Where the experts holiday: Hannah Fielding, travel fiction writer

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Here Hannah Fielding, one of Britain’s best loved travel fiction writers, shares her travel highs and lows with Just About Travel readers

What do you like to do on holiday?
I am often visiting a place as part of a research for a book, so alongside spending time relaxing, I try to learn as much as I can about the place to which I have travelled: I dine in local eateries, visit museums and art galleries, attend concerts and theatre shows, take long walks around the area and explore off the beaten track.

Where did you last go?
Dodecanese islands
My husband and I spent a long weekend at our favourite of the Dodecanese Greek Islands – Rhodes Island. It has a special place in our hearts, as we honeymooned here years ago. I especially love the medieval old town, which is the very epitome of romantic. Little wonder this place inspired me to write a romance novel set on the Greek islands!

Do you know where you’re going this year?
Lake Como in the Lombardy region of Italy, which is also the setting in one of my forthcoming novels. The most important factor when we choose where to stay is the view: I am already dreaming of sitting on a terrace and looking over that spectacular lake.

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?

It is so very difficult to choose! I think, perhaps, the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It’s a grand complex of palaces built by the Moors on a hilltop in the mid-14th century, a glorification of a long-distant past. It has a fairy tale feel right out of the Arabian Nights, and it lit a spark of inspiration in me that became my Andalucían Nights trilogy.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
I have always wanted to visit Machu Picchu, the Incan citadel atop a mountain in Peru. It would be amazing to walk the Inca Trail there, through the Andes – I imagine the views are absolutely breath-taking.

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?

In France, where I spend five months of the year, L’Ile sur La Sorgue. A Provençal town between Cavaillon and Carpentras, this is the place to visit for antique shops. There are heaps of antique stores (around 300), including a big cluster of them near the railway station.
When I was renovating my home, my architect took me to a row of warehouses next to the main car park that were humming with French people – and virtually no tourists. Glassware, porcelain, furniture, paintings, ivory – thousands of unique pieces clamour for your attention. Best of all, bargaining is par for the course. I talked the vendor of a beautiful 11th century Provençal cupboard down to two-thirds of the price.
My advice is to go early if you’re a serious collector – and if you don’t speak French well enough yourself, take along someone who is fluent so you can effectively haggle. As an extra bonus l’Isle sur la Sorgue has one of the best Provençal markets in the region.

How do you plan your holiday?
I am very much a bibliophile, so I research a destination that I have in mind with guidebooks, until I have a good idea of where I’d like to stay. Then I visit my travel agent. I enjoy going there in person, looking at all the brochures, and talking through all my needs with an agent – for me, this is reassuring and more pleasurable than looking online.

How often do you go away?
My husband and I divide our time between three homes, in France, Ireland and England, so we travel between them during the course of the year, and we may also visit Poland and Egypt, where we have family. Ideally, I like to travel elsewhere for a holiday at least once a year – time that is purely for us.

Who do you travel with?
For many years, I used to travel with my sister, but now I travel either alone, if I am researching my next book or if I’m going on holiday with my husband.

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
Thriving, I very much hope! We should all travel, I think, whenever we have the means and opportunity to do so, in order to learn and to appreciate our place in the world. As one of my favourite writers Gustave Flaubert said: “Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Hannah Fielding is the author of Aphrodite’s Tears a romance novel set in the Greek Islands, published by London Wall Publishing £7.99 available on Amazon here

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