Go Away With … Scott Simon

Photo credit: Will O'Leary

By Jae-Ha Kim
September 14, 2010

Scott Simon, National Public Radio host and author, chose a subject close to home for his latest book, “Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption” (Random House, $22). He and his French wife, former film producer Caroline Richard, have adopted two daughters from China and his poignant and witty memoir speaks not only of their family’s experiences, but also those of other adoptive parents, such as “Freakonomics” author Steven Levitt. Simon, 58, resides on the East Coast with Richard and their daughters Elise and Lina. Currently on a nationwide book tour, Simon’s tour dates are available on his website (scottsimonbooks.com).

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. My wife spent her summers with her family in the small, blustery, Brittany village of Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer. Traditional French plumbing is arranged so that the toilet is in one bathroom, the sink in another and the shower in a third, so you spend much of the day feeling like a Muscovite in the old USSR, going from line to line. But you can experience all four seasons in a single afternoon. You can dine on mussels that are still shrugging off seaweed. And in Saint-Jacut, I get to glimpse where my wife developed some of her humorous, flinty character and hope that our daughters inhale some of that, too.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. Le Meridien-Piccadilly in London, smack dab in the middle of the most cosmopolitan city in the world; The Talbott in Chicago, where a plaster cow clings to the facade; the Claridges in New Delhi, where you can dine like an Indian truck driver, which is pretty damn good. The Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, Calif., where the Oakland Raiders used to raise hell in the pool in which our daughters now swim. The Culver Hotel in Culver City, Calif. And oh yes, the White Swan in Guangzhou, China. It overlooks the Pearl River, has a fabulous Friday night seafood buffet and has the happy hum of people from all over the world who are adopting babies. The one trait all these hotels share is that the staff is kind to our daughters. That’s five-star.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?

A. The day we brought our oldest daughter home from China, our first stop was at Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill in Chicago to assure her that she was due nothing less than the best food in the world. We owe all of her subsequent growth to Frontera guacamole. We also feel affection for Green’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, a theater district hangout in London. If you’re ever going to like fish n’ chips and mashed peas, it’s there. Also, Veeraswamy in London; Kinkead’s in Washington, D.C.; Lombardi pizzeria in Naples, where they let our daughters stretch the dough; and Le Bar a Huitres in Paris, which I call Hooters in poor French.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. A cashmere throw that you will lose on your first flight, and be reminded that the whole point of travel is to leave things behind.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. New York, London, Chicago. Truly great cities contain the world, and those do. Hong Kong and Berlin bustle. I guess that’s five, but we also cherish places as dissimilar as Austin, Texas and Cleveland, Ohio. The people are wonderful and the food is terrific, which means they’re proud of their towns.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. We have two small children and only the time to find out where the parks, zoos and ice cream shops are.

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

A. The worst was our family missing a flight from Rome and not being able to get seats for three days. I had to work, so I cadged a single, expensive seat back through Paris and New York for a frazzling 28-hour return, while my family was “stranded” in Rome for three days. No flavor of granita was left behind. My worst vacation memory is one of their best. My best: two trips to China to bring home our daughters, Elise Jei Mei and Paulina Luman Simon. And some travelers bring back little jade souvenirs!

©2010 JAE-HA KIM


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