Shell out: fresh seafood is on the menu in Positano

'Cornwall is the land of legends, sea mists, sand dunes and surf'

First holiday memory?

Driving down to Cornwall in the back of my mother's Triumph Herald. She would drive and my grandmother would be in the passenger seat – both of them looking impossibly glamorous and smoking. My uncle, aunt and cousins would be behind in the convoy. There was no M4 or M5 at the time, so the journey would take hours. My two favourite parts were crossing Dartmoor and arriving in Looe at sunset. I couldn't wait to feel the cooling sand between my toes. Cornwall is the land of legends, sea mists, sand dunes and surf.

Best holiday?

My husband, Phil [Vickery, the television chef] and I took the children away for a week's cruise on a Turkish gulet. We sailed out of Bodrum and travelled sedately along the coast, stopping to go swimming in the clearest blue sea and to catch sardines for supper. The captain and his crew treated us like royalty. I can't recommend it highly enough.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That you mustn't think you are going to get anywhere too quickly. There will always be delays, hold-ups and frustrations. Take a book, have a drink and a snooze. Manage your expectations and enjoy the ride.

Ideal travelling companion?

I enjoy travelling with or without other people. When I go on the charity bike rides for Genesis Research Trust, there are 100 women all travelling together. If you need tweezers, plasters, a laugh, a magazine, or a gin and tonic, someone is guaranteed to have it.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

A bit of everything. I do like to loll on the beach or by a pool (nothing beats the pleasure of lying in the shade reading a great book and drinking a cool beer), but I also like a bit of culture and cafés too.

Greatest travel luxury?

I take a hot water bottle, an old cotton shawl and a tea cosy. The hot water bottle for comfort. The old shawl to cover my eyes so that I can sleep anywhere, and the tea cosy because I like my tea hot.

Holiday reading?

My publishers gave me a Kindle when my first novel came out, so now I load it up with a bit of culture, a bit of trash and a thriller. You can't go wrong!

Where has seduced you?

Central America. I recently cycled through Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, mostly on quiet back roads, which put me in close contact with the people and the culture. Highlights of this trip included spotting sloths, hearing howler monkeys, swimming in the Caribbean at the end of a long hot day of cycling and submerging ourselves in volcanic hot springs.

Worst travel experience?

A ghastly self-catering gîte in Brittany. It was dirty; there was no welcome of any kind (no loo paper, soap or light bulbs) and a goat that kept leaping into the swimming pool.

Best hotel?

I love the Savoy in London. I've been lucky enough to stay a few times and I felt like a film star every time. Also, the Oberoi in Delhi is incredible. It has beds I could happily die in.

Favourite walk?

You cannot beat the Saturday market in St-Tropez for colour, smells and variety. Get there by 8am and wander around for an hour or so. They have jewellery, flowers, tablecloths, hats, food, shoes ... you name it. Then walk down to the harbour and sit in one of the cafés to spy on the millionaires and their yachts.

Best meal abroad?

A place in Positano, Italy where I ate gorgeous calamaretti (baby squid) lightly battered and fried, with a glass of red wine. Also, anything from the Trattoria alla Madonna in Venice, which does fabulous, old-school Italian food.

Where next?

My next planned trip is to cycle from Tallinn to St Petersburg in June next year. As it's the summer, we'll have the White Nights, where the sun doesn't set. I first went to St Petersburg when I was 17 and the city was called Leningrad, so I can't wait to see how it's changed, and to revisit the Hermitage and the Summer Palace.

The presenter is a patron for the Genesis Research Trust, which supports the health and well-being of women and babies (