TV Presenter and gardening expert Charlie Dimmock shares her favourite destinations
My last holiday was to Portugal. It was for just under a week, but enough time to make the most of the weather and eat lots of seafood. I was joined by a friend because my job can be really full-on at times with lots of travelling. The same friend will be joining me on my cruise in September so we’ll have time to spend together catching up on each other’s news.
I’ve been on several cruises, from small ships carrying 200 guests to the much bigger ships, sailing to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Indonesia and the Balearic Islands. I’ve also been on several river cruises. What I love about cruising is the variety of things you can do, from the parties and live shows on board, to relaxing in a spa or just sitting and reading your book in the library, or in one of the lounges. I do remember one time though I just wanted to stay on the ship so decided to go to the cinema – mainly to avoid the heat and prevent any burning, especially with my skin tone. I was the only person in there watching Chicago. It was bizarre but also totally cool to have the whole cinema to oneself.
Japan is somewhere I’d very much like to visit, as the Japanese are known to be into their gardens, just like us Brits. But I don’t have any holidays planned as yet. I’m someone who likes to be flexible so will see what crops up and where it takes me. For me it’s all about achieving the right balance of relaxation, enjoying good food and good company, while seeing and experiencing things you wouldn’t usually see or do. I enjoy seeing different architecture in cities.
If I’m on a cruise, travelling on a coach for one of the shore excursions is a great way to see the local countryside and villages. Plus, you’re high enough and have the vantage point of looking into people’s front and back gardens, too.
I always find that quite interesting.
Every ship and cruise line has a different feel. It’s like a hotel; you know you’re going to experience a certain level of service but with a different character. Also, with cruising you get to meet so many different people – you can decide whether you want to sit on your own or join a table of others, allowing you to be as sociable as you want.
I always like to take a journal as well as a digital camera on trips. Recently, while travelling, one of the young researchers said, “what’s that?” She was used to always taking pictures on her phone. Whereas I still prefer a proper camera. It’s an excellent way to capture something and later remind yourself what you might have seen plant-wise, so you can later try to identify it. If there is a plant label it also means you can remember what it was.
Most years I go to Holland for the tulip season in spring. If you’ve not been it’s a must. The main place is in Keukenhof and it’s only open for eight weeks. All the growers of tulips in the whole of the Netherlands come together and put on these vast and amazing displays. Each tulip is planted in succession, so when one dies another is already blooming. If you’re an early riser, I would also recommend a tour of the world’s largest flower auction in Aalsmeer. Nearly all the cut flowers you see in the UK come through here and the tulips are flown all over the world. It’s incredible to see the whole process.
Most countries have a botanical garden and they’re always interesting to explore. When we sail around Scandinavia, we’ll be able to see amazing wild landscapes, alpines and plants growing in their natural habitats. When I went to Mount Kilimanjaro, they have a plant called a Giant Senecio. There is a related plant in the UK, but to see them growing wild and be surrounded by hundreds of these ‘small trees’ was amazing – all growing in their natural environment.
When I’m on holiday I prefer to play games for downtime, such as Scrabble and Rummikub. One time my friend and I ended up staying up until 3am playing card games.
*Charlie Dimmock will be a guest speaker on Crown Princess sailing round trip from Southampton on a seven-night Scandinavia cruise departing 19 September. Prices from £699pp. For more information visit princess.com