The Tomicki gentleman himself in London
Tomicki at ease at The Explorer’s Club, New York…he
travels with his pet cat, his own wines and a doddering retainer,
only staying at the world’s best hotels. Tomicki not only
has his suits made in London, his shirts and shoes are made there,
DECONSTRUCTING A COMPLEX WILLIAM
STYLISH EDITOR OF ENTREE TRAVEL NEWSLETTER
It’s not many interviews that begin with the subject of your
story signing off on the phone “OK, I’ll meet you in
Kathmandu Thursday—center of town, I’ll be on a yak with
my guide Sven,” but that was exactly what travel and food writer
Bill Tomicki was saying as a doddering retainer ushered me into his
I had traveled to tony Montecito, California to interview the man
Gentleman’s Quarterly had called “a true renaissance
patrician” to get his insights into luxury travel and dining.
Harvard- and University of Pennsylvania-educated Tomicki looked
a good deal younger than his 66 years, no doubt due to his daily
regime of polo playing and fencing and he was every bit the quick
wit Vogue Magazine had described when they called him “a fearless,
irreverent, sophisticated and courageous agent
provocateur for the
Tomicki has climbed mountains and danced with head hunters. But
he is not all about danger: he is a sensitive published poet and
prize-winning photographer. And he has authored four books.
What I saw was an intelligent, gentleman with wonderful manners
(he also has a charming ability to thumb his nose at etiquette) and
a deep knowledge of the world. His library was covered ceiling to
floor with Old Master paintings and rare sculptures filled the room.
The atmosphere was like an English club and Tomicki should know:
he is a member of seven exclusive private clubs around the world.
Tomicki leaned back, took a sip of wine and politely answered my
questions with extreme patience. I was intimidated to say the least.
In front of me was someone who had served in the Air Force during
the Vietnam War and also knighted in France and in Portugal as a
knight of the realm. He knows the world and what he speaks about.
At the tender age of 21 Tomicki was already a legend in extreme travel
and elected to membership in the prestigious Explorer’s Club
in New York for his seminal work on voodoo in Haiti.
Travel today? “Yes, it is nothing like it was 26 years ago
when I began as a travel writer.
Getting there is hardly half the fun unless, of course, you are going
to a really horrible place.”
Tomicki prefers luxury to roughing it, travels with his own wines
and knows most power players in the industry from chefs to hoteliers
to travel agents and guides. He is a darling of p.r. people and tries
to work with them to achieve their goals, but never at the expense
of the truth.
One of his claims to fame is his monthly newsletter, ENTREE, an
arch and insightful monthly advisory on restaurants, hotels, cruises,
spa, books, wines and anything that happens to appeal to him. Although
small by commercial standards, (ENTREE has 12,000 paid upscale subscribers
and elite distribution with placement in the rooms of some very fine
hotels, among them the Bel-Air, The Pierre and the St. Regis), he
is one of the most respected men in the travel industry. The result
of his impact is a passionate following who trust and follow Tomicki’s
Tomicki is also Senior Editor of Traveler Overseas Magazine, a sumptuous
color monthly, Travel and Restaurant Editor of the American-International
News Syndicate, a columnist for the Bel-Air Hotel Magazine and a
contributor to the Zagat Survey for Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
As a connoisseur of luxury travel, Bill Tomicki
has provided insider advice to a discerning readership for 27 years.
After becoming the youngest Vice President in the history of Tiffany & Co.
in New York and then made VP of Sotheby’s before he was 30,
Tomicki retired at 39 after developing real estate in Flordia, most
notably the prestigious resort community of John’s Island in
Vero Beach. The facts show Tomicki was a huge success financially
as a businessman at a very early age. He then sought to put his connections
and know-how to work and the result was a second career as a writer
To peruse his subscription-based travel newsletter ENTREE is to
be whisked on a worldwide jaunt through five-star hotels, first-class
restaurants and exotic locales. Written with considerable flair,
an issue of ENTREE will tell you where to find luxe lodgings in Ethiopia,
why to avoid the mega-resorts of Dubai and which spots in Ritz-Carlton’s
global chain are the real turtle soup and which are the mock.
To see Tomicki travel I am told is to behold the way he anticipates
the needs of his well-heeled readers. As etiquette-minded as Emily
Post one minute, he can turn as charmingly rakish as Errol Flynn
the next requesting "a bottle of your finest champagne and a
glass of your cheapest white wine" before asking the befuddled
busboy if he'd like to dance. Always up for adventure, Tomicki is
the embodiment of traveler as debonair swashbuckler. He is also the
only travel writer I have ever met who has been nominated for a Nobel
Prize in literature. In 2007 Tomicki acquired land in Devon, England
along which came the title Lord Millcombe. He does not use the title
but is hoping it will secure him a better table at Annabel’s
I asked him in terms of luxury travel, do you see more people seeking
comfort or adventure? Any advice on how a traveler can find a marriage
of the two?
“Well,” he carefully answers, “the traveler who
interests me most, the one I think I write for, is the one that seeks
comfort AND adventure and if not adventure, then simply blissful
comfort and proper service, the kind that anticipates your needs.
I have always believed it makes no sense to travel and live in any
worse manner than one does at home and so I am attracted to hotels
that are extremely luxurious. Let’s face it, with the world
in the hands of so many vulgarians, it gets more and more difficult
to find places and people who uphold high standards of quality. I
do not know of any activity that promises as much happiness and possible
personal growth as travel does.”
I continue to ask, “Aside from the usual suspects, what are
today’s must-do destinations?”
