Tripping With: Saska Graville

This week’s tripper is Saska Graville, the deputy editor of Red magazine and author of London Style Guide. A true travel junkie and hotel addict, she has never knowingly said no to a weekend away. She loves nothing more than a new check-in – whether it’s a seaside B&B, city crashpad or luxe country house hotel.

Saska, welcome to Luxury Travel Beat’s Tripping With segment. Your book London Style Guide has just hit the bookstores. Tell us a little bit about it?

 My aim with the book was to show cool, independent places around London that Londoners’ themselves love. It’s not a guide to the usual suspects – I think we all know about the city’s great parks, palaces, museums and big-name shops. I wanted to reveal London’s ‘villages’ and the fantastic places to eat, sleep and shop that you’ll find if you explore them. I also interviewed some of the Londoners behind the businesses. If you were staying with a Londoner, this is the London that you’d see.

What, in your opinion, are the best places to eat, shop and sleep in this great city?

 Well, there are around 200 to choose from in the book! It’s impossible to pick favourites but if I had to choose a few, I’d say for ‘eat’, the Polpo restaurant empire in Soho is hard to beat. Restaurateur Russell Norman is one of the Londoners featured in the book – the man’s a foodie genius. For ‘shop’, Golbourne Road in Notting Hill is an interiors mecca that most tourists miss because they’re too busy being squashed at Portobello Market. But walk ten minutes further north and you’re in a street of cool, quirky homewares shops – with no tourists! And for ‘sleep’, Dean Street Townhouse in Soho is a bit of a treat, and 40 Winks near Shoreditch is the most bonkers B&B you’ll ever check in to.

Are there places in the city that hold a special spot in your heart?

I grew up near the river in Barnes, south west London, so anywhere with a view of the Thames always makes me feel like I’m home. The view from half way across Waterloo bridge, to St Pauls and the Gherkin, makes me proud to be a Londoner every time I stop and stare at it.

I’m sure you travel a lot for work, but what is your main motivation for travelling for pleasure?

Sydney, a city after Saska Graville’s heart. Photo by Flickr user Jimmy Harris.

I like a mix of relaxation and stimulation. I used to live in Sydney and I go back there every March for two weeks of sunshine and swimming. A day by Boy Charlton Pool on Sydney harbour, with my Kindle, is the best cure for British Winter Blues. But I also love city exploring. I recently went to Rome for the first time. Just wandering the back streets, coming across hidden churches and relaxing with a Campari Spritz or two… perfect.

That gives me hope. I’ve never been to Rome either, and I’m so desperately looking to change that this year. How about your travelling style, how would you describe it?

Let’s just say that me and a backpack have never been friends. I’m more a boutique-hotel kind of girl. I’ve also recently had fantastic experiences with both and, staying in locals’ apartments rather than hotels. Such a brilliant idea.

I’m with you on the backpack thing. Best holiday?

My annual Sydney pilgrimage, it’s a city I’ll love forever. This year I also went up the coast to Byron Bay and stayed at The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa. It was pretty special.

Worst holiday memory?

My parents will kill me for saying this, but we used to go camping in Europe every summer – it put me off tents for life. As a grown up, you will never ever find me sleeping in a tent!

The first and last time I slept in a tent was with my 10th grade classmates years ago in Norway. It rained cats and dogs and we were all soaked through and through, so I am also with you on this one. Who’s the most memorable person you’ve met while travelling?

A friend and I had a very fun night out in Kyoto with two Japanese air hostesses who we got talking to in a bar. We were all about the same age and it was fascinating to learn about the expectations that were placed on them as women – they were both single and their families were appalled. They spent the whole night bitching about Japanese men and their fascination with geisha.

Best hotel experience?

The Claska in Tokyo. It’s an absolute gem. You take a local train for ten minutes from Shibuya, and suddenly you’re away from the high rises, and in an area of cool furniture design shops. The hotel is effortlessly hip – DJ in the lobby and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. Fact.

Is there a trip you’re just dying to take (dream trip)?

Seeing the Northern Lights is pretty close to the top of my list, and a friend has recommended a tiny beach hut hotel in Tulum that I am desperate to get to. Oh, and I’ve never been to South America or India. Too much to see, too little time!

Saska Graville’s book London Style Guide is out in stores now.

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