My Life In Travel: Judith Chalmers

'Swimming on the Great Barrier Reef was wonderful'

First holiday memory?

Being driven around Devon in a Morris Minor Traveller by my father, with a rabbit hopping along side us beside the tall hedges. Also going to Looe in Cornwall and having fresh crab sandwiches, which must have been very sophisticated. I remember Cornish ice cream, too, and that no ice cream has tasted as good since.

Best holiday?

The best holidays are with family; we go to Devon to spend time with our six grandchildren in the summer. Aside from that, a country that my husband Neil and I love is New Zealand, where we try to go every couple of years.

One of the best holidays we have had there was on a sheep station and in Marlborough and the wine country. Eighteen months ago we drove right down South Island, too. We went across to Stewart Island, where a lot of New Zealanders haven't been.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

It has to be Devon, but I also love Scotland. I remember a lovely holiday when Neil and I drove around the east coast. At Crail we stopped at the harbour where we saw a little shed with a sign that said fresh lobster was available. We bought one that was cooked right there, then we went off to get a bottle of wine and plastic cups and ate and drank by the harbour. That's what is great about Britain – that you can enjoy such delicious, fresh produce on the doorstep.

What have you learnt from your travels?

I'm very fortunate to have done Wish You Were Here for 30 years – I got to see so much of the world and discover how different it is. I love sitting in cafés, watching people go by.

Ideal travelling companion?

Neil. He's marvellous because we enjoy the same things – eating nice food and drinking wine and seeing lovely places. We've been married 45 years so we know what we both like.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

If I had to choose it'd be beach bum. When we first started doing Wish You Were Here it was in the days of just lying on the beach with lemons and oil. These days, a holiday for me has wonderful beaches somewhere, but I don't sit in the sun like I used to. I like a bit of culture too.

Greatest travel luxury?

I love my luggage; I've always wanted to have a luggage label named after me! Other than that, it's mascara and lipstick.

Holiday reading?

I've just finished Victoria Hislop's book The Island, which is about Spinalonga. It's fictional, but there's so much fact in it about the island, which used to be a leper colony. I enjoy Douglas Kennedy and Nicholas Coleridge for wonderful gossipy stuff and I also catch up with newspaper supplements.

Where has seduced you?

It has to be New Zealand. I never realised anywhere could be so beautiful. It's so empty too – I love the peace and scenery. We do like South Africa, too, particularly Cape Town. And I recently went to the Maldives – I've never known such restfulness as I did there.

Better to travel or arrive?

I like both. I still get an excitement when I get to the airport, believe it or not. I find British Airways fantastic and I love travelling with them. When I've been in far-flung places and arrive back at the airport and see the tailplane, it's reassuring.

Worst travel experience?

On a filming trip in South America. We were in the desert in Chile and very quickly went up to 5,000m to film geysers in Bolivia. I developed altitude sickness, which coupled with the smell of sulphur wasn't good. I got to the hotel after filming and it was very basic indeed. When they were showing us to our rooms, we stopped at one, which I took to be mine, but the manager told us it was for all of us. I was desperate to have a shower, but it was just a bucket of water. It's all a notch on the belt though.

Worst holiday?

The only place that disturbed me was Rio, some years ago, because of the crime and theft by youngsters and the poverty. However, I've been back since and absolutely loved it.

Best hotel?

I love La Residencia in Deia, Majorca, where we had our own swimming pool. I read more there than I do when we go to our home in Portugal. The breakfast was delicious and we had a great foodie time there. I also like the Four Seasons chain and the Ritz-Carlton in New York and Singapore.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Swimming on the Great Barrier Reef was wonderful and I also love swimming in the turquoise water of Caribbean Sea. In Barbados I would walk along the beach from the Treasure Beach hotel in the early morning and watch the Bajans having an early morning bathe, with all the chatter about cricket and weather.

Best meal abroad?

It might have been lobster in New Zealand. We'd get lobsters from pots on the beach and cook them fresh and simply.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Look at the view.

Dream trip?

I'd love to go to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. It's just such a long way to go. And I think I might like to go to the Maldives again.

Favourite city?

New York, because it's so vibrant. Neil and I love musicals so we really enjoy going to Broadway shows. We were recently on a Saga cruise down the Eastern seaboard and stopped off in New York to see Hairspray. My other favourite cities are Sydney and then London.

Where next?

Devon, to stay with the children and go and enjoy all the fresh produce there.

Judith Chalmers is supporting Sainsbury's Eat Britain campaign, visiting some of the 17,000 farmers and suppliers supported by the supermarket and championing their produce. She is encouraging Britons to holiday at home this year and 'Eat Britain' ( sainsburys.co.uk/food ).

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