Where next? Sharron Davies would like to return to the Maldives / AP

'My favourite Olympics was Barcelona – but London 2012 has overtaken it'

First holiday memory?

Cornwall. I grew up across the border in Devon, so we didn't go particularly far – but it was always nice to relax on the beaches. I must have been quite young, because when I got to about 10 all summer holidays stopped due to my swimming.

I still have a place there today. The moment I have some spare time, I take my own children down. We go to Kynance Cove on the Lizard peninsula. There is the most amazing little café on the beach. Even in the middle of winter, it's just magical.

Best holiday?

For pure unadulterated laziness, the Maldives. You can just be away from computers, telephones and humanity. All I did was swim and read books.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Cumbria. I was doing some work up there recently and it's just so beautiful. It was raining, but it didn't matter. That's the fantastic thing about the UK: it has so many amazing, beautiful, diverse places.

What have you learnt from your travels?

To appreciate things. I've travelled all over the world – from diving in the Great Barrier Reef, to New York and the Hamptons. I've seen the sights of Athens and been on safari in Africa. It's made me realise that I'm such a lucky girl.

Ideal travelling companion?

My children. I have three, ranging in age from five to 18. I took the little one to Walt Disney World in Orlando last year. It was amazing seeing his little face. In the summer, it gets very, very hot, though, and there are huge queues – so you have to pick the right moment.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

All three. I've bungee jumped, gone all over Italy looking at art galleries, taken wine holidays, and sat on a beach for two weeks. Rome is one of my favourite places. I love the history, the people, the coffee, the fashion – and there are beaches and places to swim fairly nearby.

Greatest travel luxury?

A good book. In the Maldives, I read every single one of the Harry Potter series. I also like a classic thriller or anything by Sebastian Faulks. It's been six months without reading due to the Olympics.

Where has seduced you?

The Hamptons. I go to New York and then escape to stay with friends on Long Island. It's picture perfect and very charming – they seem to cut the grass with a pair of nail scissors.

Best hotel?

I like staying in places that are interesting and unusual, rather than great big chain hotels. The Small Luxury Hotels collection has a really nice range.

Favourite drive?

The Pacific Coast Highway in California. I've done a couple of Winnebago holidays with the kids from San Francisco down to LA, which have been really fun.

Best meal abroad?

I had a lovely meal in Milan once. My husband at that time was an airline pilot – they always know the best places because they travel so frequently. We ate in a restaurant in the cellars, surrounded by all these amazing bottles of wine and the food just kept coming. It was delightful.

Dream trip?

I'd like to spend more time in Australia. I've been to Sydney for the Olympics and Melbourne for the World Championships, but it's such a huge country. I'd love to explore it more – especially Perth, because everybody talks about how lovely it is.

Favourite city?

At the moment, London. The city has done the most amazing job with the Games. Before 2012, my favourite Olympics was Barcelona – but London has overtaken it. It's very iconic and has this amazing backdrop. They've built fantastic facilities and incorporated the city well. It's great being part of the atmosphere and seeing all the smiley, happy people.

Where next?

I've promised my daughter a really lovely holiday some time at the end of the year. She'd like to go to the Maldives, because she hears me talk about it. Maybe I'll take her on a return trip to read some more books.

The Olympic swimming medallist is an ambassador for the "Join in Local Sport" weekend (18-19 Aug; joininuk.org) which encourages people to get active after London 2012