Oliver Tomalin, Founder, LOVE BRAND & CO.
Condé Nast asks Oliver Tomalin 21 questions about his favourite travels.
One thing you’ve never told anyone about your travels?
There is a very special beach in the Exuma islands in the Bahamas. The sand is pristine white and the sea is so blue. Behind the beach the Casuarina Trees gently whistle in the wind. In front – there is nothing but sea – the whole way to Africa. My wife told me to keep this beach a secret and I have never told anyone where it is exactly. And disappointingly, I am not going to spill the beans today.
Your favourite small and secret hotel in the whole world?
Rae’s on Wategos in Byron Bay has to be one of my favourite small hotels and one of my favourite beaches in the world too. Rae’s is effortlessly cool with exquisite food and cocktails. My wife and I were really taken by Wategos Beach and Bryon Bay. I have a wonderful, slightly whacky, very spiritual Australian cousin always told me about the energy of Bryon Bay and its transmogrifying powers. I do agree with her. Bryon Bay just has that magical feeling, there is an indefinable quality to it.
Your favourite classic hotel in the whole world?
Brenners Park in Baden-Baden. I am currently designing an exclusive LOVE BRAND & Co. print for this property and I am completely obsessed. Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa is a classic hotel but forward-thinking. Baden-Baden’s thermal springs promote well-being and muscle recovery, making this property one of the world’s best spa destinations as well as one of the world’s finest classic hotels.
A great little place away from the crowds?
Hotel Joaquin, Laguna Beach. I was in L.A for a friend’s wedding and we discovered this great little hotel which had only just opened when my wife and I were there last year. What was just a pit stop on the way to the wedding, was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable days and nights of the whole trip. Which is amazing considering it was spent effectively on the side of a busy road! Hotel Joaquin at Laguna Beach is a tiny hotel on the main coast road to LA. We must have driven past it half a dozen times before we found it, such is the Hotel’s modest roadside appearance. But inside, you are instantly removed from busy city life and taken into this very gentle and private oasis of calm. The hotel has very comfortable but very simple rooms with no wifi, only a selection of books and a turn table every room with some classic vinyl to listen to while watching the sea over the bay and digitally detoxing. With a great pool and restaurant/bar and the beautiful beach a short walk infront, it is a weekend gem and only a stone’s throw from L.A.
IMAGE COURTESY OF HOTEL JOAQUIN
If you could have one feast in one restaurant in the world right now where would it be?
Casa De Pasto Fertuzinhos. I recently had dinner here after a day visiting our LOVE BRAND & Co. factory in northern Portugal and I think I would choose it for my final feast. Casa De Pasto Fertuzinhos in Caldelas is a completely ordinary looking village tavern on first appearance, it is right on the road. But what I had never seen before was the chef /patron cooked from a make-shift BBQ on the other side of the road to the restaurant. He would go from one side of the road to the other with huge hunks of steak or cod in his BBQ pincers, dodging the traffic as he went. He cooked everything to perfection with great flare and skill as if it was the normal done thing. Before the fish and steak we ordered arrived, first we had a plate of tomatoes which came simply in olive oil with salt and I have never tasted tomatoes like it. Simply the most delicious thing I think I have ever eaten. Or at least in equal first place with the charred yet tender steaks and cod dishes we had afterwards again just with salt, a simple salad and some potatoes.
The book you read that inspired you to travel or at least dream of a place?
I am dyslexic and books are not my forte but I really loved ‘The alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho, which certainly conjured up an urge to travel and explore. The book actually inspired me to spend several months in Spain as part of my architecture degree. My time in Spain was an important reflection point in my life, as I pivoted away from one dream of being an architect like Oliver Messel to follow another dream to have my own eco-summer lifestyle brand.
The film you watched where the location blew you away?
I am a big film nut. So many films have blown my mind. A profound film memory for me are the locations in The Shawshank Redemption. Firstly, the location with the huge tree in the field with the stone wall, where Morgan Freeman uncovers the box. It has always stuck in my mind as a very beautiful location. I have always wanted to go to find that field. It’s in Ohio. And secondly, as a beach lover, that final scene, where Morgan Freeman is reunited with his friend Tim Robbins on the beach in Zihuatanejo. I went to Zihuatanejo as a result of the movie and was a little dissappointed as the actual beach was filmed in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands!
A place you fell in love in? (IN, not WITH, we want to hear your love stories!)
When I started LOVE BRAND & Co. it was exactly the same time as meeting my wife Rose. Soon after we started dating, I asked Rose if she would like to come to India with me for 3 weeks. It was quite a bold move after only knowing each other for a month. I explained the purpose of the trip was to meet an elephant called Tara. The elephant from the late Mark Shand’s book – Travels on my elephant. To my surprise and to my delight she said yes. And so off we went to the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, right in the middle of India, to find Tara at Kipling Camp. It was a make or break for Rose and I, as a couple, with frogs and spiders in our sheets and eating delicious curries with our hands and sharing a small shed-like room in the jungle with no bathroom doors! But we had the best time. Meeting Tara was also so magical. We watched her graze at dawn and washed her feet and toenails in the lake. Being so close to an elephant was the most incredible experience for Rose and I and although Tara is a domestic elephant, she inspires us, with our mission to help all wild elephants through our lifestyle brand LOVE BRAND & Co. I felt I should add some luxury to the trip, after all I was also trying to woo her. So, we ended our trip with a week of bliss at the Neeleshwar Hermitage on the coast of Kerala.
