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)

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvSpoiler alert: It has been talked about for months
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
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: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?