Apple on the Town
Travel tips from the star New York Times reporter and bon vivant
R. W. Apple J.R., whose travel article about eastern Germany, "The Old Made New," appears in this issue, is one of the world's great bon vivants. He is also among this country's best-known political reporters. As Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, Apple keeps up a hectic pace: since January he has often visited several states a week as he covers his eighth presidential campaign.
On the weekends he does not necessarily retreat to his Georgetown home. When we reached him recently, he outlined his Friday plans: appearing on a panel on China policy at James Baker's new Institute for Public Policy, at Rice University, in Houston; attending the Houston Grand Opera's production of Four Saints in Three Acts that night; and dining at Cafe Annie, the city's most acclaimed restaurant, afterward. Saturday morning he would get on a plane for Iowa to cover the caucuses. "I guess I'm different from most," he said in a notable understatement, "in that my idea of relaxation after returning from a journalistic trip has always been to plan a pleasure trip."
Wherever he goes, Apple, whose guidebook Apple's Europe is cherished by travelers, seems to find the most interesting cultural and culinary sites. He gave us some tips.
• "In a new city never be too proud to take a half-day bus tour as an introduction; you will quickly discover what you want to see more of and what bores you."
• "Just as good cooking is at least fifty percent good shopping, so good travel requires good preparation—reading, studying maps, talking to friends and acquaintances who have been where you're going. It's astonishing how many people never do these obvious things."
• "Use the concierge—and if you want tickets to the opera or the theater or a concert or a game, call or fax the concierge from home. If he or she comes through, tip generously."
• "Off the beaten track I take with me a small pepper mill (to enliven bland grub) and my Sony shortwave radio. It's amazing how many places don't have CNN and don't sell the International Herald-Tribune or the Financial Times."
When we asked him what he thought was the most surprising thing about Eastern Europe since the fall of communism (which he covered for the Times), Apple replied, "How long it is taking them to learn how to cook again." Better pack that pepper mill.