The connoisseur: Tina Edmundson
Marriott International’s global brand and marketing officer sits down with High Life to talk about her favourite holiday memories and travel habits, including the importance of checking in luggage and why Portugal’s small towns are underrated
The destination I can’t wait to go back to is the Maldives. I’ve actually been there twice – both times for work – and it is so beautiful there, so untouched. I’ve also started taking scuba diving classes as the diving there is fabulous. I’m hoping to get my qualifications this year and then do a trip in March or April next year. It’s on my short-term bucket list!
The best souvenir I’ve ever brought home is a pair of silk pyjamas with my initials on the pocket. I was at the St Regis in Rome several years ago and they gave them to me. They are white silk and so comfy. They look good, they feel good, and they make me want to just cuddle up.
My greatest travel companion is my sister. At least once a year I’ll take a trip with her (she lives in India). We meet somewhere in the world and do this Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants thing. I’m very close to her, and we don’t get to see each other that much, so we take the week of travel to sort of reconnect and be on our own. We stopped during the pandemic, but we’ve had a couple of amazing trips. We went to Istanbul, Mostraumen in Norway and then, right before Covid, we visited Moscow and St Petersburg, which were also fantastic.
I had a memorable meal at a restaurant called Mr Porter in the W Amsterdam hotel. OMG, it was so good! It’s a steak restaurant run by the Entourage group, and my family and I just had the best time. With the steak, we had cream spinach and mushroom sides, plus potatoes. The dessert was to die for: it was a hot chocolate fondue thing with nuts in. They had this outdoor terrace and the view of the city from there was astonishing and the service was lovely.
A great hotel should have an amazing bed. It’s the first thing you see when you open the door – it’s such a big part of the room. I quickly notice how crisp, inviting and welcoming the bed is. It needs to be pristine. And the pillows have to be amazing.
The most underrated destination is Portugal. Right before Covid we went on a family vacation there for eight days. We rented a car and just drove around. We went to these historic small towns that we hadn’t heard about and felt very local. We drove to Sintra, Evora and Porto and didn’t make any reservations for hotels – we just drove and, when we got tired, looked up and said, “OK, what town are we in? Where should we stay?” It was a very unexpected trip, and I would go back in a heartbeat. The small towns in Portugal are so underrated.
The most inspiring place I’ve visited is the Galapagos islands. We went in this little boat, a catamaran – it was just eight or ten cabins, so not a lot of people – and we had an amazing naturalist on board. We were there between Christmas and New Year (pre-Covid) and spent the week there. It was just magical and felt so untouched. All the preservation efforts to keep it that way were heart-warming.
On some of those islands they only allow 100 visitors a day so it’s very, very specific and you have to stay on the trail and hike with a guide so you don’t mess with Mother Nature. Every day, we went to a different island. Then, of course, there was snorkelling. It was wonderful.
If time was no object, I’d visit the Greek islands. I’ve been to the main ones but I have a friend who lived in Greece for eight years and I’ve heard the stories and read about all these non-touristy islands that I’d love to be able to explore. The next one I am planning to visit is Paros – Marriott actually just opened a Luxury Collection hotel there, though I’ve never seen it. It’s 40 rooms and I hear it’s just magical.
When I’m away, what I miss most are my dogs, Buddy and Mittens. We’ve had them a while and, though you get used to leaving them and it does get easier, it’s always fun to come home to them because they’re always so excited to see you.
My favourite place to appreciate luxury hotels changes. Recently, I really enjoyed Paris because there were so many new and interesting hotels to see. There was a Bvlgari just opened and then the Prince de Galles right across the street from it. And I think the Hotel de Crillon was doing some amazing activation, so we wanted to see everything that was going on.
The next city I want to visit, particularly for the work I am doing, is Rome. I’ve been to Rome a dozen times but there are going to be new hotels there that are ours and our competitors’, so I’m looking forward to seeing them. The EDITION in Rome opens in 2023 and the W Rome just opened. I saw it while it was in construction, so I’m very interested to see it all ready and accepting guests.
The key to switching off on holiday is setting an out of office or setting a regime. I do this sometimes where I say, “I’m going to check emails for an hour in the morning and then that’s it.” Then it’s not on my mind and I can just chill out and relax. But I also love the spa (I love a deep tissue body massage) as well as the idea of being able to have a drink in the afternoon.
When I visit a new place, I splurge on checking my bags. I actually get a really hard time from people that I travel with because I always check bags. I have to bring my things to feel like I am on vacation – or even on work – because you can’t pack too many shoes in an overnight.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Crete. I just got back from there and I’d never been before. I went for work and ended up adding on five days to the trip it was so fantastic. It was different, the ruins were fascinating and the hotel we stayed in was Blue Palace, which was just fabulous. The sun in Greece is different – it gives you a different tan! I swear it’s lighter almost, and I think you glow. Plus, the drinks taste better!
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