My Life in Travel: Prue Leith, cookery writer, television presenter and restaurateur

‘I love architecture, art and museums - but with stops for food and drinks

First holiday memory?

A family holiday to the Marine Hotel in Hermanus, South Africa. My brothers and I spent hours on the beach. The sea was freezing and the wind was like a knife. We'd scamper back to our nanny, Kate, who would wrap us in towels and dish out Marie biscuits. As each biscuit came out of the packet, she would slowly butter it, then sprinkle hundreds-and-thousands on top. I suffered intense anxiety lest one of my brothers should get the last one.

Best holiday?

A wonderful walking holiday in Sicily. It was late spring; there were flowers everywhere and we trekked from the middle of the island to Catania, visiting churches, eating al fresco in medieval village squares, sleeping in B&Bs and being welcomed everywhere we passed. We also visited the hot spots of Palermo and Taormina, too.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The rivers Naver and Carron in Sunderland. Both are exquisite salmon rivers, unbelievably pretty and narrow enough for less than expert fishermen to cast across. The Carron is marginally more beautiful, but I've only ever fished it for a day and didn't see a flicker. The Naver gets my vote by a whisker, because it delivered me two good salmon when the conditions were all wrong and my much more expert fishing companions gratifyingly caught nothing.

Ideal travelling companion?

Someone who is cheerful, up for anything, never bored and likes both luxury and lumping it. Also, someone who likes good food and wine.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

All three, but I'm less keen on adrenalin as dotage looms. I love architecture, art and museums, with stops for food, drinks and a siesta.

Greatest travel luxury?

A tiny book light that clips on and allows you to read in a tent, B&B or five-star hotel without waking your companion.

Holiday reading?

I like novels set in the place where I'm holidaying or accounts of earlier travellers. I have just been to Burma and my reading included Not Out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay, about the clash of Burmese and British culture; a wonderful book of photographs, The Vanishing Tribes of Burma by Richard K Diran; an early Englishman's account of Burmese life, The Burman by Sir George Scott; and the Traveller's History of Burma by Orchid guidebooks.

Where has seduced you?

Most recently, Burma. The former capital Yangon [Rangoon] is still low rise and distinctly Burmese. The Shwedagon pagoda is a glittering gold dream. The ancient city of Bagan, halfway up the Irrawaddy river, was astonishing. We were on the Orient Express Road to Mandalay river cruiser when the water was too low to go north. Instead we moored at Bagan and had three days there. I would have liked three weeks. The people are endlessly charming, helpful and happy. They are so deeply Buddhist that away from the tourist hot spots it is difficult to force a tip on anyone. And there seem to be festivals everywhere.

Favourite ride?

A riding safari with Sarah Jane Gullick's African Horseback Safaris was unbeatable. Good horses, comfy saddles, great people, long rides. One day we were cantering through the Okavango swamp and were joined by giraffes on one side, zebra on the other.

Worst travel experience?

Skiing. The first time, I cracked my coccyx and spent the week lying on my stomach getting a taste for whisky. The second time, I booked a fortnight in the Swiss resort of Wengen, which lacked nursery slopes. My instructor was a 17-year-old Valkyrie, so I spent my time crashing down the mountain and eventually gave up after a week.

Worst hotel?

A huge modern horror of a place in Prague. I kept losing my elderly Mum, who ended up in the kitchens at one stage. The concierge had a deal with crooked taxi drivers who took you all round the houses before dumping you gracelessly at your destination and extorting a fortune.

Best hotel?

The Cipriani in Venice. It's completely magical, with a staggering view of St Mark's and the lagoon, a huge swimming pool, lovely rooms and one of the few places in Venice where the food is any good.

Best meal abroad?

Grilled seafood fresh from the ocean at a ramshackle restaurant on Jimbaran beach, Bali. The diners choose their seafood from tanks and then everything gets cooked on a fearsome barbecue.

Better to travel or arrive?

It's great to whip through the jungles of South-east Asia by train, hop between safari camps in Botswana by plane, or walk through the hills of Cappadocia. But equally, it's bliss to find your tent set up for you with a delicious mezze laid out after a long day's hike in the Atlas mountains, or to fall into the pool after a sweltering day spent exploring the Valley of the Kings.

Favourite city?

San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, which is more like a big town, but has wonderful Spanish houses, exotic gardens, delicious restaurants, great arts and very good margaritas.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That you almost never allow enough time anywhere. And the longer the stay, the more you want to see.

Dream trip?

A sailing holiday around Croatia's islands, the Greek islands, the Turkish coast or the Great Barrier Reef.

Where next?

Back to Burma. This time I'm going north of Bhamo, through the Irrawaddy gorges, and then over the border into Assam to see the annual great gathering of the Naga clans from all the surrounding countries.

Prue Leith will be talking about her memoir 'Relish' at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland, on 14 June at 7.30pm (bordersbookfestival.org).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee