My life in travel: Fay Ripley, actress and cookery writer
'Sydney has the best food in the world'
Saturday 21 May 2011
First holiday memory?
We used to go to a place called Port Grimaud in the south of France. We stayed in very basic accommodation, but it was on this amazing beach. My dad had a boat moored there and I remember a mistral storm came in one year and he swam out to save it from thrashing against the rocks. I thought he was James Bond, and at that point he achieved superhero status.
I got married in Lucca in Italy. We rented the most extraordinary old garrison with a lemon grove and a private chapel. We only had 40 people, so the combination of that villa and a few local B&Bs gave everyone somewhere to stay.
Other than having my children and beating Gordon Ramsay on The F-Word, it was the best day of my life. We're coming up to our 10th anniversary now and I'd love to relive it. The downside of visiting my in-laws is definitely cushioned by the fact that they live in Italy.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Whitstable in Kent – we have a tiny cottage there. The British seaside doesn't do it for me normally, but there's something very particular about Whitstable. I love all the restaurants and the amazing fresh local fish I can buy in the harbour. It's almost stuck in a time warp, but it's quirky and the high street has brilliant shops.
What have you learnt from your travels?
That I need good food, a hairdryer and, where possible, a ping pong table. Can I also point out, I'm pretty good.
Ideal travelling companion?
My husband – we like the same things. A sunset isn't quite as beautiful unless somebody's looking at it with you.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
A beach bum who needs a bit of culture. Wherever we stay, I like to have a little village nearby; I never like to be too far from a good market.
Greatest travel luxury?
Something I don't do enough of – flying first class. I once got flown out to Jamaica because my husband was filming there. I went with Air Jamaica and I thought I'd put my feet up, relax and sleep. But no: the music was turned up, the fashion show started and an exercise routine ensued. If you thought you'd just read, they called out your seat number and said "Hey, 5c, you don't want to get deep vein thrombosis, let's move those legs."
I really like Sadie Jones, but the key with young children is short chapters. If there was such a thing as a novel with half-page chapters that would be ideal.
Where has seduced you?
New York. My husband and I started dating there. It's a very romantic city, especially in winter with the ice rink in Central Park. You feel like you're in a movie.
Better to travel or arrive?
Arrive – I like the expectation of what's ahead. As a child in the Seventies, I used to love travelling; it felt so glamorous. But now I find it a chore.
Worst travel experience?
Last year, we went to the Princesa Yaiza hotel in Lanzarote. We arrived on the island, which is like landing on the moon because there's not a tree in sight and not a blade of grass as you travel through the volcanic terrain. The lobby of the hotel was plush, but I just didn't like the room. It was barren with just a couple of wooden chairs and a sofa that looked like it was from Ikea.
Babington House in Somerset. It's expensive, but I think it's the only place where I've never complained. I always leave thinking it was fantastic.
On my dad's boat in the south of France. We used to find little coves and have picnics on beaches that were unreachable by foot.
At the Hotel La Bobadilla in Loja, Andalucia with my husband. We had the "fine dining experience", which was very quiet, very grown-up, with lots of clinking of cutlery and no children allowed – and he proposed to me. I got on the phone in a state of hysteria to tell my parents and the waiter came over to say that a German couple had complained. As my husband tried to reason with the woman, one of her shoulder pads came off and they started to call the police. We were thrown out but went on to have a fantastic evening drinking in the local bars.
Sydney. The food is the best in the world as far as I'm concerned and the architecture is beautiful, with lots of little Victorian terraces and amazing modern buildings. It's incredibly multicultural and the shopping's amazing. Plus, it's surrounded by water, beaches and inlets. You could never feel claustrophobic there. It's one of the few places in the world I could imagine living.
Vila Vita Parc in the Algarve on a family holiday – the kids are really excited about going – and apparently the food is fantastic. It appears to tick all of the boxes for us.
Fay Ripley narrates 'Perfect...' on the Good Food channel, Mondays-Wednesdays at 7pm until 8 June
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