NOW THAT MAY is finally here, spring is officially upon us. This season of awakening feels particularly auspicious this year, as we see possibility in travel again and begin to ponder what this coming summer might have in store. This also feels like a good time to shake up routines, discover new things, and revisit all the places we’ve been missing. This is the time to pack your bags (or, in my case, buy new ones), step outside, and prepare to be inspired.
From a dinner at one of New York City’s most mythic restaurants (the newly reopened El Quijote) and a book celebrating beloved outsider artist Steve Keene, to the pleasure that comes with finding the perfect oil (one to eat, from Genco Olive Oil; and one to slather over your body, from Costa Brazil) or simply pulling on your favorite warmer-weather sweater (like the one I just found at Alex Crane), this spring is all about savoring small pleasures while making big plans. — Cole
For the “Godfather” lover in your life, I recommend Genco Olive Oil from Corleone Fine Italian Foods, the winky, nostalgic brand bringing staples of Italian cuisine to cinephiles. Genco Pura Olive Oil was the front company started by Vito Corleone in the 1920s and members of the world’s best-known fictional crime family held meetings in its offices. I get a kick out of seeing the vintage-looking canister sitting on my counter, but the product is good — the imported organic extra virgin olive oil is made from Italian olives pressed in Sicily. — Nina
My search for the perfect cup of tea might be over, now that I’ve learned how to make excellent chai. I make it with Chai Masala, from Diaspora Co spices, which I consider the most exciting purveyor of fair-trade spices and information about them. According to the company’s site, this masala is “the result of four years of sourcing across 40 small, regenerative family farms throughout India and Sri Lanka.” It contains cardamom, ginger, fennel, and cinnamon, and tastes impossibly sweet, with a peppery bite. Combine with black tea, honey, and a little warm milk, and this is heaven in a mug. — Nina
For those of us who spent a lot of time in the ’90s hanging out in record stores, painter Steve Keene was always a mythical cult hero. Not only did he create the artwork for some of that decade’s most formative albums, by bands like Pavement and the Silver Jews, but he also made artwork that was both affordable and accessible. Known for having produced more than 300,000 hand-painted pieces of art (in a studio setup resembling a cage of chain-link fencing where he can work on up to 50 paintings simultaneously), Brooklyn-based Keene is arguably one of the most prolific artists of his generation. His bold and obsessive pieces (also involving the occasional painted piece of furniture — I own one of his chairs and over a dozen of his paintings, including a portrait of Martina Navratilova) are finally getting their due with “The Steve Keene Art Book,” an appropriately album-sized celebration of his life and work. — Cole
I’m really weird with sleep (but who isn’t?). To fall asleep I need very specific things and am bone-chillingly high-maintenance in this category. Lately, two things have been truly essential in helping me find my REM. First, the Nest Easy Breather Pillow. I need a pillow that can stay plush on its own (so, high-pile memory foam) and robustly fill the gap between neck arc and bed. When I move, my pillow should not. This pillow delivers on that.
Second, the CoolLife Sheet Set from LifeLabs. Getting into bed feels like falling into folds of silky ice cream. I tried these sheets for the first time after being on assignment in Copenhagen. It being my first night back home, I expected to wake up in the middle of the night from jet lag, sweaty and restless. But nope. I slept like the dead, chilled in delicious slumber. — Sophie
One thing I know about myself is that I am not a summer person. I have a deeply held belief that I look better in the fall or the winter, preferably swaddled in as many layers as possible. So this time of year — when NYC winter almost instantly turns to steamy summer — is particularly painful for me. The Campo Sweater from Alex Crane is currently helping make the seasonal transition a little less traumatic. While technically a merino wool sweater, this piece is soft, slinky, and light enough to work as a cold-weather layer or a standalone spring essential for those of us who aren’t yet ready to abandon our long-sleeves. — Cole
Scent is the sense most closely connected to memory. Neuroscientists believe it may have to do with the anatomy of the brain. I remember hearing once, when I was young, that if you could study while smelling, say, oranges, as you memorized the conjugations of French verbs in the imperfect tense, then inhaling their bright scent once again as you took a test would give you a clear pathway to recall the information.
