Fathom Questionnaire

Meet the Writer: Rosecrans Baldwin

by Rosecrans Baldwin

Hometown: Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Occupation: Writer, editor, creative writing instructor.

Favorite destinations: Paris, always. When we lived in Paris, we couldn't afford to eat out much, so we tried to make each time count. My favorite resto right now is Le Petit Vatel, on Rue Lobineau, in the 6th arrondissement. It's a tiny, wonderful family restaurant, with dishes changing based on the chef's whim. A very Parisian, local place to go — the ordinary extraordinary.

Otherwise, I'll take almost any part of California. Two weeks ago, my wife and I drove most of the length of California, from Sonoma Valley down to our friends' house in Ojai, outside Santa Barbara. We spent two nights at Anderson Inn, a very nice little motel in a fishing and surf village called Morro Bay. Our room overlooked the water. There were seals barking all day long. The weather was crappy with lots of rain, but we had a fireplace. I'd go back there tomorrow.

Dying to visit: Tokyo. My wife and I have a standing pact with a musician friend who has toured Japan with his band and lived in Osaka for a stint, that he'll guide us around for a week if we cover his plane ticket.

Bizarre travel rituals: I've listened to Richard Hawley on every plane I've flown on since 2007. There's something about his voice, the big droopy guitar sounds in his songs, that settles me. I don't listen to music at home on headphones very often, so plane travel's a chance for me to really sink into songs.

In-flight relaxation regime: Alcohol if it's free, otherwise Diet Coke. But I learned recently that flight attendants hate pouring Diet Coke because the bubbles take forever to settle at high altitudes, so probably now I'll feel guilty about it and order apple juice.

Always in carry-on: Sneakers. To go hiking, running, whatever. And those Starbucks instant coffee sachets. They're not bad, and most hotel coffee is mulch.

Concierge or DIY? Yelp. I was recently in Paris, Texas, and Yelp pointed me to a wonderful Tex Mex place (La Familia Mexican Restaurant) where I ate some of the better nachos of my life. This was after I'd asked a girl at reception of my motel if there were any Tex Mex places nearby and she said, "There's a Chili's."

See it all or take it easy? Take it easy. Find the downtown, order a coffee outside, read the local paper while the locals go about their business. I love a small-town police report blotter.

Drive or be driven? Drive, with local radio.

Travel hero: Graham Greene. He lived, he wrote, he moved — he couldn't seem to do one without the other two. I identify with that. He also whored a lot, which is not my bag. But I appreciate the rest.

Weirdest thing seen on travels: A herd of gazelles stampeding in the dark that I could barely see but could hear quite clearly thundering around about 50 feet in front of me, as I tried to get back to my motel from a pub. This was late at night in the countryside in South Africa, a couple hours' drive from Durban. I was convinced I'd be run over. Death by springbok.

Best hotel amenity: Real water glasses. If a hotel/motel uses glass instead of plastic cups, they care more about your stay. But I'll also take an outdoor swimming pool.

I dream about my meal at: My first thought is Air France, a direct flight I took one time from Paris to Geneva. The in-flight food in economy class was perfectly good, the champagne bottle was kept open, and the service was quick. Air travel has become so awful, it's always a surprise when it's fun.

Then there's the little outdoor restaurant by the docks in Riomaggiore, Italy, part of Cinque Terre. I was on a teaching gig and we stayed in Riomaggiore three nights, a coastal village of multicolored homes stacked on top of one another. Every night I got the same meal: orchiette with a little cream, tomatoes, and crab. Incredible.

Everywhere I go, I check out the: I don't really have a set routine, but I do like post offices because I write a lot of postcards. If you ask nicely, they'll use the actual location's postmark, rather than the bland federal sticker or whatever. 

When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by walking, walking, walking, getting lost, walking, walking, getting lost, etc.

I always bring home dirty laundry. Some friends of mine are intrepid, hitting up local laundromats or washing their underwear in a motel sink, but I'm much too lazy.

If I never return to Las Vegas, it'll be too soon because I would like to visit 6000 other places first before returning to Las Vegas.

I travel for the travel's sake. I love to travel. It's extraordinary that we live in an age when it only takes a few hours to go almost anywhere.



Book excerpt from Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down

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