We’re kicking off our regular q+a series with one of our travel idols, Auberge Resorts founder Mark Harmon. The man behind Napa’s uber romantic Auberge du Soleil has also mastered the art of keeping both grown-up and junior guests happy. Aspen’s Hotel Jerome, Cabo’s Esperanza and Napa Valley’s Calistoga Ranch and Solage Calistoga woo us with their great food, design and service. But our kids are equally welcome, meaning everyone gets a real vacation. We can’t wait to see what Auberge does with Anguilla’s legendary Malliouhana when it reopens later this year. Mark lives in San Francisco with his wife and three children.
Q: Where and when did you take your first trip as a family?
Our first trip as a family was six months after our daughter was born…and it was not a great start! We traveled from our home in San Francisco to Cleveland, Ohio for the Christmas holidays to visit my wife’s family. The weather was abysmal, flights delayed, we all caught colds, baby crying, we stayed inside the entire visit…but we had family around us and good cheer for the holidays. However, that was the last time we did that.
Q: What is your favorite travel memory from childhood, and what do you hope your kids remember about their travels?
My favorite travel memory from childhood is visiting my grandmother and great-grandparents with my older brother during summers in Bakersfield, California. I know that sounds odd - even a bit crazy since the temperature even at night rarely went below 95 degrees - but they were the most loving people and they spoiled us completely. We could ask for anything we wanted to eat: donuts, pancakes, ice cream and cookies. I think I gained 20 pounds on one trip and my parents had to buy me new pants when I got home.
Q: Have any of your family trips been a complete fail?
See #1…not a complete fail, of course. But lessons were learned.
Q: Name a place (destination or hotel) where you’ll always return and why.
I would return as many times as possible to the Villa d’Este on Lake Como, Italy. Impossibly beautiful and gracious…from the elegant gardens to the pool on the lake, from the exceptional breakfast buffet and lunches by the pool to the delightful and most personable staff. Sublime.
Q: What’s your dream destination for travel a deux, and what’s on your bucket list for a trip with the family?
Our dream destination for the two of us is a week at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Cap d’Antibes, France. Our bucket list (short version) for family travel is Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and New Zealand. Plus skiing in the French Alps.
Q: Where would you send first-time visitors for a family day and kid-free night in your hometown?
For a kid free night, I would suggest parents visit the Auberge du Soleil in the Napa Valley. Kids are generally discouraged there, and it’s the perfect romantic getaway. As we like to say, leaving your kids at home every so often will make you a better parent!
For a family day in San Francisco, ride the cable car, and take the ferry to Alcatraz for the tour. Alcatraz is a sure hit with kids (well, maybe not really young kids, it’s kinda scary). Another great family day is to hike the Dipsea Trail on Mt Tam, go to Stinson Beach and have a big breakfast outside at the Parkside Café. Yum.
Q: What’s your traveling uniform? Do your kids have one as well?
For me, levis, T shirt and driving shoes. Our boys: shorts and T shirts. Our daughter: always something stylish.
Q: Fill in the blank: Flying with kids is...
great if you are in first class, and they aren’t.
Never board a plane without...
electronic entertainment of all types for the kids.
Q: If parents could design a hotel, all rooms would have…
A swimming pool and ice cream fountain.