My life in travel: Kit Kemp

'I've always got my eyes open to design'

Kit Kemp is the interior designer of Firmdale Hotels, which she co-owns with her husband, Tim (firmdalehotels.com). Her new book, A Living Space, is out now (£30; Hardie Grant).

First holiday memory?

Camping in the middle of a field near Newquay, with my brothers and parents. I still think it was one of the best holidays. You're so excited you don't sleep the night before. You drive down, sitting on folded blankets, with the tent and everything else packed in, and your head practically touching the ceiling.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The New Forest, particularly Buckler's Hard, which is where Henry Adams designed the HMS Agamemnon. I was brought up near there. The area has the best of both worlds: natural forests and the sea, so you can ride and sail.

Best holiday?

The one I'm currently on, in Barbados. I flew out at Christmas with all my children for a stay on the Sandy Lane estate in St James. I've never been on such a long holiday before, but we had a really busy year in 2012, so decided to go for a month. It's been a huge success.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Wherever I go, I've always got my eyes open for design. It's never entirely a break. Whether it's admiring the fabulous hand-dyed blankets in South America, the wonderful bright colours in Mexico or the metal work in India, I'm always looking at things with design in mind.

Ideal travelling companion?

I have to say my husband, Tim Kemp. But a personal trainer who does a mean massage would also be nice.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Beach bum, because I love being outside. Having said that, no day is complete without some form of sport or activity.

Greatest travel luxury?

A pre-packed picnic, with someone to carry it. On the east coast of Barbados, the sea is very rough and there are a few cliffs to climb down to reach the shore. It would be perfect if a delicious picnic was there waiting when you arrived.

Where has seduced you?

Istanbul. I went last year around March and I just felt like I was in a spy movie or a John le Carré novel. It was my second visit, but it felt like the first time.

Better to travel or arrive?

My husband and I were both born with no sense of direction – so a driving holiday would be my idea of hell. We missed the centre of Seville once, because we got stuck on the one-way system and never quite made it. It's always better to arrive.

Best hotel?

Il Convento in Puglia, which is owned by Lord McAlpine and his wife Athena. He is an obsessive collector and has filled the property with some of the best Aboriginal art, Joe Tilson pieces and books I've ever seen. You walk through the kitchen to get to the breakfast room, past all the preserves, fruits and vegetables, so you feel fully involved. The rooms don't all have en-suites, so it's not everyone's cup of tea, but that didn't bother me one jot. It's a very romantic place, unlike anywhere else I've been.

Worst hotel?

A place in Aachen, Germany, en route to watching a horse event there. The rooms had open wiring hanging from the ceilings. We arrived at about 8pm and there was no food, just a miserable man waiting behind the reception desk.

Favourite ride?

The train journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu along the Urubamba River. The train goes backwards and forwards around the mountain bends. I remember reading the history of how Hiram Bingham "discovered" the sight, then hearing from all the locals how he never found it – they always knew it was there. It was an exciting trip.

Best meal abroad?

I'm not a foodie, but I do love breakfast. One of the best was at the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, where the restaurant was like being on the prow of the Titanic. You've got this panoramic view of sea all around you. It was terribly grand.

Favourite city?

Edinburgh is the city where I've had the most fun – especially around the Festival, when there's so much life and activity. It's a very compact, walkable and beautiful place.

Where next?

Skiing in Courchevel at some point before Easter. Then, I've never been to the Isles of Scilly, so I'd love to go there.

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