19 travel insiders on the destinations they love most

To celebrate our new issue, Love & Travel, we asked some of our favourite travellers to tell us their travel love stories. From engagements in Thailand and Dorset to family reunions in Hong Kong, Ghana and Cornwall, these are the destinations that mean the most to them and the people they love most.

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HONG KONG: Gina Jackson, @ginagoesto

Gina is a hotel expert, travel influencer and author, known for her snaps of the UK and beyond. But Hong Kong is the place that means most to her. ‘Hong Kong is a very special place for me and my family. It’s where my dad grew up and where a lot of my family live, so we’ve visited as a family every year since I can remember. Every time my sister and I arrive back in Hong Kong, it feels like a homecoming of sorts – part of our identity is woven into the city, despite us never having lived there.’

Where is your favourite place to stay?

‘We’ve stayed at The Upper House every year since it opened – the staff feel like an extended family, and always ensure that we feel at home. We love the slick interiors and amazing views over central Hong Kong – but it’s the little touches that are most memorable. The staff always leave homemade chocolates in our rooms, and even personalised photos and gifts to greet us every time we come back.’

What are your favourite places to visit?

‘Besides visiting local haunts for dim sum, and traditional Hong Kongese ‘milk cafes’ that can be found all over, I love Yardbird for modern Japanese fare, Mott 32 for elevated Chinese cuisine, and Sevva for cocktails with a view (or a decadent afternoon tea). For brunch, my favourite places are The Cupping Room and NOC, and for good coffee, I like Omotesando and Arabica.’

What do you love most about Hong Kong?

‘I love the juxtaposition of city life and nature. The city is all tall skyscrapers and hustle, but it only takes you half an hour to travel to more relaxed, remote parts of the island, where you can visit the beach or go for hikes. In the city itself, you’ll find a blend of old and new: skyscrapers draped in bamboo scaffolding sit right next to traditional market stalls. I also love how safe Hong Kong is: it’s a city where I feel very comfortable exploring alone and getting lost, knowing that I’ll always stumble across something new.’


CORNWALL: Laura Jackson

A broadcaster, food columnist, cookbook author, podcast host, co-founder and CEO of lifestyle brand Glassette Laura Jackson has a lot to say when it comes to travel and lifestyle. ‘Cornwall is a special place my family have been holidaying at forever. My great aunt lived in Cornwall until recently and we just loved going to visit her. It’s also the place I got married – on the beach surrounded by all of my favourite people. We have been going to the south coast religiously and it’s a tradition I would like to keep up with my own family. The only downside is that my secret spot is now-not-so-secret!’

Where do you stay in Cornwall?

‘I love to rent houses, from Kip Hideaways to little Airbnbs. Staying in a new place every time feels really fun and even though we have been to Cornwall a million times it gives each trip a new sense of adventure.’

Where is your favourite place to eat?

‘I currently love going to Newlyn and exploring. We start with lunch at Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar, followed by a pint at The Tolcarne Inn and an ice cream at Jelbert’s.’

What do you love most about Cornwall?

‘Some parts of Cornwall feel like England’s last true wilderness. There is something so charming about the rugged coastal paths. In the summer, the blue crystal waters feel almost Caribbean-like. There is nothing more satisfying than finding a hidden beach, taking all your clothes off and going for a swim.’

Jessica Fernando & Renato SotoRyan Wijayaratne

SRI LANKA: Jessica Fernando and Renata Kümin

A café, hotel and artist’s residence, Mond is a community-minded space in Hiriketiya on Sri Lanka’s south coast, opened in 2019 by couple Fernando and Soto. Next up is Studio Mond, a collection of objects crafted in collaboration with local artisans. ‘As our relationship evolves, so does how we work together. We try to stay flexible and talk it out when “things” arise’

Where is your favourite hotel in the world?

‘Our favourite place to stay is Tonnara di Scopello in Sicily. In 2015, we went on a road trip through Italy with a mattress in the back of our Volvo. Most of the time we parked along the coast or in the woods, but we spoiled ourselves by staying at an apartment in this former tuna factory.’

Where is your favourite bar in the world?

‘Our top drink spot is Bar Sacchi, a natural wine bar in Zürich owned by our friend Claudio. We don’t order: he just serves us his latest finds.’


