What was your greatest holiday?

While in France as the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellow, I travelled to all the locations relevant to my research into the life of 12th Century French nun Heloise d'Argenteuil. It took us from the south up to Brittany, then to Normandy, down through the Loire Valley and back to Menton via Arles, with a week in Paris. We also managed to sneak in a quick trip around Italy and spent many an afternoon exploring the gorgeous little medieval villages in the mountains around Menton, both in France and Italy (Menton is on the French-Italian border.)

And the worst?

In my early 20s, I was talked into a cycling holiday, riding from Picton to Kaiteriteri. I'm not a particularly sporty person and it didn't help that my only "training" was once around the block before we left! It was in the days when the Tākaka Hill was still an uphill battle, not helped by a bicycle loaded down with camping gear and a boyfriend who said "Isn't it exhilarating to go past your limit of endurance and still keep going?" I firmly answered "no". By the time we reached Nelson after a 70k ride I was so exhausted I fell off in the middle of town (cue tired tears and a very bruised ego.) I refused to ride all the way back, and loaded myself and the bike on to a bus.


If we bump into you on holiday, what are you most likely to be doing?

Visiting art galleries and museums, or wandering the streets, taking in the local architecture. If there is a forest, river or the sea nearby, I'll be in it!

If we could teleport you to one place in New Zealand for a week-long holiday, where would it be?

The South Island's west coast, near the Truman Track and Punakaiki, preferably in the middle of a beech forest.

How about for a dream holiday internationally?

My mother was born in Zanzibar, and I dream of a chance to see the place she spoke of with such love.

What's the dumbest thing you've ever done when travelling?

It's so embarrassing I'm not going to say, except to throw in the words "toothbrush" and "urinal".

Aisle seat or window seat?

Window seat domestically, aisle for long-haul.

Complete this sentence: I can't travel without ...

My own ultra-thin pillow.

What's the best travel tip you've ever been given?

Roll up your clothes when packing, instead of trying to lie them flat. You can fit so much more in!

What was the most memorable meal you've had while travelling?

In France we stayed with NZ writer Philip Mann, who has a house in the Loire Valley. He took us to a local restaurant near the tiny village he lives in, run out of a converted garage by a woman in her 80s. Authentic French food, a jug of wine that miraculously kept being refilled, and excellent company.

What's the best thing you've brought back from a trip?

A one and half metre high blow-up version of Munch's Scream, which stands in my writing room, staring out to greet any arriving guests.

Favourite airport to land at?

Heathrow. Such amazing views as you track up the Thames.

What's the next trip you've got planned?

Auckland in May, to see my sister Debbie graduate with her PhD. A very 'proud sister' moment.

Mandy Hager's new book Ash Arising, is out on June 1, for $19.99.