My guest on Hot Holidays! today is none other than Debbie Rix! Debbie has had a long career in journalism, corporate communications and event management. Since 200 she has built her company, Debbie Rix Communications, on the sound journalistic principles of innovation, clarity and entertainment. Debbie’s fabulous book, Secret of the Tower, was released in March this year. Set in medieval Pisa, it tells the story of the extraordinary woman behind the most famous building in the world – The Leaning Tower of Pisa and is available at Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.
ES: It is a great pleasure to have you on Hot Holidays! today, Debbie. Thank you so much. To start off, please tell us where you spent your last holiday and why you chose to go there?
DR: My last holiday was in Italy. I spent part of the time staying in a little house owned by my sister in a hilltop village in Tuscany with my family; we then travelled to Verona and Venice where I did some research for my next novel. We’ve been going to Italy for over twenty-five years and I love it. The scenery is so beautiful, the architecture is fabulous and it just feels like home. As I get older, I realise that I prefer slightly predictable holidays – new experiences can be quite stressful!
ES: What’s your favourite type of holiday?
DR: I love a combination of relaxation, beautiful surroundings, simple food, good company and the chance to read endlessly. I always travel with a bag of books as well as my kindle. It’s illogical I know, but I am terrified that the kindle might pack up and I’ll be left bereft with nothing to read. My family – especially my son – prefer more action-packed holidays, so last year, for a change, we went to Cyprus and stayed in a wonderful hotel, which had all manner of watersports. The family waterskied, scuba dived, played squash and so on, but I was still quite happy lying on a sun bed reading.
ES: I think all readers can identify with your Kindle fear! What’s your least favourite type of holiday?
DR: My least favourite holiday would be a cruise. I spent a week on a small cruise ship once – producing a conference for a client, and found it desperately claustrophic. I’m also not good at being organised by other people into ‘activities’.
ES: Where did you spend your best ever holiday and what made it so memorable?
DR: That’s a hard one because my best holidays are really with my husband and kids in Italy. Being surrounded by friends and family, watching them body surf, playing in the pool, eating lovely meals with heaps of people. That’s my perfect holiday really. But if I had to pick out one special trip it would be a really memorable six weeks I spent in my early twenties sailing through the lesser Antilles (the islands of the Caribbean) with my husband. I know. I know… we were so lucky. My husband was actually working – making a documentary for TV about the Caribbean islands. He was filming each day –sequences about coral and other wildlife underwater, and studying volcanic activity which involved exhausting climbs to the top of volcanoes with the cameraman. But I spent most of the time lolling around and reading on board a fabulous trimaran boat that was our floating office/hotel. The sky was blue, the sea turquoise, and the sand pure white. It was amazing.
ES: Wow! What a way to see one of my favourite parts of the world! As we say in Essex (allegedly) “Well jel!” But have you had any holiday or travel disasters to tell us about?
DR: On that trip to the Caribbean, which was wonderful and very interesting, we did have one rather frightening episode. Many of the islands in the Caribbean suffer quite bad levels of poverty. The tourists of course swan around having a lovely time, but quite often it appears to be at the expense of the local population. Most of our time in that area was fantastic, but there was one island where the locals were a bit hostile to our presence. It was quite understandable – we appeared to have so much – a sixty-foot yacht, camera equipment and so on – and the local residents lined up on the shore line one evening and began to chant in a not altogether kindly way. The skipper of our boat wanted to weigh anchor and set sail there and then, but my husband was determined to give our wonderful guide a lift back to his village. He was a charming local lad who took visitors to the island’s famous volcano and it had been a long and exhausting day for him. The drive back to his village was going to be long and difficult on a tortuous mountain road and so I suggested I accompany them to share the driving.
As we arrived at the dockside, the angry crowd who had lined up along the beach, gathered around our little jeep and began to ‘claw’ at me through the plastic ‘zippable’ windows. The guide – who was sitting in the back seat – leaned forward very gently and zipped them up, whispering ‘It will be ok… don’t worry’. I was really hoping I could believe him. When we got back to the village three or four hours later, the crowd had disappeared. We got back onto the boat and the skipper set sail straight away. It was a curious and pretty scary experience and one I’ve never forgotten.
ES: Wow, that must have been scary. Tell us about a place you long to visit and the reasons why.
DR: I would love to go the Seychelles. My best friend was brought up there and it sounds so unspoilt and beautiful. I’d visit Bird Island and dig my toes into the pure white sand. I’d swim each day – that’s one activity I do love; I’d stay in a pretty hut on the beach with white muslin curtains. Food would be simple – fish, fruit, and at 6.30 each evening I’d have a crisp gin and tonic with lots of lime.
ES: Who’s your favourite travelling companion(s) or do you prefer your own company?
DR: My husband – he’s so interesting that I’m never bored over dinner and he has a great intellectual curiosity about everything. He also speaks several languages which is rather handy.
ES: That’s lovely, but now I’ve got to ask the next question….. Have you ever had a holiday romance? Details, please!
DR: When I was twenty, and before I had met my husband, I went to Crete with a girlfriend. We had a pact that there would be no hooking up with guys, because one or other of us would be left alone. But my friend met a guy after a couple of days and started going around with him. I was left on my own and was obviously a bit bored and lonely. One night I wandered up to the local taverna in Agios Nikolaos where I met a few people who were drinking coffee and dancing. They were really sweet and one of them offered to open up his nightclub to host a little spontaneous party. He and I strolled up the harbour to his club and when we got there, he locked the door. I soon realised that the others weren’t coming and he was hoping for something more than a dance! He asked me what record I wanted to listen to and I thought of the most unusual record possible, hoping it would take him a while to find it. I then ran for the door. Somehow I found the key up on a ledge and with shaking hands unlocked it and raced back down the pier – with him chasing after me. It was pretty scary and stupid of me to be so trusting. He proceeded to follow me around for days on his motorbike until I could stand it no longer. I left rather dramatically early one morning on a dawn ferry and went to Santorini.. My friend did come with me though…
ES: I’m not really sure that was a romance! More of a holiday stalk! How would you spend your dream twenty-four hours if you could travel to multiple, worldwide destinations with no travel restrictions?
DR:Oh wow – what an amazing idea. I’d have a quick trip to Italy for the perfect cappuccino in a little bar somewhere like Florence or Pisa – the setting for my novel ‘Secrets of the Tower. Then I’d dash up a mountain –perhaps the Italian Alps, or maybe to Austria for a couple of runs down the ski slopes before lunch. The perfect afternoon would have to be on a great beach – either the Caribbean, or perhaps the Seychelles. Dinner would be in a stunning Italian restaurant with friends – I love simple local Italian food – somewhere with a great view. It seems a waste to sleep in this twenty-four hours, but if I had to sleep it would be in a big white bed in a gorgeous boutique hotel in Europe somewhere – maybe Bruges or Venice.
ES: That sounds brilliant. And finally, What tip or piece of advice would you give to holidaymakers and/or travellers?
I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert, but sad though it sounds I’d tell them what I told my son when he went travelling on his gap year: ‘remember that not everyone is as nice as you might think they are’. I love to travel, and have met some wonderful people over the years, but I do think you need to be a little cautious. I’d also suggest they are really organized with their packing… there’s nothing worse than not being able to find some vital bit of equipment or clothing. Oh.. and don’t forget to pack a book!
Of course we won’t! And it will be Secrets of the Tower! Thanks so much, Debbie.
You can find out more about Debbie, her book, her company and her life at debbierix.com