Calling all those with a case of wanderlust: feel inspired with Mr & Mrs Smith’s recommendations for long-haul travel, city breaks, hidden hotels and packing tips
For over a decade, Mr & Mrs Smith has been an authority on the world’s most romantic, unique, mysterious and mischievous boutique hotels and boltholes.
Founded by husband and wife duo Tamara Heber-Percy and James Lohan, both of whom were awarded an MBE for their services to the travel industry, the company now also boasts a legion of travel curators who seek out the finest getaways, from the historic to the hedonistic, and everything in between. What criteria does a Mrs & Mrs Smith-approved hotel require? Individuality, personality, attention to detail and second-to-none service.
Here, curator and travel connoisseur Charlotte Heyman reveals her favourite hidden hotels, recommended city breaks and handy holiday tips.
Where would you recommend for a city break?
Tel Aviv, without hesitation, I love it. It is this modern metropolis that is just a four-hour hop from London, so it’s ideal for a long weekend break. It’s packed with incredibly rich history yet maintains a fresh, contemporary outlook. Huge glass-fronted skyscrapers frame beautiful ancient buildings; the art scene is buzzing; and there are cool hipster hangouts cropping up everywhere.
We’ve just launched two new hotels in Tel Aviv, they're both incredible and very different to one another. One is The Norman, which has 50 individually designed rooms spread over two restored buildings. The front of the hotel is original 1920s Bauhaus the back is much more modern - I loved the mix of the two together. The second is Cucu Hotel which is brand new on the Tel Aviv boutique hotel scene. It perfectly captures the whole vibrant buzz of the city in one bright, creative and colourful space. Cucu is a great budget option, and it's also a great spot for the creatives – they regularly host film nights and mini exhibitions of Israeli artists.
For a beach holiday?
The Maldives. It is just idyllic, and has the brightest sugar-white sand you’ll ever see. It’s the world’s lowest-lying country and I think the most strikingly beautiful. I love Gili Lankanfushi, where I could spend days just watching the lagoon to spot the resident octopus or dolphins. Despite the superb service here and all the activities on offer, including yoga, cruising or windsurfing, the real stellar standout here is the food. I could easily spend two weeks sampling all the property has to offer. The Restaurant on the Beach is stunning for the vast spread of tempting pastries and fruit for breakfast under the palms, or dinner under the stars. It’s tough to decide what’s more breathtaking, the food or the views from the incredible Japanese restaurant, perched high above the forest. Once the day has come to a close, there’s nothing better than winding down with an amazing spa treatment in-room.
Any secret hidden gems you would recommend?
Maya in Sri Lanka. Close to Tangalle, surrounded by rippling rice paddies, this colonial-style manor house has been converted into a small boutique hotel with just five suites. It’s girdled by gardens that brim with wildlife, and has tranquil interiors that beautifully balance traditional decor with contemporary luxury. They also run yoga retreats and wellbeing programmes – thoroughly recommended.
What travel essentials can you not leave without?
I live in Asia, and travel a lot in this part of the world for work, so sunscreen, mosquito repellent and aloe vera are a must! Oh, and a good book: I’m currently reading The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel.
Do you have any advice for packing?
I’m a terrible packer! I usually do my packing at midnight the day before my flight: I would strongly advise you not to do this. I am a firm believer in travelling light, so I use a medium-sized Longchamp bag and roll everything up to save space and prevent creases. To ward off the cold cabin air on flights, I always pack my Maje pink pashmina to wrap up in.
What tips do you have for long-haul flights?
Find the best place for a nice glass of wine before the flight, and have a G&T after take-off! I also try to save up my air miles so I can upgrade when I’m flying long-haul. Homoeopathic No-Jet-Lag pills are a recent discovery – they definitely help.
When it comes to travelling, is there any tip or trick you wish you had learnt earlier?
To be more adventurous and outdoorsy: I discovered that I loved hiking in my late 20s and have since travelled to some incredible places such as Reunion Island, Ethiopia and Borneo to get my fix of heights. I’ve also learned to take news stories with a pinch of salt: things are often blown out of proportion to attract media and political attention. There are so many adventures to be had in stunning places that are rapidly changing; I’m saddened when people don’t want to go somewhere because they’re scared to break out of their comfort zone. Just get out there!
For you, why is travelling important?
My parents met in Italy – my father is Swedish, my mother Scottish; my grandparents met and lived in India; I grew up in France and I now live in Singapore. Travelling is in my genes. I consider myself extremely lucky: I may not have any roots, but I never get homesick, and could happily live almost anywhere. Travel brings people together and by discovering a new culture, you end up learning so much more about yourself. On long road trips, you might encounter difficulties that bring out both the best and the worst in people – it’s a great way to grow your resourcefulness and measure your patience. Travelling also means breaking out of one’s routine and gaining a broader perspective on life.
Where was the last place you travelled?
Thailand – I went to Six Senses Samui and was blown away by every aspect of it. The whole property has just been renovated, and the new interiors are incredible. Each villa is surrounded by lush tropical greenery, and has awe-inspiring ocean views It is easily one of the most tranquil spots on the island. The restaurant hangs directly over the rocks looking out to sea, and dishes are made with local market produce or ingredients from the onsite kitchen gardens. There’s even a little smallholding with goats and chickens, so you can have home-made goat’s cheese and fresh eggs for breakfast every morning. It’s a very eco-conscious property: the grazing goats help maintain the grounds and, to pollinate all the plants, and there’s a beehive too.
Where is on your bucket list?
So, so many places, but Bhutan is definitely at the top of the list. Then South Africa’s Winelands; Japan for skiing in Niseko; India, for the people and the shopping; Tasmania for some hikes and Pinot Noir; and Brazil, where I’m heading in October.