WIDE SEA | NO ANCHOR meets Alexandra De Aristegui…
WIDE SEA | NO ANCHOR meets Alexandra De Aristegui…
Alexandra de Aristegui was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and is half Spanish and half Lebanese. She works as a Gilt Trader at Nomura. She is passionate about cooking, food and politics.
Why is travel important to you?
Travelling is fundamental for our sanity; we are all curious beings, so it is completely natural that we would want to travel to see other parts of the world.
Travelling is eye-opening as it lets you experience various aspects of other cultures: the people, the food, the art… You should travel as much as possible, or, even better, live in as many countries as possible!
Tell me about your first time abroad
I know that as a baby I went to Majorca, but I don’t really remember it!
My first trip that I remember well was spending Christmas in Jordan when I was just four. On the day we were to leave, it was total madness at our house as we lost our tickets!
I remember thinking just how organised everything was in Jordan, as if it was a European country. At that time I was living in Lebanon, which had just barely started the reconstruction after the war, so everything there was a little bit chaotic!
I also remember the Dead Sea very well, especially just how much the salty water stung my fingertips. I used to bite my nails, and they constantly bled, which meant that swimming in the sea was a bit of an agony!
I went back to Jordan fifteen years later. One day we stayed overnight in the desert with some Bedouins, which is one of my most beautiful and tranquil travel experiences! We ate lamb cooked under the sand, and it was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. In my eyes, any desert is absolutely gorgeous. There is something inexplicably peaceful about being in any desert…
What is the most unusual place that you have been to?
I really loved Morocco, but the country shocked me! The first time I went to Marrakech, we stayed in the medina, since we wanted a more authentic experience. And I did feel like I travelled back in time! Sometimes you read Arabic fairy tales, and you wonder where they get such imaginative and exotic ideas… But when you find yourself in the medina, you realise that people there are stuck in time. The whole experience is a throwback 100 or more years back: a huge labyrinth of little winding alleyways, the pleasantly pungent smell of the spices (and other not so pleasant smells), the never-ending hustle and bustle as the locals go about their daily routines. And the food is out of this world; every time I go to Morocco, I gain at least five kilos! The tagines, the pigeon pastillas… basically I love every single dish that they have on offer!
But the highlight of the whole Morocco experience were the people: they were so warm and welcoming!
What about the most beautiful place?
I feel very sentimental about my one and only trip to Rome; I went there with my mother when I was 13 and I absolutely fell in love with the stunning Italian capital. There was euphoria in the air and something inexplicably magical about that city!
I have not been there since, because I am a little scared to ruin my amazing memories if I revisit it. It is almost like reading a book as a child that changed your conception of life, where you think that if you ever read it again you would perceive it totally differently.
What was your most recent destination?
I have just been to Istanbul, a city that I thought was outrageously beautiful: a mixture of ottoman and European architecture, the mighty Bosphorus splitting the city in two, excellent food! It was my first time there, and I was not really expecting to be so mesmerised by it!
The whole experience was very tiring, but in the best possible way. The city is absolutely huge, and no matter how much time you spend there, it will never feel like enough. I would love to go back there when it’s a little hotter!
How many countries have you been to?
Four continents, but I am not sure how many countries… perhaps twenty-thirty? I have never counted them. I really do not think you should count anything in life, its bad luck! I think, in general, we waste too much time counting things
Do you collect souvenirs?
My roommate has recently started collecting refrigerator magnets, so now we have a little collection going! I forgot to get one in India, so she got a little mad; I had to get one from Amazon.com to make up for it…
What country has the best food?.
The Basque Country! You might think that this opinion is biased, since I am originally from there, but it is not…
I think that San Sebastian is the ultimate foodie destination… It is a stunning town with an enviable seaside location and an abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants. A restaurant you must try is called Arzac, but make sure you book far in advance!
But even from a tapas restaurant that has no name you can get the most delicious food, like beautiful tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes should, and the freshest fish and the most tender meat. The Basque people do not use many sauces, it is all about the quality of ingredients!
What is your idea of a perfect getaway?
A perfect getaway is a mixture of three ingredients: beautiful beaches, hot weather, and delicious food. If I had to pick one place right now, it would be Corsica! The scenery looks stunning and the food is delicious.
When I am deciding what my next travel destination will be, food is a fundamental criteria. In fact, the first thing I research is where I am going to have lunch and dinner; and if they tell me that the food is not good in the country, and still even if they have the most beautiful sights, I will refuse to go!
For me pure happiness when travelling is having a glass of wine with a delicious meal and a beautiful view: it really does not get much better than this!
What has been your favourite hotel?
I loved The House Hotel Bosphorus in Istanbul. It is a small, very traditional boutique hotel right on the Bosphorus with gorgeous rooms and the most hospitable staff. It has the most romantic restaurant right next to the water, where sitting at some tables you can literally touch the water. Having dinner there on my first night in the city was absolutely breath-taking. I also absolutely loved the Mandarin Oriental in Miami.
However, in general, I go for small hotels since the whole experience is very personal and such places keep a sense of home. When you stay in a small hotel that you like, you do really feel like you have uncovered a little treasure!
Tell me a special story from your travels…
When I was in India, we stayed in a really beautiful wellness retreat in the Himalayas. We witnessed a small ceremony to open the eyes of a Buddha statue, a ritual undertaken to consecrate a new statue by putting a soul into it. They put flowers on top of the statue and they invite their spiritual leader, a monk, to open its eyes. I am not a particularly religious or spiritual person, but I found the whole scene very emotionally evocative. As I was passing by, the monk looked me in the eyes, and I saw that there was so much kindness in his face and so much faith in the world! I looked at him for a little bit, and I thought that everything was going to be alright…
What are your next travel destinations?
I am going to Lebanon to spend Christmas with my family. And in March I am travelling to South Africa with my boyfriend and some friends! We are going to Johannesburg, Cape Town and, of course, we are doing a safari and wine tasting. I think it is important to squeeze in at least one faraway, exotic destination per year!