A cute and totally under-the-radar Bahamian hotel, Dr. Linda’s post-travel detox baths, and Black Tomato co-founder Tom Marchant on where we should all be going this year.
I’m in the airport, flying back from Abaco to New York (via Fort Lauderdale), and I haven’t been so excited about a place in a long time. I’ve been lucky to visit many islands in the Caribbean, and I’m always so happy when I’m there. But it’s so rare to be somewhere that feels like such a discovery, like the big hotel resort machines haven’t made it here yet, a place that feels more like the Blue Lagoon than Casino Royale. This means it takes a bit more work to navigate, but it’s worth it. I’m going to go deeper on Abaco in my newsletter on Friday, because we have plenty to cover in today’s post. But for now, I want to share a hotel that I am super enthusiastic about.
JUST BACK FROM
The Sandpiper is a seven-room hotel that sits within Schooner Bay, the “development” we stayed in on the southern end of Abaco. Don’t let that word scare you. Around 10 years ago, a couple of guys created this community—not unlike Reschio, which I’ve written about before—beautiful homes, a couple of gorgeous beaches, a fly-fishing lodge (Blackfly Lodge) and the Sandpiper. I toured it this week—it’s very cute, not luxurious at all—but very comfortable, and with the most beautiful and empty beaches just a 5-minute walk away. There are tennis courts, a basketball hoop, a volleyball court and a small pool—and then at the beach you have paddle boards. There’s a beautiful yoga platform that looks onto the sea and a blowhole that is pretty extraordinary! Rooms are between $250-300—I’d say they are on the simple and cheery side, exactly what you want in a room, with no dumb extra frills you don’t need. Designer Tom Scheerer has a house in the community (that’s where we stayed), and the manager said he had some influence on the interiors—you can feel his touch, if ever so light. They all look out over the water, and there are two standalone cottages. There’s a good restaurant inside the inn with tables inside and outside, and a sweet little bar. We ate lunch there—some great cracked conch and fries, looking out over the marina. So, what’s the catch? Because it hasn’t been promoted (the owner is a bit absentee from what I hear), nobody really knows about it, which means it isn’t filled up (good for all of us looking for a tasteful place that has a perfect beach!), and there aren’t services at the beach, like being able to ask someone for a rum punch. If you’re looking for lots of distractions like places to go out for dinner and a scene…this isn’t for you. If you want to meet lots of people, run into them on the beach…again…forget it. But if you like quiet, or maybe you and your friends want to take over the whole inn, this would be a great option. On Friday, I’ll be giving the full rundown on my trip to the island with every little detail you could want. So if you’re not on the paid newsletter subscription and you want this info, sign up!
Last week I shared the liver cleanse breakfast drink that Dr. Linda Lancaster has had me on (although I have definitely slipped on my program during the pandemic). So many people messaged me asking for more details on her program, which you can find in her comprehensive book, Harmonic Healing. It’s a great book, and it’s much easier and cheaper to access than trying to get an appointment with her! We’ll do an interview with her this spring, but in the meantime, I’ll share her post-flight tips that have helped me so much. My husband, ever the skeptic, is not a believer and gives me a hard time when I tell him I’m taking a bath post-flight. Regardless, they make me feel great, especially if I’ve been out late and overindulged.
“Being a frequent traveler exposes us to high levels of electromagnetic radiation, chemicals and heavy metals. Take note that non-organic foods can be filled with chemicals and heavy metals. Aluminum is also prevalent in many restaurant kitchens. I have found that patients who eat out often tend to have high levels of aluminum. When traveling, most meals are eaten out and heavy metals can accumulate. A Clorox bath is especially effective for neutralizing heavy metals. Sea salt and baking soda baths can help neutralize the high levels of electromagnetic frequencies from flying and excess Wifi exposure. These baths also help with the jet lag!”
Sea Salt and Baking Soda Bath (neutralizes radiation)
Pour one pound sea salt and one pound of baking soda into a tub of comfortably hot water. Soak for 20 minutes or until water cools.
