My Life In Travel: Kelly Hoppen, designer

'When you get to Tahiti, they put garlands around your neck'

Interview,Ben Ross
Saturday 13 September 2008 00:00 BST

What have you learnt from your travels?

My work [as an interior designer] is based on my travels; it's what I get most of my inspiration from, if not all of it. Growing up, I was very fortunate that my mother and father loved to travel, so I've seen 80 per cent of the world. I wish in a way that when my kids were growing up I could have taken them away on a boat around the world. I think you'd learn more from that than you would in a year at school.

First holiday memory?

Albufeira, in the Algarve. I just remember a beach, bucket and spade. My parents used to take us on holiday every summer, Easter and Christmas.

Best holiday?

The trouble is: I've had so many! One of my best was in Careyes, Mexico, where I rented a beautiful house. It was just friends and family. We partied the whole time. Careyes is known for that: you have huge houses that sleep 15 or 20 people and you get invitations every day from the other houses to extraordinary parties where you meet great people. The holiday I've just come back from was pretty good, too; we were in Ibiza for a month. The first two weeks were quite chilled – I had the trainer down there and a chef with us – and then the last two weeks kind of hotted up.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Cornwall. We used to go down to the village of Rock a lot – which is now very fashionable – for family holidays.

Ideal travelling companion?

If you're travelling to a city for shopping it's a girlfriend. But if you're going away like we did just now, it's great to have your boyfriend and kids with all their friends.

Where has seduced you?

Tahiti is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to; it's as if it's out of a picture book. It's got the most turquoise, clear sea; it's like something out of a Bounty advert. And when you arrive they put garlands around your neck. It's heaven.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a beach bum. I love lying in the sun on the beach, reading, talking, and eating long lunches.

Greatest travel luxury?

A private plane. You don't have to queue; you just get on and that's it. That's got to be the biggest travel luxury.

Holiday reading?

Autobiographies. I'm reading the Jane Fonda one, My Life So Far, at the moment. Being on holiday is the only time I have the chance to read and I love it; I just don't seem to do it when I'm at home.

Better to travel or arrive?

Arrive – I can do without the travel. When we were leaving Ibiza, the plane arrived on time but it then took an hour and a half to get out of the airport. That's the bit that's bad.

Worst hotel?

It was in Mexico. We arrived and one of my daughters' bedrooms didn't have a door on it; there was no staff because they'd all walked out because of a hurricane warning. We'd been told everything was absolutely fine. We stayed about a week and then checked out and stayed in some little beach cabañas in Tulum instead. I thought it was better than a five-star hotel that didn't have any doors or windows.

Best hotel?

My favourite – because it's just timeless – is La Scalinatella in Capri. I've been going there since I was about 12 and it's never changed. It's not only about the way the hotel looks, it's the way it's run every year: the same faces, the same waiters. It's glorious.

Favourite walk/ swim/ride/drive?

I'd rather run. I like running on beaches. The beach at Tulum in Mexico has the whitest sand and the bluest sea; you can keep going and not see many people, which is pretty amazing.

Best meal abroad?

Again, I've had lots. But a recent one was at a place called Perroig in Ibiza. It's a tiny restaurant in a cove on the south side of the island and they serve only a fish dish which is to die for: it's just potatoes, olive oil, peppers, onions and big cloves of garlic and they cook the fish with that; it's fabulous. You just sit on the beach and eat it. I like simple food like that.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I check out the bathroom. Then I unpack immediately. I like to get organised.

Dream trip?

Brazil or Argentina. I'm thinking about doing that this Christmas. I haven't been to that side of the world. And every Brazilian that I've ever met has got that unbelievable kind of joie de vivre, that kind of reckless Latin spirit.

Favourite city?

New York, because it's such a fantastic city. I remember a former New York cop who drove us around when we were there; every time he wanted to cut across somebody and the traffic was bad he would get out of the car and go, "Excuse me, can I get through?" and then he'd get back in the car and say, "Thank you."

We asked him why he did it and he said, "Because if you get out the car and you ask nicely they let you through, otherwise you'll sit here all day." It's little things like that I love. It's got a whole different vibe.

Where next?

We're off to Portofino for a birthday for a long weekend. It's quite nice when you've come back from a holiday to have just one last little snippet before Christmas.

Kelly Hoppen supports ACT – a new campaign for Women's Aid, the national domestic violence charity (

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