Tracie Thoms' celebrity travels
Actress and Baltimore native enjoys cities around the globe, but New Orleans, San Francisco are favorites
Tracie Thoms last year on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, where she was shooting the film, "Safe House." (Tracie Thoms Photo, Baltimore Sun / September 13, 2012)
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Introduced to acting and television at an early age — her father, Donald Thoms, is a Maryland Public Television host and cable TV executive — she further honed her craft at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Thoms went on earn degrees from Howard University and the Juilliard School in New York City.
Since that time, the 37-year-old has become a rising star among a new generation of American actors. Thoms has appeared on Broadway in such productions as "Stick Fly" and "Rent," reprising her role in the film version of the musical.
She was a series regular on CBS' "Cold Case" and had a recurring role on "Harry's Law," with Kathy Bates. Her films have included the Denzel Washington thriller "Safe House," Quentin Tarantino's "Grindhouse: Death Proof," "The Devil Wears Prada" and the Chris Rock indie flick "Good Hair."
Thoms has also performed her cabaret act locally at Center Stage and around the country.
We caught up with the bicoastal entertainer, who recently shot "Looper" opposite Bruce Willis, to talk travel, good eats and more.
How often do you travel? Is it mostly for work or pleasure?
I travel at least once a month, sometimes twice a month. It's almost always for work. But I'm not complaining. It's an awesome perk of my job.
What are your favorite destinations?
Cape Town, South Africa, was amazing. I was shooting "Safe House" there, and it's an absolutely beautiful town. [It's] so rich and diverse in history, with a young, progressive government and gorgeous landscape — I took a thousand pictures.
In addition to Cape Town, Cannes has to be one of the most beautiful destinations I've ever been to. I was in Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof," which played at the Cannes Film Festival. So again, an awesome perk of my job. Another place I love is Barbados. I went there for vacation several years ago. Just incredible! My favorite European city, though, has to be Florence, Italy. It just feels good. Every day feels like I'm in some romance film. And the food … don't even get me started.
What are some of your favorite American cities?
New Orleans has to be one of my favorite cities. Do I really have to explain why? It's the Big Easy. Another fave is San Francisco. I shot "Rent," there so it will always hold a special place in my heart. It's the closest thing to New York I can get out here on the West Coast. And, of course, New York for the energy, the pizza, the theater and the creepy people on the subway [chuckles].
Do you have any favorite hotels?
I really loved the Sofitel in Philly. We went to Philly to shoot "Cold Case," and we always stayed in the same hotel. So it was like my home away from home. And I love the Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town. They have a whiskey bar which is, hands down, the best I've ever seen. I enjoy a good whiskey.
Besides a stiff drink, what type of food do you enjoy? Any favorite restaurants?
Generally speaking, I love food. I'll try anything once. Well … almost anything. In San Francisco, I was obsessed with [the restaurant] Blowfish Sushi. I'm not even huge on sushi, but I just loved it! My favorite Philly cheese steak is surprisingly not Pat's or Geno's, although they are both incredible. My favorite was from Dalessandro's Steaks in Roxborough. It changed my life.
My favorite slice of pizza was from Giordano's Pizza in Chicago. Stop. It. Deep dish. It's like a pizza layer cake of goodness. Stop it. I'm cheating on my love of N.Y. pizza with that one but, hey, what can you do?
In New Orleans, I can't choose. Every meal is spectacular every time I go. Recently I had the charbroiled oysters from Drago's and I almost punched the waiter because they were so good. Amazing food can sometimes cause violence — oops! And of course, no trip is complete without a beignet from Cafe Du Monde. It's touristy, but with good reason.
What travel items do you always pack?
I can't go anywhere without my eye mask and earplugs. Not only am I somewhat of a night owl, I'm also a very light sleeper. So I need to shut out all noise and light just so I can get some sleep. It's not always easy.
And I can't go anywhere without my cellphone. I use it for everything: email, Twitter, Facebook, photos, Netflix. It's like an extension of my hand. I may be embarrassed by that fact, but at least I'm honest.
Do you like to read when traveling? Do you prefer traditional books or an e-reader?
I always have my iPad with me. I usually use the time on the plane to read scripts for any projects that I am working on or thinking of working on. It's honestly hard to read for pleasure because I'm [typically] backed up on things I have to read.
Are you a heavy or light packer?
Heavy? Light? That's so subjective. [Chuckles.] A girl always has to have the right pair of shoes for any occasion.
What does travel do for your mind and spirit?
It's truly a blessing to travel to the places I've been [because] of my work. And I usually try to sneak some personal time in and see some touristy things while I'm away. It awakens my sense of adventure!
Tracie Thoms' 5 favorites
From Chicago to Cannes, celebrity traveler Tracie Thoms has made the world her stage. Here are five of her favorite places:
1. Cape Grace Hotel, West Quay Road, Cape Town, South Africa. Luxury hotel situated amid the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with views of Table Mountain. Amenities include a spa, library, gourmet restaurant, and a whiskey, wine and cocktail bar—Bascule — that offers some 400 whiskeys from around the world. For more info, go to capegrace.com.
2. Sofitel Philadelphia, 120 S. 17th St., Philadelphia, 212-569-8300. French elegance meets Philadelphia freedom. Sip cocktails in the Liberte Urban Lounge, and for breakfast, nibble a fresh croissant. Go to sofitel.com. Another Philly favorite is Dalassandro's Steaks, 600 Wendover St. Philadelphia. 212-482-5407. This popular spot in the Roxborough neighborhood has a menu loaded with the iconic cheese steak sandwiches, hoagies and more. Go to delassandros.com.
3. Drago's Seafood Restaurant, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 2 Poydras St., New Orleans, 504-584-391. Seafood reigns at this Big Easy eatery. The famed charbroiled oysters are grilled in the shell with garlic, butter, herbs and Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Go to dragosrestaurant.com.
4. Blowfish Sushi, 2170 Bryant St., San Francisco, 415-285-3848. Dozens of sushi choices, including cod, venison and eggplant, including the Popeye roll, made with spinach and Asian peanut sauce.
5. Giordano's Famous Stuffed Pizza, Chicago (multiple locations). The menu offers pasta, salads and more, but the pies—with cheese, veggies, pepperoni and shrimp, among other ingredients—take center stage. Go to giordanos.com