Much like Mr & Mrs Smith, Suzanne’s Files is a trusted online source of inspiring travel tips and information, compiled by travel-savvy style-spotter Suzanne Aaronson from her own experiences and those of her global contacts. Since we’re both obsessed with style, service and quality, and love uncovering the world’s best boutique hotels, luxury beach resorts and tucked-away guesthouses for our friends and followers, we’ve recruited Suzanne to our team of anonymous hotel reviewers. Here, we find out a bit more about the luxury-lifestyle spy we like to think of as our online Doppelgänger…
Tell us a bit more about Suzanne’s Files – how did it come into being and what keeps you going today?
My quirky obsession with finding the best began when I was in my teens, partly via my parents and their peers, who were always travelling all over the world. I used to ‘interview’, take notes and file them in an accordian file. By my mid-twenties, after three years at university in Paris and my own extensive travels, that single file had become five; by the time I was 30, ‘Suzanne’s Files’ filled an armoire. The picks, finds and secrets have always been a combination of my own experiences and those of people I’ve met along the way, both discerning and opinionated – not afraid to say exactly what they do or don’t like about any particular lifestyle experience. I call these 100+ people worldwide my Insiders.
In short: with so much choice in the lifestyle arena, I’ve made it my full-time ‘job’ (if we can call my passion this!) to provide answers to my readers in the way a friend would tell them. We all have very busy and hectic lives; my raison d’être is to steer people to the right choice for them, so as not to waste their valuable time and money. I really enjoy helping people create fond memories they have with them always.
Ah – a kindred collecting spirit! We also love sharing our tried-and-trusted insider tidbits; it’s one of the reasons we started Mr & Mrs Smith – to signpost our members to stylish and special places to stay that they otherwise would not have found, and save them from making costly and frustrating mistakes.
Uh huh! Well… I turned the contents of the famed accordian files digital, starting in 2005, with a process in place bi-annnually where each file gets checked and edited for changes/additions, and to check if it no longer makes the cut for some reason! Of course, the file-collecting process carries on, so you’d still find some pretty nifty organizing going on in my home office.
Do you collect anything else?
I do! I pride myself on my growing music collection with amazing iPod playlists – endless enjoyment. Health is paramount to me – so I collect health tips and tricks, and share them with those who ask. Cooking and entertaining friends and family is a favorite hobby – my collection and classification of recipes and presentation of food (photos) is, well… starting to fill an armoire!
Since we began Mr & Mrs Smith, we’ve collected a network of tastemaker spies and travel insiders who provide us with on-the-ground destination information and who we can trust to anonymously review our most stylish boutique stays. How do you pick the people whose brains you pick for the local low-down – your own Insiders?
I’m fortunate that I’ve always met really eclectic, interesting people who enjoy high quality. I’m one person with my own set of my personal tastes and likes; via other discerning and down-to-earth people of varied ages and nationalities, the files come to represent what is truly top-notch – and why!
What’s your favourite hotel, and what makes it so great?
I don’t have one favorite, of course! But a very very special property I have fond memories of is Birkenhead House, in Hermanus – South Africa. The whale-watching there is extraordinary; and the style and setting of what feels like a sprawling private home is a real treat. The staff make you feel completely at ease whilst delivering a high standard of service. An example? One morning for breakfast, our table was set up at the edge of the patio, practically on top of the ocean, with about twenty 15-metre whales playing about. Crisp sea air, full sun, a great beach to walk on after breakfast… Ahhh…
We love Birkenhead House here, too; overlooking the Indian Ocean side of the Cape, it’s almost like a private-island retreat for couples. What’s your favourite vacation destination at the moment and what’s your insider scoop for anyone who goes there?
I’ve just returned from a holiday in Barbados, which I love, so I’ll share a secret I’ve not yet told my readers about (naughty!): the Barbados fixer of fixers is a delightful man named Ramell, who can be reached on +1 246 264 8726. You come up with any request on the island, and Ramell will make it your reality.
During what sounds like a peripatetic life, you have lived in London, the States, in Latin America and on the Continent – where have you felt most at home? Was there a country or city you felt an instant connection with?
Our family homes are in Switzerland and Mallorca – I adore both! But connection – instant – was Sevilla. What a gem of a place: a magical experience I had living there during Semana Santa, the Feria; the bright sunshine and full orange trees.
Because I’ve been exposed since I was young to different cultures, I tend to feel comfortable anywhere with relative ease. London took little time to feel at ease, but many years to feel at home – which it now very much is.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I hope to some day live in Rio, Brazil (for a year or two). This is a country I’d love to explore every corner and know really well – and just think… my samba and lambada would be new talents! Also South Africa – living in Constantia or one of the seaside suburbs, experiencing the sea wildlife, amazing climate and sporty day-to-day would be dreamy.
Describe your perfect romantic weekend away…
Nature is my true love. So, being in a setting with my honey, lapping up fresh air, the sea, taking long walks, having a great spot to read during the day and fireplace to cosy up to in the evening with a glass of wine in the evening is all it takes for me to feel, well, loved up while away! The places that mix nature with great style and comfort, tennis courts with a view, healthy, simple food and warm staff are the places I call magic and recommend to friends all of the time.
I bet you’d love some of our Napa Valley hotels – I see you’ve already filed on the wonderful Poetry Inn, for example – or perhaps somewhere in the Brecon Beacons such as The New White Lion (right); delicious Welsh home cooking and bracing walks across the hills…
What’s the first thing you usually check out when you’ve checked into a hotel?
I explore the room bathroom, unpack very quickly, and get out and about to orient myself.
And what do you never leave home without?
My BlackBerry; iPod Touch; Ormonde Jayne mini perfume vials (at least two); mini toothbrush/paste; MAC lipliner in Spice and Dr Haushcka lip balm; a few squares of Tristan dark chocolate… and cash!
That’s a great list. Thanks Suzanne – looking forward to reading your review of Knightsbridge Hotel in London…
Check back soon for some excellent insider secrets from Suzanne’s bulging travel address book…