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.

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
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

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003