How I Travel Anika Noni Rose Dreams of Amsterdam in Tulip Season
Style & Culture

How I Travel: Anika Noni Rose Dreams of Amsterdam in Tulip Season

We peek into the airport routines and bizarre quirks of the world's most well-traveled people.

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You may know her as a Tony-winning performer, the voice of a Disney Princess, and a lead in the chilling new vampire thriller series on Showtime, Let the Right One In. But Anika Noni Rose is also a passionate traveler who doesn’t mind spraining an ankle in search of an amazing meal in France (more on that in a bit) and loves to soak in other cultures. She also confesses she needs to be comfortable. “I have to be perfectly honest—I don't mind roughing it for a little while, but if we're staying somewhere humid, I need air conditioning,” Rose says. “I get migraines. I need air!”

The actress spoke with Condé Nast Traveler about a few more of the things she needs when traveling, including a very precise product list and ideally, a variety of hotel pillows—and also shared stories about extracting argan oil in Morocco, buying silk in Vietnam, and eating steak in Botswana.

On the pleasure she gets from performing in New York City:

Broadway is where I cut my teeth. It is the place I feel most at home. The first original show that I did on Broadway was Caroline, or Change, and I won the Tony for that. It was such a phenomenal experience from beginning to end. We took three years workshopping before we did off-Broadway, then we took a six-month break and transferred to Broadway. It was the journey that you dream of. It was the first project I had done from page to stage. It ended in the ultimate recognition for that space and I made friends that I still have to this day. It is a culture that is all its own, being in the theater and being a part of Broadway. It is it challenging, it is beautiful. It's fulfilling in a way that television and film can't be, because the give and take of energy is immediate. There is no, “Oh, let me do that again.” There's just nothing like it.

What’s in her carry-on bag:

Too many things! I usually have two chapsticks; I love Aveda’s Lip Saver. I always have antibacterial hand wipes. Adam Richman from the [Travel] Channel saw me on the plane once, and he called me a plane ninja because he didn't recognize me. I have covered my nose and mouth, and have washed down seats, for years. I didn't need Covid to tell me the plane was dirty! I'm not a big makeup person, but you never know if you have to do something on Zoom or whatever. I'll have travel versions of makeup: Thrive mascara, sunscreen, and some hand lotion, always. Because the plane is so drying and the lotion that they give you in the bathroom is just, I don't know, perfume really. It really doesn't do anything. I always have [Taliah Waajid’s] The Great Detangler, which is just what it says, and Aveda’s Nutriplenish oil, which you can use on your body or your hair. And extra socks, because when I go through security, I'm not A), putting my bare foot on the nasty ground, and B) I'm not putting my socks on the ground and then putting them back in my shoe. That's nasty.

What she prioritizes when planning a vacation:

Food is very high on my list. I love to eat, and I love to eat well. That doesn't mean expensive; it means well, so it could be a greasy spoon or it could be somewhere you have to make a reservation two months in advance, as long as it's good. I like to take in culture. I want to go where the people go if I'm somewhere new, so that I can suck up as much culture as possible. I really love travel photography, so I try to get out and see as much as I can, but take photos in a way that it's not invasive. I like to do things. I went to Morocco and I was able to grind argan—which, by the way, every time you buy a bottle of argan oil, thank Moroccan women. They are sitting on a floor with a big mortar and pestle, grinding those beans. I went to a place where they've been doing it for hundreds of years, which was fantastic. That's the type of thing that I like to do when I'm on a vacation.

Her favorite filming location ever:

For the Number One Ladies Detective Agency, I actually got to live in Botswana for six months, which meant that I really got to be a part of the landscape, make good friends, know the people, and eat some of the best beef I've ever had in my life. So tender! They just give you a butter knife with a point; there are no real steak knives. It's delicious. And explore—I got to safari. I got to hang out with a meerkat. And also just to learn so much history. It was truly one of the most amazing things.

A place she thinks more people need to see:

Vietnam! We traveled south to north, and on the Mekong Delta. I have some phenomenal pictures from that trip. I took a cooking class there that I loved, and I bought some traditional clothing—they have amazing silk there. Everybody was so kind and welcoming and lovely, and I don't think I expected that, particularly with the history of America and Vietnam. Although that was not my journey or my doing, I don't know that America deserves that grace. And I'm not just talking about the hotel, where you pay people to be welcoming and kind. In the street, walking by, having people say hello and wave. The lady finding clothes for me in her boutique who was concerned that maybe my little bubble butt wasn't going to fit in those clothes. And then she found me a dress, and she was so excited! She sort of patted me on the butt and started smiling. I had a lovely, lovely time. It's stunningly beautiful.

The place she could go a million times and never tire of it:

Paris, where once again I stayed in a beautiful hotel and had one of the most amazing meals I've ever had. I stayed at the Hotel George V, and I ate at the restaurant there, not knowing it was a world-renowned restaurant. The place we had first reserved was not friendly and not great; people reserved it for us, and they were being nice, like, “It's the hot new thing.” You don't want the hot new thing in Paris, you want the old thing! I want the one you have to walk down cobblestones and twist your ankle to find. So we ended up having dinner at the hotel, at Le Cinq, and it was delicious, with the most amazing service. Truly phenomenal.

The hotel amenity that means a lot to her:

I have slept on a lot of hotel beds, and listen, it can ruin your trip when it's wrong. Firmdale Hotels have amazing beds, so comfortable. I implore hotels to have several different pillows so that people don't wake up crippled because they're 5'2" and 125 pounds, and the pillow is for a 6'3” man. Please give us some options! They're either so flat or they're two phone books tall. There's no happy medium.

Where she’s hoping to travel next:

I've been just looking at pictures of Switzerland and coveting. I just think it's beautiful, and I've never been. I’d like to take the Orient Express that passes through Switzerland, and a few other places. I'd like to go to Amsterdam during tulip season. Truly as many places as I can go, I want to go. I want to just take it all in.