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Harry Christophers on Portugal, his diary, and ‘the opportunity to read loads of books’

We caught up with the artistic director of the Handel and Haydn Society to talk about all things travel

Harry Christophers in the Sistine Chapel.
Harry Christophers in the Sistine Chapel.Adrian Myers

Harry Christophers has been artistic director of the Handel and Haydn Society since 2008. When he returns to Symphony Hall on Nov. 26-28 to lead “The Messiah,” one of the world’s best known choral works and a longstanding Boston holiday tradition, it will be his 13th and final season as artistic director. “Twelve years is a long time to be artistic director of any organization, and I felt it was time,” Christophers, 67, said during a Zoom call from England. “The [Handel and Haydn Society] is in a good position and I am confident handing it over to somebody else.” Christophers, who is married with four children and two young grandchildren, said he plans to spend more time with his England-based choir and orchestra group, The Sixteen, which has been on a “choral pilgrimage,” he joked, performing numerous shows throughout the United Kingdom. “We’re playing cathedrals and abbeys . . . performing music written for these fabulous buildings in the 16th century that fits them like a glove.” And even though he is leaving his role as artistic director, Christophers said that he isn’t leaving H+H entirely. “I will be back to do a concert now and then . . . but my focus will be in Europe,” he said. We caught up with Christophers — who was born in a pub in the Weald of Kent (just south of London) and now lives with his wife, Veronica, and their Cockapoo, Saffron, in Otford, a small village in Kent — to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination?

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The Algarve. We have been going to Portugal as a family ever since the children were very little. We go to the same little fishing village to the west of Lagos. There’s nothing to do except enjoy the sun, sand, sea, fresh fish, and wine. So perfect to recharge the batteries after months of concerts and traveling. It’s also quality family time and the opportunity to read loads of books.

Favorite food or drink while vacationing?

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Sea bream, freshly caught on the day, simply grilled, no frills, no added sauces, just served with some boiled potatoes and buttered courgettes [zucchini]. I’m not a fan of fizzy beers, but when in Portugal, I do love a pint of Sagres. There’s a nutty flavor to it and it just slips down; a treat at the end of a hot day.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?

I really want to see Luxor [in Egypt], on the site of the ancient city of Thebes, and the Valley of the Kings. I read classics at university and I have always been fascinated by the temples and those pyramids. What skill and artistry.

One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?

My diary. I still have my Filofax with everything handwritten and I just love to remind myself of what’s coming up, whether it be a concert, seeing friends, or the next Arsenal home game.

Aisle or window?

Aisle. I hate disturbing people when I need a pee!

Favorite childhood travel memory?

I have to confess that as a child, we never went on holiday. But I do remember my first trip to London when I was 10. I was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral and four of us went up to sing with the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral for the St. Cecilia’s Day service and we stayed overnight in the Archbishop’s Palace at Lambeth. Breakfast was amazing!

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Guilty pleasure when traveling?

Watching old pop videos on British Airways’ Entertainment channel. The Rolling Stones in Cuba, The Who at Kilburn, documentaries on Led Zeppelin, etc.

Best travel tip?

Arrive early and travel as light as possible. Nothing worse than having to lug around a heavy suitcase.

JULIET PENNINGTON