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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
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

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam