Tara Fitzgerald: My Life In Travel
'Exploring the South Island in a camper van was magical and liberating'
Saturday 22 October 2005
The Bahamas; it doesn't really qualify as a holiday, because we lived there, but it felt like one because we later moved to London. I have vivid memories of visceral things like the sound of cicadas, an intense monochrome sunlight, the smell of the sea and beautiful powdery white sand. I remember hanging out on the porch with the adults while they had their six o'clock drinks.
I went to Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, which was really wonderful. I spent a week in Sydney and then went on to New Zealand's South Island, which I explored in a camper van. You can't beat that way of life - going where the wind takes you, at your own pace. It was quite magical and liberating. We went to Tokyo on the way back, which was my first time in the Far East. I was totally blown away by it; the people are wonderfully polite. If you bow to somebody you can set off a bowing frenzy, which is marvellous.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Around Dolgellau in Wales, where I have a house. It's everything you'd want from a country retreat and it's right on the cusp of Snowdonia, so I can walk in all directions. The scenery is magnificent.
What have you learnt from your travels?
That there's a lot more to see. I agree with AA Gill that you shouldn't read up on a place before you go there, because that leaves you curious. If you're not curious, there's no point in travelling.
Ideal travelling companion?
My boyfriend. We don't travel together enough because I've been so busy working this year. I have to force myself to take breaks. You can easily spend quite a lot of money during a weekend in London not doing anything special, when for the same money you could book a weekend away somewhere you've never been before.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
A bit of all three. I don't sunbathe much these days and, unfortunately, I'm not a surfer. However, a good book by the sea is wonderful.
Greatest travel luxury?
Salt and pepper.
I tend to read things that are connected to what I'm working on, otherwise I'll read anything that catches my eye. At the moment I'm devouring Agatha Christie.
Where has seduced you?
Sydney is a perfect city, because it's by the water. I love New York, too, because I once had a flat in Brooklyn. I usually arrive somewhere and immediately think "I'd love to live here", but when it's time to leave I realise that I miss London.
Better to travel or arrive?
Worst travel experience?
When I was working in a restaurant in London, my friends and I decided we needed a weekend away so we went to Malta. We had a really good weekend, but when we were about to leave one of my friends realised she had lost her passport. There was no way they would let her on the flight home, so we ended up staying for another night with absolutely no money. Thankfully, a kindly waiter took pity on us and took us into his flat for the night. All the good work and relaxation was undone slightly after that.
A holiday years ago in Mallorca with a semi-boyfriend. It soon became clear that the relationship wasn't going anywhere so we met up with another friend in Deia. The moment we arrived at his flat it rained torrentially. Hotels were washed over the side of cliffs and, because we were beside a pond, there were swarms of mosquitoes. I was bitten to bits and my eyes swelled up so that I looked like a boxer. It was utterly miserable.
A hotel that I stayed at during a school trip to Paris, when I was 15. I was really disappointed when I got there because I had a really romantic idea of what Paris would be like. A prostitute offered us a banana and there were mushrooms growing out of the hotel walls. It was revolting.
The Bauer Hotel in Venice, which is just off the Piazza San Marco. The level of service is exquisite and the staff are really welcoming and friendly. The rooms are unbelievable; my whole suite was black marble - it was so elegant and chic.
My favourite walk is around Snowdonia to Calder Idris - it's intensely satisfying.
Best meal abroad?
In Japan; I had Kobe teppanyaki beef and it melted in my mouth. I love the way the Japanese prepare food - it's so skilful and clean.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I tend to go for a walk and find out about where I'm staying. I'm not very good at unpacking.
I'd really like to go to China and spend a decent amount of time there exploring.
I love Rome. Partly because Roman's aren't precious about their history and because they've got the lifestyle thing pretty sorted out. It's also walkable, which is nice because you can stroll around and soak everything up.
I don't know because I'm tied to London until February. Then I'd like to go away, but I don't know where that'll be.
Tara Fitzgerald stars in the new production of Agatha Christie's thriller 'And Then There Were None' at the Gielgud Theatre in London. Booking until 25 February 2006 (0870 890 1105; www.and thenthere werenone. co.uk)
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