Piano music, smartly dressed waiters and breakfast on the train – just a few of the things the author likes to find on holiday
“THE first time I went to Italy with my husband Terence we stayed in a family hotel near Positano. It was the 1960s and we were young and went on a train. In those days they served you fantastic breakfasts as you sped through Switzerland — the butter was properly curled and the rolls were hot. And when we stopped at stations in Italy we could buy wonderful hot picnics full of pasta and peaches and wine. You just leaned out the window and gave them some lire — it was wonderful.
“The best hotel I have ever stayed in is The Plaza, New York. I practically lived there for six weeks while promoting my first book. I was still a teenager and was being chaperoned by my mother. I knew all the waiters and if I jammed the lift nobody minded.
“I want to go to Florence next autumn. I’ve been there three times but have never had enough time to look around the Uffizi — I’d love to take three or four days to get lost in the galleries there. Either that or go for a holiday in the Seychelles. I like the relaxation that they seem to offer — waiters in white coats going out to you while you are floating in the sea.
“I always pack sheet music if we know we will be able to use a piano. Terence plays to me every night for an hour. Generally I’m good with packing, but I have had problems with shoes. Is there anything worse than packing evening shoes and not your walking shoes?
“My worst holiday was on the Costa Blanca, when we were first married. The Guardia Civil kept popping up with guns on the other side of the balcony, and one time they thought our friend’s child’s nappies — which were hung on the railings — indicated someone was burgling the hotel, so they fired some shots, which was scary. The local restaurant served paella that was nothing but rice and empty mussel shells — we couldn’t wait to get home.
“Choosing the right hotel is not always easy. We once stayed in a sort of Fawlty Towers on the west coast of Ireland, and the manager seemed furious from the moment we walked in. There was also a bad one in Montélimar, in the south of France, where the manager locked us in during the night because she knew we wanted to leave early and was afraid we might go without paying!”Interview: Mark Anstead