Globe-trotting TV travel host Samantha Brown is as hard to track down for an interview as you'd imagine.
The Dallas native was set to chat on the phone about the "Dallas" episode of her Emmy Award-winning PBS show, Samantha Brown's Places to Love, when she rescheduled to catch a plane to get ahead of a snowstorm. Then the snowstorm caught up with her while driving through Quebec, and our phone interview became an email exchange sent through a PR agency.
Such is the catch-me-if-you-can life of the spunky Travel Channel alumna who has hosted such shows as Girl Meets Hawaii, Great Hotels, Green Getaways, and Samantha Brown's Asia.
Places to Love, which airs locally on Sundays on KLRU channel 18, takes viewers to both well-known and little-known spots around the globe, hitting on topics including food and drink, art and design, music, and culture and adventure.
For the episode, which airs again in Houston on February 22, Brown comes home to Dallas. Without providing too many spoilers, she revealed that she spends time in Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts, and the Dallas Arts District. She stopped at Pecan Lodge for barbecue, Klyde Warren Park, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dude Sweet Chocolate, Purepecha at Revolver Taco Lounge, and Wild Detectives book store. She also had a custom cowboy hat made at Travis Austin Customs hat studio and took in some live music.
In this Q&A, she reveals more about filming the episode and tackles some hot travel topics.
CultureMap: You covered Houston and the Hill Country on Places to Love Season 1 (which CultureMap also wrote about). Why did you choose Dallas, and why now?
Samantha Brown: Dallas is a city that had changed more in five years than most do in 10. It’s time to reboot our knowledge about the city so we can love it for what it is now.
CM: You were born in Dallas but didn't live here long. Do you have any friends or family still in the area, and do you make it back often?
SB: Unfortunately, no.
CM: Do you personally have a say in which places you film for the show? Do you know, going in, what kind of story you want to tell about a place? What was that "story" you wanted to tell about Dallas?
SB: I have total say in the places we visit. We do a tremendous amount of research to give us an overall idea of what’s going on. Then, we whittle that down to about 15 ideas for segments, and then my producer goes a month before the shoot to meet those 15, which we then choose the eight or nine to be in the show.
I have a general idea of the theme, but we let the people speak for themselves. It is in post production of the edit that I discover the more authentic storyline. I never assume who people and places are.
CM: What kind of prep did you do, and how long did filming take?
SB: It takes five days to scout the grounds. This is a step few travel shows can afford to take, but one I feel is imperative to the integrity of the show. Filming is four days.
CM: Tell me about some of the places you visited, starting with Pecan Lodge. Do you like Texas barbecue, and would you stand in their notoriously long line for it? (I'm guessing they let you skip it with a camera crew.)
SB: Honestly, I don’t stand in line for food. But I do find ways, or ins, so that I’m going at a time or day when the line isn’t long. For Pecan Lodge, we featured that if you ordered five pounds of meat, you can skip the big line. So it’s good to come with a big group of people, or be prepared to make a friend, which in Dallas, isn’t that hard.
CM: What were your impressions of the Nasher Sculpture Center and Klyde Warren Park?
SB: I fell in love with Klyde Warren Park about five years ago when I stumbled upon it as I was walking around. To me, public spaces that invite everyone in and create places where there was none, is what a city has to have to be considered a real city.
CM: You got a custom made cowboy hat in the episode, inspired by your roots here. Tell me about that?
SB: It was at Travis Austin and we wanted to show that Dallas was all about the cowboy hat and yet because of the iconic hat, people in Dallas wear a lot of hats to define who they are. I was born in Dallas in 1970, so I made sure my hat had a yellow rose on it.
CM: And now for some general questions on hot topics ...
The Emmys: You won two last year for the show. Fingers crossed again? Got your gown picked out?
SB: I’m going to wear pants and more sensible shoes this year. You have to wait in a three-hour line to get on the red carpet and in high heels, it was brutal. And there was no BBQ at the end of that line.
CM: Regarding Coronavirus, what do you say to travelers who have future travel booked to China and other hard-hit areas, and what kind of long-term effect will this have on tourism in those places?
[PR person speaking on behalf of SB: This isn't something that she can speak to with any authority.]
CM: Between planes being grounded, weather, costs, security lines, a shortage of pilots, and other factors, travel can be tough these days. What is your best advice for navigating the "getting there" so people can experience more joy "being there?"
SB: Plan plenty of time to get to the airport. I base it on the boarding time of the flight, not the departure. Doing it that way gives me time to find a seat or have a nice meal, use the restroom, etc., so I’m more relaxed on the plane.
I think a good thing to remember is that travel is never supposed to be perfect. If that’s your expectation of it, you will always be disappointed. But simple rules that we learned in Kindergarten — be patient and be kind — go a long way.
I also always have food with me. Being patient and kind comes easier when you’re not hungry.
Samantha Brown’s Places to Love: Dallas airs again on Houston Public Media Channel 8 on February 22 at 1:30 am. It is also available for streaming now at pbs.org.