Charlie Higson: My life in travel

'Budapest is friendly, clean and just right for walking'

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The Independent Travel

We used to play pub cricket on long drives.

We'd do long car journeys like families used to do, with no seat belts, sitting on each other's laps, all squashed in, driving through the night – no regard for health and safety. We played the standard word games as well, like I Spy.

Kids are happiest digging holes on a beach.

You definitely realise when you've got little children that there is absolutely no point in spending loads of money going on a nice foreign holiday because you won't be able to enjoy it. You don't want to do the things you used to do before you had kids, and they're happy on the beach, running around. It is safe and easy, and they don't know the difference.

Mwnt in Wales is my favourite beach.

I've got really happy family memories from Cardigan Bay and this is a very beautiful spot. You can usually see dolphins too.

A trip to Greece changed me.

At the risk of being too intimate, it was the holiday that I lost my virginity on. I was 16, I went away with some friends, and we spent the summer just hitching around. Actually, Greece is my favourite place for a summer holiday. They've been experiencing tourism for thousands of years; they know how to do it, it's very relaxed. I like the food and the people are great. I like nothing better than having a beer in a bar on a beach in Greece.

I've stayed in Ian Fleming's old house.

When I was writing the Young Bond books, a magazine sent me to Jamaica to stay there. It's run by Chris Blackwell, who founded Island Records, and it's the ultimate example of barefoot chic; it's incredibly laid back but also incredibly expensive and sophisticated. It was great to stay in Fleming's old room. I don't think it was his actual bed but the central villa that he had is still there.

budapest-getty.jpg
Chain letter: Budapest's iconic Danube crossing (Getty)

Civilised and perfect for walking, Budapest is brilliant.

Everyone told me Budapest was great and it is.

I've just got back. I thought it was a very nice, civilised city, the perfect size for walking around. It's got a quaintly ancient underground system and the people seemed very friendly. It was incredibly clean and not overcrowded. And so now I've come back and told people it's brilliant.

If you're in London, visit the Hunterian Museum.

It's very difficult to think of anything you can recommend in London that everyone else hasn't already heard about, but this is a good, reasonably unknown museum, and it's always quite quiet.

It's a bit gruesome but it works for boys, certainly. It's a medical museum and it's got some really interesting exhibits like brains and bodies of people with weird bone diseases and things, skeletons.

I wouldn't go travelling with Michael Palin.

It's always fantastic travelling with someone who knows what they're doing so you can hand over to them. But I met Michael Palin at the Dubai Literary Festival and we explored and I was very pleased to discover that he was as rubbish as me.

He kept getting lost. And he told me: "Well the thing is, Charlie, when I do those trips I can just turn around and say 'Can I have a bottle of water please?' and there are 20 production people walking along behind me and they do it all for me."

He's brilliant company, so on that level it would be great to go travelling with him, but if anyone else says to you "I'd love to go travelling with Michael Palin" you can point out that he's actually pretty rubbish.

Comedian and writer Charlie Higson is a judge of Radio 2's 500 Words children's writing competition. The winners will be announced on 29 May.

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