Fathom Questionnaire

Claire Oldman On Her Favorite Travels

by Claire Oldman

Hometown: London

Occupation: Writer 

Favorite destinations: Paris, Venice, Stockholm archipelago, Oman.

Dying to visit: Lisbon, Berlin, Japan, the west coast of France, Argentina, Zanzibar, Madagascar.

Bizarre travel rituals: I remove hotel bedspreads immediately. I used to take pictures of my feet everywhere I went, but the Internet made me realize that everyone does that. 

In-flight relaxation regime: Short haul — stare out the window, look at the clouds and scenery below and dream. Long haul — eye mask, non-airline blanket, socks, earplugs, sleeping pill, gin & tonic = sweet oblivion.

Always in carry-on: Everything. I hardly ever check luggage. It's a bag within a bag within a bag situation. Clear plastic Eres swimsuit pouches for beauty products/security checks. 

Concierge or DIY? DIY. I don't trust concierges to know what I like, but sometimes I trust recommendations from taxi drivers.

See it all or take it easy? I want to see it all, but not if it means I have to be on a schedule. 

Drive or be driven? I love the idea of driving round the hairpin bends of a corniche in a vintage Alfa Romeo, but scenic train rides also hold their own romance.

Travel hero: Simone de Beauvoir. 

Weirdest thing seen on travels: Almost everything, every second of the day in India. Perhaps a woman in a sari with a pot of tarmac on her head, repairing the middle of a motorway.

Best hotel amenity: Ironed newspapers, personalized stationery, room service breakfast.

Everywhere I go, I check out the best breakfast spots. 

I dream about my meal at the rooftop of our budget hotel overlooking the lake and the white castellated rooftops of Udaipur. I can't remember exactly what we ate that night but it was delicious — cooked on a single gas burner by a teenage chef. We sat on low cushions drinking Kingfisher beer in the dry heat. It was late at night with a sandstorm blowing, enormous flocks of bats circling above, a full moon, and fireworks.

When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by immediately taking a good walk around. I have a compass-like sense of direction so when I arrive I like to get my bearings and check escape routes and threats of landslide, stuff like that. Then I go for a coffee or an aperitif at a local bar, depending on the hour.

I always bring home beauty/pharmacy products, yogurt, cheese, wine, antique linens, textiles, magazines, bougainvillea plants, perfume, clothes (from Paris).

If I never return to a campsite in England it'll be too soon because cold, damp nylon is not something I seek out for enjoyment. 

I travel for the souvenirs (in both the English and French meanings).