Luxury lifestyle blogger Ronda Carman is a woman after our own hearts: her blog All the Best takes her on a tireless search dedicated to discovering the finest things in life, scouring the globe for everything from the world’s best hotel rooms, champagne and fashion photographers to hot new artists and interior-design trends. We caught up with the detail-obsessed brain behind the blog and talked local travel, hidden Mallorca beaches and baked-potato soup…
Hi Ronda – great to have you on the Smith Travel Blog. Tell us a bit about yourself: how did All the Best come into being?
Over the past 15 years, I have built up a huge collection of reference material – books, magazines and newspapers articles. When we moved to the UK, my binders and style files began to invade every available space and bookshelf. I had to use an electronic medium to record my findings or move house! What began as a quest for the best champagne – my first blog post – has become a wide-reaching lifestyle blog.
So how do you go about picking what to feature on All the Best?
Initially the daily posts included topics ranging from design and travel to art, food and wine. Then in July of last year, I began corresponding with Rita Konig and she agreed to an interview on All the Best. This quickly opened the door for more interviews. It was then that I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment – this is my niche! Since then, I’ve interviewed industry icons including Katie Lee Joel, Charlotte Moss, Kelly Wearstler, Ivanka Trump, Vicente Wolf, and Christopher and Suzanne Sharp.
Is that your favourite type of post then?
Yes, definitely – the interviews and profiles are by far my favourite aspect of blogging. I am a people person and I have huge admiration for the trendsetters and entrepreneurs of the world; I love getting to know the creative minds behind the work.
You certainly got some interesting answers from Mr & Mrs Smith when you interviewed them for your blog!
Mmmm, yum – I’ve also just read your Baked Potato Soup recipe on All the Best. I saw Heston Blumenthal trying to create a similar dish for his recent Little Chef overhaul (a totally genius transformation, IMHO), so I’m thrilled to find a similar recipe. Got any other great insider foodie tips for us?
I always buy local and check out the small shops and farmer’s market when travelling. The next time you’re on holiday, take an empty picnic basket and fill it with local produce: that way you can buy regional foods whilst putting money back local economies. Normally, I eat a pescatarian diet (basically a vegetarian who eats seafood; see my recent Soup on Sunday recipe for salmon chowder). However, when I travel all bets are off! I love to eat the local cuisine.
What’s your favourite hotel and why?
The George Hotel in Inverary, Scotland is a personal family favourite. We had dinner at the George on our first visit to Scotland in December 2004. It was exactly what I had imagined and hoped for in a Highland hotel: the stone floors, roaring fires and delicious seafood sold me on the place immediately. It wasn’t until a year later, after moving to Scotland, that we booked a room for an overnight stay.
Scotland’s Highlands are gorgeous, aye: we’re very fond of Wester Ross at Smith, home of the wonderful Pool House hotel. Do you have a favourite worldwide destination? What’s your ‘must do’ tip for anyone visiting?
Like most people in the world, I love New York, but Spain stole my heart. I adore Pollensa in Mallorca: it’s a maze of narrow winding streets and stone houses, and it’s in one of the most beautiful parts of Mallorca. The landscape is so beautiful and diverse. Rugged, steep mountains collide with isolated shores that are surrounded by deep, pale blue waters and silvery green olive trees.
My two ‘must dos’ in Pollensa are the walk to Cala Boquer beach; and eating loads of fresh seafood, especially cuttlefish hot off the grill. Cala Boquer is a beautiful isolated cove in Northern Mallorca (right) that’s only accessible by foot (an hour walk through beautiful countryside) or by boat. The beach has volcanic sand and is the perfect spot for snorkelling.
Do you have any travel-trend predictions for this year?
So, tell us a bit about your corner of the world – where do you live and what do you love about it?
I am a native Texan, but we moved to Scotland in 2005 and we love living here. The people are friendly, the hills and glens are beautiful, delicious seafood comes from the lochs and whisky is a delightful drink. I do miss my family and the Texas weather, but I fly home three or four times a year.
Describe your perfect weekend away – where do you go, what do you do when you get there?
We love Edinburgh – and it’s only 45 minutes away from us by train. Our favourite hotel there is the Glasshouse Hotel. The hotel boasts the only rooftop garden in Edinburgh, offering unparalleled views of World Heritage Site Calton Hill and its collection of 19th-century buildings and follies, including the Old Observatory and Greek Parthenon. It’s the perfect place for a wee dram or an aperitif, hidden away from the bustle of the city below.
You should definitely check out Prestonfield hotel in Edinburgh (right) next time you go – I think you’d love it; it’s all decadent damask wallpaper, plush curtains, antique furniture, intricately carved ceilings, ruby, gold and jet-black colours… In a perfect world, who would be your ideal travel companion?
I guess it must be a perfect world! I have the ideal travel companion—my husband!
If you could time travel, where would you go and why?
To 1966, for Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball at the Plaza hotel in New York. It would offer an enchanting peek at 1966 high society: the guest list included the most alluring power brokers in art and politics, including Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, Andy Warhol Gloria Guinness, Diana Vreeland, Lee Radziwill, Slim Keith, Babe Paley and CZ Guest.
I just love love love Elliott Erwitt’s photo (above) of Candice Bergen at the ball, too – a print of it was recently sold at Christies in London for nearly £2,000.
Do you have any hotel hates you’d like to have a quick rant about?
Luxury hotels charging outrageous fees for WiFi – the more you pay for a hotel, the less likely you are to get free WiFi. It’s ridiculous!!
What do you never leave home without?
When I travel I must have my MacBook Pro!