Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

My Life In Travel: Gail Porter

'I'd like to travel with Billy Connolly – he'd keep me laughing all the way'

My first holiday memory? Mum and Dad used to take us camping around Ireland in a Volkswagen van. We went with friends so there were usually about eight of us. There were lots of roadblocks and men with guns at the time, but we were too young to understand what it was about; we had the best time.

Best holiday?

Staying at the Reethi Rah resort in the Maldives. My boyfriend James and I went two years ago, and it was just amazing. We stayed in a water villa and we'd pull up the blinds and open the doors in the mornings and jump straight into the sea.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

My home town Edinburgh. It's so cultural, vibrant and beautiful. It's lovely being in a city where you've got the sea, as well as a castle and a palace. I really like the New Town and Grassmarket areas, and the Royal Mile, with its great little pubs hidden down little streets. I'm not a big fan of the new Scottish parliament building, though.

What have you learnt from your travels?

To keep a journal. It's easy to think you'll never forget your memories from holidays and trips abroad, but inevitably you do a bit. I've kept a journal for my daughter, Honey, because she has been travelling with me since she was four months old and has been all over the place.

Ideal travelling companion?

Michael Palin and Phileas Fogg for their travel knowledge, and Billy Connolly because he'd keep me laughing all the way around the world.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I like a bit of everything. I get bored if I stay on the beach the whole time. There wasn't much else to do in the Maldives, but we went out on on catamarans. Otherwise, I like to see a bit of culture.

Greatest travel luxury?

A Diptyque Opopanax candle, just in case I end up somewhere dodgy; they smell really comforting.

Holiday reading?

I read about five books in the Maldives.

Where has seduced you?

I was in Uganda at the beginning of the year, with Fair Trade, and I loved it. I visited the mountain coffee farms to see how the money is being used, and it was so green and beautiful. I also loved Cambodia, where I worked in orphanages. I found the culture and the history fascinating.

Better to travel or arrive?

I prefer to arrive, but my daughter loves flying and finds airports exciting.

Worst travel experience?

I took Honey to South Africa, where I was working with an animal charity, and we were in a twin-prop plane that had to make an emergency landing because of bad weather. My heart was in my mouth, but Honey was shouting, " This is brilliant, Mummy!".

Worst holiday?

I stayed at the Hilton in Tobago just after it had opened, and it was having teething problems. I'm not a fan of big corporate hotels and it felt completely wrong in a place like Tobago.

Best hotel?

The Reethi Rah, for pure luxury. Le Touessrok in Mauritius is wonderful, too, because the people in Mauritius are lovely. When I travel for a charity, I tend to stay in local B&Bs – much more fun.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

If I had limitless amounts of money, I'd go back to Tasmania. I stayed in an eco-lodge on top of a hill, and when I woke up in the morning, I'd go for a swim in the ocean. We'd also get up at six in the morning to go trekking, and saw an amazing array of wildlife, from Tasmanian Devils to possums and kangaroos.

Best meal abroad?

In Cambodia, I had the classic hot-and-sour soup, which almost blew my head off. I have very sensitive skin, so it made me go bright red, and all the locals laughed at me.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I have to unpack and make sure everything is in order. I'll have read a guidebook on the plane, and I write itineraries so I don't miss anything.

Dream trip?

I'd love to go to China, and I'd also like to see the Amazon and the Congo, but the Congo is extremely dangerous. A friend filmed a documentary there and said it was the only time he'd feared for his life.

Favourite city?

Edinburgh. I go up every couple of months, and I always go for the festival.

Where next?

To Glasgow and Aberdeen, and then I'm hoping to take Honey to Vietnam and Cambodia to revisit some of the orphanages I worked in.

Gail Porter's autobiography, 'Laid Bare', is published by Ebury Press, £16.99

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