With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we speak to the founders of Mr & Mrs Smith — the boutique hotel accommodation and booking service every couple should note in their Little Black Book
What's your favourite hotel to check into? Tamara: Almost impossible, but here are a few I love for different reasons: Lime Wood in Hampshire for its spa and its food; Southern Ocean Lodge in Australia for its remoteness and seclusion from the world; Uxua Casa for its grown-up sense of fun and infectious Brazilian-ness; Soneva Fushi in the Maldives for its eco-conscious attitude. James: Like Tam, I could never settle on a favourite, but I do love Ett Hem in Stockholm: Probably the most stylish home-from-home I've been too. Then there's the Aman Canal Grande in Venice which is one of the most fabulously palatial places on the planet and Bali's Alila Uluwatu with its wowing views and awe-inspiring architecture.
Where did you go for your honeymoon and what's your fondest memory of the trip? Tamara: We went to Cape Town and three different safari camps in Kruger National Park. My fondest memory of that trip was of dining outside next to a roaring campfire, under the stars, listening to the sounds of the wilderness around us. James: I loved Franschhoek for its wine, food and very beautiful La Residence hotel — a château-style estate turned none-more-romantic retreat. I remember never wanting to leave — their bedrooms are just stunning.
Most unusual boutique hotel you've stayed at? Tamara: Treehotel in Sweden has to be the most surreal place I've stayed. One night we were in the UFO: literally a spaceship-shaped construction suspended from the trees complete with automatic step ladder and smoke billowing out from the bottom. James: I can't beat Tam's answer.
Most memorable turn-down service? James: Our bedroom bathed in candlelight at La Residence: so simple but so romantic. I think health and safety is a little more flexible there! Tamara: At one hotel we rejected, the owners were trying really hard to get into our collection so they laid on the hospitality thick. When we went back to our room it had been decorated with a trail of red rose petals from the door to the bed which itself was covered entirely in petals, with two swan towel art creations facing each other to create a heart shape, and two (melting) strawberry chocolates on the pillows. It wasn't our honeymoon and instead of being romantic it just made us laugh. I was finding petals everywhere for days afterwards — too much!
What is the most underrated destination you know of? James: The Pacific coast of Mexico is rugged and beautiful but somehow always plays second fiddle to the Yucatán Peninsula. Tamara: Athens. People often pass through on their way to the islands and don't stop to take a look — the art scene is really taking off there.
What are some of your travel essentials? James: A comfy hoodie, some sort of cotton scarf and my noise-canceling headphones to drown out plane rumblings. Tamara: There are two little potions I never get on a plane without: 1) Ultra hydrating Dr Lipp lip balm — you'll get off the plane with your lips feeling better than when you got on; 2) De Mamiel Altitude Oil — inhale this and you can forget you are in an enclosed space with too many other people.
Worst souvenir you've picked up from a trip. James: A leather overnight case from Marrakech — it stank of camel poo and I ended up having to keep it in our shed. Tam thought it was hilarious and constantly asked if I was going to use it for our next trip but I would have smelt like some kind of farmhand. Tamara: We went on a summer holiday with the kids and they pestered me into buying them a huge inflatable green turtle to play with in the sea. We called it Myrtle and they grew so attached to it that they insisted that we brought it back with us. Obviously it's never been used since, but I'm not allowed to throw it away!
Tell us about a great little place you know. James: Il Latini in Florence: just the best simple Italian food cooked beautifully with no fuss or formality. Tamara: There is a town in Brazil called Trancoso which has an incredible long, soft-sand beach and a stunning central communal common lined with pretty single-story houses all painted in vibrant colours. At night it comes alive with shops, restaurants and live music.
Who is the most interesting person you've met on your travels? James: Probably Kent, who owns Treehotel. He's a down-to-earth, kind, generous man with one of the most adventurous spirits — I mean, who would have thought that building a spaceship and a mirror-cubed treehouse in the middle of a Swedish forest would ever catch on? He's been married to his wonderful wife Britta for 40 years and he drinks sap which he taps from silver birch trees to keep him young — a brilliantly bonkers and inspiring man. Tamara: Wilbert Das and Bob Shevlin are the owners of Uxua Casa in Brazil. They also happen to have been the driving forces behind the design and marketing of Diesel, helping to take the brand from a small Italian fashion house to a global phenomenon. Wilbert now applies his amazing creative force to designing the hotel — everything from structural details to the in-room furniture. They also happen to be the nicest people!
What are you reading right now? James: The Martian, a proper page-turner (which helps, because I have the attention span of a gnat). Tamara: The Collaborator by Gerald Seymour about the Naples mafia clans. Totally gripping with amazing characterisation.
To view more interviews in our Art of Travel series, click here.