Sunday. 3/5/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

THE FASTER LANE / TYLER BRÛLÉ

How we’ll travel

In approximately three weeks you should hear the gentle thump of our June issue landing in your letterbox. Across more than 150 pages, we’ve spoken to or commissioned some of the brightest minds not only to chronicle this peculiar moment we’ve been living through but also to scour the past and look to the future for cues to paths forward. While I don’t want to spoil your read of what’s in the magazine, the following is a little hint of what we’re thinking about where tourism and travel in general might be heading.

As recently as four weeks ago, when most western countries moved into various states of lockdown, business owners and usually high-flying managers were quick to admit how easy it was to do business tethered to a headset and laptop. In a “Look Mom, no hands!” moment, there was much showmanship on the part of companies large and small as they scrambled to prove how nimble and well armed with tech they were, showily staying connected with far-flung clients and partners. With finance departments revising forecasts daily, news that flights and hotels might be a thing of the past (offices and desks too) has had CEOs dreaming of sunnier days with lower overheads and a virtual workforce toiling from sofas and kitchen tables across the globe. One month later and the millions working from home have a rather different view about doing business from an armchair while kids are swinging off the bookshelves, the spouse is on another conference call in the bedroom, the dog is barking or doing tinkles on the rug, a courier is buzzing at the door, the WiFi is patchy and there’s no lunch on the table. Make no mistake, they can’t wait not just to get back to the office but also to get out in the world again – in the car, on the train and in the air.

For the past six weeks I’ve been happily grounded in Zürich – I say happily because I go into the office almost daily, life feels somewhat normal and Swiss lockdown has been a much more civilised affair than that which my colleagues in London and elsewhere have been enduring. As I’ve adjusted to life in one place and had a bit more time to consider how the travel industry might unfold, here are a few thoughts.

1. The roadtrip makes a comeback

Just when it looked like that evil invention called the car had no future on modern travel itineraries it suddenly seems like the most modern, safe and hygienic way to holiday. We’re going to be forced to stay close to home for a while and the roadtrip is due for a comeback as we’ll feel more secure contained within an environment where we feel we have a greater level of control. Much easier to break for the border with your own four wheels than to be stuck in Peru (unless, of course, for you that is within driving distance).

2. Fewer LCCs

The low-cost carrier has never been a beloved feature of modern travel. For sure those cramped 737s were good for cheap long weekenders to Morocco but no one has ever been excited about boarding a Ryanair or Easyjet flight. We’ll reach the end of 2020 with fewer low-cost carriers and this is no bad thing.

3. Flag carriers make a comeback

This crisis offers an opportunity for flag and legacy carriers to reinvent themselves. Already thousands of stranded tourists have been happy to see aircraft with familiar tailfins (white crosses or edelweiss) showing up on remote tarmacs to bring them home. If many have fallen out of love with Swiss, Air France and Austrian, this is a chance for the carriers to play the home card and strengthen their position as not just essential services but also carriers to be proud of. At the same time, we’ll need a reality check in terms of what we’re prepared to pay to get to New York or Singapore for three days – or three weeks.

4. Cleaner transport

Rail, air and bus operators will have to invest more in keeping their vehicles clean. There will be no excuse for airplane or train windows with greasy hair smudges. Vigilant passengers won’t tolerate it.

5. Airbnb

The jury’s out on the sharing economy and whether the world will be rushing to stay in strangers’ apartments now that hygiene is top of the agenda. Much more to say on this in our June issue.

6. Eggs and baskets

Hopefully hotel groups, luxury brands, airlines and tourism authorities have learned a lesson about relying on one market to fill rooms, load up cable cars and sell watches. The Chinese tourist is not going to be venturing out into the world at speed so those in the travel industry need to be smart and court more markets.

7. No panda petting

Western tourists will not be rushing to see the Great Wall or cuddle pandas in Chengdu. On the business front, coronavirus screening procedures can currently take up to half a day at some airports – this cannot be a way forward for business travel.

