How long have you worked in travel?
Since I was 18 and worked a summer season on the French west coast for a self-drive holiday specialist. It was hard work - living in a tent from March to September and carrying gas bottles to clients. It did set me up for my travel career, however. Dealing with a staff member being knocked off his bike and needing surgery, a huge storm that flattened most of the tents on site still with sleeping clients in them and one of our staff tents catching fire all introduced me to disaster management at an early stage of my career.
What do you never travel without?
A really good book, it can keep you company on long flights and rail journeys, and transport you to sleep after a busy day of exploring. I also always take my phone with a Google Maps app – I do most of the exploring by self-driving through Europe so my sense of direction is pretty good now and I know when to ignore commands to 'turn right, turn right, turn right', when I know I need to go left.
What would you wish you had with you if you were stranded on a desert island for six months and why? You can choose a luxury and something practical.
Luxury – a pillow, I’m super grumpy if I don’t get a good night’s sleep hence steering clear of nights under canvas now unless it is in a proper bed. Practical - it would be a fishing line. I could eat fish all day long, although I’d have to learn to fish pretty quickly!
If you could travel with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
My Grandfather. He was a real adventurer. In the RAF he was a Spitfire navigator and then worked for an engineering company flying backwards and forwards to Germany twice a week. He loved the finer things in life and wasn’t afraid to talk to anyone. I think that this is where I get my love of travel from, but we didn’t get the chance to travel together as adults. Childhood holidays to North Wales and Plymouth will never be forgotten, for the adventuring up Cader Idris or catching razor clams on the beach at Barmouth.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
Snowmobiling over a frozen lake to Aurora Safari Camp in Sweden – it was over pristine, deep snow, not a sound and really exhilarating with hot bilberry juice and warm fika upon arrival.
What’s your secret hidden gem (such as a little bookshop, restaurant, café, little-known museum/gallery, artisan shop)?
There is a lovely family business on the island of Mykonos run by Nikoleta and her daughter Anna Xidakis who use traditional weaving techniques. Their atelier is hidden away in the narrow streets of Little Venice. I always try to buy a woollen scarf from her.
What’s the most unusual client request you’ve received and were you able to fulfil it?
It has to be being asked to organise an impromptu picnic on the frozen landscapes of Iceland. We planned it all down to the location, food on offer and new swimsuits to use for a dip in the natural thermal pools.
Have you won any awards or been recognised for a specific achievement?
Conde Nast US Top Travel Specialist - Croatia
Town & Country Magazine – Best Travel Planner for Sweden, Italy and the United Kingdom.
If you hadn’t worked in travel what would you have liked to have done?
I was always fascinated by the work of the Foreign Office. I did apply but the Paddington rail disaster meant I couldn't make it to my entrance exam. My other interest would have been to work within the Heritage sector – I really admire the lengths that dedicated historians and visitor experiences teams at English Heritage and National Trust go to, in order to preserve our nation’s national monuments and landscapes.
If you could retire to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
It has to be somewhere I can speak the language so, Italy, France, Spain in that order I think. I’d need a great coffee shop nearby and a wonderful market.
Favourite book(s) and why?
Anything by Dan Brown - I can picture the places that Robert Langdon discovered. Alternatively, something by Colette or Marcel Pagnol – Le Ble en Herbe or Le Chateau de Ma Mere. They remind me of learning about France at school and my first few holidays in glorious chateaux and the landscapes of Provence.