My Life In Travel: Paul Smith
'Holiday reading? I often just hold the book I've taken, and daydream instead'
Saturday 22 March 2008
First holiday memory?
I always had wonderful family holidays in Dorset, but I didn't travel abroad until I was 16. My first foreign trip was to Lake Como with the youth club. We travelled by coach and train, and I remember being overwhelmed by the beauty of the place.
The "best" is always a difficult one, because so many trips have different meanings and high points. However, the first time my wife and I went to India in 1984 was incredibly memorable. We spent a few days in Delhi and then went on to Udaipur and Jaipur. Of course, the Taj Mahal was impressive, but so was the Lake Palace Hotel, where we stayed. As a designer, the main impact was the beautiful colours worn by the ladies in Rajasthan. About 10 years ago, there were many places in the world that I either wanted to go to for the first time or revisit, such as the Great Wall of China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Russia. As I travel for many months every year, I decided that the only way to visit these places was to make a "day trip". My first was to Delhi – I arrived at midnight and left the same time the following day. They have become quite a regular thing, and are really crazy but also very challenging and exciting.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I love Charmouth in Dorset, because of mychildhood memories of searching for fossils on the beach.
What have you learnt from your travels?
To keep it simple – and know what you are letting yourself in for.
Ideal travelling companion?
My wife. If not her, then I love to travel alone because it allows me to be spontaneous.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenaline junkie?
All three, because we all have changing moods and requirements. Last year, we visited Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in one trip. We loved it, but arrived back home wanting a holiday. Last week, we just sat on a beach in the Bahamas, so now we really want to do a cultural trip, probably in Europe. For a more adventurous holiday, I would probably visit the desert in Chile or go down to Patagonia.
Greatest travel luxury?
Time, a good camera and nice toilets.
In my case, it's more like holiday "holding", because often I just hold the book I have taken and daydream instead.
Where has seduced you?
Italy seems to have seduced me, because I have a home there. The people are friendly, the food is great, and you get good summer sun. When I moved to London in the late Seventies, I kept my home in Nottingham, but eventually decided to sell it. Rather than letting the money disappear, my wife and I decided to buy a second home, and during that time we had supper with a close friend who told us that their friend would show us some houses for sale near the beautiful city of Lucca in Tuscany. We flew out to Pisa to meet them and bought a house. That was 20 years ago.
Worst travel experience?
Any trip that involves major airport delays – the worst one being an entire day late because of a broken plane at Olbia airport in Sardinia.
I think it was a hotel in Selkirk, on the Scottish Borders, when I was working in a knitwear factory nearby many years ago. The only heating was a one-bar electric fire, and there was nowhere to get food because the owner had gone fishing.
Special to me are the Villa d'Este in Cernobbio, Lake Como; the Park Hyatts in Tokyo and Milan; the Grand Hotel et de Milan; and my secret hotel in Nottinghamshire, but I'm not telling you the name.
Swimming in the pool at the Villa d'Este, which floats on Lake Como. The drama of the lake and the mountains together is breathtaking, and the mood of the lake changes so rapidly with the mist, fog, sunshine and snow. I also love cycling in Tuscany, around the walls of Lucca; it's so relaxing because there are no cars.
Best meal abroad?
Steak and chips at Chez Georges in Paris; pork at the River Café, London; and lamb at Gianni Pedrinelli in Piccolo Pevero, Sardinia. Chez Georges is special because it is still family-owned, the interior is very traditional and the food is old-fashioned French. The River Café is still one of my all-time favourites, even though it's not abroad. Pedrinelli is a family business, Gianni is the boss, the sister is the chef, the brother is front of house, and mum and dad are there in the background. Gianni goes to the markets at 5am every morning, hand-picking all of his ingredients. The lamb is roasted on the bone and cut at the table, and the meat literally falls off, it is so beautifully done.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
Find out where everything is, how everything works, and where the fire exit is.
Anywhere with my wife. Chile would be the first choice, but revisiting Argentina and Mexico would be high on the list.
Tokyo has great energy; London and Paris have variety and culture.
The 7.30am train to Nottingham on Wednesday. Then Paris next week, then Japan soon after, and so it goes on... I travel seven months every year.
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