Tomicki answers, “India holds high promise for the discriminating
traveler. Taj Hotels there and Oberoi operate some gems that will
indulge the most demanding connoisseur. Cuba has an ineffable sweetness
but the hotels are run like your local DMV. Vietnam will appeal to
all who want beauty and the exotic in their lives…unbeatable
shopping, too. New Zealand has wonderful lodges and clean air. And
South Africa is a must. However I am always amused when I read the
work of the Frenchman Xavier de Maistre, who, in 1790, at the age
of 27, wrote a book about journeying around his bedroom, an account
he entitled Journey Around My Bedroom. De Maistre needed no tropical
island or crenelated castles to set his imagination and dreams free.
Evidently pleased with this book, in 1798 he embarked on a second
journey and wrote a second tome, Noctural Expeditions
Around My Bedroom.
This man never left his bedroom to fulfill his travel fantasies and
wrote two books about his experiences!”
”What are your thoughts on personal tour guides when visiting
exotic lands and how can one go about finding a good one?
“I loathe tour guides. They remind me of schoolteachers and
I had my last class in 1962. I prefer to do my own research and penetrate
a culture alone armed with knowledge. I would prefer to get lost
in a souk by myself than be herded thru one by some yammering know-it-all
guide. If you must find a guide, I can only wish you good luck. Remember,
a top hotel can usually help with a smart guide who is not too annoying.
And making a local friend is an invaluable way to penetrate a culture,
whether it’s seeing their home or learning their take on government.”
”What are the clients of ENTREE looking for most when they
“ENTREE clients don’t want to go where the masses are.
They want to be treated elegantly and they behave elegantly. They
want introductions to General Managers, clubs and restaurateurs who
will give them preferential treatment. They want the best of an experience;
they do not want to slog it out on touristy crap. They are interested
in prestige, superior quality and the intangible experiences that
luxury experiences can deliver. Unlike wannabe luxury travelers,
ENTRÉE readers are very savvy and unforgiving with respect
to value for money. They are not called “smart money” for
nothing. It is much too difficult (and expensive) to travel today
to make a mistake. My readers know they can rely on me for insider
information on hotels, restaurants, cruises, spas and resorts around
the world, especially in far-flung places. We dispel myths, slay
sacred cows, and speak the truth. If we can steer our subscribers
away from one bad meal or one lumpy bed, we’ve done our job.
Truth is the most precious commodity.”
”You've obviously had a ton of memorable experiences as a
traveler. Are there any that stick out most?”
“I remember drinking blood with a tribe of Masai in Africa.
They all remarked how good it tasted. I gritted my teeth and could
only think of lunch at Alain Ducasse. I also remember swimming in
the Amazon with headhunters, riding fast horses in Patagonia, drinking
crates of Champagne in London with members of the House of Lords,
waltzing on the Great Wall of China, and crying as a small orchestra
of limbless Cambodians played sweet music as we entered Angkor Wat.
I was knighted in France and given a medal in Portugal, but my best
memories are of simple meals and good wines with friends. Oh, and
once I did the polka with gypsies in Poland at 4 in the morning on
a quay…that was special.”
”What's one city you never tire of and why?”
“As long as I am with the right woman (my wife) I never tire
of any city. She makes everywhere perfect. That is the riddle of
travel, it does not matter where you go, what is important is whom
you’re with. And how you feel about yourself. Having said that
I never tire of London. And I like visiting Portugal very much.”
”What's one place you've never been but have always wanted
“The North and South Poles. I hear it is very quiet there.
I do not like noise at all.”
”Is commercial air travel dead for the upper class?”
“It’s been dead for years and has mummified. Flying
in your own plane is the way to go. At a minimum, first class is
acceptable but one still has to do with airport rigors. I never fly
without my own food and wine in tow. “
“What makes a luxury hotel truly special?”
“A staff that remembers you and cares enough to deliver what
you like and need. The Milestone in London always puts Red Burgundy
and Brazilian jazz in my suite there because they know I like both.
Secondly, a quality bar. Like the one at The Lanesborough. Thirdly,
gentlemen and ladies working there. The Cipriani has that. Comfortable
beds. The Four Seasons George V in Paris is an example of a place
with fine beds….and masses of extravagant fresh flowers. An
excellent in-house restaurant. The Taj in Mumbai has several. Great
art and furniture like the Ritz in Paris. Fine gardens like the Park
Hyatt in Buenos Aires. A special car and driver for guests.” (Tomicki
himself owns a dark green vintage Bentley that used to belong to
Princess Grace of Monaco).
“I could go on and on: special soaps, proper bedroom and bathroom
lighting that does not take an engineer to work, a smartly dressed
intelligent doorman, know-it-all concierges with solid contacts to
accomplish the impossible, a fine in-house bar and restaurant and
plenty of luxurious cars to shuttle a guest about, peace and quiet—this
is a business of thousands of trivialities—it is hard to expect
any one hotel to execute them all well…yet some do. And when
that happened, it is magical.”
“And soon you’re off to Africa. Do you have all of your
“Good sir, there is not a microbe alive brave enough to attack
And so, I leave this charismatic man, a true bon vivant and raconteur
to say the least…he offers a bottle of wine from his 3000-bottle
cellar I agree to taste it with him. The butler brings smoked salmon
from Tomicki’s Shetland Islands company. All is right with
the world. After all, I have heard this is a gentleman who opens
a $2000 bottle easily for any guest…he is an extraordinary
character, one we should celebrate and encourage.
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Travel and Food Editor, American International News Syndicate
Senior Editor, Traveler Overseas Magazine
Contributor, Bel-Air Hotel Magazine
Contributor, Zagat Guide to Los Angeles
Contributing Editor, Porthole Cruise Magazine
Travel Editor, El Paso Inc.
Travel Editor, Rothschild Presse
Member, Society of American Travel Writers
Member, North American Travel Journalists Association
Member, International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association