My life in travel: Alex Zane

'I had no idea there are more than 120 natural springs in Budapest'

Alex Zane is a TV and radio presenter. He has recently visited some of Europe's top cities, in his role as an Amex Travel Insider ( AmericanExpressUK).

Favourite place in the British isles?

I've always had a love affair with the West Coast of Scotland. From the Isle of Mull – where I once capsized a kayak at exactly the same time as my companion spotted a basking shark – to Arran and the wonderfully named Loch Awe, it's a truly beautiful part of the world.

Best holiday?

I travelled across Italy by train last year, starting in Venice then down to Rome before ending on the Amalfi Coast. Before I left, friends had been going on about the food, to the point where I'd started to think: "Well, it can't be that good!" But I took one mouthful from a plate of spaghetti alla vongole at the Antiche Carampane restaurant in Venice and fell in love.

What have you learnt from your travels?

To trust Becky with a stick. We were making a camp while trekking through Malaysia's Taman Negara National Park when I cleared the wrong piece of vegetation. I knew this because, as I turned around, my travelling companion Becky, said "don't move". She's not scared of anything, so the look on her face worried me. Apparently, I had a huge spider sitting right on top of my head, carrying its egg sac. Grabbing a stick, Becky gently knocked it off. I'll never forget how loud the thump was when it landed.

Ideal travelling companion?

While photographs are a wonderful reminder of your time away, nothing quite conveys the emotion you're feeling at that moment than putting pen to paper. I have great pictures from the summit of Borneo's Mount Kinabalu, but when I re-read my journal entry on that day, it takes me back.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Certainly not a beach bum. I went to Barbados for a beach holiday and while The Colony Club was lovely, and the beach amazing and quiet, I lasted only a couple of days before my mind demanded input.

Greatest travel luxury?

A leather-bound travel wallet. I get laughed at because it looks like an over-sized purse, but when others are scrabbling through pockets looking for their passport or boarding card, I just pop that baby open and it's all there.

Holiday reading?

I'm a huge fan of sci-fi novels. I remember when I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, it felt like I'd stepped into the pages of one of my books or on to the set of Blade Runner. The rain was lashing down, the Petronas Towers loomed over me, a monorail passed overhead, while vast glowing video billboards played out adverts I didn't understand.

Where has seduced you?

Budapest. I had no idea there are more than 120 natural springs there, which feed into loads of thermal baths. Bathing is a big part of everyday life there – it's a pretty good way to start or end your day. I went to some fantastic restaurants and bars too – one called Szimpla, had a bisected Mini Cooper as a booth. Other standouts were the roof terrace at Hotel President and the Café Kor, where, by complete chance, I ended up having dinner next to John Hurt.

Worst travel experience?

Eating a squid stir-fry at an outdoor market in Bangkok. I hadn't planned on ever seeing that squid again, but it had other ideas. I vowed never to eat squid again and I never have.

Best hotel?

I was driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to San Francisco and stopped for a night at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. It's this kitsch motel where each of its 110 rooms has a different theme; I wanted the Yahoo room because your bed is a wagon. Instead, I got Vous. It's called that because it has the only circular kingsize bed in the motel, which is described as being "perfect for that special rendezvous". A little bit wasted on me, as I was travelling alone.

Favourite walk?

I was making a documentary about movies shot in San Francisco so needed to visit Alcatraz while there was no one there. We set sail before dawn and began shooting before the sun came up. Walking down cell block A, in the dark, with no one else around, was truly memorable.

Best meal abroad?

I was just outside of Port Of Spain in Trinidad, when I had my first roti. I love simple street food and this is one of my favourites. Curried chicken or goat in a paratha wrap, eaten while wandering around the city streets was delicious.

Favourite city?

Berlin. I went recently to check out the urban adventure scene. You can do things like base flying, where you jump off the side of a building and fall 100ft, which is brilliantly petrifying.

Where next?

New York for New Year. I've always loved the city but I think NYE in NY will be something special.

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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?