8. The corporate retreat gets closer

The big corporate gathering that used to see hundreds of staff schlep to South Africa for a sales summit will get a rethink. There will still be a need to come together but it will be closer to home. This might be an opportunity for Swiss, Austrian, Italian and French alpine resorts to stay open year round and move out of their seasonal cycle of shutting down for short windows.

9. Sense of place takes a stand

The tourism industry has spent too much time trying to please everyone with every conceivable treatment, room type and menu. As budgets will be tight, perhaps this is a moment to stop having six types of saunas to appeal to customers who don’t like taking their clothes off in a semi-public, overheated environment.

10. Up all night

Cities that want to revitalise their gastro sectors and encourage domestic travel need to come good on opening up their night-time economies and start keeping terraces and bars open later. It’s time to throw open cities as soon as possible to make for a joyous summer. We’ve already amassed thousands of hours of “quiet credit”.

SUNDAY ROAST / EIICHIRO HOMMA

Routine maintenance

Eiichiro Homma is the founder of Japanese urban outdoor menswear brand, Nanamica (writes Junichi Toyofuku). Here he talks about his home in Tokyo, business rethinks and time with Korokichi, his handsome-but-hard-to-please shiba inu. Homma-san also shares a theory on his wife’s cookery, his love of electronica and a punishing daily exercise routine.

Where do we find you this weekend?
At home in Tokyo.

How are you coping with the current situation?
We decided to close our stores and office in late March and all employees now work from home. Closing shops and staying home were voluntary decisions since here the government doesn’t have the right to stop business operations or prevent people going out.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or a jolt?
Gentle. In general, I go sailing on Sundays when the conditions are right, so I usually wake up early, jump into the car and head to Uraga harbour near Tokyo. However, in the current situation, I enjoy relaxing with a coffee and a newspaper – then maintaining the house since I usually do not have much time for this.

Soundtrack of choice?
At home I enjoy electronica that has a relaxed feel and sense of the seaside.

What’s for breakfast?
My wife is a very high-level cook. I am doing OK while staying home every day. Everything she cooks is enjoyable. Since her cooking always goes well with drinking, I also wonder if it’s the cause of my weight gain.

News or not?
Every morning I read the Japanese financial paper Nikkei and Senken, which is a garment and textile trade paper. However, during this time, I am also checking every other opinion between TV news channels and YouTube.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Walk the dog. It is a good opportunity for me to spend more time with Korokichi, my shiba. Shiba dogs blow hot and cold. When I want to hold him, he tries to escape or ignores me. When I ignore him in return, he taps my foot. When I came home late in the evening, he always seemed to say, “Keep quiet.” These days, I have been talking to him a lot.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Every morning, 365 days a year, even before the current situation, I spend 30 minutes exercising. After a cup of room temperature water, there are radio calisthenics followed by push-ups, squats and back extensions.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Rice and miso – since I am Japanese.

Sunday culture essential?
Recently I’ve watched some American TV dramas as I want to learn more about life in America. When things settle, we are going to launch our first overseas retail store in New York meaning that I will start to work with New Yorkers.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Remote work requires a lot of caffeine at every interval. These past two weeks I’ve tried variations of chai tea.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
Just last week, I realised my body had become stiff. So, my new evening routine involves [even more] calisthenics.

RECIPE / RALPH SCHELLING

Oven-roasted patatas bravas

A simple side dish that tastes exceedingly fine and reveals a culinary sleight of hand for crisping your spuds. Here they’re served Spanish-style and without frying.

