A Change Of Scene Fills Your Soul
One of our most celebrated authors is based in Dublin, but has set several novels on her Clare Valley home turf.
I got my first passport when…I was 19 and living in Adelaide. I travelled to London to see my friend Karen for three weeks. I ended up staying for more than two years.
My first holiday memory is…A beach holiday in Adelaide, two hours from my Clare Valley home. Dad, the Clare stationmaster, had access to railway holiday houses. Oddly, I don’t remember the beach. I remember playing in 40-degree heat, digging sand traps in the backyard to capture my six brothers and sisters.
I’ve been to 23 countries…New Zealand, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, Portugal, Norway, Monaco, the Isle of Man, Vatican City, the Netherlands, USA, UAE, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Spain, Qatar, Singapore.
My favourite place in Australia is…The beautiful Clare Valley, where I was born and raised. I love the countryside, the wineries, the Riesling Trail, the restaurants and cafes. I’ve set several books in the valley. I also have a soft spot for Melbourne – I met my Irish husband there.
The thing about travel I missed during self-isolation was…My husband in Dublin. I was in Australia visiting my family when the pandemic hit. We haven’t seen each other since late February.
The souvenir I always buy…Tea towels. I frame them.
The place I’ve visited most often is…The west of Ireland. I love the light, landscape, weather, wildness, beaches, the Wild Atlantic Way that follows the coast, the pubs, the seafood.
The place that most surprised me was…New York. We went there for the first time in 2005 to celebrate my 40th and my husband’s 50th. I felt sure it couldn’t live up to expectations, but I loved it. I was so struck by the energy. I felt like I had extra blood cells coursing through my veins.
The place that didn’t live up to expectations…Venice. It wasn’t Venice’s fault. We went on a day-trip from Bologna and I couldn’t wait to get back on the train. Every laneway and view was so crowded it was impossible to get any sense of its beauty.
My holidays are mostly devoted to…Walking, visiting gardens, photographing gardens. And food.
The sickest I’ve been on holiday…In Italy. I got food poisoning from a seafood dish. My husband went to a pharmacy and tried to use his beginner Italian to describe my symptoms. He had to resort to dramatic miming, akin to an interpretive dance. I was sick for two days, too ill to even visit Pompeii on our way to the airport. I waved forlornly to it instead.
The worst thing that’s happened to me travelling…In London my sister and I took an open-top bus trip, thrilled to have the top deck and front window seat. The driver hit not one but two trees, the front of the bus was ripped off and we were showered in glass. My sister had a shard a millimetre from her eye. The next day, in Bath, I tripped over a cobblestone and broke my wrist.
The most interesting person I’ve met on a plane is…An arms dealer. “Interesting” as in horrifying. It was alarming to hear him boast about his work. I tried to question how he lived with his conscience. It became an argument and we were told to keep our voices down by the crew.
The best/weirdest things I’ve eaten while travelling was…I still don’t know what it was. We ordered it in Hong Kong and the staff came out to watch us eat it, nudging each other and laughing.
My go-to dish for room service is…Club sandwich. It’s all about the chips.
The best hotel I’ve ever stayed in…Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, Ireland. It was off-season and we had it almost to ourselves: an enormous loft bedroom overlooking a lake, church and boathouse. Two huge libraries, a drawing room, a bar, open fireplaces. We spent hours walking the grounds without seeing a soul.
Travel has taught me…That the poet Horace had it right: “Skies change, not cares, for those who cross the seas.” But there’s also nothing like travel and a change in scenery to fill your soul.
The place I’d love to visit in Australia is…Melbourne. My two big sisters and many friends live there. I hope lots of people visit to help get it up and running again.
(first featured in Escape Magazine)