'Venice is seductive. I can see why people go there to paint'

First holiday memory?

Between the age of three and six I lived in Singapore, and my first holiday was to Hong Kong. I remember the very different atmosphere – the sounds, the smells and the heat.

Best holiday?

A holiday with my husband, son and some friends travelling through the Norwegian fjords by boat. It was absolutely stunning – there was "wow factor" every day. It is somehow still quite unvisited so there aren't hordes of tourists. You cannot come to grips with the scale of things; when you look up there are mountains soaring above you. We also went on the Flam Railway and swimming in the icy cold fjords.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Cornwall is somewhere I have great familiarity with. I've been very lucky to have travelled around Britain a lot with work, but I know and love Cornwall very much. It has rugged landscapes right next to all that extraordinary coastline and a real sense of the ancient about it.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That there are many different cultures that you can't comprehend. I think it's good for the soul – you need to respect that there are absolute differences and the fact that people exist in a different way; it's a privilege to touch on that.

Ideal travelling companion?

Someone who can take off on their own as well as travelling with you. My husband is good at that.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a culture vulture. I can't sit on a beach and I don't want a party. When I started going to Tobago I thought it'd be my idea of hell because other Caribbean islands are so small and isolated, but I've discovered the culture and the people, and I love it.

Greatest travel luxury?

A feather pillow. It makes the biggest difference on a night flight or long journey because it enables you to be upright and still be comfortable.

Holiday reading?

I really like something that's written by an author from the place I'm in so that I can discover a bit more about the place.

Where has seduced you?

Venice is extraordinarily seductive. The pleasure is that you can never know it all, even if you visit often. The best thing is to wander around and suck up the atmosphere. I can see why people go there to paint – it's visually amazing.

Better to travel or arrive?

They're part and parcel of the same thing; getting somewhere is often as important as the arrival. My Norwegian holiday was about the travelling, however flying is not as romantic as it used to be.

Worst travel experience?

There are often surprises. For example, nothing really prepared me for the townships in Cape Town. I booked a hotel on the internet and when I arrived there was high security which made me feel terribly uncomfortable. It wasn't what I expected. But then I had a wonderful time there.

Worst hotel?

A hotel we went to in Sicily for my husband's birthday. We went in March and it poured with rain solidly for five days so we were confined to this modern hotel on the seafront which hadn't been finished properly – the hot water had gone, too.

Best hotel?

My husband is a hotelier and he used to run Cliveden in Berkshire. It's an extraordinary place with lovely gardens and great staff. Another fantastic place was a small ryokan in the mountains of Japan. It was completely different to me, with mattresses on the floor, and no English-speaking staff. I thought that the location was beautiful.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

The walks along the South West Coast Path in Cornwall are favourites.

Best meal abroad?

In Japan. They are extraordinary at putting together food. You have no idea what you're eating, whether it's from the sea the land or some vegetable matter, but it's delightful. I loved everything from the sashimi to the noodle dishes.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Get a map out and go for a walk. I want to orient myself when I arrive and find out where everything is.

Dream trip?

I fancy going on some sort of meditational spa holiday in a monastery on the top of a mountain surrounded by yaks in India. I don't know if I'd do it or not but it's a bit of a dream.

Favourite city?

London is an extraordinary city, because there is so much going on culturally. You can do pretty much whatever you want; it's hard to beat.

Where next?

I'm going back to Tobago. I like the mixture of going to beaches and knowing the charming people.

'The Railway Children' is in cinemas now and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on 3 May. A live stage version will be performed at Waterloo station in London over the summer.