Melinda Stevens’s Little Black Book Of Travel
Melinda Stevens’s Little Black Book Of Travel

Melinda Stevens’s Little Black Book Of Travel

As former editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveller, it’s fair to say Melinda Stevens is something of an expert when it comes to top hotels, trending destinations and travel tips. As she prepares to publish a new book with Assouline Secret Stays, we asked her to tell us about her life in travel – from must-book holiday hotspots to favourite UK staycations.
Image: BRYTTA/ISTOCK

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The Bull
The Bull

I just spent the weekend at Matthew Freud's new hotel The Bull. It’s right on the high street in Burford in the Cotswolds. I love the current trend of all these non-hoteliers becoming hoteliers. It means they're providing guests with something born out of personal passion rather than bottom lines. We picked dahlias from his garden, I had a session beekeeping – very calming – and probably had the best omakase supper of my life in its Japanese restaurant, Hiro

The most memorable places I've ever visited are any of the fly camps in the Mara, or the Serengeti, or the Samburu. I like the smell of tent canvas and open fires, and bucket showers and the thrill of hearing elephants and lions snort about you at night.

I have adventurous parents, so went on lots of memorable holidays as a child. I've hung off trains on old tracks going into the bush in Zambia. There was also a lot of temples, a lot of ruins: Greek, Roman, Italian, Egyptian – I've pressed my back against a lot of stones of fallen buildings of fallen empires.  

I’ve been on LOTS OF STAYCATIONS THIS YEAR. As a country, we totally undervalue what we have on our doorstep. Everyone is still going to the same spots.

The Makgadikgadi salt flats felt like the most remote place I’ve ever visited – even if they weren't in reality. They're so lunar and otherworldly. You can race a motorbike over them, shut your eyes, and cruise blind for as long as your nerves will take you, knowing you're not going to bump into anything, because there's nothing there.

I just got back from a work trip to Barcelona, which is one of my favourite places in Europe. One of my colleagues suggested we go to this shop, Vasquiat, and I was very resistant – why would I want to go to this smart looking boutique? But I walked in and it was all local designers, using deadstock. Such cool, bold, unique designs. There wasn't a thing I didn't want to buy. 

Hiro
Hiro

@Melindalp

I love driving through Arizona, Utah and New Mexico – those desert zones where the geological magnificence sears into your brain as much as the urban improbability of cities like New York.

I’ve been on lots of staycations this year. As a country, we totally undervalue what we have on our doorstep. Everyone is still going to the same spots. I suggest North Wales or the Inner Hebrides for something a bit different.

@melindaLP

For a holiday that combines friends and families, I like Formentera – a brilliant, raw rock surrounded by bright turquoise sea and endless amazing places to eat. I go and stay with a friend of mine in Ibiza a couple of times a year. Sometimes it's juices, yoga and reflexology, sound baths and hikes. Other times it's caipiroskas, DJs and dancing on the table.

In London, I love the Rosewood hotel – it has a real buzz. I also love Claridge’s for a late breakfast and The Connaught's great in winter for cocktails.

I like the smell of tent canvas and open fires, and bucket showers and the THRILL OF HEARING ELEPHANTS AND LIONS snort about you at night.

My favourite place for a city break is Paris. The Eurostar is just so convenient. La Reserve is one of the most beautiful places to stay there – small, smart and styled like a turn-of-the-century boudoir. They used to do this incredible butter lettuce, with nothing on it but a simple dressing. 

The best work trip I've ever been on was to the Atacama Desert in Chile. It was a fashion shoot, plus a feature that I was booked to write, but the models didn't turn up. So my friend and I stepped in. We wore a lot of beautiful Galliano and Dior in the desert. 

La Reserve
La Reserve
Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey

The most memorable meal I’ve ever eaten was the chocolate mousse at the Hotel Royal in Deauville when I was a kid. They came in little pots with lids. To this day, it’s the most beautiful chocolate mousse I've ever had. 

I order room service all the time – I love it. Although, when I was working in New York, at the end of the working day I just used to eat peanut M&Ms from the minibar in the bath. I once contributed some room service options for The Dorchester. I think a chicken salad I used to make, and maybe a sticky toffee pudding? I hope they were popular.

If I had to live in a hotel, I’d pick somewhere like Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire. It belongs to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, but you can now take it over for exclusive use. It has squishy tartan floors, a dramatic red-on-red sitting room, and Yorkshire right outside your window.

@Melindalp

My holiday packing essentials always include hair conditioner. The hotel stuff is never good enough! Currently I’m obsessed by the Moroccan Oil one. I also always pack swimwear by Everae. I just stumbled into its sale yesterday. Nothing is more indulgent and thrilling than buying normally very expensive swimwear in a sale in autumn. 

My next trip is to Mexico. I’m writing a book for Assouline on the wonderful Esencia hotel there, down the coast from Tulum. It's a very special spot. I’ll also be travelling to the Galapagos. I'm excited about hanging out in Quito for a few days before we go diving.

On my bucket list for 2024? Japan. Mongolia for the big skies. And the Norwegian fjords. 

Melinda Stevens is the founder of Salt Lick, a creative agency that works with travel and lifestyle brands like Belmond, Assouline, Loupe and Perfect Moment. For more ideas and inspiration, follow Melinda at @MelindaLP

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