When in Roan with Caroline Wallace

by Amy Brachman on May 15th, 2016 (No Comments)

Roan_Caroline_1368-Edit

We could have been on the other side of the globe. The house, a Spanish Colonial Revival with thick plaster walls, terracotta floors, and scrolling ironwork, conjured up lazy afternoons on the Mediterranean. But it was in Richmond on a breezy April afternoon when Caroline Wallace and I sat down in her beautiful loggia to sip Lillet and talk about her passion for travel. The stunning setting and fun conversation transported me, and I wanted to count myself among Caroline’s many lucky clients.

A luxury travel advisor with Brownell, Caroline was in sixth grade when she first discovered the romance of international travel. When I asked how it became her job, she modestly explained that her outgoing personality and strong organizational skills are well suited to the job. And they are, but it doesn’t take long to realize that travel is more than a job for Caroline—it’s her passion.

A look at her passport reveals recent expeditions to Chile during a volcano eruption; Rio, where she had a chance encounter with a gun-toting gang; Paris, where her plane touched down just hours before the November terrorist attacks; Africa, a dream vacation for her whole family; Jamaica, because you don’t miss your daughter’s senior spring break trip; and Italy, to the heel of the fashionable boot to discover the undiscovered. And that’s all in the last year alone. When she’s not traveling herself, she’s planning dream getaways for her clients.

Her current favorite spot is José Ignacio in Uruguay. Feet in the sand, a Caipiroska in hand, Caroline feels more relaxed in this small fishing village than anywhere else in the world. She describes this little slice of heaven as authentic, relaxed and chic. The same could be said of her. Pour yourself a glass and listen in.

Roan_Caroline_0599

Who are your clients?
We have multigenerational groups. We have families, couples, people just becoming empty nesters. We have all sorts of travelers. Oh, and we have honeymooners, which I love to do.

What’s so great about honeymooners?
I love helping couples plan the trip of their dreams. Honeymoon. Something about the word just rings with the promise of romance. No other trip holds that significance. This is a trip that everyone wants “just right” and with our expertise and worldwide connections, we can make it even better than that. We can design the perfect trip.

What’s your favorite place to visit right now?
Uruguay. I’ve been six times in five years. I’m in love with an area called José Ignacio, a small old fishing village on the southern coast, it’s chic but not famous. There is not a t-shirt for sale in the town. It is truly authentic and the people make you feel right at home. La Huella is this fashionable beach shack where everyone kind of gathers. Feet in the sand, the freshest, yummiest seafood coming out with the Caipiroskas—these great drinks. Everybody takes their family to dinner there. You might see a little kid asleep late at night right there, but everybody’s just fun and laid-back. We’re so uptight here. And you also have Estancia Vik that feels like Marlboro country-set on a 4000 acre cattle ranch and there is the architecturally cool Playa Vik and Bahia Vik that feels like St Tropez did years ago.

The area is undeveloped and low key. You can ride with the Gauchos or go kayaking; take a local cooking class or do nothing at all. I’m dying to for that kind of trip. I am wound up like a top. It’s hard to explain, but every person that I’ve sent has gone back—except for maybe one couple. Almost everybody repeated. And some have even gone back just a month later with their family after going down there with me. It’s a five-star resort, but it’s the people that make me love it and they’ve become some of my best friends. When things go wrong, how does a travel consultant step in to help out? Luckily most of the stuff that has gone wrong for our clients has been out of our control. It doesn’t always happen that way. There are so many details to travel. We had this one client who wanted to go to Ireland, so we thought. My rep was emailing her and telling her about Ballyfin and Sheen Falls and all this great stuff. But when I got on the conference call after all these emails had been sent, she’s saying, “I want to see the Northern Lights.” And it suddenly dawned on me that she wanted to go to Iceland. That someone, somewhere, had changed the “c” into an “r,”!
That could have been a disaster.

With everything that’s going on in the world, how do you deal with cautious travelers?
If you’re already scared before you go, don’t go. But if you’re an avid traveler, you’re used to putting yourself out there. I’ve had crazy things happen to me.

Roan_Caroline_1253
Like what?
I was in Lamu in East Africa on a NOLS program in college. We were in dhows, the old fishing boats and we heard shooting. It was Somali bandits. My hair was white, white, white. I thought I was going to be the first one dead. Caroline ends the story there and returns to her drink.

Um, I feel like you kind of glossed over the Somalian bandit thing. What happened?
The tide went out and our boat got stuck and we could see the bandits up on the ledge above us so we hid up in the trees. This was 1987. We had to stay up in the trees for hours, but the tide finally came in and we could move again.

Why do you think that didn’t scare you off?
I was young. It was an adventure.

