My Life In Travel: Griff Rhys Jones

'I hate tourism – if I arrive at a place organised for tourists I'll turn around'


First holiday memory?

Going to Gorran Haven near Mevagissey in Cornwall. My father used to rent a holiday home from a fisherman who kept all his crabbing gear in a shed underneath the house. I remember running down a hill from the house and on to the beach. I was about five, and it was the only beach holiday I got at that time because after that my father bought a boat, so from that point our family holidays were spent in a state of panic. Now, I have a boat of my own. A boat is a middle-aged, middle-class man's alternative to a garden shed.

Best holiday?

I have never taken a holiday when I've laid on a beach and read books; it's a waste of time. However, I did enjoy renting a boat near Tropea in Calabria and sailing to the Ionian Islands. That was a very good holiday – there was a storm and we climbed up a volcano. I'm very restless, so I like going to places that require a tiny bit of involvement in the actual journey, as opposed to just getting on an aeroplane.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I have a base in Suffolk and a base in Wales, where I go quite frequently. But I think my favourite place for holidaying in the British Isles is Pembrokeshire. I like the slightly wild coastline between St David's and Fishguard, where the cliffs are overpowering granite monsters. Consequently, there doesn't seem to be the ruination there that low-grade tourism brings to Britain's beaches elsewhere. Britain's seaside is only gradually dragging itself out of the torpor brought on by the retreat to the Balearics. I also like the Essex and Suffolk coasts, although I'd advise people to avoid the Notting-Hill-on-Sea places like Southwold and Walberswick, unless they want to feel like they're attending a Channel 4 script meeting.

What have you learnt from your travels?

I always go away at the last minute, because I can never make a decision about where I want to go. I live the sort of life that most people would describe as a permanent holiday, because I have no routine. I really object to the routine of holidays. I just turn up and do whatever comes up. The idea that you go for a holiday which is circumscribed by a series of rules put together by a resort strikes me as crazy.

Ideal travelling companion?

Probably my wife.

Beach bum, culture vulture, or adrenalin junkie?

None of those. I find the idea of trundling around and ticking off buildings really tedious. I'll go and look at a few cathedrals and things like that, but I'm a variety junkie.

Greatest travel luxury?

A lot of books, which take up half of my luggage. You can usually buy new clothes abroad, but can find yourself stuck for good reading material. I read a lot of travel books.

Better to travel or arrive?

It's nearly always better to travel, as long as it's an interesting form of travelling – I don't enjoy flying. The current state of British airports is an absolute disgrace. However, I did enjoy renting an apartment in Rome recently, when I stayed in writing during the day and wandered around the city later on.

Worst holiday?

Driving around Brittany with my children when they were very small. It was utterly pointless. Every time we got to a hotel, we were heaving stuff out of the car to get it into the room, then going out and looking at some crappy French development that had ruined a perfectly nice bit of coastline and then moving on. It was freezing cold, too, and sat on a park bench staring out at the sea with the wind whipping around me and the children moaning, I could think of nothing better than getting back to work.

Best hotel?

A hotel in Orvieto, Italy that was converted from a former palace. There wasn't anything like chocolates on the pillow or air-conditioning, but there was still a marble bath and a painted ceiling. It's a hotel that people who travel a lot probably fantasise about finding, because it wasn't fussy or intimidating, but straightforward with great space and huge rooms.

Favourite walk/swim/ ride/drive?

I don't have any – the word "favourite" implies that I would go back and do it over and over again, but I don't. I like going out in my boat, though.

Best meal abroad?

In Bangkok we were recommended a fish restaurant by our hotel. I ate a crab curry there and then I spent the rest of my time trying to order it in other places and eat it again, but without success. None were as good as that first one.

Dream trip?

I'd quite like to explore the Black Sea coast and do a trip around the Great Lakes of North America. I sailed to St Petersburg and what I loved about the route I took was that I found myself not far from home, but in a world that seemed to be undisturbed by British tourism. I hate tourism; if I arrive at a place that has been organised for loads of tourists I'll turn around and leave, however far I've driven to get there. I don't quite get the point of Venice if all you do is wander around with a mass of people, because ultimately that's all you remember.

Favourite city?

I think Palermo in Sicily is probably my favourite, because it has a lot of stories and if you go out of season you pretty much have it to yourself. All the buildings are falling down because the Mafia have stolen all the money to restore them, but it has a certain seedy glamour about it.

Where next?

If I can get some time off, I'll hopefully go to the Mediterranean.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital