My Life In Travel: Anneka Rice, television presenter - News & Advice - Travel - The Independent

My Life In Travel: Anneka Rice, television presenter

The My Life in Travel column is produced in association with Andalucia Tourism. See www.andalucia.org

First holiday memory?

Feeling sick in the car on the way to the Isle of Wight as my father puffed away at his pipe; it seems completely weird to think of people smoking pipes now, and in the car. My parents kept the "Who can see the sea first?" mantra going from the moment we pulled away from our house.

Best holiday?

Tim Rice, who is no relation unfortunately, invited me and my sons to join him and his family on board a luxury yacht he chartered for the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean. We cruised from island to island in thick shag-pile luxury, stopping to scuba-dive, sail, jet-ski and kayak. We watched the odd game of cricket and ate magical meals prepared by about four chefs. We composed and sang a thank-you song to him after the holiday.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The Isle of Wight. I've been holidaying there since I was four and I feel I know every rock, pebble and crab. As soon as we're on the ferry, I experience a deep sense of well-being.

What have you learnt from your travels?

As long as I'm with whom I want to be with, I'm happy being anywhere. The wanderlust, which took me over for about 20 years, has now left me.

Ideal travelling companion?

I feel happiest when I'm with all my family as the umbilical cord is always tugging. If we're all together I can leave my mobile phone at home, which I never do if I'm apart from any of my sons. The boys are also brilliant travelling companions – they are very funny, compassionate and curious.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

A mixture of all three. Our last trip to India satisfied on all counts. We had a bit of luxury, loads of culture and just driving down a road in India is an adventure, by the time you've dodged the odd elephant and tripped out on the dazzling colours everywhere.

Greatest travel luxury?

Sleeping pills. I am a terrible sleeper if I can hear any noise, unless it's the sea or something that should be there. I once went to Australia twice in a week: Sydney for two days, then home for another project, then back to Adelaide on the Friday. Sleeping pills definitely helped with that. It seemed quite normal at the time but now, looking back at my career I feel exhausted. How I ever managed to get married and have three children is beyond me.

Holiday reading?

I had a big stack of books to read last summer to judge for the Costa Book Awards. It was heaven; I had an excuse to sit in bed looking over the sea in the Isle of Wight for a month. I had a small back injury which meant I could keep it going, so friends would arrive with meals on trays and flowers and chocolates while I smiled weakly and tucked into the next book.

Where has seduced you?

India is the most exciting place I've ever been to. I'm Hoovering up every book on it that I can find at the moment. The culture and history are mind-boggling. Also, some of the extraordinary forts and palaces, made from granite and marble transported hundreds of miles across vast mountain ranges, make Hadrian's Wall or Stonehenge seem like a gentle bit of landscaping.

Better to travel or arrive?

I love the journey. Sometimes I can get on the Gatwick Express, spend a couple of hours in the Virgin Atlantic lounge and feel I could go back home again quite satisfied. The emotional shift you make when you close your front door is extraordinary.

Worst travel experience?

Being in Romania with hundreds of volunteers for our Romanian orphanage challenge and not being able to get everyone back on flights because the project had overrun and the airport runway had suddenly been deemed unsafe. Everyone was exhausted and I was like a demented holiday rep trying to keep morale up. When the aircraft eventually arrived and everyone had boarded, they sat in stunned silence because the experience had been so emotionally shattering.

Best hotel?

I loved staying at the Samode Haveli in Jaipur. I found myself sharing a room with three sons and a nephew who suddenly appeared halfway through his gap year. What should have been a fairly uncomfortable experience turned out to be a laugh. Thomas had chronic bronchial asthma from all the heat and dust but it was an adventure driving through the streets at night in an auto-rickshaw trying to find the right medication for him.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

I love wild swimming. When I stayed at my friend Vanessa's house in the Highlands of Scotland, we swam at 8am in April in the freezing loch. That's the coldest I've ever felt. I swam in the sea off the Isle of Wight up to October this year and most mornings in London I swim in a heated outdoor pool. At this time of year it's warmer in than out and you feel as though you're on a film set as clouds of steam swirl above the water.

Where next?

To Marrakech. Morocco is wonderful in January and February – a quick direct flight and you experience bright sunlight again and your spirits lift. The Riad El Fenn is holding creative courses so I'm looking forward to doing a bit of painting.

Anneka Rice is on the judging panel for the Costa Book of the Year 2010, to be announced on 25 January ( costabookawards.com)

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