The folks at Mr. & Mrs. Smith know what's hot. The name comes from the idea that you and your better half might sneak off for such a saucy weekend away, you'd check in under the false names "Mr. and Mrs. Smith". Since helping create this boutique-hotel brand over a decade ago, Juliet Kinsman has stayed in some of the chicest, newest, and most romantic properties around the world, from off the beaten path hideaways to center-of-town stays. And she finds the coolest sights, eats, and people along the way. If her site doesn't help you plan your next trip, it's because you're too busy armchair traveling through the heap of destinations.
More than just her work on Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we admire Kinsman for being a constant tourist like us. Her blog, Park-Life.org covers the comings and goings of her West London neighborhood. And she is constantly penning stories for magazines and sites (The Independent, Huffington Post, and Conde Nast Traveler to name a few) about destinations near and far, pricey and cheap.
So, we decided, who better to tell us about the hottest destinations on her radar right now than our seventh Tastemaker herself, Juliet Kinsman? She got to work jotting down her five top spots to hit now, with (of course) where to stay. Without further ado...
Smoldering volcanoes, dense emerald jungles, and rainforests towering into the clouds: the landscapes are fit for a National Geographic photo shoot. Utterly unspoiled and book-ended by pristine powder-soft beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean with a quarter of Costa Rican land protected, even Costa Rica's name hints at what the headline act is: it translates as 'rich coast'. Then when Oxygen Jungle Villas opened a few years ago, the seriously stylish, nature-rich retreat introduced a fresh Balinese look and feel to this part of the world for the first time.
A soulful Southern grand dame known for its good times and haunting history, New Orleans has proven as resilient as it is rapturous. A flamboyant music scene, festivals, and fried, spiced, hot-sauce-lashed food lures revelers—and even if you're not in town for mighty Mardi Gras the party is sure to get started. Music, holy days, and the dearly departed: Nola's citizens celebrate everything. Two blocks from the French Quarter, Loft 523 hotel's open-plan pads are arty and design-driven and have helped make this a must-visit long-weekend destination for the style-conscious traveller.
A southernmost swathe of Italy tucked high up on the boot-shaped country's instep, flanked by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, its diminutive capital Matera rivals Rome in terms of culture, beauty, history, and charm—and without the torrent of tourists. Amid scenery that is wild and mountainous with national parks and the volcanic Mount Vulture, its UNESCO-stamped Matera's maze-like cave dwellings that make it so compelling. Here, Sextantio le Grotte della Civita took 10 years to create from the caves carved from the ancient stone and the result is eerie bedrooms simply furnished with authentic antiques and contemporary statement bathroom pieces back-dropped by the candlelit tufa rock.
Bristol, United Kingdom
This mighty mini metropolis lacks the usual stresses of urban life. Sidestep the city centre (a town-planning monstrosity compared to the characteristic Georgian loveliness due to WWII bombing raids) and stay eastside. Tour this cultured West England hub from Brunel's suspension bridge through up-market Clifton looking out for Banksy's street art, then stay at modern-art-packed hotel Number Thirty Eight which occupies an enviable spot on the edge of the Clifton Downs park. The attention to detail—from the stylish interiors and intriguing art to some of Bristol's best breakfasts—makes this former merchant's home feel like your own personal hideaway.
Closer to Cuba than Miami, it's no secret that this southernmost point in the US is a haven for holidaymakers. But the string of tiny islands with their rich history of Hemingway, big fish, and namesake dessert, Key Lime pie, still manage to feel fresh and laidback for Florida. A calming, minimalist antidote to the kitsch of the Keys is bayside boutique hotel Casa Morada, which serenely sits in a pocket of lush tropicalia: poolside palms hung with hammocks, a kaleidoscope of Floridian fauna, and the balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico just a saunter from the suites.
Photo credits:All photos courtesy of Mr and Mrs Smith and Juliet Kinsman