My Life In Travel: Arabella Weir

'South Africa is very beautiful. No wonder they didn't want to give it back'
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The Independent Travel

What is your first holiday memory?

What is your first holiday memory?

My dad was a diplomat and after living in America, where I was born, he was posted to Cairo. While we were there a family from the Swedish embassy was murdered on the road to Alexandria. So my father decided that it would be a good idea for us to go to Alexandria on holiday. My father being my father decided to send my mother and me and my two older brothers on our own in a car with bald tyres. The car then broke down. Thankfully a café owner gave us shelter. We all slept on one mattress and I spent the entire night lying awake and staring at a huge cockroach.

What has been your best holiday?

I'm ashamed to admit it was filming for the Holiday programme in the Seychelles, which was absolute paradise. I stayed in the Banyan Tree resort in Intendance Bay, which costs about $1,500 a night, with my own private villa and a infinity plunge pool. I think Patrick Vieira and Pierce Brosnan had stayed there just before me.

Are you a frequent traveller?

I don't travel as frequently as I did because I have small children. This year I will have been to Italy, Spain, Cornwall and hopefully Jamaica at Christmas. I spent my entire childhood living abroad because of my father's occupation, so we were on long-haul flights all the time. As an eight year old I would travel to places like Bahrain, then New York and Cairo, so I don't mind not travelling as much now.

What is your favourite place in the British Isles?

Both Plockton and the Isle of Muck in north-west Scotland are incredibly beautiful. Sadly, Plockton has been discovered by tourists because it's where they shot Hamish Macbeth.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Jean-Paul Sartre said, "hell is other people". Travelling with small children is hell and so are other people.

Are you an independent traveller?

I have never done a package tour in my life. It appeals in a way, but then I remind myself that you can't control the other people with you, which could turn out to be ghastly.

Who would be your ultimate travelling companion?

My best girlfriend Helen Scott-Lidgett. We have a real laugh together (no offence to my husband).

Are you beach bum, culture vulture or adrenaline junkie?

I can't do nine hours a day on a beach. Equally I don't want to get up early, run up the Eiffel Tower then do the Taj Mahal in the afternoon. I like a bit of both. I can't bear sightseeing in the heat.

What is your greatest travel luxury?

Travelling first class if someone else is paying for it. My greatest personal luxury is a very posh bag from Hervé Chapelier. It's dusty pink, which is a very practical colour for putting in the hold of an aircraft!

What do you read on holiday?

Commensurate with my status as a great intellectual, I like to read big, important intellectual books.

To where have you lost your heart?

South Africa. You can see why they didn't want to give it back because it is an incredibly beautiful country with amazing greenery, beaches and weather. It's got everything going for it, apart from the sharks.

Is it better to travel than to arrive?

Yes, in the same way that flirting is better than having sex.

Which is your favourite airport?

JFK is fairly glamorous and I think Stansted's pretty great too. I really like the airport in Almeria. It's very reminiscent of Bahrain airport when I went there 35 years ago, with just a landing strip and a little bungalow, so it makes me feel very sentimental.

And the one you like the least?

I hate the miles of walking at Gatwick, it's like you've got to get a visa to get to the other side.

And the best hotel?

You'd be hard pushed to find somewhere more perfect that the Banyan Tree in the Seychelles.

The worst hotel?

One that pretends to be posh such as the Hilton chain. They trade on a name that was once posh but in fact they're not much better than a Holiday Inn.

What has been your most embarrassing moment on holiday?

I once did a Holiday programme in the Lake District and was violently sick in front of the crew. I was standing in the road and I couldn't stop projectile vomiting, which was pretty embarrassing.

To where would you never return?

I wouldn't go back to Cuba. The old part of Havana is incredibly beautiful, but it's a long way to go for very little. Also I flew with Cubana at a time when smoking cigars on board was positively encouraged.

Where is the most overrated place you've been?

Paris. It's beautiful, but I don't think it's as great as everyone says it is.

Where is the most underrated place you've been?

Scotland - you'd be hard-pushed to find anywhere quite as stunning. It's just the weather that puts people off.

To where would you emigrate?

Italy - I used to live there, in the countryside outside Florence with an old boyfriend. Italy also has a properly funded state school system that everybody attends, no matter how rich or poor. It really works.

Where would be your dream destination?


Where are you going next?

I'm going to Cornwall with my family, where we've hired a cottage.