GHANA: Stephanie Yeboah, @stephanieyeboah

Stephanie is an award-winning blogger, author, activist and content creator. She lives in South London, but the destination that means most to her is the country she grew up in.

‘Ghana contains so many precious memories from my childhood, growing up alongside my cousins near the local sugarcane fields and going to school. It was a wholesome time.’

Do you have a favourite hotel in Ghana?

‘I love the Labadi Beach hotel, mostly because of the beautiful white beach with panoramic views of the coast.’

Where is the best place for food?

‘Bloom Bar is one of my favourite spots to eat at and is one of the most popular bars in Accra. The atmosphere is always energetic with the best live DJs, and their Blackberry Mimosas are to die for! Ghana also has the best street food, filled with bursts of flavour and vibrant colours.’

What do you love most about Ghana?

‘The people are what make Ghana what it is: they are some of the friendliest people on earth and I’ve always been made to feel incredibly welcome.’


PARIS: Madeline Lu, @lumadeline

A photographer, content creator and travel, lifestyle and food blogger, Madeline has lived everywhere from China and Canada to the UK and Switzerland. ‘Paris will always have a special place in my heart – it was one of the first destinations we travelled to as a family. We have been back several times over the years, but still, we haven’t seen enough of it. There are always new things to discover and experience.’

Where is your favourite place to stay in Paris?

Le Meurice is one of our absolute favourites. Not only is it beautiful and elegant in an understated way, but it also has a fantastic location – right opposite the Jardin des Tuileries and a five-minute walk to the Louvre.’

Where do you go to eat?

‘I love Restaurant Le Dalí at Le Meurice, Jean Imbert au Plaza Athénée, Le Train Bleu, and Le Grand Véfour. My favourite Michelin-starred places are Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse and Marsan by Hélène Darroze. For cafés, I love Carette, Pierre Hermé (they have the most delicious macarons), and Café de Flore.’

What do you love most about Paris?

‘It is a beautiful, culture-rich, diverse and sophisticated city. It has some of the best museums, art galleries, opera houses and restaurants in the world. It has been a constant source of inspiration for me and my work.’

Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece

NEW YORK CITY: Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece

The best-friend duo are behind the brand Ashya, which makes beautiful leather travel accessories, from passport holders to belt bags and cross-body bags. In 2022, it will be stocked at department stores Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, and the pair will unveil a first collaboration with an as-yet- unnamed giant of the fashion world. ‘The key to our partnership is that we have so much genuine love and respect for each other. We’re in different places (me in NYC, Moya in Jamaica), but being great friends has helped us to overcome all the obstacles of running a business together.’

What is your favourite hotel in the world?

‘We love travelling to Santa Monica Proper Hotel. Designer Kelly Wearstler manages to make these really creative, textured spaces that are also cosy, which have inspired our homes. There or Jamaica, which has become a place of rediscovery, solace and joy.’

Matt and Mike FrenchAnastasia Digiallonardo

WEST COAST, USA: Matt and Mike French

The French brothers are behind the Western-style Pioneertown Motel near Joshua Tree and Captain Whidbey, a restored island inn north of Seattle. ‘We’ve always been close so working together felt natural, though our first venture in fashion was a complete flop. We’ve put a lot of effort into creating a relationship that stands the test of time. It also helps to be neighbours!’

Where is your favourite hotel in the world?

‘One of our favourite hotels is the Click Clack in Medellín, Colombia. In the heart of Poblado, it has it all, from experimental design to diverse dining options.’

What is your favourite place in the world?

‘Our favourite places are Big Sur – those enormous views – and Marina del Cantone in Italy. A small cove just south of Positano, it feels like a dream. From here, we love to hike to Conca del Sogno beach club for drinks.’

Hana Tsukamoto & Irene Chang

KYOTO: Hana Tsukamoto and Irene Chang

Childhood friends Chang and Tsukamoto opened Maana Homes, a collection of restored machiya townhouses for rent in Kyoto, at the end of 2019. They’re currently working on a shop and restaurant, as well as a series of new spaces.‘We met at boarding school in the USA. I barely spoke English and asked Irene for a dictionary. Then, in 2016 when my mother passed away, we went to Spain together to clear my head. During that trip, we decided to work on something that excited us and scribbled ideas on a paper tablecloth in a restaurant. The partnership works because we have complete trust. I look after the creative and operational side as I’m based in Kyoto, while Irene does the finances. It helps that we grew up together; she’s like a sister to me, and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.’

