Churchill’s Ambassador Dame Esther discusses her travels

As holiday brochures push their way through the letter box, sunshiny beaches fill every commercial break, it’s the time of year when I take out my bucket list and give it a polish. Where in the world do I still want to travel, to see, to meet people, to discover new places, new cultures, new menus, while I have the energy and the curiosity?

It might help to make up my mind if I look back on the best – and the worst – holidays I’ve experienced in the last seventy or so years. My first childhood holiday memories are all wonderful in spite of being pretty basic; chilly rainy days spent on English beaches, plunging into freezing sea water, scoffing sandwiches, then ferocious games of French cricket with my cousins on the sand (why is it French I wonder? Did William the Conqueror bring it with him?). Looking back, I enjoyed every moment.

Then when I was in my teens, my parents decided to take the car abroad and took us on a tour of the Loire Valley. The châteaux were amazing however the car turned into a tin prison. My sister and I longed to stay in one place, and have the time and space to run and play. So touring was removed from future holiday plans. I relived the experience five decades later when I started cruising with my husband Desmond Wilcox. We made our own plans, jumping into a taxi at each port and asking the driver’s advice about the best (and shortest) local trips.

I have found that even if we belong to the SKIN generation, Spending the Kids’ Inheritance Now, it isn’t always worth journeying to the ends of the earth. The most ambitious family holiday I ever took was to celebrate my 50th birthday, when Desi blew the whole of his pension on a 50 day trip literally around the world. We visited my sister in Australia, dropped in on the Taj Mahal and Bali en route, climbed the Himalayas in a tiny mountain train, and ended up in our cottage in Hampshire. When we asked our children where they liked the best, they unanimously chose Hampshire, which leads me to conclude that travelling doesn’t have to cost the earth. All in all the weather doesn’t really matter; what counts is the company you’re with. And if any readers have any solution to my current problem now that I no longer have Desi as the perfect travelling companion, how to enjoy a holiday by yourself? I’d love to know.

By Dame Esther