Ingredients:

500g potatoes
2 tbsps baking powder
3 tbsps olive oil
Salt
​Paprika

Method:

  1. Peel and cut the potatoes into wedge-sized pieces.
  2. Place them in a pot of boiling water with baking powder on the hob for about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the water and leave the spuds to dry for around 10 minutes – you’ll begin to see a crust forming.
  4. Mix in the oil and place the chunks on a baking tray with some distance between them. Bake for about 15 minutes at 190C until crispy.
  5. Season with salt and paprika and a good dollop of aioli. Simple, eh? But people will ask how you got the potatoes so crisp.

ralphschelling.com

REPORT / PORTUGAL

Old-school home-school

This week I added something different to my quarantine routine (writes Carlota Rebelo). I decided to head back to school – not an online course, but to follow a couple of classes of Portugal’s newly launched TV school, Estudo Em Casa.

Every weekday from 09.00 and 17.50 thousands of students across the country are tuning in to RTP Memória, a channel of the Portuguese Public Broadcaster, to attend school as lockdown remains in place. The measure, unveiled by the Ministry of Education, applies to pupils from primary school up to age 14, with the TV programming divided accordingly by grade and by subjects too: from Portuguese and maths to chemistry and even physical education. On Monday at 16.40, I was in front of my screen, notebook in hand, ready to get a refresh on English as a second language, followed by a history class.

What makes this idea so remarkable and poignant is that it’s not new. Portugal was first introduced to the notion of TV school during its Estado Novo regime, under the Salazar dictatorship. It aired from 1965 until 1987 and was the only way children living in remote areas could get access to education. I grew up hearing my mother telling stories about TV schooling, in black and white and when owning a TV set was still a privilege. She would watch classes in a classroom with a teacher’s assistant supervising and helping answer questions.

This modern iteration works differently of course: we have the wonders of on-demand television, where you can rewind in case you missed something; there’s also colour and sound effects plus graphics and visual aids to help unpack each subject. It’s always dangerous to praise something that happened during a country’s dark past and while I have no intention of romanticising Portugal’s dictatorial regime, there are some lessons that are still relevant today.

PERFECT MATCH / MADRID OPEN 2020

Home court

“I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts is blaring out of tinny speakers as Swiss star Belinda Bencic pads out to play at the Madrid Open 2020 (writes Thomas Reynolds). She carefully sets down her racket bag and pulls out a Playstation controller. Sounds more like a dream than a tennis tournament right? Not very rock ’n’ roll either. Last year’s semi-finalist isn’t on the hallowed clay at La Caja Mágica, she’s in her living room, curtains drawn with a games console fired up and ready to play.

With sports fixtures around the globe cancelled, the organisers of the Madrid Open tennis tournament decided to join the leagues of sports broadcast and played online, in this instance to raise funds for charity and to support lower-ranked players. It may sound like a forced error – a fanciful suggestion from the marketing intern that accidently cleared the net – but it turns out that some of the biggest names in the sport had some free time and good will to donate to the cause: Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray, Caroline Wozniacki and Johanna Konta all swapped the clay court for a comfy couch. Game on.

Staged on the videogame Tennis World Tour, the tournament consisted of two draws, men’s singles and women’s singles. Each draw consisted of four groups of four players, the top two of each group qualified for the quarter-finals with games played between last Tuesday and Thursday (27 to 30 April).

So was it a success? Well, questionable internet connections and some excruciatingly clunky commentary really jar compared to the usual slick TV set-up (that and the lack of a crowd, sense of occasion or any actual tennis being played). It turns out Andy Murray is quite good at the Playstation, though, and there was briefly some excitement when Rafa Nadal (the real one) appeared to be injured. It turned out to be a joke. But like a lofty lob this – and most of the tournament – went straight over my head. And who won? I didn’t get that far.

MY NEXT MEAL / LONDON

Fischer’s

My first boss was Austrian and he introduced me to the delights of the Wiener schnitzel (writes Richard Spencer Powell). A slice of fried veal coated in golden breadcrumbs, served with sauerkraut. The only problem being that you needed to go to Vienna for a decent schnitzel. But when Fischer’s opened in London’s Marylebone that problem was no more. This carbon copy of a Viennese café serves these fried veal or chicken treats with total authenticity.

