BEST HOLIDAY: Author Kate Mosse was fascinated by Russia and St Petersburg during the 1980s.
BEST HOLIDAY: Author Kate Mosse was fascinated by Russia and St Petersburg during the 1980s.
The City of Cape Town is covering all bases ahead of the holiday season. Photo: Michael Walker
The City of Cape Town is covering all bases ahead of the holiday season. Photo: Michael Walker

London - British author Kate Mosse is the co-founder of the Orange Prize set up in 1996 to celebrate outstanding fiction by women from around the world, and is also a TV arts commentator. Her first two books – Labyrinth and Sepulchre – in the Languedoc trilogy were best-sellers.

She spent this Christmas holidaying in Cape Town soaking up the sun and enjoying the sights.

First holiday memory?

Being on a beach in Lee Bay, Devon. I remember it being cold and slightly drizzly, waddling around with buckets and spades, and my sisters and I all wearing the same 1970s costumes. I’m glad to say there’s no photographic evidence.

Best holiday?

A trip to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Other than France and the Isle of Wight, I hadn’t travelled much before that, so it seemed extraordinary. We were taken around on buses and trains to Moscow and Leningrad (now St Petersburg). You were entirely controlled: every minute of the day managed and accounted for. We couldn’t go out on our own, but it was fascinating.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Patience is everything. Planes get delayed; trains don’t arrive. If you realise that’s part of travelling, you’ll enjoy the experience more.

Holiday reading?

Detective stories. I use holidays to catch up on the latest Harlan Coben or Denise Mina. For me, it’s pure and simple entertainment, because it’s nothing to do with work or research.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I get to the stage where all I want to do is lie in the sun, but I know I’ll want to explore after a few days. In Athens, it was lovely and hot, so we spent a lot of time lounging about, but come evening, we’d find a museum or restaurant. Hotels in capital cities are brilliant for that. I was in Cape Town for Christmas where we did the same.

Greatest travel luxury?

Moisturiser. As you get older, you come off the plane feeling like a piece of scrunched-up newspaper.

Where has seduced you?

Norway. Mostly Oslo, but also the fjords. I first went in the 1980s and returned as an author. I like the relaxed attitude. People sit around cafés, no matter how cold it is, and there are blankets spread over chairs. It’s a place I had no preconceptions about, but have loved over the years.

Better to travel or arrive?

I do love train journeys, because you can just stare out the window. I took my mother-in-law on the Orient Express for her 80th birthday, which she loved, and I would have never done by myself. It was amazing seeing the landscape change.

Worst travel experience?

Coming back from Venice after the Orient Express. We got off at the station, having spent the whole day in the bar with my mother-in-law playing the piano, and discovered that our flight had been cancelled due to the ash cloud.

We ended up having to get a taxi from Venice to Paris, because my mother-in-law had brought enough medicine for only a few days and I was due at the London Book Fair. A three-day trip ended up costing me £10 000 (roughly R140 000).

Best hotel?

The Ambassade in Amsterdam. Everyone who goes to publish a book in Holland stays there. It’s just one of those things all writers do.

It has a library that has only books signed by people who’ve stayed there, so you see yourself in a case with some of the world’s greatest authors.

Favourite drive?

Driving from Toulouse to Carcassonne in France. Once you’ve negotiated the terrifying ring road around the airport in Toulouse, you start to drive through the beginnings of the Languedoc and see a sign saying you are in Cathar Country. You drive further and, suddenly, the medieval city of Carcassonne appears from the motorway.

Best meal abroad?

I’ve hated beetroot for all of my 51 years, until a couple of years ago, when I had the most sublime butternut squash and beetroot salad at the Waterfront in Cape Town. The food is so incredibly fresh there.

Where next?

I’m going to explore another part of France than the south-west. – The Independent