The idea is cute enough that I have remembered it all these years, though I have no idea if it is true. What I do know is that my personal experience of scent is one of wild evocation. Like Proust and his madeleines, nothing can collapse time and space with the same immediacy.
The smell of Costa Brazil oils gives me that experience, in the best way. Made with natural ingredients local to Brazil (including kaya, cacay, and babassu), and scented with breu, an aromatic resin, the oils bring me back immediately to the beach and the jungle and living somewhere hot. The body oils have a light shimmer and dry texture ideal for warmer weather, and the face products are delicate and easily absorbed. I have been smothering my face and body in them since I got them. I may not live at the beach right now, but I can still smell like I do. — Skye
I’ve long believed that the perfect carry-on bag does not exist, but the new Daytripper Carry All from Troubadour may have just changed my mind. The bag is equal parts chic and indestructible, a fact I can attest to after carting it around with me recently while traveling in Asia. With multiple internal pockets, an external zip sleeve for your laptop, and a built-in trolley sleeve that allows the bag to easily slip over the handle of your rolling luggage, the bag never loses its shape (no matter how many things you cram into it while last-minute shopping in a Singapore airport) and offers easy access to its many hidden compartments. It’s also a perfect daytime bag — not too heavy, with just enough room to carry everything you need for either a long flight or a daily commute to the office. — Cole
The primary perk of being a travel editor, obviously, is travel. And leaving home to see something new has never felt more exhilarating. Just last week, while waiting for my suitcase at Charles de Gaulle airport, I thought: After two locked-down years, even standing around a baggage carousel is fun. But one thing I always find daunting is packing a toiletry bag. I don’t have room for full-size beauty products and it can be hard to find suitable stand-ins in small packaging. On my last trip I brought along the Travel Kit from Australian clean-beauty heroes Grown Alchemist, and really appreciated the array of clean, effective products with subtle natural aromas. I especially like the gel facial cleanser with geranium leaf, bergamot, and rose, and the hand cream, which contains vanilla and orange peel. I was so relieved to have this compact kit with me at one hotel with particularly perfumed soap. It would make a great gift for anyone on the move. — Nina
I recently checked out the new El Quijote, the storied Spanish restaurant located in New York City’s Hotel Chelsea. Closed for the last four years under renovation, its reopening revealed a fresh face-lift with no loss to its old-world bones. Like all institutions marked by the memories of icons (the spot was famously a watering hole for the likes of Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Andy Warhol), the atmosphere was one of romance and reverence. When I think of the space now, the color brown comes to mind — brown in the scalloped wall divider, the thick tabletops, the restored wall mural and ceilings. Put against the contemporary-chic glossy white and light wood of so many New York eateries and bars, El Quijote’s aged textured brown felt soul-warming and transportive. Inky tender squid stuffed with blood sausage made for an indulgent bite. Pan con tomate brought me back to breakfasts living in Seville as a student. My after-dinner drink, rich and viscous and impossible to remember the name of (some kind of sherry I think?), haunts me to this day. To be there was to break bread with ghosts, through delightfully lively flavors. — Sophie
Skye Parrott is the executive editor of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor in chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.
T. Cole Rachel Writer
T. Cole Rachel is the deputy editor of Departures. A Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media, his writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Interview, and the Creative Independent.
Nina Renata Aron Writer
Nina Renata Aron is a senior editor of Departures based in Oakland, California. She is the author of “Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls.” Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, Elle, Eater, and Jezebel.
Sophie Mancini Writer
Sophie Mancini is an editor at Departures. Born and raised in New York City, she holds a degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has a background as a writer in brand and editorial.
Jess Rotter Illustrator
Jess Rotter is a Los Angeles–based illustrator and artist. Rotter’s work has frequently featured in the Washington Post. Her clients range from Natalie Portman to Questlove.