My Life In Travel: Jan Ravens, Actress
'Ideal companion? Someone who looks worse in a swimsuit than me'
Saturday 11 October 2008
First holiday memory?
Staying at my godmother's cottage in Snowdonia, which was tiny and damp and had an outside loo. The area was very beautiful, but I used to come back having been eaten by midges.
My honeymoon. When my husband and I got married, our son, Louis, was one year old. We'd always said we'd go to the Caribbean, but we didn't want to take him, and at the same time we didn't want to be away from him for too long. So we spent four days at the Cipriani in Venice, which was just dreamy, then came back and picked Louis up and went to the Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes, Cornwall. A great combination.
About 25 years ago, I went to the Maldives with my first husband. The food was disgusting – shipped-in cans of school dinners. My ex-husband got a horrible ear infection. His face swelled up and he was in agony.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Kynance Cove in Cornwall. The beach is covered with turquoise water at high tide, but at low tide you can often see seals further out. It's beautiful and dramatic.
Ideal travelling companion?
Someone who looks worse in a swimsuit than me. Other than that, my husband. We have about the same level of interest in culture and wanting to sit down and have a coffee. It's lovely going away with our son Louis, who's now 10, because he is still interested and curious – my other two sons don't want to come on holiday with me any more!
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I'm a culture bum. I'm not into guided tours, but I love to see beautiful art and architecture.
Greatest travel luxury?
Posh flying. Doing long-haul flights in business class makes it a totally different experience.
I either like to immerse myself in where I am by reading Du Maurier in Cornwall or Long Walk to Freedom in Africa, for example, or else something totally alien, like Jane Austen in Australia.
Where has seduced you?
Australia. It's so beautiful and huge, and there's so much more of it I'd like to see. However, I think if I were there for too long the "no worries" culture would get on my nerves a bit.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Travel opens you up to the amazing diversity of lifestyles and the difference in people's luck of the draw in terms of where you're born. In Kenya, Nairobi is a university city with leafy suburbs, and then in the Rift Valley there are people living a very basic existence. You can't believe all these different lifestyles exist in the same country.
Better to travel or to arrive?
When your holiday time is at a premium, you just need to get there. I'm looking forward to a time in my life when I'm able to do things like take a boat to Italy.
Worst travel experience?
I used to get terribly car-sick, particularly when pregnant. I remember a holiday on the Amalfi coast when we had to take a coach from Naples which went round all the mountain bends; it was like a fairground ride. I kept having to ask the driver to stop.
The Adelphi in Liverpool, where I stayed years ago with my two older sons. It's on the top of a hill, so the wind whistled around it. Everything was brown and swirly, with beds that sank in the middle. The lovely 1930s bathrooms, with huge baths and Art Deco basins, were ruined by swirly 1970s wallpaper. We ate revolting pasta with tinned tomatoes and dried basil.
It's a toss-up between the Cipriani and the Tresanton. At the Cipriani,you're in Venice, so you can visit all the local museums and churches, but also lie beside the hotel pool in lovely gardens; it's the best of both worlds. The Tresanton is in a beautiful position looking across to St Anthony Head.
Best meal abroad?
At a restaurant in Amalfi called La Caravella. I had spaghetti marinara, which was particularly delicious.
Along the Helford river in Cornwall from Mawnan church. You can see out to sea to Falmouth. It's very unspoilt.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I have to check out the decor when I arrive; I'm a bit overly sensitive to it. My husband once booked a really trendy hotel in New York, and I went into decline because the walls were the colour of boiled liver.
An Italian Grand Tour, visiting Padua, Rome, Florence, Siena, Verona and Vicenza, ending up somewhere like the Splendido in Portofino.
I love Venice and Sydney; I like cities with lots of water around them.
I'd like to explore Africa more. I was in Kenya for a week and felt my senses were in overload. I'd like to see how the people that we met are doing.
The actress and satirist Jan Ravens is an ambassador for the anti-poverty charity ActionAid, and is supporting its Big School Dinner on 17 October, Child Poverty Day (childpovertyday.org)
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