Mariah Carey's Favorite Destinations

The multiplatinum singer (with 150 million-plus records sold) chats about her travel adventures and her favorite cities, restaurants and places to unwind.

Mundo del Sur (US) March-April 2003. Text by Celeste Rodas de Juárez.

Mariah's rise to fame sounds a lot like a Cinderella story. After she graduated from high school, she took singing lessons, waitressed and had small roles on Broadway. Then, at a party, a friend of hers gave Tommy Mottola, then the head of Sony Records, a tape of her songs to listen to in his limousine on the way home. The story goes that the businessman turned his car around to return to the party and find out who this hypnotizing voice belonged to. The rest is history: her megasales, her dozen Top-20 chart-toppers, her travels around the world for concerts... and for fun.

WHEN IT'S TIME TO TRAVEL...

Do you pack your own suitcases? I would love to be able to say that I'm the one who packs my bags, but I can't. I don't have enough time to sing, write songs, produce records, do interviews and pack on top of all that (she laughs).

What kind of clothes do you wear when you travel? When I'm going to fly, I wear what I call my "airplane outfit," which is a comfort-able dress that doesn't wrinkle in case there are cameras waiting for me when I arrive. I always have to have that in mind. I own an entire collection of these types of outfits-the truth is, I have to many of them in my closet that they take up an entire section... but I only choose one.

Do you exercise when you travel? Not as much as I'd like... but yes, when I have the opportunity.

What type of exercises? I would love to go jogging on the beach, but I can't. When (now that I'm in Miami) I look out the window and see that marvelous beach, it makes me want to go out there and run and swim. Swimming is one of my favorite exercises. I love warm places with lots of water, but I can't always take advantage of it. When I can, I swim a little.

What are some of your favorite places in the world? Capri is one of my favorite places, which is why I recorded part of my new album there. I really love being surrounded by the beach and the ocean. I also love Puerto Rico. They're two of my favorite places.

You've also been spotted several times in Spain. When you think of that country, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Spain has so many marvelous cities! Its culture is so ancient... in the United States, we don't have those beautiful cultural relics. Here, the oldest buildings only date from the 1800s. In Spain, there's a legacy of hundreds and hundreds of years, which is amazing.

What are your favorite cities in the world? Rome, and my home, New York.

Is there a particular restaurant that's impressed you most out of all that you've visited? There's a very beautiful one in Capri called Villa Verde. The owner's name is Franco, and it's a very special, fun place. I have to give him credit, and an award for excellence.

What's your favorite food? That depends on the chef, actually. You may love Thai food, but if one day it's not so good... so I would have to say it depends. What are you cooking tonight? That might be my favorite food...

I'm sure you have a lot of interesting anecdotes from your travels... Many, but right now I can't think of any... Alice! (She calls for her assistant) Can you help me remember any? (She thinks for a few seconds) I get lost easily, I'm the kind of person who has no sense of direction. I could easily get lost in this hotel. Oh yes! Once in Rome, I wanted to get together with some friends to enjoy the outdoors, so I asked them to meet me by the Spanish Steps. The problem is that people began to recognize me; soon the word spread, and the crowd became so big that they almost crushed us. They began to press against us, and we almost fell down the steps. We had to hide out in the Prada store. Now that I think about it, it wasn't realistic on my part to go out like that, thinking that we were normal people and that no one would recognize us.

Do you have any advice to share with those who travel? Only to enjoy each moment.

What were the biggest lessons that you learned in 2002? There were so many! The greatest was that you have to take care of yourself and learn to say no to some things — to stop working too much, because no one can work 20 hours straight under a lot of stress without burning out. I think that this is a lesson for everyone. Last year, I wanted to have everything under control, but I learned that others could help me as well. Now I have a nutritionist who advises me so I can stay healthy. When people see me smiling in front of the camera, they may not realize how exhausting this work can be. I also learned to have faith and be a better person. Many of this is expressed on ,y new album, especially in the song, "Through the Rain."

What's your concept of happiness? It's like, for example, today: I could go out and lie on the beach, swim and enjoy the water and the rest of the day. But in general, happiness means being at peace with yourself and surrounded by those who you love, the friends and family that really love you.

A lot has been said about you that's not true. Are there some that have irritated you more than others? I would love it if none of them had ever been said, but, unfortunately, people like to exaggerate because they have to make money. That's why they sometimes say "Mariah had 35 nervous breakdowns," instead of saying, "Mariah was simply resting or visiting with friends." But people don't really know what's most important. The most important thing is that during all this time they were saying these things, I was getting my work done: I was writing my songs, both for my fans and for myself. This new album is very personal, and there's a lot in it about forging ahead in difficult times. What I was trying to do this time was to convert the negative into positive. That's how I am. I don't hate the press, but at times they make up things that aren't true. I understand that some journalists write or do what they do because they have to make a living, so I'm not angry. Who cares?