My Life In Travel: Jane Birkin, singer and actress

First holiday memory?

The Isle of Wight with my brother and sister. We stayed in the least chic part of the island, with black sand on the beaches. We were completely free; at seven in the morning, we were off on our bikes. Brook beach was the best, near Compton Bay, with the shipwreck out at sea. It was the very best of childhood wildness and parents not being too much of a bore.

Best holiday?

Istanbul with my daughter. A marvellous man called Aziz drove us around. We visited the sunken palace at the Basilica Cistern and the Hagia Sophia; and we ate at all those enchanting outdoor restaurants and drank coffee at Pierre Loti's café. We saw carpets being woven, visited the spice market and went to the Topkapi Palace. We couldn't believe the beauty of the place and the kindness of the people.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The Isle of Eigg, off the West Coast of Scotland. I remember taking a night train up there from London to Skye as a teenager with my family. We rented a cottage with no television, only sheep everywhere and huge scope to be bored. But somehow it worked wonderfully.

Ideal travelling companion?

A child. I took my youngest grandson, Roman, to Egypt when I heard that they had discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun's wet nurse in Saqqara. There was no point in going on my own, so I scooped him off with me. It made it so much more exciting.

What have you learnt from your travels?

My father was a painter so I was encouraged to take a sketchbook everywhere. Cameras are perishable but I still have tonnes of sketchbooks from all the trips I've ever been on. It gets you by when you don't know what to give people as a gift; drawings are good souvenirs.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a culture person. It's usually a jolly good trick to pick up a local tour guide. They can tell you all the anecdotes that make a place interesting. I'm one for rushing off to museums at the crack of dawn, eating fabulous things on terraces for lunch and enjoying long dinners on balmy evenings.

Greatest travel luxury?

Earplugs. I've melted candles before and poured water on to bits of cotton wool to stuff in my ears. In a place like Turkey, I would have been lost without them. The sounds of the streets are marvellous in the daytime, but at night I need to rest.

Where has seduced you?

Samoa. I'd just done a film in which I played Robert Louis Stevenson's wife – so I went to find his grave there. We were welcomed immediately by the most beautiful people I've ever known. It was exactly how Stevenson described in his accounts. Samoa and its wonderful people are not to be missed. There's complete innocence there and total generosity towards foreigners.

Holiday reading?

I've taken Marcel Proust on every voyage but never reached the end. I think it's always good to read local authors or relevant books. In Egypt I studied hieroglyphics and read everything about the mummies.

Favourite walk?

I've been in Paris for 40 years and walking here is still what I like best. If you're young, it's fun to sit on the Pont des Arbres and eat your sandwiches. The Jardin des Plantes is the most beautiful garden; it leads from the Mosquée de Paris to the Seine and is full of wonderful medicinal and tropical plants. You can also manoeuvre your way beneath Paris through the catacombs and come up by the Eiffel Tower.

Better to travel or to arrive?

I don't much enjoy travelling, but I have always longed to take a slow train to Russia. I'd like to go alone – like writers do – with only a pencil and piece of paper as company. I'd take my sketchbook and note down all the wonderful details of other travellers.

Best hotel?

I generally don't like big, flash hotels. I'm usually happy to sleep on the floor with a rucksack. The Hôtel des Maronierres in St-Germain-des-Prés in Paris is really sweet though.

Best meal abroad?

Japan. The first time I went with Serge [Gainsbourg] in the Seventies, we had never eaten raw fish before. One of the best things you could do in Tokyo was to go the Tsukiji market: all the fish came in at 5am and an hour later it was rolled in sushi. You could eat it completely fresh.

Dream trip?

I'd like to return to Samoa, before it's too late and the islands sink. I'd kidnap one of the grandchildren again. A new one is about to be born in a few weeks' time – she doesn't know what she's in for yet.

Favourite city?

Venice. I went there 13 years in a row, always with Serge and always at the same time of year in September. We would spend a week trotting around. Sometimes it was sunny, but when it rained it was even better – there were planks across St Mark's Square. It was the most wonderful time to go.

Where next?

I'm going on tour in Japan, Hong Kong, America and Indonesia and taking my sketchbook with me.

For more information on Jane Birkin's projects, see janebirkin.net.

Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor