye. Really I used to carry on a duffel and arrive with a sore shoulder and red marks for days. But now I’m hooked of course.
Alice loves her Globe Trotter luggage, and has a beautiful Safari train case and carry-on size suitcase. They look so absolutely gorgeous stacked on the luggage rack in her room. Since we never have enough storage space at home, it is convenient to keep our cases semi-stocked for the next trip. Miss Alice tends to pack very carefully, often wrapping her things in scented tissue paper.
We also have a few giant black canvas duffel bags for long trips that I have stenciled with our initials with white acrylic paint. They are very easy to spot on the baggage carousel and I also have a darling Lilly Pulitzer for Target overnight bag. Its great for a short weekend trip to someplace tropical and warm.
Q: How do you pack for your trips? Do you have go-to outfits and shoes you recommend? I’m always looking for the perfect shoe for daytime sightseeing that is both comfortable and chic.
A: It depends on the trip. There are times when I have a well thought out idea, and pack heavily and carefully, and times, like last week when I truly just threw some things into one carry-on and hoped for the best. Sometimes that’s the best way to go.
What I can not be casual about is my skin care and medicine. Since I have a very sensitive complexion, I always need to have my basics since I can’t risk using any old product, and am a fanatic about not forgetting medicines.
D. Porthault jewelry rounds are always tucked in my carry on handbag, and lingerie bags in the carry-on. Shoes are always covered in dust bags which I keep folded and stacked in the closet, and I always have lots of spare ziplock baggies.
Because in real life, I love to wear black, the black dress, trouser, top, shoe concept really works for me. Throw in some black tights and a scarf and I am perfectly dressed and comfortable. If I had to only take one outfit, it would be a black silk shirt, narrow trouser, black pump combination. Then I throw in a really pretty colorful dress.
I wish I had the perfect shoe to recommend for sightseeing. I honestly don’t think it exists….at least not in my book! Since I have an achilles tendon issue, I feel best in a bit of a heel, but I always keep a spare pair of flip flops or Chanel ballerina flats in the purse.
I would say I scrimp on nightwear, taking just a tiny camisole or tissue thin caftan for sleeping. Both take up very little room in the suitcase, and a caftan can double up as pool wear as well. I can not scrimp on shoes, however! I tried to on our last trip, and It was a disaster. So I ended up shoe shopping.
Q: What souvenirs, if any, do you like to collect from your travels?
A: Collecting tiny cheap touristy souvenirs is O.K. in my book! Anything from little jade turtles from China, to a silly ash tray from a tourist shop in Paris that I fill with coins and euros and keep on my desk, to even just a simple pharmacy product. I am always impressed when friends buy art or antiques to bring back home, but honestly my senses and pocketbook are always so overloaded when traveling, I don’t have much desire to buy, so I don’t, though a floppy big brimmed hat bought in New Orleans last year has become so incredibly beloved and indispensable I can’t even imagine life without it! I’m always looking around New York for a similar style, and haven’t found anything even close to its perfection. It reminds me of last year’s boyfriend, sugary beignets, staying at the beautiful Soniat House, all the fun and romance of the trip and the beautiful rainy evening when it was impulsively bought to keep me warm and dry. Alice loved that I brought home a tiny Kings Cake for her, and keeps the tiny plastic baby on her bedside table. I firmly believe in silly little thoughtful tokens.
We also love to bring home a box of chocolate or candy, often just from the airport. Its fun to break open a box for a dinner party, as it always starts such a great conversation. Should I be ashamed of myself for admitting that an occasional hotel notepad, or pen or bathmat sometimes sneaks into my suitcase?
Q: Any other fun tips you would like to share?
A: Alice always used to write letters to herself on hotel stationery, and she keeps them in a special box, tied with ribbon, like a travel diary that just happens to be very tactile and pretty. Travel with an open mind. Room Service is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Don’t be afraid to be lazy, or not have a big touristy agenda. Its not always fun to line up to see things, is it? Of course the masterpieces of any city or place have to be done, but excessive sightseeing can be exhausting and self defeating! Just soak up the vibe of where you are, chat with locals, sleep in for goodness sake, and choose one special thing to find or do per day only.
I always take a paperback to read, a black bikini, Emergency C packets, stamps, and hand sanitizer.
Keep a diary, and pack a sketchbook.