Kathy Lette loves globetrotting with her celebrity friends ... all in the name of research.
What was your best holiday?
My worst trip was on mushrooms - obviously, when I was a hippie in the '70s.Kathy Lette
Of course, my favourite destination is a cosy little spot that goes by the name of "G". But my happiest holidays were in my grandma's beachside shack in Gerringong, a little town south of Sydney. Learning to bodysurf, hurtling beachward like human hydrofoils, lolling in the lagoon, rock-pooling, eating battered savs with a late-afternoon squash outside the pub while our parents had a pint. What sunburnt bliss.
And the best hotel you've stayed in?
London's Savoy Hotel. I was writer-in-residence for four heavenly months. The Savoy was keen to rekindle its literary links. The hotel had been home to a literary minestrone of famous scribes: Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, Emile Zola, Mark Twain, W. Somerset Maugham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Fielding, Rudyard Kipling ... Kathy Lette. A natural segue, I told myself! My art deco suite was so sumptuous, I never once got up before the crack of noon. Would you when you're served breakfast in bed every morning by tautly buttocked boys in crisp, white jackets? The hotel offered my kids a room down the hall. And oh, how their homework improved. When stuck on a maths equation, we would simply ring down to reception. One evening, we had five concierges looking for the square root of the hypotenuse. (I didn't even know it was lost!) Months of fun and frivolity ensued. Dannii Minogue would pop by for pool parties. John Mortimer, Stephen Fry, Richard E. Grant and Salman Rushdie joined me to co-host literary dinners. Girlfriends stayed over for pyjama parties where we dialled our fingers to the bone ordering room service. ("We'd like a toy boy on a bed of lettuce, please!") But parting was such "suite" sorrow.
What do you need for a perfect holiday?
To be lying on the pectoral pillow of George Clooney, 'neath a tropical palm as he licks the roe of virgin sturgeon from my navel. But apart from that, shark-free water. Mankind spent millions of years evolving out of the water. Australians spend all our time trying to get back in. As an ex-surfie chick, I am partial to anywhere I can swim without fear of being used as a great white's toothpick. Any island ringed by coral reefs, particularly Anguilla and the Maldives, are my favourite destinations. There the resorts are so exclusive, not even the tide can get in.
What do you always take with you?
Exercise clothes. If you're going to indulge in gourmet food, you have to run up more than bills.
What's your best piece of travel advice?
Never eat anything from a roadside stand.
Your best travelling companion?
Books. No matter where you are, no matter how uncomfortable, you can always slip between the covers of something scintillating. (I highly recommend my latest novel, The Boy Who Fell to Earth, she says, modestly. Dropping your own name - now there's an art form!)
Where do you want to go next?
The best thing about getting older is that you're no longer tethered to the kitchen sink by your apron and heart strings. With no more parent-teacher nights to attend or projects to make at short notice, a mother can hit the road. I travel at least once a month. Travel pieces have taken me to the Maldives, the Turks and Caicos, Thailand, the Seychelles, Tasmania, cruising on the Mediterranean and down the Danube. Book tours have taken me to North and South America, Croatia, Russia, on safari in South Africa, and to literary festivals as far-flung as Barbados, Edinburgh and Auckland. Being a writer means I can disguise my hedonistic love of travel as "research". I've just been "researching" on a friend's boat in Ibiza, followed by a cycling tour with three Aussie girlfriends down Germany's Mosel River. Next week I'm hiking with a girlfriend in the Swiss Alps, followed by a week on a Spanish beach with my kids, concluding summer frivolities with a few days with Pam and Billy Connolly in their Highland hideaway. (Yes, it's hard work, but somebody's gotta do it!) Oh, the joy of having a portable profession. But what I'm really looking forward to is Christmas in Kioloa. My darling mum, three sisters and I rent two adjoining fibro shacks down the south coast of NSW every year with all our chaotic offspring. We ride bodyboards all day and play charades all night. It's total, hilarious bliss.
What was your worst holiday?
My worst trip was on mushrooms - obviously, when I was a hippie in the '70s. But seriously, my worst trips ever are American book tours. If only authors had an RSPCW - Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Writers. American book tours would top the agenda.
And your worst experience on holiday?
We were halfway to Mauritius on a family holiday when we lost two of our three engines. We had to make an emergency landing in the Azores, a windswept bit of rock in the middle of the Atlantic. There was one bed and breakfast and 500 scared, hungry passengers looking for shelter. I was also caught in a cyclone in the Caribbean, which involved a lot of coconut concussion.
What's the biggest packing mistake you've made?
Forgetting to pack the Lomotil. You never know what you might be eating. In the Brazilian rainforest, I found myself eating piranha. I thought I'd better eat it before it ate me. It's like dieting from the inside.
What's the worst hotel you've stayed in?
New York's W Hotel in Union Square. There were white stains on the couch, which I hoped were ice-cream. And a pair of size 12 high heels that obviously belonged to a transvestite hooker. They'd been there so long they were covered in cobwebs.
What do you avoid on holiday?
What do you hate about holidays?
That they end. Holidays are like men, never long enough.
Kathy Lette's latest book, The Boy Who Fell to Earth, is published by Black Swan.
As told to Angie Kelly