Go Away With … Sophie Kinsella

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
August 4, 2009

Best known for her series of “Shopaholic” books, including the bestselling “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” Sophie Kinsella is using technology to promote her latest novel, “Twenties Girl.” The avid traveler is staying put (temporarily) in England to participate in a series of Skype events with fans across the United States. This is a change of pace for the 39-year-old author and fashionista. Whether it’s taking a quick weekend trip to England’s Cornwall, vacationing in exotic Oman or enjoying a margarita at New York’s La Esquina, the former financial reporter is always up for a good trip.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
I’ve been to Oman (in the Middle East) a couple of times and always loved it. It is so quiet and unspoiled, with fantastic landscapes, beaches and snorkeling. We have always stayed at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel, which is a lovely old-fashioned, traditional place.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
I love Babington House (www.babingtonhouse.co.uk) in Somerset, England. It manages to create an amazingly cool, laidback, country house atmosphere that makes you relax as soon as you arrive. And the food is delicious. Another favorite is Hotel Tresanton (www.tresanton.com) in St. Mawes, Cornwall. It has beautiful views and everyone is so friendly.

Q. What are your favorite hotels and restaurants?
One Aldwych (www.onealdwych.com), right in the center of London, is a favorite hotel of mine. It has a great lobby for drinks, a screening room in the basement and a perfect location. While in New York last year, I ate several times at La Esquina (www.esquinanyc.com). It’s a fun, hidden away place with sensational margaritas and fab food and atmosphere. I had a wonderful stay a few years ago at the Enchantment Resort (www.enchantmentresort.com) in Sedona. It’s set in its own spectacular red rock canyon, there are loads of activities for children and the spa is amazing. Finally, the Principe di Savoia (www.hotelprincipedisavoia.com) in Milan, for its stunning bar with a beautiful Tiffany glass ceiling.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
I always take far too much stuff! I pack for all eventualities and find it very hard to edit my clothes. But wherever I’m going, I always take lip balm, Creme de la Mer, sunscreen, notebook, pen, flip-flops, trashy magazines and a hat. And I always buy a hat.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
I am not a great planner or sightseer. Luckily, my husband is very good at organizing me. Last year we went to Florence and he booked a guide to take us around the city, which was fabulous. Occasionally I do take command, though. After I read “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “Tulip Fever” in quick succession, I got slightly obsessed by Dutch paintings and insisted that we go to Amsterdam for a long weekend to visit the galleries. It was a wonderful trip and all the better for having read the books first.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
I’d love to go to the Galapagos Islands and see the giant tortoises. I’d also love to see New Zealand — all that amazing scenery.

Q. What is your worst vacation memory?
Years ago, before we had children, my husband and I traveled around Arizona and Utah on a shoestring. It was an amazing trip, but one night we stayed in a motel that we didn’t realize was right by the railroad. All through the night we were woken up by the clanging and rumbling of heavy goods trains, only yards from our window. We didn’t sleep a wink!

Q. How do you try to fit in when you’re a tourist?
I think it’s hard not to scream ‘tourist’ if you’re traveling with children who ask loud, indiscreet questions in English! Personally, I love traveling to a city in order to work there. I travel a lot on book tours and really enjoy feeling that I am part of the city, even if only temporarily. I talk to my publishers, to journalists and to the readers I meet. And although I may not get to see all the sights, I feel that I’ve ‘plugged in’ far more than if I’d just arrived there on my own with a guidebook.

© 2009 JAE-HA KIM


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