Skiing, singing and sleeping pills

20:41, Jul 16 2013
Travel talk: Anna Leese
RURAL IDYLL: Anna and her fiance, Stefano, in fields near their home in Tuscany.

How often do you get away?

Often. For me, working means being away from home, but I also love to travel for myself. I’d have to say I go away at least once, twice, a month. Hopefully, I’ll have a family soon, so I know it’s a good plan to see as much of the world as I can before then.

Where was your first trip?

Travel talk: Anna Leese
SKI FIEND: Anna in her element, high in the Swiss Alps.

Ever? That would have to be a classy, family caravan holiday to the Dannevirke domain to hang out with the peacocks. But my first big trip overseas was to Brisbane with the New Zealand Secondary Schools Choir. It was so exciting. I remember preparing weeks in advance, worrying endlessly about how hot it might be, if I would develop an Australian accent in the 12 days I was there, etc, which is quite funny in hindsight, given that I now pack the day before or on the day for a long-haul, three-month work trip.

Why do you travel? Business or pleasure?

I’d say 80 per cent business, 20 per cent leisure – a good deal of which is flying to Cologne to visit my sister and niece. There’s a direct flight from Bologna which takes 55 minutes, easy-peasy.


What is your favourite destination overseas?

I live within 40 minutes’ drive of Florence and I never get bored of it. It’s still my favourite destination after two years living here. In the spring, I feel like the city is mine. The streets are relatively deserted and there are no queues for the galleries. I wander down narrow cobbled streets looking up at the jaw-dropping architecture with Puccini’s La boheme in my mind: ‘‘il primo sole e mio, sil primo bacio dell’aprile e mio’’, the first sun is mine, the first kiss of April is mine.

And here in New Zealand?

That’s blimmin’ tough. I still can’t say one destination is better than another: Abel Tasman National Park during a sunny spell; Fleur’s place in Moeraki, with a seafood chowder and a bottle of Aurum riesling; the top of the red crater in Tongariro National Park; the top of Franz Joseph Glacier; and Central Otago, just all of it.

Best trip ever?

A trip to a Kho Samet (not the more famous Kho Samui) beach in Thailand for a friend’s 30th, and it seemed like we were the only party of tourists. There were dozens of us who flew from all corners of the world to be there. We had a seriously awesome time.


Possibly a road trip I took from London to Bordeaux with some friends for wine tasting. It was absolutely freezing and pouring down the whole trip and we all got food poisoning on the second day. The ferry ride home was ‘‘fun’’. No-one was really talking to each other for a few days.

If you could be anywhere but here, where would that be?

I’d love to either be hiking through the mountains in Nepal, skiing in the Swiss Alps or riding a horse along the beaches in Samoa.

What is the wildest sight you’ve witnessed while travelling?

Niagara Falls took my breath away. The sheer size and force of the water seem impossible. We flew over the falls in a tiny six-seater plane on a windy day, which was hair-raising, to say the least.

The most heartbreaking?

During a recent trip to Rodos, Greece, I saw children begging on the streets, and literally hundreds of abandoned businesses and buildings. It was heartbreaking because I can only imagine the situation deteriorating.

Who (or what) is your favourite travelling companion?

Who: My fiance, Stefano, who is equally, if not more adventurous than me.
What: Earplugs and sleeping tablets. I’m a terrible sleeper and it’s the only way to get around it.

Where to next?

Home to New Zealand, to Auckland first and then Christchurch to sing in Don Giovanni for New Zealand Opera. I fly out again after four days, through the Middle East, although I won’t have time to leave the airports.

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