How I travel… with writer Emma Donoghue

Destinations

Emma Donoghue is a Canadian-Irish novelist, playwright and screenwriter best known for her book and film Room, which received four Oscar nominations in 2016. She currently lives with her French partner and their children in Paris but travels widely to research her novels (her fifteenth is out next summer) and promote her books and movies. Her upcoming film adaptation of her 2017 novel The Wonder, will star Florence Pugh and be released on Netflix November 16.

I last traveled to London from our current home in Paris.

The best part of being there was the gala premiere of my new film The Wonder at BFI London Film Festival, with our star Florence Pugh wearing an extraordinary pink swoopy feathered dress.

Florence Pugh at the London premiere of Emma’s movie

I am next planning to travel to my hometown of Dublin for the Irish premiere of The Wonder. While there, of course, I’ll need to catch up with my many siblings and family, walk by the sea and have a dark chocolate chip scone with raspberry jam at my favorite Dublin cafe, Queen of Tarts.

I’m embarrassed to admit I so enjoy the planning aspect of travel, I sometimes sketch out detailed itineraries for trips that fall through. And my loved one would accuse me of over-scheduling because if there’s a spare hour I’ll cram a museum into it. I don’t understand the concept of downtime.

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TOP LEFT: France’s Mediterranean coast before the Spanish border, BOTTOM LEFT: Emma in the Luxembourg Gardens, RIGHT: Emma in County Kerry looking out to the Skellig Islands © Emma Donoghue

Trains thrill me, because they’re fast but so much less environmentally damaging than planes or cars, and you can move around and have big wide views from the windows.

In terms of downloads for traveling, I always have a few books on my phone – I much prefer paper, but ebooks give me that safe feeling that I have dozens of hours of reading with me (and a light-up screen). I’ve never formed the podcast habit but I usually have a good TV series downloaded; I save meaty dramas to watch with my beloved, so on my own it’ll be something comedic (Girls5Eva, Schitt’s Creek, The Detectorists) or the soapy Grey’s Anatomy which is a habit I can’t break.

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The Queen of Tarts cafe Dublin, home of the dark chocolate chip scone with raspberry jam © Tyler W Stipp / Shutterstock

I likely sound about a hundred years old by saying this, but one travel hack I swear by is soft fuzzy bedsocks. Oh, also, graveyards are fascinating places to visit – we’re living in Montparnasse, Paris this year and the Cimetière Montparnasse is full of fascinating tombstones such as this one which was clearly a pianist’s.

I’m deeply fond of Nice in the South of France because we’ve spent two separate years of our kids’ childhoods there, so for me that long curve of the Promenade des Anglais will always be haunted by the image of our son and daughter zooming along on their push-scooters, weaving in and out of the tourists in the sunshine.

My earliest vacation memory, I remember our family borrowed someone’s house in the Irish countryside and when I woke up the ground was covered in the most gigantic fresh cowpats. For a city kid this was like an alien invasion!

A Postcard from Nice: My trip to the South of France in 12 pics

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TOP LEFT: Cimetière Montparnasse, TOP RIGHT: Châteaux of the Loire Valley, BOTTOM LEFT: the Art Deco of Brussels, BOTTOM RIGHT: Nice’s Promenade des Anglais © Getty / Shutterstock

I don’t remember my first time on a plane, so it must have been early – travel was my family’s luxury. I do vividly remember most of the trips I took before 18 – to France, to tour the Châteaux of the Loire Valley, and a weekend in London where we saw Roger Rees in Hamlet.

I was an au pair in Brussels and I think more people should visit – there’s a lot more to this gorgeous Art Deco city than Euro-bureaucracy. The last little bit of France’s Mediterranean coast before the Spanish border, too – Collioure, Port-Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer – that’s ravishing too, with fantastic snorkeling.

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Unesco site, Skellig Michael County Kerry, where Emma’s latest novel

If I could be anywhere right now it would be Skellig Michael. My most recent novel Haven is set there, a uniquely spiky island off Ireland’s Kerry Coast, in the year 600 – but the trip I’d booked to land on the island was canceled due to Covid and I haven’t been able to fit that trip into my schedule since. So yes, that’s where I’d love to be magically transported, please.

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