Go Away With … Jessica Pimentel

Jessica Pimentel

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
February 21, 2017

As one of the breakout stars of the Netflix original series “Orange Is the New Black,” Jessica Pimentel brings life to complicated inmate Maria Ruiz. The actress has another side to her as well: musician. She fronts the indie death-metal band Alekhine’s Gun. A huge fan of New York, Pimentel resides in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. Fans may follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. I find myself spending several months a year in Stockholm (Sweden). If you go to Stockholm, remember it’s a beautiful metropolitan city and it’s very easy to get around. I highly recommend going to the Old Town section. It’s got amazing shops, restaurant, castles, tours, museums, an opera house and quite possibly the narrowest street in the entire world.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?

A. Being born and raised in Brooklyn, I am very partial to my hometown. Most people think of New York as just Manhattan, but Brooklyn is full of amazing history and culture. I highly suggest that if anyone comes to visit New York, then do a walking tour of historic Brooklyn or spend the day riding the ferries throughout the city. I won’t say that Brooklyn is untapped, but it is generally overlooked by tourists.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. The first I can remember taking as a child that wasn’t a school trip was a bus trip up to Toronto with my mother. It was really a beautiful experience.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. Besides New York? Stockholm, Kyoto, Seattle, Chicago and New Orleans.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. I feel completely at home in Stockholm. I barely feel like an outsider, even though I don’t speak the language well yet. The transportation there is very much like New York and the people come from all over the world, which is also something that I’m blessed to have at home. I love cities that are rich in culture, art, spirituality and have a little bit of a fast pace to them.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?

A. Buying cheap sunglasses. Whether it’s Venice Beach or a gas station in Omaha, I will probably buy a pair of sunglasses.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. I’ve actually planned a trip to New Zealand this year, which is a place that I have always wanted to visit and have been drawn to for as long as I can remember. I identify so much with that culture and I am a big New Zealand All Blacks rugby supporter. Aside from the Yankees, they are my favorite sports team. I am looking forward to this trip more than I can say. Besides going to New Zealand, I would love to do a trip starting in some place like Iceland and hit the tiny Faroe Islands, and then do a car trip from the north of Europe all the way to the south and eventually end up in Pimentel, Italy. It’s a place that I’m dying to go see, for very obvious reasons.

Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?

A. My worst vacation memory was a surprise trip. I’m not even quite sure where I went skiing. It was so bad that I’ve blocked it out of my memory. I had never skied before in my life and there was just straight ice coming from the sky. It was nearly impossible for me to get down the mountain. At one point, I basically sat down on my skis, skidded down the entire course on my heinie. I ended up spending most of my time alone at the lodge while my friend decided to do a black diamond run. But, once again, the conditions were so bad that he hit his head and passed out somewhere on the mountain. He returned after about three hours. We cut our losses and went back to our beautiful lodge, where we thought we would soak in an Epsom salt bath, have some wine, stay up till 3 a.m. watching television and then sleep in, or so we thought. We were woken up at 7 a.m. by the cleaning lady, who told us that we’d only had the room for one night and not the entire weekend. So, there we were, bruised and battered, trying to pack in agony with very little sleep and a long drive home on a white, bright, ice-covered mountain … and no sunglasses.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. Of course, it depends on where I’m going. If I’m staying for a couple of days, I usually try to look up what bands or shows maybe in town while I’m there. I also like to know what is the closest bar or restaurant that I could hang out in and use as a second living room, so to speak, if I’m staying for an extended period.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I always try to pack to be ready for anything, so when I pack, I pack in three levels. The super comfortable level, the everyday level and the I can’t believe I’m at this party level. Always bring good walking shoes, especially if you’re going to a place you’ve never been. It makes exploring so much easier. For example, I learned that Old Town in Stockholm is paved with cobblestones, so when you go there you should probably wear the most comfortable shoes you can. I always try to bring some sort of pain reliever and water pill if I’m flying and never ever forget to bring a hoodie or some type of warm article of clothing, even if you’re going some place warm in the summer, because you never know if there will be a drop in the weather or if your hotel is freezing cold and there is no thermostat in your room.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. I am a huge fan of the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles as well as the Standard Hotel in every city. But being from New York, we have so many cute boutique hotels. It’s almost too many to name, but I find myself often hanging out at Night Hotel in New York. It’s really really sexy!

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. I think if you’re in love or love music and great food, the go-to destination in the United States would be New Orleans. People assume that it’s always wild and crazy, but you can make it as wild or as relaxed as you like. It has beautiful architecture,  music is everywhere and great culture that is unique in and of itself. You will be transported to another world and another time.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?
A. The more you travel, the less afraid of the world you become. People are generally motivated by one thing and that is to be happy. But before you travel, you should try to learn the customs of each country. Each place has its own little idiosyncrasies that may throw you off if you’re not expecting them. For example, some places are not very big with personal space. While (in other places), to touch someone to seems completely rude. Some cultures smile a lot — others keep a straight face, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not happy. And definitely try to learn at least 10 words if you’re going to a foreign country that doesn’t speak your native tongue.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. One of my favorite weekend getaways is a nice little town in New Jersey called Cape May. It’s a really romantic, rustic, beautiful place by the beach.

Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?
A. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to shoot in Puerto Rico for one month. That experience of the direct Latin culture there — the atmosphere, the pacing, all of that stayed with me very much. There was a special kind of joy in being on that island surrounded by natural beauty.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. In New York City, I have to give it up to all of the restaurants that Chris Santos is the chef at, such as Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex and Vandal, which serve family style. Really, really interesting dishes that really reflect the culture of New York. In Stockholm I love Sharon, Aifur and Public.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. My favorite holiday destination was visiting Örnsköldsvik (Sweden). I’ve had the pleasure of spending my last two Christmases there. They have some really beautiful Christmas traditions there, such as the visit from Tonopah. That’s their version of Santa Claus, who’s a little bit meaner and a little bit louder and comes in during Christmas dinner to give the children their presents. It is also very close to Umeå, which has one of the largest collections of guitars. It’s famous and historically important to any musician that plays rock ‘n’ roll.

© 2017 JAE-HA KIM

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  1. Jessica Pimentel says:

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