My Travels: Norah Casey
In our new travel Q&A, Norah Casey reveals what's in her suitcase, where she's heading next, and the beautiful Frenchman who broke her heart...
'My Travels' is a weekly Q&A in which we ask public and private figures the travel questions that matter... and make us laugh. Let us know what you think, and who we should feature next!
Where have you just been?
I escaped to New York last week to celebrate the end of my son's Junior Cert... more stressful for me than him, I think. We stayed in Fitzpatrick's Hotel, a home from home, and he got to see the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. I got to see the inside of Bloomingdale's. Perfect!
What three things do you never leave home without?
My phone. I tweet, do emails, make notes, order Hailo – use it to park my car, catch up with the news and make the odd phone call. I also bring a highlighter pen (the real secret to good management) and lip balm.
What’s your favourite city?
Vancouver is stunning. A city where you don’t have to leave the city to leave the city. Towering snow-capped mountains dwarf the contemporary skyscrapers. I grew up in the Phoenix Park but Vancouver’s Stanley Park is a true wilderness. It has great art, good food, a fantastic culture mix and it’s a bit quirky. Go and you’ll understand.
Dressing for the plane: style or comfort?
Very difficult one. When I was a jobbing journo (and I still do lots of travel writing) I used to turn up for my economy seat and hope they might upgrade me if I looked halfway decent and they often did. Now I like to curl up with comfy clothes with my headphones playing distracting music and a good book and I don’t care where I sit (except for next to babies – sorry!).
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten overseas?
I’ve eaten cockroaches in Cambodia – deep fried in spice and they were crunchy and not too bad, I ate crickets in China, snake in Burma but the weirdest and grossest ever was on a visit to Tashkent in Uzbekistan where I was working with the World Health Organisation and as the guest of honour I was offered the sheep’s eye – served whole and raw on a plate in advance of the feast. I can’t tell you how hard it was to bite into it, I can still feel that slimy eyeball juice squiring out of the hard outer shell. I don’t think it was an option to say “No thanks”.
What destination exceeded your expectations?
Definitely Cambodia – I stayed in Siam Reap near Angkor Wat – the UNESCO Heritage site with all those amazing temples. I was expecting to be in awe of the temples but I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the people and the place.
I went to visit an amazing home for street children and a school which was spread out over the grounds of the family home of a man who lost his father at the hands of the Khmer Rouge (over two million people were killed under Pol Pot). Over 1,000 kids turned up each day to learn in ramshackle lean-tos and teachers donated their time after work. There was a chalked message on a bit of wood nailed to the gate and I asked him what it said – he told me: “ It says something very important to us – ‘Khmer help Khmer’.”
They’re proud people, incredibly artistic – a wonderful place.
What destination didn’t?
Actually lots of places haven’t now that I think about it – all those beautiful photographs of pure white sandy beaches and turquoise waters they use to lure you in rarely turn out to be true. But my biggest disappointment was Bali. I thought I was going to this exotic Indonesian paradise and it turned out to be the Santa Ponsa of Australia – especially Kuta.
Ever had a holiday romance?
Of course – a beautiful French man called Francois who broke my heart while camping in the south of France when I was 21. Before that, there was the lovely Miley from Donabate who shared the swing boats with me in Portrane every evening one summer when I was 13. That was the real holiday romance!
What three songs would you include on a travel playlist?
You’re going to expect travel songs like Madonna’s Holiday or Don’t Fence Me In, but I am in love with music and my 15-year-old son Dara regularly sends me linksto new stuff. So at the moment – and I am just packing to leave – I have downloaded Imagine Dragons (Demons is my favourite), Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks is incredible and Macklemore Irish Celebration – just brilliant.
What’s your next trip?
Tomorrow. I have taken a break from trying to run the world and escaping with my boy to Florida – we’re doing South Beach Miami – staying at the National – a beautiful old Art Deco hotel. I’ll be queuing with him and half of the inhabitants of South Beach tomorrow night to get a seat at Joe’s Stone Crab – all that therapeutic shell cracking – if it’s good enough for Frank Sinatra then it’ll be worth the wait.