Nan Doyle
57, Brooklyn, NY

Photos by: Catherine Karnow

What do you do for work?
I’m a chef-instructor and travel guide.

For play?
Swim, travel, read, cook, entertain, hike, see art.

How did you conceive of Toast at Home and Away?
I’ve been teaching in-home cooking classes since 2010. When I came home from a trip to South India a few years ago, some of my clients asked to join me on my next trip. A lightbulb went off and I realized I could take my hospitality skills on the road.

What’s your favorite place to travel and why?
France. I lived in Paris for 10 years after college and fell in love with French culture. Speaking the language fluently means I have richer experiences and more access to locals. It’s an endlessly fascinating country for its history, food, the variety of landscapes and subcultures. I love Marseille for its orientation towards the sea and North African influences. I love the mountains of the Pyrenees, the wines of the Loire, the oysters and rugged coastline of Brittany. I even love the Parisians and their sassy attitude.

We’ve heard you hate to exercise but lead walking tours – tell us a bit more. 
The only exercise I truly enjoy is long-distance swimming in natural settings. This limits things, especially in New York weather. Walking has become my daily exercise, because it’s a way to explore and absorb a place—even if it’s simply trekking to Red Hook, Brooklyn or other nearby neighborhoods. I track steps on my phone and aim for 10,000 a day. This means going on little “trips.” Sometimes for reconnaissance before leading a walking tour of Flushing, Queens, for example, and sometimes just to do a few loops in Prospect Park. It’s exercise in disguise.

Can you tell us about your fantasy version of your older self?
I have a comfortable and welcoming home in the French countryside with a vegetable garden, a heated lap pool, and plenty of space for guests. I am healthy and strong and my 2 adult kids love to come visit regularly. My husband and I travel alone and together several times a year, getting regular infusions of urban life, new destinations, and trips to see friends and family. I host workshops and retreats for adults at our place, with people coming to stay, like an adult summer camp but with writers, photographers, artists and thinkers giving lessons to guests who come to expand their minds. Many a day ends in a fabulous meal, sitting at a messy, beautiful, candlelit table. Oh, and I have finally learned to stretch and do simple strength exercises on a mat daily, something I desperately want to incorporate into my everyday life.

What’s your biggest fear?
That the party will end.

Tell us about the best thing you’ve ever eaten.
Years ago, when I worked in media, I produced a guide to French wine. I had the luck and pleasure of collaborating with Michelin 3-star chefs. As a surprise to my team, after three grueling days of shooting, the restaurant conspired to cook us an elaborate meal and serve it at a round table set up in the big, professional kitchen surrounded by a dozen doting, young sous-chefs. The most unforgettable course was a deboned, roasted Cornish hen stuffed with an entire black truffle.

Do you prefer traveling alone or with a partner/group and why?
I like a mix. Alone time is essential for random encounters, following your intuition and unscheduled wandering. But because I enjoy giving pleasure and sharing what I know, it’s fun to travel with others. It brings me joy to lead people to extraordinary places. I also have a good nose and a good sense of direction.

What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Producing two beautiful humans who are fearlessly pursuing their dreams, one as a healer and the other as a singer-songwriter.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I was kicked out of high school, became an anti-nuclear activist, moved to California and started a whole grain bakery called Rebel Bakers at age 18.

Tags : travelWOW
The Woolfer Newsletter Team
Stephanie Staal and Nina Collins have worked together and adored each other since 1994 when they were both babies in the world of book publishing. Stephanie is a lawyer, journalist, & author of READING WOMEN, and Nina is the founder of "What Would Virginia Woolf Do?" Hillary Richard is also a lawyer and co-host of the Raging Gracefully podcast. Sidney Morss is a recent NYU grad and the youngest member of our team.

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