Which airline, lounge or train gives you a spring in your step and why?
Etihad First Class Lounge & Spa, Abu Dhabi. My family lived in Abu Dhabi for 15 years and Etihad is my favourite airline without question. The lounge in Abu Dhabi I think is also the best
Your favourite shop you discovered on your travels and what you’d buy there?
Circa Who, Palm Beach. My wife and I love interior design and exploring furniture shops and markets wherever we go. When Rose and I were in Palm Beach recently, we discovered this shop called Circa Who. It is a treasure trove of resale furniture with vintage wicker chairs, wicker elephants and brilliant bits of kitsch décor. It is in this hidden shop that we discovered the wonderful work of Mario Lopez Torres and his incredible Chuspata woven animal furniture and sculptures. I really have my eye on his amazing Giraffe bar!
What song always reminds you of holidays?
Catch and Release by Matt Simons. I don’t know why.
Your favourite place in the whole world?
My favourite place on earth is Exuma, in The Bahamas. It holds so many memories for our family and for LOVE BRAND & Co. Exuma is my favourite of the Bahamian cays because my wife’s family have been going for years. Her parents honeymooned there, as my wife’s grandfather was Governor of the Bahamas and they have been going back to the Bahamas ever since. My wife’s grandmother founded the orphanage there, The Ranfurly Home, as well as The Ranfurly Library Service which became Book Aid International. When you are in the outer islands you feel a million miles away from everywhere, but actually you are not too far from Florida. The water is so blue and clear and abundant with marine life. Apparently from space, the bluest water on earth is in the Bahama Cays.
The place you’re most fixated on visiting?
Ithumba Camp, Tsavo National Park, Kenya. I want to go back to Kenya. I had a trip planned just as Coronavirus hit the UK. I am really excited to go to Tsavo National Park where we will stay at the eco-lodge Ithumba Camp, owned by our charity partner the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and where all funds go towards persevering the habitat and wildlife. At LOVE BRAND & Co. we support their elephant conservation work https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/
Your favourite view that blows you away?
Sun sets. All sun sets blow me away. I always stop for a second to breath them in, at home or travelling. It is important to stop for 10 minutes and be still and just watch them set the whole way. I loved watching the sun go down over the desert in Oman, while staying at Six Senses Ziggy Bay Eco Retreat.
Your favourite holiday look?
Super relaxed. Rolled up LOVE BRAND & Co linen shirt, comfortable trousers or shorts. Some espadrilles.
Three items that are always in your holiday wardrobe?
I always take at least 2 pairs of LOVE BRAND & Co. swim shorts of course! I also love Angarde hybrid espadrille / sneakers and a Lardini jacket, you never know when you might need a jacket for dinner or be roped into a wedding!
Three items you always have in your travelling wash bag?
I am obsessed with Saltee they are vegan friendly, cruelty free and paraben free and it smells amazing. Sun Cream has to smell amazing. I also love this natural deordorant brand Wildwhich was set up by a friend of mine. And I always travel with some mozy spray, I like incognito Mosquito Spray
Your trusted suitcase brand?
I love AWAY bags and also Globe-trotter but to be honest for most of my adventures and travels I use my old EAST PAK.
A person, property or place you know that’s doing amazing things to make the world a better place?
At LOVE BRAND & Co. we support a lot of amazing conservationists. One of them Binod Dulu Bora, known as Dulu who is a local award winning conservationist, championing human-elephant coexistence in Assam in North Eastern India. Helping elephants came to Dulu in a dream as a child and he has dedicated his adult life to helping conserve Asian Elephants. LOVE BRAND & Co. proudly sponsor Dulu with our charity partner The Elephant Family.
Your favourite place for a staycation?
Growing up I spent a lot of time in South Devon. When you come off the M5 and A38 and get onto those tiny little Devon roads my heart always starts to sing. A coastal walk along the cliffs at Thurlestone, or swimming with the tide in the estuary at Bantham beach. Sailing in Salcombe or sunbathing on Blackpool Beach. With good weather, I would be hard pushed to want to be anywhere else. Stay at Thurlestone Hotel or Salcombe Harbour Hotel & Spa. And for the best fish and chips try Rockfish in Dartmouth.
IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TIMES
Travel industry players, OK GLOVES OFF! Hand on heart, if you were forced to answer, which of your amazing hotels, trips, tours, villas or destinations is your favourite?
As a beach lover, through and through, it has to be the outer islands of the Bahamas.