Report from the Road

I can’t begin to describe this trip. Let me just toss out a few details.

— My hotel suite at Cranwell is much bigger than my apartment. I have four sinks, two full baths, a sitting room, a deck and an assortment of robes in various sizes. I wish you were all here.
— When I check in yesterday I found a silver platter of chocolate-covered strawberries and grapes and a bottle of wine in my room. Tonight, about 30 seconds after I walked in my door (no idea how they knew), a cute boy was at my door with a new platter with cookies, strawberries, shortbread and grapes and a little bottle of Grand Marnier. I had a moment of thinking, “I wonder what he’d do if I said, ‘Why don’t you come on in and share this with me?” How funny/cliche would that be?
— Last night we had dinner at Blantyre, which I will have to describe in more detail later because it was so stunning. But I will mention that we had one attendant per person as we ate.
— My goody bags overfloweth

What I was thinking tonight as I laid in my whirlpool bath is that I can see how journalists can get into trouble on a beat like this. From time to time you hear about someone who gets into a ton of trouble, be it job trouble, money trouble, ethical trouble when s/he surrenders to the pull of trying to live like the people s/he covers. Blantyre was a dream. A total dream. A place most people never get to see (it’s very private). But the manager was so charming, so wonderful, so friendly and fun to be around and she kept saying, “I hope you will come back and visit us.” And it starts to feel like it really would be a terrible shame if I didn’t.

Now there are two ways I can do that. The first is to pay for it. But rooms at Blantyre start at about $600/night, and of course I saw far more lovely rooms that I would like to try that clocked in at about $1250/night. And that’s before I eat in the crazy expensive restaurant or partake of the spa amenities.

The other is to just call up the manager and say, “My husband and I would like to come see you.” I have no doubt she would throw wide the doors and comp us to a pull-out-the-stops weekend. But, see, then I’m in a pay-for-play where I have, at least tacitly, promised to put Blantyre in the magazine or on the web site. And that is the kind of thing that gets you fired, not to mention evil and wrong.

You may ask: How is that different from what you’re doing now? Which is valid. When I worked at CNN we were vigilant to never take anything that rose above the level of a tchotchke. But at a women’s mag that covers, for example, beauty products, there is a need to try a lot of product. And there is a very clear understanding all around that people are free to send us products (or we may request them) and that we may or may not try them, and we may or may not write about them, and we may or may not praise them. I haven’t made any promises of coverage for this trip, and won’t cover some of the things that I’ve seen that I didn’t love. This trip was arranged and is paid by the Massachusetts Department of Tourism. They take the approach that this stuff is great and that if we see it, we’ll love at least some of it and give it some attention. But we definitively don’t have to do anything. Now, of course, if we consistently accept trips and then do nothing we will stop getting invitations. Which is really fine because if we’re doing nothing consistently then it means we’re not seeing stuff we can use. And then it’s a waste of time anyway.

I’m making it sound like I’ll get a lot of trips, which is not true. I’ll be lucky to do something like this every few years, I think. But the beauty editor gets crazy invites all the time. I only got this one because she couldn’t go. Maybe I’ll save her some of the cookies

———————————————————————————On the nightstand: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin


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