Check in with ...Mary Portas
Feisty, funny and ferociously knowledgeable in her field, the Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, is a symbol of Britain’s ‘get it done’ attitude
With her sharp orange bob and say-it-as-it-is attitude intact, Mary Portas spent a long and successful career breathing life, creativity and heart back into that age old institution, the great British high street. From window dresser to creative director, podcaster, broadcaster, author and more, this retail legend talks views so good they’ll make you cry, and being charmed at 35,000ft.
What has been your favourite travel experience?
The American tour I went on with the kids to New Orleans and up to Santa Fe. That was superb. There was such a great sense of freedom being out on the road with my young family.
Which country most sticks out in your memory?
Japan. I walked through the mountains with my daughter and we stayed with monks, sleeping on the floor. It was beautiful and totally other-worldly.
Where is on your bucket list and why?
As I get older, I find myself wanting to understand ancient civilisations and feel a sense of connection to them. I’d love to do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and walk those storied roads.
What's your go-to travel hack or packing tip?
Pack as little as you possibly can.
Where are your favourite places in the UK?
Walking in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire makes me weep with joy. It’s absolutely stunning, as are the Highlands of Scotland where we rented a lodge for my son’s 21st birthday. Finally, London. I think I live in the greatest city in the world.
What does being British mean to you?
My sense of identity is very much connected to my home country. Being British to me is being accepting, innovative, daring and mischievous, as well as being a thoroughly decent human being.
Where is your favourite London hangout?
That little bit between Clerkenwell and Bloomsbury, just down from Sadler’s Wells. There’s an energy there. I can sit outside with a pint of beer and have a smile in my soul. On a sunny, summer’s evening, it’s heaven.
And for a spot of culture?
Everywhere. I’ll go to every kind of concert, every kind of exhibition. Where don’t you go for culture in London? Anyone who doesn’t isn’t living this city.
What does it mean to be a BA100 hero?
I think I’ve been lucky enough to have influence on people and influence some stuff that’s happened in my country, and that makes me very proud. I’d like to think I’ll leave some sort of legacy and have made a difference. Isn’t that what counts in life?
What is your favourite memory of travelling BA?
I remember one time this wonderful BA flight attendant came up to me and said, “Ooh Ms Portas. I’m a fan.” I said, “Thank you very much.” He must have known that I love Pinot Noir, and quietly halfway through the flight came up and gave me a bottle. He said, “This is for you, don’t tell anyone.” It was utterly charming.
What is Britain’s best export?
Creativity. Look at the influence we have worldwide, across all the arts from music to design. It’s bloody impressive, this little island, isn’t it?