Where is your favourite hotel in the world?

‘We love places that are surrounded by nature. Irene’s favourite hotel is Forestis Dolomites in Italy for its balance of wellness and adventure. Around Kyoto there are thousands of hiking trails and gardens; during the pandemic I was lucky enough to explore without anyone around.’

Sonu and Eva ShivdasaniMatt Porteous

THE MALDIVES: Sonu and Eva Shivdasani

The husband-and-wife founders of Soneva hotels are pioneers of barefoot eco luxury in the region. They are hosting the inaugural Jaipur Literary Festival at Soneva Fushi in May. ‘We work well partly because we have clear boundaries between work and time off, so on holiday we can discuss concepts but not day-to-day issues.’

Where is your favourite place in the world?

‘Our favourite place in the world is the Maldives. We spend most of the year at Soneva Fushi, and are often on a conference call at our desks when dolphins swim by.’

Where is your favourite hotel in the world?

‘We love Florence, where our favourite hotels are the Lungarno and Villa San Michele. We still remember a wonderful lunch on Villa San Michele’s terrace one hazy sunny afternoon, with a very nice vintage of Sassicaia.’


DORSET: Alice Tate

As well as her career as head of PR and communications at The Hoxton Hotel group, Alice is also a dedicated travel writer and lifestyle blogger. What started as a Tumblr account in the early 2000s, Flash Anthology turned into a passion project showing her travels, writing, passions and interests in wellbeing.

What is the destination you think of when you hear the word ‘love’?

‘Dorset! My boyfriend and I went on the nicest camping trip there for our first adventure out of the first lockdown and got engaged. We had amazing weather, went on gorgeous coastal walks, and did so much swimming — it will always give me the happiest memories.’

Where is your favourite place to stay there?

‘Primrose Fields campsite near Wareham is just perfect – it’s a wildflower meadow and just so relaxed and lovely.’

Where do you go to eat and drink?

‘The Star and Compass is a great watering hole in Worth Matravers. There’s a great National Trust walk that takes you all along the coast path and right past the pub — it’s perfect for a sunny pint or lunch in the sun post-sea-swim at Winspit Quarry.’

What do you love most about Dorset?

‘I love the South West Coast Path so much – it’s so freeing. Plus, swimming, fish and chips, pub pints, crab sandwiches… What’s not to love?’


USA: Katya Katkova, @eastlondonmornings

After growing up in Klaipeda in Lithuania, Katya moved to London in 2008 and started a blog to document her discoveries. 13 years on, @eastlondonmornings is bigger and better than ever, and Katya travels around the world, uncovering lesser-known spots and travel trends as she goes. ‘It’s not a destination that makes my trips so special, but the connection with my friends. I love spontaneous, unplanned trips where you feel free – and what better place to experience freedom than in the USA?’

What is the destination that means the most to you and someone you love, and why?

‘I have a few destinations that mean a lot to me because of friends who live locally and make trips there feel very special. One of the best trips I’ve taken was to California. I originally booked it as a solo trip, but my friend Katya spontaneously decided to join me and flew from Portland so we could explore the vineyards of California together.’

Where is your favourite place to stay in the USA?

‘In LA, we stayed in this amazing apartment by Venice Beach. It belonged to a Hollywood film director and was full of props from his movies. On a trip to San Francisco with my friend Natalia, we stayed in this little boat moored at Pier 39. Each morning, we’d wake up to greet our neighbours: friendly sea lions that would come and say hello. It was an unforgettable experience.’

Where do you go to eat and drink on your travels?

‘I always try to ask locals – taxi drivers, Airbnb hosts, etc – for their favourite places to eat. These are the places that aren’t likely to be in any guide. This was how we stumbled upon Taco House #1, the best tacos in the whole of California.’


COLOMBIA: Andrew Sim and Emily Gough, @alongdustyroads

Londoners Andrew and Emily quit their jobs in the UK and headed for Mexico. They launched a travel blog, Along Dusty Roads, designed to help people travel more and travel better. ‘We’ve travelled together for a decade, and are fortunate that we share the same love for places. We don’t define our travel style as being suited to one single place, aesthetic, or type of experience.’

What is the destination that means the most to you both?

