Travel editor Tim Magee recounts three happy travel accidents he’s had recently …
Watching airports slowly reopen and then being overrun like the shopping mall in Dawn of the Dead made me realise that I’ve been really lucky so far. Late summer 2022 and I’m counting zero bad travel experiences and, for some reason, zero Covid. This run will surely end. By the time this magazine is on the shelves I fully expect to test positive while being stranded at Luton, with food poisoning, surrounded by Millwall fans. There is some instinct and experience abetting my escapes – using regional airports, picking departure times, when possible, that are less likely to implode – but mostly I’m just Mr Jammy McJammypants. When I’ve missed a flight, by design I end up in a groundbreaking restaurant in a capital city not known for anything of the kind. Or being “trapped” in the penthouse of another’s grandest hotel. Here are three happy travel accidents I’ve had recently.
MAYDAN, WASHINGTON DC.
Figuring a connecting flight to Dulles would be late, making the last leg home a long shot, I had a plan B for DC. Always a sucker for its classic haunts where martinis and menus look and taste exactly like they did when Jack and Bobby ran the town, things are changing now because of a delicious new foreign edge about the place. Ethiopian, Mexican, Korean, Malaysian, Peruvian, Thai, West African, Taiwanese and Japanese crackers are joining the dots to the oyster houses and red sauce joints, building a very different edible map. Maydan’s hard-to-find door is a portal into a Michelin-starred fire festival with the best restaurant playlist I’ve heard, matching the sparky Middle Eastern and North African delights on the menu. With food better than anything of its kind in LA, New York or even London, Maydan has a wine list with an ethos – that usually inane word – that is actually changing how people drink and think of wine. They’re behind the Go There Wines programme: these aren’t just wines with gorgeous stories about the kind of people that the GOP would like to ban but are that most important thing – delicious. A wife and wife wine-making couple who are California’s first Native American wine producers. A black South African woman winemaker. Refugee winemakers in exile whose bottles read I Will Make Wine In Syria Again. Maydan isn’t some quiet preachy temple though – it’s loud and bold and fiery. The only mistake you can make here is not arriving with a group big enough so you can order everything. www.maydandc.com.
THE MAKER, HUDSON NY.
I was fighting with Google maps, lost while driving, not a new thing. The app is often right, I believe possibly sentient and at times acts with malice. My short cut brought me closer to Hudson, New York than Westport, Connecticut. An easy enough mistake to make. A mistake I’d make any time as it eventually brought me to The Maker, a 19th-century mansion, old carriage store and ex-supermarket blended into one bohemian mash-up by the original founders of Fresh cosmetics, Lev Glazman and Aline Roytberg, in their very first hotel. They’re naturals. It’s like staying in a friend’s house if that friend had the most sublime taste and was minted. They’ve designed the eclectic interiors themselves, with work from local Hudson Valley craftsmen, antiques and vintage pieces, an impressive art collection and books everywhere, selected in partnership with New York’s famous Strand Bookstore. I’d go back just for the gym, an impressive Moulin Rouge by way of Fossett’s Circus series of dramatic rooms, as far from the idea of the average poky hotel fitness centre as possible. Many things are for sale, from the beds and their lush linens to the lace-engraved martini glasses in the handsome bar, to candles and perfumes. Hudson has become the East Coast’s Palm Springs. As a celebration of makers – writers, artists, gardeners, crafters, cooks – The Maker makes quite the mark. www.themaker.com.
THE BEAUMONT, LONDON. I was in London last February taking a punt that storm-buffeted airports would close. I was a guest of The Beaumont, that quietly luxurious, clever Art Deco dream that opened in 2014 but feels like a grand old gent that has just been sympathetically refurbished. My travel-addled brain still starts trilling at updating flight info so at the first sign of trouble I asked if I could get a rate for another night. The Beaumont apologetically said I’d need to move rooms. I wasn’t expecting it to be into my own private period apartment. Having dinner sent up from the clubby Colony Grill Room and cocktails from the Magritte Bar, catching up on movies with the sound system competing with the record-breaking winds shrieking around the Mayfair rooftops, created an accidental evening of happiness. For attention to detail and the seductive purr of London’s finest, if you have bobs then The Beaumont is your rich uncle. www.thebeaumont.com.