Sunday, October 18, 2009

Life in the ‘Fast Lane,’ if Only for a Moment

Journalist and entrepreneur Tyler Brûlé has become an international cultural icon. In the mid-1990s he created Wallpaper, a groundbreaking international style and fashion magazine, which he sold to Time Warner. More recently he founded Monocle, an international magazine that covers international affairs, culture and design for wealthy, cosmopolitan readers. He also owns design agency Winkreative and writes a weekly column in the Financial Times called "The Fast Lane."

Whether jetting to Japan for all-night Karaoke sessions, traveling by train from Zurich to Milan, or moving his entire magazine operation to the Spanish island of Mallorca for the summer holiday, Brûlé lives a life (at least in his writings) that is of constant movement surrounded by creative people, high-design and luxury.

While vacationing in Europe this past summer, I had a brief opportunity to experience the Tyler Brûlé lifestyle. After spending a day at the Montreux Jazz Festival I went to Geneva for a day of sightseeing before taking a flight to Florence, where I would meet my wife, Maria, in a couple days after her visit with family members in Holland.

Brûlé is big on regional airlines that are able to provide a better level of service, efficiency and reliability in short-haul flights than the larger airlines. I was traveling on Baboo, a Brûlé-approved airline based in Geneva. Its five planes provide service to 19 destinations in Europe. After picking up the July issue of Monocle, I headed over to the well-designed and heavily branded Baboo waiting area, where I dozed off while sitting on a low, red-leather couch.

Boarding was quick and easy and before I knew it I was in the air with a commanding view of the Swiss Alps. The Dash 8 wasn't full, so I had two comfortable leather seats to myself, which led me to again descend into a restful slumber.

Even though the flight was just over an hour, the crew offered small ham and soft cheese sandwiches on flat bread, tiny skewers of marinated vegetables, and strawberry yogurt for dessert. It wasn’t an elaborate offering but it was appropriate for the size of the propeller-powered aircraft and the short length of the flight. The service throughout the flight was well prepared and well executed.

Before I knew it the plane landed in the shabby Florence airport (I thought it was recently renovated). After a long wait in the customs line inside the dimly lit processing area, I was finally and thankfully able to leave the airport.

In the darkness outside the airport I walked past the line of taxis, across the parking lot and onto the lonely bus stand, waiting for the local bus to take me into town—leaving the fast lane behind.

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