My Life In Travel: Sandi Toksvig

I have learned to be extremely happy in a simple wooden hut'
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The Independent Travel

First holiday memory?

We didn't really holiday as children because we travelled so much with my father's work as a television correspondent. My brother and I spent many a summer in the back of the car in the US, trekking from one political meeting to another. The only holiday element was that we kids were allowed to choose the motel for the night and we always selected the one with the biggest pool. Once a year we would sail by ocean liner from the US to visit my mother's family in England. We went first class and from an early age were adept at ordering Baked Alaska and making up a fourth for bridge.

Best holiday?

Any holiday with my kids at our house in Denmark. We swim in our lake, bicycle to the shops and generally seem to slip backwards into a slower, less stressful time. My partner and I had our honeymoon in the Lofoten Islands in Norway, which are about as calm and beautiful a place as there exists on the planet.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

My house, but after that probably the Pembrokeshire coast. I have spent many a happy time in St Davids and the stunning little village of Solva. I like it out of season when the wind blows and cliff walks rarely involve meeting anyone else quite so foolish to venture out in the weather.

What have you learned from your travels?

That I could probably live anywhere. I think almost anywhere in the world has its own charm; it's just that some places make you work a little harder to find it. We would all do well to need fewer home comforts. I have learned to be extremely happy in a simple wooden hut leading a rather basic daily life. I think I am less afraid of the unknown because it so often turns out to be a wonderful surprise.

Ideal travelling companion?

My partner.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

None of the above really. I have enough adrenalin in my work as a performer without ever wanting more and I hate lying about, so the beach is out. I do like culture but mostly I like the beauty and tranquillity that exists naturally. I cannot sit still for long and like to get out and see how the people of the area live, what they eat and how they conduct their daily lives away from the tourists.

Greatest travel luxury?

Being able to travel business class and sleep in a bed on long flights. It doesn't go with my quest for the simple life but it does go with my desire to escape humanity.

Holiday reading?

I always read a great deal about the place I am visiting. I am addicted to buying locally-published books that tell you tall tales and myths about the place. I love to have a detailed map and can spend hours perusing the symbols and trying to make geographic sense of it all. Otherwise I read detective stories – mind candy for a busy brain.

Where has seduced you?

The place that most surprised its way into my affections was Sudan. It remains a difficult country to travel in and I slept in some truly tough places, including an old container in the city of Juba. However the people and the landscape are astonishing. In the north there are more pyramids than in Egypt but none of the crowds. I was able to spend time alone atop a pyramid from the Meroitic period and look out across the empty sand dunes at what was once a great Kushite kingdom. Breathtaking.

Better to travel or arrive?

I have only lately understood that the journeying itself is important and when I can, I try to travel more slowly to savour the change from one culture to another. When heading for Denmark from the UK we prefer to take the ferry, which takes almost 24 hours, but adds to the pleasure of journeying home.

Worst holiday?

Two weeks in Corsica with two toddlers in a mouse-infested house on an unsafe beach. The only thing the kids liked was the ice cream at the supermarket, which Corsican separatists blew up three days after we arrived.

Worst hotel?

I wouldn't like to say because it would probably mean fate will send me back there.

Best hotel?

The private villas as The Railway Hotel (now the Sofitel Central Hua Hin) in Hua Hin, Thailand.

Best meal abroad?

Ordering prawns with sweet basil by mistake at the Baan Itsara Restaurant in Hua Hin and having a sizzling slice of heaven brought to us while we sat looking out to sea.

Favourite walk/ swim/ride/drive?

Walk around, or swim across, or ride round the lake at my summer house in Denmark.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Take a walk to work out where the local shops and cafes are.

Dream trip?

Anything unusual. I should like to take the RMS St Helena to St Helena.

Favourite city?

I love Boston. It is the best of America with manners and has great history and splendid food. Dinner at the Union Oyster House is about as good as life gets.

Where next?

I'm off to Bloemfontein and Mafeking in South Africa to research the Boer War.

'Sandi Toksvig's Guide to France' and the sister title for Spain, aimed at six-to-eight-year- olds, are published by Red Fox on 2 April (£3.99).

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