My Life In Travel: Penny Smith

'Almost anywhere in South America does it for me'

First holiday memory?

A beach holiday in Clacton. It was freezing cold, but we went in the sea anyway. I had the usual hand-me-down bathing costume, which was ruched. As soon as it got wet, it hung down to my knees. I remember having very chafed knees and a cold head. But I still love eating cockles.

Best holiday?

There have been so many memorable holidays to so many beautiful places. The first time I went to Barbados, I fell in love with the island. I made some wonderful and enduring friendships, and had a riot of a time. It was over a period when they hold a festival of plays and music, which they call Holders Season. The weather was beautiful and I managed to only get five mosquito bites. That is what I call a good holiday.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The Lake District is one of the most stunning areas of Britain, and great hiking country. I have holidayed in most areas at some time, and everywhere has its attractions. The Peak District holds very happy memories. And the south coast, particularly Dorset, is beautiful.

What have you learnt from your travels?

The most important thing is to be adequately prepared. I once went to Venezuela woefully under-prepared and had to borrow clothes from other people. I always try to find out what the worst possible scenario could be, and then see what is the smallest amount of clothing that I can get away with. I hate putting bags in the hold, both for the waiting and the risk and would prefer to spend the entire week in one outfit.

Ideal travelling companion?

Someone who doesn't expect five-star luxury, who is fun, can make me laugh when all about is collapsing and who won't look at me in a funny manner if I suggest we skip the sights and just sit around on the terrace doing not very much the whole day except sampling the mojitos.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a bit of the first two, but definitely not an adrenalin junkie. I do like white-water rafting and kayaking through white water. If it looks like fun and doesn't look like I'm going to end up with my stomach in my mouth, I'm generally up for it.

Greatest travel luxury?

It would have to be a cashmere scarf, cashmere socks and a superior eyemask.

Holiday reading?

Something easy to read on the plane – I don't like turbulence, so I can't concentrate. I also take a selection of books from the airport bookshop, a mix of novels and factual books.

Where has seduced you?

The British Virgin Islands – such sea, such sky, such nature. And there seems to be a real quality of stillness. I also had a wonderful time at Strawberry Hill in Jamaica, and Ecuador has so much to offer. In fact, almost anywhere in South America does it for me.

Better to travel or arrive?

Arrive. There is nothing nicer than having a shower and testing the bed, before heading out to sample the local brew.

Worst travel experience?

An emergency landing in Dhaka. The hotel I stayed in after that was just disgusting. The sheets were filthy and the floor was damp. They told me there'd been a fire in the room, and they'd had to put it out. I would have preferred to sleep in a cupboard. As it was, I unrolled my bed mat and slept on the bathroom floor in my sleeping bag inner sheet.

Worst holiday?

Marrakech, with a friend of mine. We were both getting over broken relationships, and wanted to lie side by side on sun loungers, reading. It rained the entire time, and we had huge arguments about almost everything. I've since been back, and I thought it was gorgeous.

Best hotel?

Any hotel where you feel welcome. I am not a fan of stuffy hotels where you feel weird if you're walking around in your cheap market clobber, and not Gucci-ed up. I loved staying at the Amanjena in Phuket, Thailand. The rooms were beautiful and the staff were so warm.

Favourite walk/ swim/ride/drive?

A walk where you don't have to go up and back down the same way is always going to be better. That's why Kilimanjaro has never appealed to me. However, the Himalayas are unerringly beautiful and the views are so spectacular, it takes your mind off your screaming hamstrings.

Best meal abroad?

Breakfasts of spicy vegetables and noodles in Indonesia or Malaysia. I went to Borneo with a friend a few years ago, and breakfast was my biggest meal. I must have eaten about three or four helpings while Kirsty was attacking her fruit salad.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Unpack my sponge bag, have a shower, clean my teeth and go out for a drink.

Dream trip?

Any trip where I haven't had to organise a thing, but everything appears just when I'm most desperate. Like a cooling lake after a long day's hike, a massage with fragrant oils and a long, cold glass of beer.

Favourite city?

Florence – for the cultural attractions, the shopping, the food and the coffee. It's such a brilliant place to go to walk around, although it is better when it's not a weekend so you don't have to lurch from queue to queue.

Where next?

Hiking and kayaking in the Yukon. Apparently, it's awash with mosquitoes and the grizzly bears are on the prowl. I'm more scared of the mosquitoes because I've become allergic. One bite, and I swell up like a puffer fish. Mind you, one bite from a grizzly...



'Coming Up Next' by Penny Smith, is published on 21 July (Harper Perennial, £6.99)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links