My Life In Travel: Sophie Conran, interior designer and cookery writer
'I'm still amazed every time I get on a plane'
Friday 02 March 2012
First holiday memory?
Spending summers near Cadaqués in Spain. Some family friends had a villa there with a big stone veranda where I remember watching the haziness of the horizon when the temperature soared. We used towels as stepping-stones on the beach because the sand was so hot. We made a barbecue with pine twigs and cooked pan con tomate – grilled bread rubbed with garlic and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil.
Fairylands, Bermuda. My husband and I got married there a few years ago, and a hundred friends and family came too. We rented a house and two hotels on the beach, so there were lots of big lunches and dinners, followed by parties and dancing with steel bands.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Devon. I used to have a farm there and love the little seaside towns, such as Beer. There's a café called Ducky's on the beach that does fantastic crab sandwiches, or you can rent a boat and go mackerel fishing. The village of Holbeton is great for antique shops and there are beautiful walks along the coast.
What have you learnt from your travels?
As a designer, I've learnt that there's no right way to do things. The ingenuity I've witnessed in factories across India is deeply inspiring.
Ideal travelling companion?
My children. We've been to Morocco, Mexico, Thailand, Japan and recently sailed from Saint Lucia to Grenada at Christmas. They're fascinated by travel and don't get fazed. I get enjoyment from seeing their reactions.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I love relaxing on a beach, but I'm also a great fan of admiring the architecture, meeting local people and sampling the regional food. Last summer, I hired three gulet boats with a group of friends and sailed the Turkish coast near Bodrum.
It was the perfect combination. We stopped at lovely towns, pottered around looking at embroideries, ceramics and antiques, and came back to the boat for delicious food. We spent three days in Istanbul, which has mind-blowing energy and architecture.
Greatest travel luxury?
The ability to fly. I still find it amazing every time I get on a plane. If our grandparents wanted to visit New York, they had to get a boat and it would take weeks. Today, we can be there in a few hours.
My stepmother is always my first port of call. She's usually got about 30 books on the go at once and has just lent me The Wish Maker by Khaled Hosseini, which I'll read on my next trip.
Where has seduced you?
Provence. My father [Terence Conran] used to have a house there. We would go for a couple of weeks every summer, so I feel very relaxed and happy there. There's something in the air. The combination of umbrella pines and wild herbs that grow there leaves a lovely perfume. The food and antique markets are fantastic, plus there are great restaurants and beautiful beaches.
Worst travel experience?
A trip to Amsterdam with friends when I was a teenager. We stayed in a youth hostel and then ran out of money. Luckily, one of the guys could play the violin, so we ended up busking and sleeping in a bus shelter, which was actually quite fun.
A place I stayed at in India when I was 17. I was on a work trip with my aunt, who was the buying director for Habitat, and we drove all round visiting factories and stayed at all sorts of hotels. This particular place was listed on our itinerary as the "the Ritz in Bangalore". But, on arrival, we found a rat-infested hovel with mud floors and little wooden beds without any covers.
The Ritz in Paris. I was very young and went with a friend whose family paid for it. I remember we ordered room service, and it felt like the most exciting thing.
A gastronomic tour of Italy. My parents had planned it all, without remembering that I was inconveniently on school holidays at the time – so I ended up having to tag along. We drove all through Tuscany, eating at wonderful restaurants and staying in all these fantastic old villas, and we finished up in Rome.
Best meal abroad?
Anywhere with my dad. He does his homework and always knows the best places to go. Recently, he took me for dinner at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, where we ate sweetbread and seafood cocktail in this beautiful pink marble room. We had a lovely time.
I haven't been to Florence for years, so I'm dying to go back. I've never been to New Zealand or Cambodia, and Madagascar has always fascinated me.
London. It's my home and is filled with all my friends. It's full of creative people, art galleries and theatre – and the food just seems to be getting better every day.
I'm off to Rajasthan, India, in a few weeks to go to a friend's 10th wedding anniversary, which I can't wait for. After that, it's Rome in April for a city break with my husband and both of our mothers. We're going to eat pasta, see theatre and visit all the sites.
Sophie Conran has designed an Easter egg as part of the the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt, which will be on display outside the Jumeirah Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge, west London, until 8 April: jumeirahcarltontower.com and thebigegghunt.co.uk
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