Born and raised in Greenwich Village, N.Y., author Eric Van Lustbader once lived in the same building as Lauren Bacall. Two years after Robert Ludlum died in 2001, Lustbader was chosen by Ludlum's estate to continue the popular Jason Bourne series. The latest is "The Bourne Dominion" (Grand Central Publishing, $27.99). Lustbader counts Paris, Venice and New York -- where he resides with his wife -- amongst his favorite cities.
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. How can there be only one? Spending time with a baby black rhino and our adopted baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage outside Nairobi, feeding the gorgeous and endangered Rothschild giraffes at Giraffe Manor, watching a cheetah kill in the Serengeti from beginning to end; and, of course, making friends with people who live halfway around the world. But if I had to pick just one, it would be this. Recently, my wife and I took our 25-year-old goddaughter to Paris. We watched her fall in love with all the things we ourselves love about the city and open up like a flower to the sun.
To increase Paris' legendary magic, we witnessed her fall in love with a brilliant and funny 29-year-old nuclear physicist and become the happiest and most carefree we'd ever seen her. At the end of our two-week stay, he invited her to come live with him in Geneva, where he will be working for CERN on a new linear particle accelerator. It doesn't get any better than that! As for worst memories, I make it a rule never to remember them.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Paris has exerted an inexorable grip on me. Over the decades, it has been a mecca for artists and writers. I am no exception. To my mind, Paris is the world's most beautiful city. Between its graceful architecture, wide, leafy boulevards and array of magnificent parks, it can't be beat. What is it about walking along the Seine that is so utterly and enchantingly romantic? I don't know.
Q. Have you traveled to any places that inspired you to include the locales in your books?
A. There are many, most notably Paris, Rome, Capri, Africa and Bali. Russia is one place I write about extensively that I have no interest in visiting, perhaps because it is too vividly rendered in my imagination that the real thing can only be a letdown.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. Komodo Island (Indonesia) with our friends from Bali. We've been trying to coordinate this trip for about three years now, but there are six of us involved -- all with very busy lives -- so it's been something of a challenge.
Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?
A. An Abercrombie and Kent around-the-world trip via Marco Polo private plane. I've discovered that the more exotic the location, the less I want to deal with the minute-to-minute hassles endemic to travel. I want someone else to do it. I want to be cosseted. Traveling long distances is arduous enough.
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I want to go to places that draw me in some way, either historically or physically -- hopefully both. Capri is a good example. We first went there because of its place in ancient Roman history. It was the summer residence of first Augustus Caesar and then the morally corrupt Tiberius. When we got there, we were hypnotized by its physical beauty and never wanted to leave. Wherever we choose to go, I always research the best places to stay and, of course, the best restaurants. I'm an inveterate foodie.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://www.jaehakim.com. She welcomes your questions and comments.)