Rachel Argaman, Sydney-based CEO of Toga Hospitality, is mad for markets: from London's bustling Borough Market to the colourful Christmas markets in Berlin and Copenhagen.
Which city do you live in?
How many days would you spend travelling each year?
What cities and countries do you most often visit for business?
Melbourne (we have nine hotels there); and Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg, as Germany is the heart of Toga Hospitality’s Adina Apartment Hotels ‘incubator business’ in Europe.
What are your best tips for Berlin?
If we take Berlin as the city, then a great restaurant to visit is Borchardt in Franzosische Strasse. It is a French-German Brasserie established in 1853.
I’d also recommend a trip to the Hackershe Hofe – a series of eight connected courtyards all linked together and restored to form one complex of shops, apartments, offices and more.
They represent early 1900s architecture with most of the buildings surrounding the main courtyard featuring white mosaic tiles and Moorish mosaic design. It is in Berlin’s Scheunenviertel Quarter and near the Hackershe Markt which is where our third Adina Apartment Hotel opens in February 2011.
What's the one thing you do (or try to do) on every trip?
I work full time and have three children. I always try to ensure I catch up on my reading whilst away. I sometimes watch movies but am more likely to lose myself in the pages of a good book.
On any business trip, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time is fairly rare as most evenings on a business trip involve functions or team catch-ups, but when I have spare time, over a weekend in Europe I make sure I get out and explore the city.
That usually takes the form of an early morning run which helps me orient myself in the city and then exploring the “top ten” must do’s for that city. If I am travelling in Australia and have a night in then I would generally spend it working – catching up on emails, preparing for presentations or meetings.
What’s your favourite city to travel to?
I love London. I was born there; it always feels good to be back. Everyone speaks English, which is always a plus and there is so much to do and see. Silly little things about the English lollies remind me of my childhood: polo mints, sherbet fountains, mintolas…
You’ve got a spare day in London: what do you do?
If it is a Saturday I would go to Borough Market which is set beneath the railway viaducts between the River Thames and Borough High Street. It is a wholesale fruit and vegetable market with amazing traders and glorious food. The market sprawls around a series of streets and walkways as well as the central area and also incorporates the Jubilie and the Green Market.
Harrods food hall remains a must for everyone to go and see. If you have a child with you, Hamley’s is a must (even without the child…) and Libertys and Fortnum and Mason say “England” to me. I would definitely fit in afternoon high tea at The Ritz, The Savoy or The Langham and finish the day with good theatre in the West End.
When you’re overseas, what are your favourite stores to shop in?
I don’t often have much time to shop so sometimes I make the most of downtime at airports. If in Heathrow I always have a look at Kurt Geiger’s shoe shop and Harrods.
If I do have time then there are two favourites: Copenhagen is a beautiful city, and one in which we have a gorgeous Adina Apartment Hotel which is well located to Stroget – the world’s longest (1.1km) pedestrian street, full of beautiful shops.
Denmark is well known for its design and Illums Bolighus is a favourite shop for beautiful things to bring home! At the other end of Stroget is Nyhaven (New Harbour) which is a favourite place to go and eat at the restaurants along the canal. If I am lucky enough to be in Copenhagen at Christmas time I would not miss the Christmas markets in Tivoli. They are fantastic and the atmosphere there at night is unbeatable with lots of magical lights, a festive atmosphere and great food.
If I am in Berlin in December I would definitely make time for the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market which is the best market for traditional handicrafts from wooden toys to unique jewellery and the cinnamon smell of gluhwein and roasted almonds gives you a warm welcome from the moment you enter the market.
And if you are not in Berlin for Christmas then you cannot miss Kurfurstendamm and Potsdamer Platz and the nearby Sony Centre
Tell us about your best overseas dining experience.
Going to Umami in Copenhagen at the close of a busy working day having flown in from Australia that morning. It was a business dinner, but the fresh ingredients in this amazing Japanese-French fusion restaurant and the impeccable service was the perfect way to end a day.
What are some essential carry-on items you’d never leave home without?
Real basics like hand sanitiser in my bag, facial wipes and moisturiser – and always a good book!
How do you typically spend your in-flight time?
If I have preparation to do for the meetings I am going to, that happens first. After that I would generally read a good book. I have still not read Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy and I think I am going to succumb and read it this December when I travel to Europe. Also on my list at the moment are Maeve Binchy’s Minding Frankie and James Patterson’s Crossfire.
How do you beat jetlag?
I always try to sleep on the last leg of the flight, land early in the morning, work or keep busy all day and then go to sleep at nighttime in the city I am in so that I get into the rhythm of the timeframe I am in. I also set my watch to the destination I am travelling to as soon as I get on the plane taking me there.
What are the first things you do on a business trip after settling into your hotel?
Shower, change and go down to catch up with our team and have my first meetings with them and with whichever clients or strategic partners I am seeing. It is important to me to get straight into the day.
What do you like most about travelling, even though it’s for work?
As a busy working parent I love the “me” time on the plane; catching up with our team around the various countries we operate in (Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark and Hungary) and being in new places.
What advice would you give airlines to improve the experience of the business traveller?
At Toga Hospitality, guest service is at the heart of everything we do – so for me kind, attentive service that respects your “space” is always what I like most
What are your biggest travel gripes?
Delayed planes which play havoc with busy business schedules! Losing your luggage is right up there too.
What’s your best travel advice?
See travelling there as part of the journey. Enjoy the time on the plane and use it to relax or to prepare for the trip you are going on.
Australian Business Traveller's ‘Frequent Flyer’ interview profiles businesspeople who regularly travel within Australia and overseas and lets them share their favourite destinations, hotels, activities and tips with the rest of the business traveller community.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.