Clorox Bath (neutralizes heavy metals)
Pour ½ cup of regular (unscented) Clorox into a full tub of comfortably hot water. Soak for 20 minutes or until water cools.
Tom Marchant, owner & co-founder, Black Tomato
Tell us about you and your company.
At Black Tomato, we specialize in creating remarkable experiences for people around the world, immersing them in local cultures and adventures that they would never be able to do without our help or through guidebooks. We got into it because myself and my partners connected over our love of travel at college. We used to travel every spare moment we had—this was in the days before “experiential travel” was a thing. But we were having these profound experiences around the world, and we also wanted to harness our entrepreneurial spirits and decided that we'd combine a love of something we do with being in business. I didn't (and still don't) subscribe to the adage, “Don't turn something you love into work, because you'll fall out of love with it.” It's the other way around. It doesn't feel like a job because I'm doing something I love. So, the seed was planted at college, then we worked some corporate jobs for a few years afterwards, refining what was going to become Black Tomato.
When we started the company, we categorized our trips according to how they make you feel and not by destination, because my big belief was (and still is) that’s it's not about a list of destinations. You travel ultimately to feel, even if it's subconscious. So, we categorized our website according to experiences that would make you feel inspired, or experiences that would make you’d feel you’d achieved something, or truly escaped, returning more informed and better for the experience. We didn't even list destinations. (Which wasn’t great from a search perspective.) But today, 50 percent-plus of the inquiries we get, people don't know where they want to go. They know how they want to feel. Sure, there will be some people who will go, well, I've heard loads about Namibia, I see that you guys do it, I want to travel with you for the way you can get me under the skin of a country. And that's why you can now search on the site by destinations. So, we cater for multiple search approaches, but, for me personally—and still at the heart of the company—we are in the emotional fulfillment business.
What is the entry level for somebody to use Black Tomato?
There's no price of entry, no planning fee, no membership. Ultimately, we are a luxury travel business and source the very best properties—though, in truth, they are by no means all household names, and given the nature of the trips we do in terms of their bespoke nature and complexity, it skews to a higher priced ticket. We do trips that are thousands of dollars and trips in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the value we provide for that is exceptional. At the heart of it is the idea that every experience is truly remarkable. It’s simply about whether you feel the same way about the world as we do. You can just pick up the phone, have a chat, no strings attached.
Is there a favorite experience or trip that best represents your philosophy?
I think parts of Namibia—the Skeleton Coast and the ability to do mobile camping out there—definitely captures that otherworldly stuff that speaks to what Black Tomato is all about, like our new mobile quad biking safari. I think our Get Lost concept is very emblematic of our approach to travel. It’s not often that we give ourselves the chance to focus on the here and now, to remind ourselves of the thrill of adventure, of the pride that comes only from braving your way through the unknown. Get Lost is a service that takes you to unknown destinations and then asks you to explore your way out of them. Clients have the option to either be entirely unaware of their final destination or have a small amount of input into the environment of choice, such as polar, desert, jungle, coastal or mountain. That is the only level of input allowed, however. Clients won’t know the country, or countries, they’ll be traveling to, or the experience they’re about to embark on. If necessary, we’ll arrange for personalized training sessions or survival skills lessons to help them prepare for their time in the wilderness.
The idea is that whether you get whisked off to the Mongolian steppe or the Atlas Mountains, or even down to New Zealand on the Franz Joseph Glacier, that sense of exploring and challenging yourself physically and mentally speaks to the philosophy. Get Lost was actually designed as a wellness product, because my own view on the wellness spectrum is that wellness is also about relaxing you. And for some of us who live these manic lives, to be relaxed is to forget about the day-to-day craziness. But to do that, you've got to be distracted, because if you're just lying on the beach, you’re still thinking about it all. Whereas if I'm thinking, How am I going to get over that mountain range, or through that valley…or what what's across that glacier? Then I'm not spending a second thinking about the mountain of emails and burdens at home. By doing that, you are actually relaxing in a different kind of way. We recently sent award-winning author Ed Caesar to Get Lost in the wilds of Morocco for The New Yorker’s annual travel issue. The story was brilliantly written and makes for a truly mesmerizing read.
