My Life In Travel: Madhur Jaffrey

'Every sense goes into high gear when you're faced with the unfamiliar'


First holiday memory?

First holiday memory?

With my family when I was around five years old on our way to the Himalayan hill station of Dalhousie. It was so different to what we were used to, because there was fog and mist, which we thought was very romantic. The holiday began as soon as we stepped on to the overnight train. My mother always packed tiffin-carriers full of food for the journey. The servants, who travelled with us, had laid out all the bedding. I remember sitting on the soft quilts and digging into the koftas (meatballs), potatoes with cumin and mango pickles, using the lovely fluffy pooris (bread) as plates.

Best holiday?

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts with all my children and grandchildren. We rent a six-bedroom house right on the beach every year, which is just perfect. They are the best holidays because they have all the ingredients that are important to me - my family, the water and wonderful fresh food from farms and the sea - the whole family cooks and eats together.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The Lake District. My sister has a house there. I love the endless moors with the grazing sheep and the unsteady skies.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Travelling reveals the real world, not the one you read about. The brain and every sense goes into high gear when you are faced with the unfamiliar. I remember a volcano blowing up when we were on the tiny island of Ternate in Indonesia. The Sultan of Ternate went into the crater to ask his buried ancestors what had caused this imbalance in nature. I travelled with him to a neighbouring island where he dealt with the problems that he believed had caused the eruption. The volcano subsequently subsided. It was another way of thinking.

Ideal travelling companion?

My husband. I travel quite a lot through work and often he'll join me at the end of a trip.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I look for good food, good art and the natural beauties of the land when I'm travelling.

Greatest travel luxury?

I like a clean, comfortable bed and hot showers.

Holiday reading?

Nothing serious. Mostly art, architecture, decorating and garden design magazines, so I don't have to concentrate too much. I prefer to just lie back and be gently titillated.

Where has seduced you?

There are so many places. Japanese inns, travelling along the Bosphorus in Turkey, the white houses perched high on the Greek island of Santorini, Tuscany, Martha's Vineyard, Kashmir, Rajasthan, Kerala and the island of Banda in Indonesia. India is a place close to my heart. I grew up in Delhi and go back regularly.

Better to travel or arrive?

It's better to arrive. I hate airports and the endless waiting around. Cars are another matter, because one can stop at will, eat locally, walk in a vineyard or through a camel fair.

Worst travel experience?

Being delayed at JFK by a blizzard and then subsequently missing a series of connections.

Worst holiday?

I tend to see the bright side and have got something out of every holiday.

Worst hotel?

I once stayed in a shoebox of a room near the airport in Tokyo.

Best hotel?

I love the Taj Hotel in Bombay. I have been going there since I was a girl. Perhaps it is just my association with the place. I feel that I have been granted a boon when I am there.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Walking along the beach near the cliffs of Gay Head in Martha's Vineyard.

Best meal abroad?

There have been too many. I have had spectacular meals at the Tawaraya Inn in Kyoto, with fresh, creamy bean curd amongst the other delicacies. Also in Tuscany, with grilled portobello mushrooms and fried artichoke hearts and in India with venison pickle or fresh rice noodles. As a child I used to go on great picnics too, which inspired my love of food - cooking was a central part of growing up and we always had good food at home.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Ask where the best fresh produce market is.

Dream trip?

I never want to stop exploring, so it would be somewhere I have not yet been, like Chile.

Favourite city?

San Francisco and Sydney. They are both similar - they both have great restaurants and architecture that is particular to the land that they're built on. I love that. They are both very integrated, with people from all over the world living as one. I like the fact that they are by the sea too, since I grew up in a land-locked city.

Where next?

Who knows? Patagonia maybe.

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