Priya Paul is a phenomenon. Last year saw her nominated as the Most Influential Person in Contemporary Travel at Le Miami Awards, she was recently awarded the ‘Chevalier de L’Ordre National du Mérite,’ a French Order of State for her significant contribution to strengthening of economic, cultural and commercial links between France and India. Priya has been awarded India’s Highest Civilian Award, (the equivalent of an OBE), for her contributions to trade and industry, she has been nominated Businesswoman of India four times by The Economic Times of India and she pioneered the design-led hotel movement in India with The Park Hotels. Living in Delhi, she spends a lot of time in London where she has an apartment, she is an avid art collector and, on top of that, she is a mother. We are extremely honoured she took time out of an unimaginably busy schedule to chat with us.
Q: What is your first childhood memory of travel?
We were very lucky to travel a lot as kids, coming over to London and Europe from India every year in the summer. I have a particularly fond memory of a road trip through Italy when I was around seven or eight with my parents and sister. The food, culture and landscape were incredible, but the best part was spending time together. We did a similar road trip in South India too, which remains another great memory.
Q: Where have you had your best holiday to date?
Travelling is my passion and I have had many memorable holidays; the one that stands out most was a trip with my husband to Brazil and Argentina for my 40th Birthday. It was fascinating and somewhere I had always dreamt of going.
Q: Where was the first place you went with a little one in tow? How did it go?
When my son Vir was four weeks old we travelled from Delhi to Chennai to see family. It was also a test-run ahead of a long-haul trip to London three weeks later. Both, but in particular the journey to London, were a shock to the system as a new mother with all the paraphernalia. Our flight was diverted from Heathrow to Gatwick making it more prolonged and exhausting, but I learnt a valuable lesson early on: you have to be prepared for everything to go wrong when you travel with a child!
Q: How do you find the experience of travelling with children generally? A wonderful and bonding experience, for example, or traumatic and stressful? Or a bit of both?
A bit of both, especially when they’re young. Vir’s “terrible two’s” and tantrums were difficult to deal with, but now he is a bit older there is more to share, bond over and discover together. It’s a lot of fun.
Q. Do you ever travel with your child for work?
Yes, Vir often comes on my trips, although I do make sure I have time to spend with him after the work is done.
Q: Where was your best holiday with your child?
Every year we spend time in Goa and this is always a wonderful week of relaxation. My husband and I recently spent a week on Route 101 in California, enjoying everything from Disneyland and Los Angeles to the beautiful Pacific Coast, which was a really special trip for all of us.
Q: And your worst?
None that come to mind!
Q: What is your must-have travel accessory when away with children?
You need to be prepared for all eventualities so I always bring entertainment (games, books or an iPad, for example), food, and a change of clothes, as a minimum.
Q. Where do you love to spend time when you’re in London? And what are your favourite things to do when in Delhi?
When I’m in London with Vir, we love to spend time in Regent’s Park close to our home. We also both enjoy the Tate Modern and the Science Museum – it’s especially interesting to me as I am on the board of the National Council of Science Museums of India. We’re also always trying out new restaurants and cooking together. In Delhi, the Lodi Gardens are always a favourite, and we make the time to have a meal out as a family once a week. We have recently been exploring all the historical sites and monuments in the city – a real treasure trove.
Q. Art plays a large role in your life. Does it influence the choice of holidays you take?
I do sometimes travel to a particular city to see an exhibition or show that I specifically want to see; however, our longer family holidays aren’t necessarily influenced by art. Having said that, wherever I am I will always go to the top museums and gallery shows.
Q: And, finally, do you have any top tips for travel with kids?
At the risk of repeating myself, my top tip would be to prepare for all eventualities, and be flexible. I’d also add that children are far more adaptable and adventurous than we think they are. If you take them along to wherever you are going and treat them like adults, they may surprise you.