My Life In Travel: Al Murray
'I went on a sushi crawl across Tokyo – it was pure gluttony'
Saturday 03 October 2009
First holiday memory?
I remember going to Alderney when I was about five and it being totally thrilling, from the flight in a Trislander to seeing a shipwreck and riding a bicycle. A perfect childhood holiday.
Usually the last one I've been on. I went to Florida this summer with my family and we had a great time. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure were fantastic. Sometimes it's good to be a bottom- line tourist.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Connemara. I used to go there every summer when I was a teenager and the place speaks to me somehow. I have no idea what it's saying, mind.
What have you learnt from your travels?
I wish I could say a British passport and a Panama hat are all you need to get around the world, but it's more like a pack of Imodium, sadly. But mainly it's the advice of the Hitchhiker's Guide: don't panic. I travel with work, so I find the general drama people descend into around their holidays pretty tedious.
Ideal travelling companion?
Someone who will eat anything. I went to Tokyo recently, and fortunately went with someone who knows how to eat and drink. It would have been a wasted trip to go with someone who was fussy about their food or "intolerant".
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I am pretty useless at the beach bum thing, but have learnt that it can be good to do nothing for a bit. So can I say beach vulture, or culture bum?
Greatest travel luxury?
When I'm touring, the simplest luxury is a set of new socks, rather than washing them. The tour I did in the spring means I now have a huge pile of socks at home.
Mainly history books. I can devour them, but it can be tricky. I remember getting very odd and/or disgusted looks in Corfu from the German guests as I worked my way through Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler.
Where has seduced you?
Venice. The place is amazing, like a dream, though I'm yet to have a holiday there that does it justice.
Better to travel or to arrive?
Always to arrive. There's no way that queuing at Gatwick or being in a chartered jet is better than being in Siena.
Worst travel experience?
When there was a big security scare at Heathrow – with police riding around on bikes looking for terrorists – about five or six years ago. I was working in Glasgow once a week so I got stupidly twitchy and took the train instead of flying. It was delayed by seven hours and I decided the following week to risk being shot down.
Bad holidays get wiped clean from the memory.
My parents used to drag my sisters and me around Europe in a vain attempt to improve and broaden our minds. They weren't exactly flush, so we'd stay in some very peculiar hotels. My sisters developed a scoring system based around rats – there was one place we stayed at in Rouen which very definitely a Three-Rat Hotel.
Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica: great location, awesome décor and the pool is very agreeable. It's there or else Babington House in Somerset.
I recently visited Takeo province in Cambodia, as part of my role as patron of CamKids. I visited a school but to get there had to walk through people's houses, past their pigs, and into the centre of the village. It was fascinating to see that kind of place up close.
Best meal abroad?
A three-lunch sushi crawl in Tokyo. We went to the fish market in Tsukiji, found ourselves o-toro, the fatty tuna, and proceeded to stuff our faces. After each meal we'd take a very short walk around to another restaurant and get into some more: perfect and pure gluttony.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
This sounds lame, but I'll put the telly on and see what English-speaking channels I can find. That and thoroughly investigating the tea making possibilities.
I'd like to go back to Ireland at some point and sit with a Guinness in a contemplative manner, as the drizzle comes in off the sea.
It's between Tokyo and Los Angeles at the moment.
I think I'll be going back to Phnom Penh soon. The place is very interesting, there is so much change going on and it's somewhere which is increasingly looking to the outside world.
Al Murray is patron of Cam Kids ( camkids.org ). 'Al Murray The Pub Landlord Says Think Yourself British' is released in hardback on 8 October, while a new DVD, 'The Pub Landlord's Beautiful British Tour Live at the O2', is available from 16 November ( thepublandlord.co.uk ).
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