I can't really sit still. That's why I love my job; no day is ever the same and I’m not often at my desk for long. Having said that, when each day is often filled with meetings, shoots, interviews and nights spent in the theatre, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I do look forward to 'desk time' to catch up on emails, make some calls and catch my breath. I usually inhale lunch at some point too.
More recently I've discovered that I can't really sit still for long on holiday either. The thrill of exploring new places engulfs me every time I go away. I decided that 2013 would be the year that I would discover Italy. Having never been (a confession I don't like to make in front of my well travelled ‘gap yah’ pals) I frantically trawled the travel sites and delved into Conde Nast Traveller and the Lonely Planet guide with excitement to seek inspiration and plan some European adventures. As I began to do so, I found myself recalling the annual family holidays that I used to look forward to so much as a child.
Every summer, along with what felt like the rest of the West Midlands, we trekked our way in a seven-seater grey Montego (I was in the boot with all the luggage) to one of the many stunning stretches of coastline in the UK. If we got the right weather, we would park our pale white skin on the flattest area of sand that we could find amidst the sea of multicoloured windbreaks. As kids we loved to poke around the rock pools with our fishing nets, build castles and dig moats around our fort.
We would devour the slightly sandy tuna sandwiches from the cool box at lunchtime and race for a 99 from the nearest kiosk with dad on hand to pay. We’d usually be the first to arrive and last to leave the beach, jumping on the adventurous sand sculptures and castles as we went to ensure a blank canvas for the children arriving the next day armed with buckets and spades for a day of digging and burying members of their family up to their necks.
Come rain or shine, we'd be on the beach. We'd always take my nan and sit her in a deck chair with a mind-boggling crossword which would keep her quiet for hours. She fell through a slightly dodgy chair one year and of course we reminisced about that wonderfully unexpected classic holiday moment for years to come. Despite the arctic temperatures, my Nan loved to take us children into the sea. Enthusiastically and very competitively we would all jump the waves together and see who could leap the highest! We were treated to crispy battered fish and salty chips on the beach with a healthy dollop of Heinz tomato ketchup which we'd devour with a wooden fork whilst watching the rippling reflection of the evening lights in the harbour.
I didn't appreciate at the time what precious memories were created in those moments but when I think back on them now, I can’t help but grin from ear to ear. Holidays were so simple back then, I just had to get in the car, belt up and frequently ask ‘are we there yet?’
In April this year, my brother, sister and I took my dad away to Italy for his 60th birthday. This was the first trip abroad that we’d been on as a family so we decided to stay in the heart of Sorrento in a beautiful apartment and take in as much as possible. We travelled to the island of Capri, Pompeii and explored the stunning towns of Positano and Ravello along the Amalfi coast. It was simply incredible to discover these captivating areas of the world together some 12 years after our typically British family holidays to Cornwall, Wales, Dorset, Devon (and Bridlington ... once) as children.
Some two months later, I found myself back in Italy again, this time with a gorgeous friend of mine on the popular Mediterranean island of Sicily, ready to explore all that it had in store. Both seeking a healthy mix of beach with history and culture, we spent a few glorious blue sky days basking under the blistering sunshine on a variety of sandy beaches both near to our apartment in Palermo and a little further afield.
Half way through the week we met up with some cousins of our Italian friend from London. In the short time that we had with them, it became quickly apparent just how hospitable and generous Sicilians LOVE to be. Before we knew it, we were whisked away down the windy cobbled streets to the sample how the locals spend their Friday night. With a pink sky above us we spent the evening munching the local street food in bustling piazzas followed by cocktails and dancing. Final stop: one of the many scrumptious Gelato bars for an early hours sugar hit.
I’ve loved every holiday that I’ve ever been lucky enough to go on. I’m convinced more than ever before that it’s as much about the people that you travel with as it is about the place you travel to. One thing’s for certain though, it’s good to be still, breath and take it all in...just don’t pause for long. Next stop: Greece.