The restaurant is a breath of fresh air in London’s pumped-up gastro scene and has somehow managed to be high end without being exclusive. There are no annoying queues, booking systems, menu explainers or Instagram feeds. The clientele ranges from chic locals to large families, businesspeople and West End shoppers. And the neatly uniformed service is innocuous, unexaggerated and refreshingly simple.

But the reason why I can’t wait to return is because my children will always be welcome there; it’s a place that they have come to love. It’s expensive to bring them along but it’s always worth eating somewhere without kids’ menus, that serves wild boar sausages and has huge wood-handled steak knives for cutlery. Our food order never changes, our plates are always cleared and every meal is as good as the last. A table for four, please.

What I’d eat:
Himmel und Erde (black pudding and potato)
Wiener Schnitzel Holstein
Medium-cut chips
Pickled cucumber salad
Draught Stiegl beer

FAIR PLAY / WATCHES & WONDERS

Timely move

Last weekend I visited Watches & Wonders, one of the world’s premier watch fairs (writes Jamie Waters). I looked at sparkling new releases from 30 leading brands, including the Richemont-owned A. Lange & Söhne, IWC Schaffhausen and Jaeger-LeCoultre, and listened to dynamic speeches by brand CEOs, style editors and buyers.

As you may have guessed, I was not in a high-ceilinged hall in Geneva, where Watches & Wonders (formerly called SIHH) is usually held, but instead in my London living room with a laptop. The pandemic has forced this trade show, and many others, to go online. In recent years many have questioned whether it’s necessary to stage industry meet-ups and fashion weeks; the pandemic is forcing us to consider if an online-only future is in fact realistic. Shanghai recently hosted the first ever virtual fashion week, while in June London Fashion Week will venture online.

For Watches & Wonders, its digital foray came in the form of a slick black, white and gold website populated with high-definition videos of new models, interviews with key players and expert trend commentary. There are advantages of hosting a virtual event, such as massive cost savings (including the fact that you don’t need to fly an entire industry to gather in one place) and the ability to open up the show to consumers as well as industry insiders. What you can’t recreate, though, is the atmosphere. The sharing of gossip, tips and contacts between journalists and buyers. The chance of stumbling across something unexpected. The spark that comes from watching a dress move down a catwalk or feeling the heft of a watch. It’s notable that the luxury industry has been the most reluctant to move to online retail, such is the importance of consumers handling items in person – even in an age where touching and sharing space or surfaces has become taboo. So online fairs won’t replace physical showcases – at least not anytime soon – but until lockdown ends they are the best option. Tick tock.

POT LUCK / THE UNDEAD

Keep the aspidistra flying

This week we offer a shopping list of plants for what we’ll call the “forgetful” gardeners among you (writes Josh Fehnert). “The number one top plant that is really un-killable is the aspidistra – its common name is the cast-iron plant,” says Peter Milne of the Nunhead Gardener in southeast London, apparently unperturbed that I’m asking which plants are hardest to kill off. “It was very popular in Victorian times, surviving despite the fact the houses were really dark and drafty with fires going. The conditions weren’t conducive to most other indoor plants from lovely warm, light-dappled climates.” Not so the hardy aspidistra which Orwell immortalised in the title of his novel about the yearning middle classes (no room to take that on here). “You could put it in a cupboard and six months later it would probably still be alive,” says Milne in a way that it’s hard to know if he’s joking.

Also among the hardier indoor options are sansevieria (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue), devil’s ivy, a creeper Milne euphemistically describes as being “relaxed” about its water and light rations and zamioculcas, a flowering African perennial that only needs watering every four to six weeks in winter. For the outdoors, liriope muscari, or lily turf, is a hardy grass with, “Nice blue spikes of flowers which come at the end of the summer and last ages from August through to September and October. Nice for year-round interest,” says Milne. Good if your own interest begins to wane then. For a vine he likes star jasmine, evergreen Heucheras and a few outdoor ferns. “They offer great lushness in exchange for very little care,” says Milne. Treat them like part of the fern-ature – have a good Sunday.

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