Dying to visit: I never met a souk or bazaar I didn't love, I would like to do markets in Iran, Burma, and Papua New Guinea (I recently saw some very good treasures form there).
Bizarre travel rituals: Where do I begin? I Always arrive extra early to airport, always sit in row one, aisle seat, always start taking grapefruit seed extract (the elixir of all elixirs) a week before travel. I am an obsessively organized and an early packer. I bring a stocked medical kit and have often been called to Florence Nightingale by traveling companions.
In-flight relaxation regime: I am not a relaxed flyer. I alert the flight attendants to my issues, mainly that I need reassurance during turbulence because unstable air freaks me out. I also take Ambien on long flights. I eat before I board, but always arrange to have the dessert (usually the ice cream sundae) delivered to me before I fall asleep. I always have Star von Bunny, my plush rabbit book character, with me in the seat. If the seat next to me is empty, she gets her own.
Always in carry-on: Ambien, grapefruit seed elixir, enough other drugs to open a CVS, and Star von Bunny.
Concierge or DIY? Always concierge for special hook-ups and insights, then DIY. See it all or take it easy? See it all while taking it easy. Love to have crazy busy days and relax in five-star comforts with room service and weird TV at night. For me, the hotel is as important as the destination.
Drive or be driven? Be driven. I don't even have a driver's license.
Travel hero: My journalist friend Ann Marlowe, who has done 18 trips to Afghanistan embedding herself with the United States Army, In another life, I want to be a war reporter and not a shopping travel princess.
Weirdest thing seen on travels: In 1999, the man in line ahead of me at the airport in Beijing could not understand why he could not bring his gun on the plane. Sitting in the lobby of the Oberoi in Mumbai recently, not realizing I was sitting next to the Emir of Qatar until 15 men walked up and kissed his hand. Seeing a dead body being carried to be cremated in Varanasi, India. Flying home two weeks ago when a man on the plane got smashed on his duty free booze and hit a flight attendant.
Best hotel amenity: The pillow and sheets at any Peninsula Hotel. The bed is like a cloud, and, if you stay there enough, they will monogram your initials on the pillowcases.
I dream about my meal when its room service breakfast in France. Real eggs, real butter, fresh baked croissants, and great strong coffee. It's heaven.
Everywhere I go, I check out the drugstore. When I first started traveling, I used to buy all my beauty products, like Nivea cream, in foreign countries so the packaging was in foreign languages, especially Arabic. I thought this made me seem sophisticated and exotic.
When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by calling a friend of a friend ? I have them in every city ? and inviting them for drinks and convincing them to become my personal fixer.
I always bring home textiles and fabric to make pillows and recover furniture that never seems to happen. Jewelry, tunics, caftans, slippers if applicable, antique objects that could probably be referred to as junk. Random photographs, beauty products. I am always shopping for holiday gifts, regardless of whether it is July or December. I am a sucker for baby lambs and goats and always want to adopt.
I travel for the life experience, local culture, and the shopping.