My Life in Travel: Anna Calvi

'Travel makes me feel optimistic, like I’m searching for something new’

First holiday memory?

The three weeks I spent in California with my family when I was seven. I think it may have been the first time I'd seen the ocean and I fell in love with it. I devoted most of my time to hanging around on the beach and watching the surfers. I thought they were the most amazing people in the world.

Best holiday?

A backpacking trip after I finished college. I went hiking around the foothills of Mount Tibidabo, just outside Barcelona, in autumn. It was exhilarating and incredibly beautiful.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Cornwall for its coastline and the big waves. Every time I've been it's rained, though, so I'd like to spend more time there in the summer.

Where has seduced you?

Tokyo took me by surprise. I went there for work and started by spending too much time in the hotel bar listening to cheesy lounge singers. Finally, I ventured into the city with an old friend and it was amazing. It was a real assault on the senses and a complete culture shock, but in a great way. We explored the sights and sounds and I ended up loving the place.

Ideal travelling companion?

Someone who's organised, because I'm usually the opposite. I'm quite lazy when I'm away and generally just want to relax and have a laugh. I'd be a disappointing companion for anyone who wants to do lots of sightseeing. I visited Eastern Europe with a group of friends a few years ago, which was a lot of fun. It was great to travel in such a big group.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Beach bum – especially since I've been on tour. When you have a day off, often you just want to lie in bed because you're so exhausted.

Greatest travel luxury?

My main experience of travel is from touring – and there's nothing more luxurious than that!

Holiday reading?

I find poetry more captivating than a novel when I'm on holiday. The American poet Mary Oliver is always good. Her poems are uplifting and calming. I like biographies, too. I read a great one about Janis Joplin, Scars of Sweet Paradise, by Alice Echols on my last trip.

Better to travel or arrive?

I've always liked travelling. It makes me feel optimistic – like I'm searching for something new. Recently, I've started to enjoy arriving more, due to the musician's lifestyle. Being in one place is quite appealing to me these days.

Worst travel experience?

Spending all day and all night at New York JFK airport, sleeping under a bench because our flight had been cancelled. The next day we flew to Canada to do a show, our bags had gone astray and our hotel accommodation had been cancelled. I had to get changed for the show in a disused toilet. It wasn't much fun.

Worst hotel?

A place in New Jersey. My bed was infested with ants. When I told the receptionist, they calmly replied that it was "ant season" and offered me some insect spray. At night, I could hear the only other guest screaming drunkenly down the hall.

Favourite drive?

The Pacific Coast Highway in California is beautiful. We did it on that family holiday, listening to the Beach Boys on repeat.

Best meal abroad?

I had the most amazing pear crumble with ice cream at MoMA in New York recently. It's stupid that it's my favourite memory of the museum, but it was just so good.

Dream trip?

I'd love to see South America, especially Peru. As a musician, I think it would be an amazing place to visit just to hear all the live music and, perhaps, play with some bands.

I'd also like to spend some more time in Rome because I have family there. I have great childhood memories of visiting my grandparents and hanging out on the coast. It would be nice to experience all those places again as an adult.

Favourite city?

I've just come back from New York and I had a great time. I stayed in Williamsburg, which is a really relaxed neighbourhood. No one seems to have a job – they're all wandering around in the day quite happily – which I really like. It feels like a very creative place and I'd like to spend more time there.

Where next?

I've got no immediate plans this summer, except to play some festivals in the UK. After a year and a half of travelling it feels good to stay in one place for a bit.

Ann Calvi is a singer-songwriter. She performs at Somerset House in London for the Summer Series on 12 July. Tickets £25 (www.somersethouse.org.uk)

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