You’re always up for an adventure. And I love hearing about them when you come into the shop. Do you have any packing tips?
Most people overpack. I went away on spring break to Jamaica recently and one night after a few drinks, all the women demanded to come to my room to see my carry-on because I told them that I had fit everything I needed in that one bag. They wanted a packing lesson. And I had actually overpacked. I ended up not wearing eight items. If you’re at a beach destination, what are you going to do? You might work out in the morning and then you’re going to put on a coverup and a bathing suit and you’re not going to change until dinner. Take your white pants and take three different tops and you’re done.

This is how we counsel people in the store. Part of it is committing to what you’re going to wear. You have to commit and not say, ‘Oh I want to have options when I
get there.’ 
That’s right. That’s great advice.

Roan_Caroline_1222

But the more you travel, the easier it is. What are three things that are always in
your suitcase?

My bathing suit, my goggles with the attached waterproof iPod and running shoes.

Obviously the fanny pack is a taboo item.
Oh, Lord!

So in terms of accessories, what do you recommend there?
I have a great oversized leather tote. It’s the Tory Burch York Buckle Tote and it holds my laptop, my yoga pants for the plane, a small cosmetic bag, ear plugs, phone and other small accessories. It’s also good-looking enough to be my pocketbook if need be. But on my last couple of trips I haven’t even taken a pocketbook. I’ll take a cute cosmetic bag and then at night I’ll empty it out and use it as a clutch. I have a little tiny backpack that I take to go down to the beach or go on a hike. Sometimes—when I think I’ll be doing some shopping—I also put a little duffel bag in my carry-on so that I can use that to check purchases on the way home. I’m more willing to check a bag on the way home.

Roan_Caroline_0572
Did you have a favorite vacation as a child?
The one travel memory that sticks out the most is when we did a house trade with some friends who lived in London. I think I was in sixth grade. I still remember the milkman delivering milk in glass bottles to our front door. I collected flowers from the gardens we visited and made this beautiful scrapbook. We lived over there for a month.

Your own daughters—Lizzie, who is a junior at Miami of Ohio and Anna, who is headed to UNC Chapel Hill—are they intrepid travelers themselves?
Oh yes. They both could go anywhere.

If you offered them a trip to a great destination, would they rather go with you and your husband Gordon or without you guys at this point?
With. Right now, they’d rather go with us. Gordon’s taking Anna to Iceland when she graduates.

Iceland or Ireland?
Iceland!

Roan_Caroline_1085

Rapid Fire

1. Coffee or tea? Tea
2. Shawl or cardigan? Shawl
3. London or Paris? Paris
4. Naan or tortillas? Naan
5. Sandals or sneakers? Sandals
6. Boxers or briefs? Boxers
7. Carry-on or check? Carry-on
8. BloodyMary or mimosa? Mimosa
9. MOMA or Met? MOMA
10.Earbuds or headphones? Earbuds
11.PC or Mac? Mac
12.US or BVI? BVI
13.Instagram or twitter? Instagram
14.Villa or palazzo? Palazzo
15.Tequila or vodka? Vodka
16.Window or aisle? aisle
17.Beer garden or herb garden? herb garden
18.Ronaldo or Messi? Ronaldo
19.Raincoat or umbrella? Umbrella
20.Kindle or hardcover? Hardcover (love to turn a page)

Closet Confessions from Caroline Wallace

1) I do not own a skirt. I am a jumpsuit, pant, short or dress girl.
2) I color coordinate my closet. On my bottom rack I have all long-sleeve items color coordinated and on the top I have all the sleeveless blouses color coordinated. All my pants are on hangers and color coordinated, too. I am a very organized person so it would drive me crazy if things were all mixed together. Organizing everything by color makes it easy to go to my closet and find exactly what I am in the mood the wear.
3) My favorite earrings are simple, gold double hoops. They’re easy to travel with and I can wear them day or night.
4) My favorite Roan piece is my new white Derek Lam sleeveless blouse that I can wear with anything from blue jeans to suede or leather pants. It’s a great travel piece.
5) My two grown girls like to borrow my clothes and somehow always manage to pick the newest and nicest pieces. I’m a little annoyed, but I’m also flattered.

Caroline’s Caipiroska
This is my favorite drink: There are two versions. Caipirinha is made with cachaça, sugar and lime. I am not a fan of cachaça even though it’s a more traditional ingredient. I like a Caipiroska made with vodka, lots of lime and sugar. Muddle the sugar into the lime wedges with a spoon. Place the lime wedges in the bottom of an 8-ounce double old fashioned glass. Cover with crushed ice, fill glass with vodka, stir well and enjoy.