‘Colombia is the destination which puts the biggest smile on our faces. With a tumultuous recent history, the South American country is writing new stories to change the narrative. The coastline, coffee triangle, pretty colonial towns and lively cultural city hubs beguile every traveller, but it’s the infectious spirit, music, colour, and personality of the country which gets under your skin.’

Where is your favourite place to stay there?

‘On our last trip to Colombia, after a hot, sweaty bus ride and a motorbike taxi along several miles of dusty roads, we found a dream-like place called Dos Aguas in Rincón del Mar. Built from the sand up by a young Colombian-Italian couple, the hostel’s sustainability and community-based credentials are refreshingly positive and meaningful, while the open-sided wooden architecture between the tangled mangroves and a secluded beach is something we dreamily reminisce over.’

Where do you go to eat?

‘Any place that’s popular with locals without an English-language menu, preferably with colourful painted walls and a tempting menú del diá written up on a whiteboard that morning.’

James and Tamara LohanCoveteur / Trunk Archive

LONDON: James and Tamara Lohan

Having met on an Ibiza dance floor, the couple founded boutique hotel guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith in 2003 – now it’s a booking site and curated collection of global stays. ‘In our early days of dating, we’d regularly book weekends away in the UK that ended up being disappointing road trips. We thought: there’s got to be a better hotel guide than the one that promoted these places, so we decided to publish our own. We prioritised whether two could fit in the bath and the quality of the Martinis. That was our first experience of working together, and it just felt right.’

What is your favourite restaurant in the world?

‘One of our favourite restaurants is Juan y Andrea on the sands of Playa Illetes in Formentera for a long lunch of rosé and fresh fish.’

Where are you travelling to next?

‘We are hoping to visit Castello di Reschio in Umbria soon. The estate itself is incredible – but the transformation of the thousand-year-old castle at its heart is the showstopper.’


CORNWALL: India and Magnus, @haarkon_

Professional photographers India and Magnus began documenting their travels on their website in 2015. Now, more than 200,000 followers eagerly await new pictures and sneak peeks into their journeys via their website, haarkon.co.uk, and Instagram.

What is the destination that means the most to you both?

‘For many reasons, Cornwall is a place that we return to over and over. It’s a beautiful part of the world that we have a connection with and somewhere we both feel simultaneously inspired by; the rugged coastal path, characterful towns and distinctive beaches make us feel as though there is always more to see.’

What do you love most about Cornwall?

‘Staring at the sea and watching the light move across the water; the endless colours and textures of every beach; seeing the Cornish translations on road signs; noticing local suppliers on restaurant menus; never being far away from the sea; the swish and sway of barley in a field… All of these reasons and more.’


THAILAND: Callie Thorpe, @calliethorpe

Originally from Wales, , Callie Thorpe has stolen hearts across the internet, promoting kindness, positivity and wellbeing. Now living in London, Callie is a speaker, writer and podcast host, and founder of @theconfidencecorner, a digital members’ club for plus size women. Plus, her dreamy travel photographs are enough to make you book a flight immediately.

What is the destination that means the most to you and someone you love, and why?

‘In 2014 for five whole weeks my husband and I travelled together across South East Asia, but undoubtedly it was Thailand that captured our hearts. The journey altogether took five weeks, which was the longest trip we had taken together and it really gave us the opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level. It was also the place where we got engaged. We had been kayaking all day around the islands in Krabi, where the water was the colour of jade. The day ended with a sunset on a beautiful beach where I was proposed to under a phenomenal purple tinged sky. The trip itself cemented a love for travel that has not left us and was the beginning of our journey into sharing our travels across social media.’

Do you have a favourite place to stay in Thailand?

‘We did a mixture of backpacking and mid to luxury stays during our month in Thailand and each had their own wonderful character. One night we stayed in a bamboo hut overlooking Cheow Larn Lake, in the heart of Khao Sok National Park, surrounded by lush green rainforests and birds singing in the trees as our morning alarm. We decided to end the trip in style to celebrate our engagement at the five-star Lebua Hotel – the Sky Bar on the 64th floor has one of the highest rooftops in the world!’

Did you have a favourite place to eat?

‘I could write an essay on the food in Thailand and I think I could go as far as saying it’s the best food we’ve ever had on a trip together. Chiang Mai was the best for its street food, especially at the famous Saturday night market where they served steaming pots of the region’s famous dish Khao Soi, a rich and savoury soup made with fresh and crispy noodles, topped with fragrant lime, pickled mustard greens and shallots – it’s truly a taste sensation.’

