In her new role as TAUCK ambassador, Ita Buttrose chats to IT about her favourite journeys and where her new posting just may take her.
To start off – what’s your favourite childhood holiday that you remember?
When I was living in America with my parents we used to holiday in Maine. We used to pick blueberries and Dad used to go fishing. One day Dad said “hold my line” and I held his line and I caught this huge fish! It was this massive flounder and Dad didn’t know whether to be happy or not – because he didn’t catch a fish and I did.
What’s your favourite destination or holidays that you remember around the world?
I had a fantastic holiday last year with my brother Charles. He wanted to go to Turkey and I wanted to go to Russia so we did both.
In Istanbul the Mosques were very impressive and quite beautiful inside. When we got to Gallipoli it was everything I’d ever read about it. You really did feel that you were in a special place. I looked at the grave stones and the ages of the men who died and thought, oh God, they’re so young to have gone so soon. And then you look at the beach – where they landed – and you realise how futile it was. They were never going to get up there, they were always going to be annihilated.
We went to St Petersburg and stayed at this wonderful hotel called The Grand. They have boxes at the various theatres around the place so you could go to the opera and sit in The Grand Hotel’s box. We had the most amazing meal at their Caviar restaurant. The rooms and the suites are just sumptuous and there are little Faberge eggs and lots of little trinkets and things to remind you that you are in Russia. It’s a really stunning hotel.
Well while you’re talking about great hotels, what are your favourite hotels around the world?
I love the Hassler in Rome for it’s style and I’ve eaten up at its roof top restaurant which looks out over Rome which is really beautiful. Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris is a really beautiful hotel. You sit in the lounge area where you have your afternoon tea and they have those divine little pastries that only the French can make. The Savoy. I spent a month there when I was covering the royal wedding of Charles and Diana. The Savoy was where Rupert Murdoch took me to lunch and asked me if I’d like to be the editor in chief of The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs.
Best travel companion?
My kids were always fantastic travel companions and we did a lot of travelling together and I must say we all enjoyed it.
Then my Aunty Billy. When she was 75 I realised she’d never been to Europe and somebody offered me a trip and said I could take somebody. I thought, I should take aunty Billy because she hadn’t seen Paris, London and she hadn’t seen Rome. I thought, this is ridiculous, so I said to Aunty Billy “you’ve got to see Paris. We’re going to London, we might as well go to Paris” and we detoured through Paris. I ended up with her in London at the Ritz, and I wish you could have seen it. She was in her element sitting on the veranda of the Ritz having champers… We shopped in Venice, we shopped in Paris and she loved it.
What do you always travel with or pack?
Comfy shoes – comfy flat shoes. Not new ones, comfy ones. Black sweater and pants always, and vitamin C tablets.
What’s the best item that you’ve bought that really means something to you today from your travels?
Owls. I collect owls from every country I go to. Every place, every village or whatever, I see if I can find an owl. So I have a lot of owls at my place. I have owls in my corner cupboard, I’ve got owl doorstoppers, I’ve got owls on book cases. Actually Aunty Billy started me – she’d been to Bali and she’d bought me back my first owl and that was it.
What are the five destinations overseas every Australian should see?
Rome, London, New York, St Petersburg and Paris.
Where do you love to shop?
Well I used to love Harrods but it’s not the same anymore. I love Harvey Nichols and Harvey Nichols has supplanted Harrods as one of my shopping places in London.
I like Saks in New York. I think it’s a fun store to wander around, and I like shopping in America full stop because they’re always so keen to serve you and give you samples (if you’re buying cosmetics). My God you get so many samples it’s wonderful!
If you could go to one place right now?
I’m going there – South Africa. I’ve been to Africa a couple of times for the government to do work with HIV AIDS programs but never on a safari. I’ve always had this hankering to see elephants in the wild, and it’s just something I’ve got to do – and so I’m going to do a South Africa tour.
TAUCK offers upscale cruises and guided tours through Travel The World traveltheworld.com.au