And year we launched Field Trip, a collection of immersive a la carte “classes” around the world designed to fuel purpose-driven passion through educative, experiential programming, including positive social impact such as sustainability, as well as spurring interest in history and the arts. Hands-on modules will bring important subjects to life, spanning social studies, with an insightful history experience on women's narratives in Israel, to the sciences, working with conservationists on critical rhino notching efforts in Kenya. And seeing our multi-generational travel market grow in leaps and bounds, this was the year to inspire this audience and also includes a series of itineraries inspired by beloved children’s stories, titled Take me on a Story.
Is there a favorite hotel or lodge or house that you love and go back to again and again?
I love Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, and the various masserias that they own. It holds a special place in my heart as I was both engaged and married there and a place I will return to, with relish, year after year. And Il Convento di Santa Maria di Constantinopoli, also in Puglia, owned by the McAlpine family. It's a converted convent where they've got all the family artwork in there. It’s beautiful.
Underrated location, overrated location, personal favorite, recent discovery?
Underrated? Finland. I'm Finnish, but I think it’s underrated because it's only really seen through a certain lens. People think about Rovaniemi, which is lovely, and northern Lapland, but you know, Helsinki's so progressive and beautiful. Turku, Finland’s second city, where my mother's from, is the gateway to the Swedish and Finnish archipelago, and you've got lakes everywhere. It's just as beautiful in the summer as in the winter. It’s got these short, hot summers where you're swimming in lakes and water, so fresh and pure—just magical. Finland just hasn't had the profile that some of its neighbors, like Sweden, Norway and Denmark have had, and I find that kind of nuts.
Overrated—hm. This is difficult….I’d say certain parts of Ibiza. I still love the place, but I think it gets put on a pedestal by so many people and there are other places that are more special. But it’s still great.
Personal favorite? Well, Iceland, which was one of the first countries we started with, and where I used to travel obsessively. It’s tailor-made for immersive adventures and I don't think there’s anywhere like it on the planet. I'd also say the Vendée region in Southwest France. It’s south of La Rochelle and north of Bordeaux. It’s got the Atlantic coast, with its amazing beaches and pine forests. I spent family holidays there as a child, which just introduced me to a love of France and travel. And then from the Vendée you've got the Dordogne region, which is beautiful; from there you can get to Biarritz and then down to Provence. It’s just a very special area.
And for a recent discovery—it sounds strange, but I think it's kind of pandemic relevant—I’d say London Soho. As in, I knew it before, but it's kind of evolving. I think there are places that you thought you knew before, but the pandemic has changed everything, basically recalibrating and starting over, and there's lots of really interesting things happening. And then I’d say…it's not a recent discovery, but a place that we're doing more of is Svalbard in northern Norway. I think the seed bank and all that is fascinating. Also very much worth mentioning, there is a superb new English country house opening in Leicestershire that specializes in being taken over by bigger parties, in an exclusive-use capacity, called Keythorpe Hall. This is one to watch for 2022 as it will be one of the most talked about British hospitality offerings in the New Year—Nurdin Topham, of Michelin-starred and eponymous NUR in Hong Kong, has helped launch a sensational culinary program using fruits and vegetables from the on-site walled garden, with wild plants and herbs sourced sustainably from nearby forests. I cannot wait to visit.
What is something you wished we all knew or were better at as travelers?
Patience. I think this is happening now, but before the pandemic, we were all so busy and keen to get on and get things done. And now I think, What if I must wait a little bit for my bags to come off the carousel? It's fine. If I've got a 10-minute wait for a table, it's okay. No one's going to die. And if the sunrise isn't quite as perfect as I thought it was going to be based on what I saw on Instagram, that's okay. It’s unique to me. We’ve become—or need to become—a bit more patient. We need to enjoy travel for what it is, which is a chance to explore and connect with places and yourself, not ticking things off. So, I think we should be patient and also be more understanding the world as it reemerges.