What do you love most about Thailand?

‘Not to go all ‘Eat Pray Love’ but it’s one of those places that never leaves you. The landscape, the people, the diversity of experiences. It has everything from beaches to jungles and temples. The food and flavours are unmatched, and the sunsets are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it was the love bug that got us, but we both left Thailand feeling enamoured for travel as well as restored and excited for our future lives. We cannot wait to get back to Thailand to experience it’s wonder again.’

Cyrielle Astaing & Julien PhomvehaRigotang

MARRAKECH: Cyrielle Astaing and Julien Phomveha

When creatives Astaing and Phomveha met in Paris, he was an art director and she was a photographer and model. They moved to Marrakech, opening Riad Jardin Secret in 2015, and now concentrate on interior design projects.

 ‘We are a true partnership. Our passion for art, vintage furniture and Moroccan techniques led us to create authentic interiors with a contemporary twist at Riad Jardin Secret. While Cyrielle has the creative drive and instinct to craft new pieces, I look for the right materials, artisans and techniques to turn her ideas into reality.’ 

Where is the best place to go for a drink?

‘Nothing is ever wrong when we have a drink at La Mamounia, a Marrakech institution since 1923 with a world-class collection of vintage Champagne.’

Pascale Lauber & Ulrike BauschkeBEATRICE PILOTTÒ

PUGLIA: Pascale Lauber and Ulrike Bauschke

Over the past 27 years, the life and business partners have renovated 16 properties together. Their most recent is Paragon 700, a former palace turned hotel in Ostuni, Puglia, which opened in 2020. ‘Our partnership works well because we keep our roles separate. Pascale is the interior designer and architect, and takes ownership of everything design-led. I’m involved in the renovations and in charge of the finances.’

What is your favourite restaurant in the world?

‘Our favourite restaurant is Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia, a vineyard in Cape Town, where we lived for 13 years. We often have the tapas-style menu to share; the southern Thai linefish is especially delicious.’

What is your favourite hotel to stay in?

‘Our favourite hotel has to be Aman Tokyo. From the minimal design to the incredible food and views, it’s the kind of place you want to stay at again and again.’

Bill Bensley & Jirachai RenthongK. Wasan Puengprasert

BANGKOK: Bill Bensley and Jirachai Renthong

Architect Bensley runs his eponymous hotel design studio with his horticulturalist husband Renthong. They are behind more than 200 properties, including recent arrivals The Slate hotel in Phuket and Hotel de la Coupole in Vietnam. ‘We met in late 1989. I saw Jirachai coming down the stairs at a party and that was it. He was studying political science but his true love was plants. We moved in together in Bangkok. The house had a bare garden; within a year he’d turned it into paradise.’ ‘Our partnership works because we both have our own projects so we don’t step on each other’s toes. At home, Jirachai’s passion is the garden and mine is painting.’

Where is your favourite place in the world?

‘Our favourite escape is the wilderness of Mongolia; it’s a place that the world hasn’t messed up yet. You can go for weeks without seeing anyone.’

JohannesburgGetty Images

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: Travis Levius, @misterlevius

After leaving his teaching job in Atlanta to move across the pond, Travis is now based in the UK. A freelance writer and editor, content creator and hospitality consultant based in London, he showcases his travels via his Instagram account, @misterlevius.

What is the destination you love most, and why?

‘Though it might not be the most typical destination, I am indeed in love with Johannesburg in South Africa.’

Do you have a favourite hotel there?

‘My hotel of preference in the city depends on my state of mind. If I want a slick city hotel experience near the vibrant areas of Maboneng and Jewel City, I’ll bed down at Hallmark House. If I want a lush, five-star urban oasis for a more relaxing base, I’d go to The Saxon Hotel & Spa.’

Where is your favourite place for food?

‘Marble, a wood-fire focussed restaurant and rooftop lounge in an upscale neighbourhood, helped put the city on the culinary map when it opened and remains a favourite haunt of mine.’

What do you love most about Johannesburg?

‘Johannesburg’s lure is intangible – there’s an essence, a thrumming buzz the city emanates that I can’t get enough of. The people I’ve met in my many visits are brilliant, open-minded and downright fabulous. I’ve made lifelong friends here more than most other places. It’s the closest place to ‘Wakanda’ for me.’