Austin Insider’s Guide
by Nicole Beckley
“He had this three-story house a few hours south of Paris and he filled it with his travel treasures, like an Egyptian sarcophagus and sperm whale teeth,” Ramona Flume says of Pierre Loti, the eccentric French writer who has inspired the name for her new online travel journal and shop. With collaborator Kelli Nastasi, Flume launched Loti in late October as a way to share photo essays, personal profiles and city guides from around the world. The pair met in Austin in 2008 and became pen pals as they traveled, with Nastasi settling in Paris. Always on the go, Flume shares her favorite escapes for winter adventures.
Cartagena, Colombia—It’s a good winter destination because of its great coastline and there’s lots of jungle. It’s a really short flight. Just paradise.
Pico Bonito National Park, Honduras—It’s an amazing cloud forest, and there are wonderful luxury ecolodges that you can stay in within the protected land. There are jaguars that roam around, and hundreds of endangered bird species.
Round Top, Texas—I love taking road trips. I love little B&Bs in the country. The Prairie, run by Rachel Ashwell, feels like a total recharge and it’s only about an hour and a half away.
ADVICE FROM LENA DUNHAM
On tour for her book Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham made a stop in Austin in October that included a women’s writing workshop for volunteers of the Austin Bat Cave, a non-profit that offers free writing programs for kids. Emily Smith, a current MFA student at Texas State, shares what she learned from the creator of HBO’s hit, Girls.
- Writing is not a self-indulgent act. It can be cathartic individually, but can also be a form of activism.
- Use your voice. Lena’s push was for us to look at writing as a way to connect with other people, specifically other women, and to share experiences and establish a stronger community of women.
- Just keep going. Don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing isn’t worthwhile or what you’re doing isn’t good.
CAVIAR AT WEATHER UP
As the executive chef and new operator (as of October) of Weather Up, and consultant to Mulberry, Kristine Kittrell keeps lots of plates spinning. At East Austin’s Weather Up, she just launched Saturday brunch and added a $45 caviar service. While the menus change seasonally, there’s one thing she always has around the holidays: escargot. “We love to have snails,” Kittrell says, “They’re delicious and they surprise people.” Kittrell serves them in an Indian curry butter with celery and shoestring potatoes. “They’re very versatile, and they don’t take much in terms of cooking at all.” Kittrell recommends preparing the curry butter ahead of time and then adding it to a boiling mixture of white wine and lemon juice before finally tossing in the snails. Pair them with a champagne cocktail and toast to the new year. For more information, visit weatherupnyc.com.
Tessa Halstead knows chocolate. “It’s always been a part of me,” she says. Halstead’s father, Rex Morgan, opened his first chocolate shop in Dallas the year she was born. Three decades later, Halstead is following in his footsteps with Chocolaterie Tessa (which opened November 5), her own shop of handmade artisanal chocolates. Using all-natural French and Belgian chocolate to make truffles and bon-bons, the chocolaterie specializes in gift boxes, but will break out special antique molds for the holidays. Halstead’s favorite? A Santa climbing down a chimney with a bag of toys that her father designed. She says: “Its such a unique mold and it comes best in milk chocolate!” For more information, visit chocolaterietessa.com.
BEN FREEDLAND OF ZINK’S HOLIDAY TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
After spending 11 years in New York working for Burberry, Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana and others, Ben Freedland founded his own brand, ZINK, in 2009. The following year he made Austin the headquarters for ZINK, which specializes in travel-ready durable handcrafted leather bags for men and women. Freedland designed the unisex flat-folding Ferry Weekender bag ($445), part of the newly re-launched “Everyday” collection, with the avid traveler in mind. He let us take a look at what he won’t leave home without this holiday season.
- Shahmina shawl ($475): It makes for a great travel blanket. It’s cashmere, all hand-woven, all organic.
- Liberty Of London sleep mask ($70): I fell in love with this brand in England. This is just an awesome travel mask and it has lavender inside of it.
- “Smoke” fragrance ($60): I get it at my friend’s store in East Austin, Solid Gold. It’s a special and complex smell.
- Botot toothpaste ($11.50): My go-to choice for toothpaste. I like that it was invented in 1755.
- Women’s Wear Daily ($12.50/Month): I’m still old school; I like reading it in print. I’m a big rip the page out kind of person.