Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

'We fell in love with Abu Dhabi': travel tips from style experts Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan

The interior designers, style commentators and all-round lifestyle experts tell us about their most surprising holidays, best jet lag remedies and favourite hotels

Colin McAllister, left, and Justin Ryan, right, are TV presenters and design experts. Courtesy Courtesy Colin and Justin
Colin McAllister, left, and Justin Ryan, right, are TV presenters and design experts. Courtesy Courtesy Colin and Justin

Over the past 25 years, Scottish design experts Colin McAllister Justin Ryan have presented more than 20 home and property-related television shows in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, including Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure, Game of Homes and The Million Pound Property Experiment.

They have written books and regular columns for the Toronto Sun and Huffington Post, designed objects for the home, judged competitions, are often hired as keynote speakers and starred in series nine of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. We ask for their top travel tips ahead of an upcoming trip to Dubai.

If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you be?

Colin: As much as our professional diary sees us navigating the globe with insane frequency (work finds us on at least four flights per month), at heart we’re real home boys. Whilst substantially Toronto based, where our practise is at its busiest, we love nothing better than kicking back in Glasgow, where we still retain a home. Built in 1833, during the Georgian era, it’s a safe nest to which we savour return, whenever stressed or overworked. And our hearts burst with pride as Scotland’s second city flourishes on the international stage.

What does your ideal holiday look like?

Justin: We love being behind the wheel. We’re big petrol heads with a small ­collection of classic cars: a 1968 ­Mercedes 280SL and a 1973 Citroen 2CV amongst others, so driving holidays are so up our street. Recent trips include Cabot [Trail] in the Maritimes in ­Canada and a trip down Highway One from Miami to Key West.

Last month, we drove through Glencoe in the Scottish ­Highlands, a trip that’s etched on our minds: the landscape is dark, barren and ominous, yet it’s one of the most beautiful, and certainly most atmospheric, places on earth.

Colin: But let’s be honest: who doesn’t like a beach holiday? We’re equally at home on Jumeirah Beach in Dubai – we’ll be there, in fact, across late November and early December – as we are in The Dominican Republic where, a few months ago, we stayed at The Grand Reserve At Palma Real, which proved a fantastic recharge after filming Great ­Escapes With Colin and Justin, an eight-part docu-series that saw us visiting some of North America’s most interesting vacation respites.

What’s the one place you’ve travelled to that has surprised you most?

Justin: Australia. There wasn’t one part that we didn’t absolutely love. From Sydney, where we climbed the Harbour Bridge and saw Lauryn Hill in concert at the Opera House; to Melbourne, where we filmed a series called Reno Rumble and guested on another called The Block, it was a huge adventure. From The Gold Coast to The Great Barrier Reef – over which we flew in helicopters – it was a country of beauty, joy and wonder at every single turn.

And, a couple of years back, we fell in love with Abu Dhabi, having travelled there to front a five-day home decor event at Yas Mall. While there, we also decorated a beautiful 5,000-square-foot model home for Aldar on Yas Island. We found the people wonderfully friendly and the culture fascinating. We’ve travelled to the Middle East many times, but that trip was an absolute highlight. The Grand Mosque took our breath away.

What three things do you always travel with?

Colin: Scented travel candles – matters olfactory are super important for us. If somewhere doesn’t smell right, we’ll correct it, wherever we are. We also take the Clinique mattifying moisturiser on our travels because, who, if we’re entirely honest, likes a shiny designer? And we always carry back-up chargers for our iPhones. These two boys can kill a battery in a few short hours.

What do you love most about travel?

Justin: As designers we’re veritable sponges, so travel affords us the opportunity to soak up culture, architecture, music, landscapes and people: all these aspects are the things that shape our voice and allow us to grow.

What do you hate about travelling?

Colin: Delays are obviously a nuisance, but due to the nature of our work, we can get a lot done online, in airports or in train stations. And so we tend not to stress too much if delays happen: we find it’s best just to soak it all up and get on with it, right?

What’s the best-designed hotel you’ve stayed in?

Justin: The Palazzo Versace on Australia’s Gold Coast. Dripping deluxe ­gorgeous – it’s a perfect lesson in branding and marque representation. We also love Kimpton Seafire in Grand Cayman. It’s a highly coloured, richly decorated beachfront fantasy, which serves as perfect respite from a global sea of greyscale decoration. We visit at least twice a year.

What’s your top travel tip?

Colin: To fail to plan is to plan to fail. Local knowledge is best, so if you have friends who’ve been somewhere you’re about to visit, get the lowdown prior to departure, so you know where to go / see / visit / eat. Use social media to shout out for ‘top tips’, and, wherever possible, plan it all well in advance so you can arrive safe in the knowledge that your itinerary is organised. That said, don’t be so set in stone that you’re inflexible to last minute adventures that crop up unexpectedly.

Best jet lag remedy?

Colin: Get straight into the day ahead. Time waits for no man or no woman. We recently flew 24 hours from Toronto to Sydney and, after a shower in the Quantas lounge, went straight into a TV production meeting. We drink lots of water on long flights and ensure we eat small meals every few hours. It makes all the difference.

Updated: November 7, 2019 05:26 PM

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