My Life In Travel: Alastair Campbell

'There is a spirit in the people of Ethiopia I find inspiring'


First holiday memory?

As a child, every summer holiday was a trip from our home in Yorkshire to the Hebridean island of Tiree, which is where my father came from, usually via other relatives en route. Once we reached Tiree, we stayed either at his parents' croft, or up the road at his sister's, my auntie Netta. My first holiday-related memory is of being awakened by my mother because we were leaving very early for the long drive to Oban to get the boat. I thought it was great getting up so early to go on holiday. I can also remember stopping for lunch at Shap, and being told it was the highest fish and chip shop in England. My first memory of Tiree itself was of the boat nearing the dockside and my father pointing out the various relatives waiting to meet us.

Best holiday?

1999, when we discovered the house near Vaison-la-Romaine in France that we have now been going to every year since. Fiona and I have had our main holiday in France every one of the 28 years since we met. Not very adventurous, but it seems to work most years, and the children still want to go with us.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I did a charity run and bike ride round Loch Ness for Leukaemia Research earlier this year, and you would be hard pressed to find anywhere more beautiful in the whole world. There was one bit where I was running through a little forest and as I emerged from it I looked down on the loch over scenery that literally took my breath away. Most of my favourite landscapes are in Scotland. My favourite places in England are Hampstead Heath, Regent's Park Canal, the Yorkshire Moors and Turf Moor, home of Burnley FC.

What have you learnt from your travels?

To leave plenty of time and understand that there is no point getting too stressed at airports, ferries, toll queues and the like. By and large, everyone gets there in the end. However, whilst recognising in theory that there is no point getting too stressed, I am still capable of stressing out big time if in a queue that doesn't move at a pace I think it should. I was probably spoilt working so long for a prime minister, when details like passport control, tickets and bags get handled by someone else.

Ideal travelling companion?

Outside my own family, it would be Philip Gould and his family. Philip can drive you potty with his endless blathering and boundless enthusiasm, not to mention his inability to go five minutes without talking about politics, but we have had many holidays together and they've almost all been good, partly because our children have always got on so well. I also love travelling to big sporting events – like last Saturday's tragedy at Hampden Park – with my sons.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Definitely not the first, very occasionally the second, usually the third once I have had a few days to chill out.

Greatest travel luxury?

I haven't told Fiona yet, but I intend to take my own bike on holiday in future. I cycled up Mont Ventoux in Provence last year and I am putting the fact I did it an hour slower than my son, and an hour-and-a-half slower than Lance Armstrong, down to the fact I was on a hired bike.

Better to travel or arrive?

Arrive, because I find the logistics of travel stressful. The only exception I would make are long train journeys. I can get through stacks of work on trains and I love the Eurostar, even more so since St Pancras opened.

Worst travel experience?

One year, to save money, we rented a house near Malaucene that was a lot cheaper than the one we were used to. It was a disaster. Fiona got ill, the kids hated it and we were sharing the garden with the owners of a really horrible dog. I also had a few dreadful experiences coming back from Burnley matches, including one after a game at Carlisle where I ended up sleeping in a boat in someone's garden.

Worst hotel?

Before we had kids, Fiona and I were on holiday with our friends John Merritt and his wife Lindsay Nicholson, in the Camargue region of France. We spent a night in a dive that we later learnt was a National Front base. It was the full-on cockroaches, bedbugs, no water, no complaints allowed situation. None of us slept and we discovered in the morning that we had only stayed because we thought it would be too rude to leave John and Lindsay, and they had only stayed because they thought it would be bad to leave us.

Best hotel?

The next night we stayed at a place called the Mas d'Aigret in Les Baux. Purely by comparison with the above, it was heaven. We have been back a few times since. In the UK, I have always liked the Caledonian in Edinburgh and the Lowry in Manchester. My cousin Susan will also kill me if I don't plug her excellent hotel, The Mallard, in Gullane, East Lothian.

Where has seduced you?

Ethiopia. I have never been for a holiday there but I have been for work on several occasions, and also for the Great Ethiopian Run in 2003 for Leukaemia Research. The challenges facing the country are enormous, but there is a spirit and beauty in the people that I always find inspiring.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/ drive?

My favourite swim is in Hampstead Heath lido when it's not too busy. My favourite walk is at Conaglen, Argyll, in pouring rain. My favourite drive is through the Pennines and up into Scotland.

Best meal abroad?

It was probably the 20 or so courses served at a dinner for Tony Blair hosted by the Sultan of Oman. When we held the EU Presidency we ate in every capital in a matter of days. Denmark was runner-up for the best meal of the tour. Predictably, France won. I can still remember my first real fish soup, in a restaurant in the old town in Nice 30 years ago, as one of the best meals I ever had.

Dream trip?

I would like to take our children on a tour of all the countries in the world I have visited where I have said, "I would love to come here with Fiona and the kids." These would include Australia, South Africa and Brazil as first choice, and then, in no particular order, China, India, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Israel and the occupied territories.

Favourite city?

It's a toss-up between New York and Dublin, with Sydney as runner-up. In mainland Europe it's Marseilles and in the UK, Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Where next?

Scotland for Easter, France for summer, and I hope to get to the Olympics in China for a few days – though, sadly, not competing.

Alastair Campbell is chairman of fundraising for Leukaemia Research and is hosting "An Audience with Michael Palin" on Wednesday 28 November at 8pm in London's Criterion Theatre. The last remaining £50 tickets are available at a 25 per cent discount, costing £37.50, with all proceeds going to the charity. To book, call 020-7405 0101 or visit www.lrf.org.uk

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
fashionLidl to launch a new affordable fashion range
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment