Author of the multi-award-winning The Wish Child, Catherine Chidgey appears at the Tauranga Arts Festival on October 21 and 22.

What was your greatest holiday?

Not strictly a holiday, perhaps, but the time I spent in Menton as the Katherine Mansfield fellow. I was the palest person on the Cote d'Azur and I'm allergic to sunscreen, so had to use a parasol on my daily walk to and from the writing room. More than one leathery local stopped to stare and/or smirk in a French manner.

And the worst? An overnight train trip to Florence. I was hoping for Agatha Christie-style opulence - without the murder - but ended up sharing a six-berth chilly bin with noisy Italians who wanted to party, and for some reason I hadn't considered that trains themselves are quite loud. I took one of the half-dozen sleeping pills I've ever taken in my life, was still awake at 2am so took another, and then spent my first day in Florence unable to use my lower limbs.


If we bump into you on holiday, what are you most likely to be doing? Taking pictures of gutters and street signs and birds and rubbish bins and lamp posts - they might one day be relevant to a piece of writing.

If we could teleport you to one place in New Zealand for a week-long holiday, where would it be? Te Rangiita, 1978, so I could see my dad again.

How about for a dream holiday internationally? The Orient Express to Cairo (not actually possible). (I know, I know, another train. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but this is a dream train, so it would be as quiet as a whisper.)

What's the dumbest thing you've ever done when travelling? Apart from taking the second sleeping pill, failing to buy the 1920s decorative hair comb I saw at the flea market in Paris because it was too expensive, then spending the last nine years looking for one like it on eBay. Also, drinking the absinthe in Barcelona.

Aisle seat or window seat? Aisle. I like to be able to get out easily, so I can perform unflattering stretches and lunges down the back of the plane, where I pretend no one can see me.

Complete this sentence: I can't travel without ... making the cat-sitter agree to email pictures.

What's the best travel tip you've ever been given? Don't drink the absinthe in Barcelona.

What was the most memorable meal you've had while travelling? Wild strawberries eaten in the square of a medieval village in the South of France while a creature I thought was a hummingbird flitted around, close enough to touch (I later found out it was a death's-head hawkmoth, which is even cooler).

What's the best thing you've brought back from a trip? A complete and perfect art deco dinner set, haggled for in Brisbane and hauled on board in my hand luggage as if it weighed as little as a paperback.

Favourite airport to land at? Home.

What's the next trip you've got planned? I'm heading to the International Festival of Authors in Toronto in October.