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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor