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Fathom Questionnaire: Christina Ohly

by Christina Ohly

Fathom Questionnaire: Christina Ohly

Hometown: Currently NYC, but I consider London home as well. I was born in Washington, DC, but raised in Woodstock, Vermont.

Occupation: Writer and consultant.

Favorite destinations: Too many to mention. Italy: both city (Rome, Florence) and country (Umbria, Tuscany, Ischia, Amalfi anywhere); France: Paris, near St. Remy; Spain; Harbour Island, Bahamas; most of New England but particularly coastal Rhode Island; California, both south (I love LA) and north (SF, Santa Barbara, Napa).

Dying to visit: India, Mozambique, Argentina, Fogo Island, the Scottish Highlands, and Shanghai. Again, the list is endless.

Bizarre travel rituals: I pack so much food because you never know and I can't stand gross, processed foods. In my cold sack, you'll find fruit, vegetables, Wasa crackers, and cheese sticks. I've clearly been stuck on one tarmac too many. I also start packing (clothes, not food) many days in advance, then edit the bag at least three times leading up to the trip.

In-flight relaxation regime: Watching an entire season of something mindless (cooking shows, anything BBC, any of the Real Housewives) on my iPad on long-haul flights. I read stacks of magazines and newspapers — fashion and travel top the list, but I love it all, from international editions of Vogue to The FT to cheesy celeb weeklies and back issues of The New Yorker.

Always in carry-on: BlackBerry; disinfecting hand wipes; snacks (Zone bars, crackers, gum); Le Métier de Beauté lip gloss; hair ties; and a wallet with pictures of my kids, cash, and my lucky charm — a horseshoe pin given to me by my grandmother.

Concierge or DIY? DIY for most things, especially flights because I tend to change them and like dealing with airlines directly. I am happy to outsource restaurants to a hotel person, though OpenTable has changed the playing field.

See it all or take it easy? See it all. I am not so great at relaxing and I hate to miss a meal, a shop, an experience.

Drive or be driven? Both. I love taxis and taxi drivers, as they provide so much local color, history, and great food knowledge — though, of course, this is destination-specific.

Travel hero: My husband. He can get stuck in China, do weird back-to-back redeyes via L.A. and Dallas, and still remain cheerful. He doesn't get flustered, doesn't freak out about the weather, and is always kind. He just goes with the global travel flow.

Weirdest thing seen on travels: I've seen some seriously bad behavior on the NYC to Florida flight routes. It is amazing to see the screaming, yelling, and bad manners that people will throw at an unsuspecting flight attendant. But the weirdest/saddest was seeing a drug mule pulled off a plane. It was later explained to us that law enforcement can spot mules because they are so uncomfortable in Western clothing and are often wearing new shoes. The poor guy looked beyond terrified; it was all quite a circus.

Best hotel amenity: Packed lunches for the plane at Curtain Bluff, Antigua; wellies and mud gear at The Mayflower Inn and Spa, Washington, Connecticut; the freshest fruit plates at The Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy.

I dream about my meals at Zuma in London (I love their black miso cod and robata grill dishes) and The Polo Lounge in LA (chopped salads are divine). I even love a simple plate of lentils at NYC's Fairway Cafe or the best poppy seed bagels in the world at 72nd Street Bagels on the Upper West Side. It's a dive but totally delicious!

Everywhere I go I check out the food markets — from supermarkets to farmer's markets to bakeries, butchers, cheesemongers.

When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by walking, eating in restaurants full of local color, and talking to taxi drivers.

I always bring home some article of clothing reminiscent of a country, a piece of jewelry, and a Christmas tree ornament or two for my family's tree. I always forget the fruit in my bag, which doesn't go over too well at customs these days.

If I never return to Russia, it'll be too soon because I almost starved to death there. I am a big consumer of fruit and vegetables and these were fairly tough to come by.

I travel for the local color. I love hearing people's stories, seeing their daily routines, and learning about their cultures.

Christina, a Fathom contributing editor, writes about travel, food, fashion, and design for the Financial Times' How to Spend It, Town & Country, and Conde Nast Traveler. She travels the world to teach her kids (and herself) about the world around them.

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