My Life In Travel: Ben Shephard, television presenter
'You just get on with life in New Zealand'
Saturday 16 April 2011
First holiday memory?
I spent a lot of my childhood in Cornwall. I've got family in Port Isaac and my parents had a chalet in Rock. I remember the seven-hour journey down: me moaning; my mum trying to keep us entertained; stopping for fish and chips at the service station. It would rain and be such an anticlimax. But equally, if it was sunny, we might as well have been in the Caribbean – the whole holiday was spent fishing for crabs on the beach.
I went travelling after university in 1992. I worked in a French wine château for three months, then on to America for a bit and then to Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. I loved going it alone. I remember staying in Koh Samui at a hut on the beach called White Sands for 60p a night. It had a mattress, mosquito net and not much else, but was the best location I've ever stayed at.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Devon. I got married in Salcombe and went to Burgh Island afterwards. There's this beautiful art deco hotel that gets cut off when the tide comes in. I associate it with such a magical memory – all my friends and family were there. You get dressed up for dinner and it's like messing around in the early 1920s. Very isolated, but you're still living in the lap of luxury.
What have you learnt from your travels?
You don't need much money to have an amazing time. That's when you get the best experiences, because there's no expectation. Meeting people and seeing things doesn't cost anything at all.
Ideal travelling companion?
My wife, because she's very low-maintenance and as adventurous as I am.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Adrenalin junkie. Some of my best holidays have been spent kite-surfing, being out in the sunshine and harnessing wind. I've come quite close to being badly injured a couple of times, but it's exciting and I feel like I'm making the most of my time.
Greatest travel luxury?
Turning left on a plane. If I have a choice, and the money to do it, there's nothing quite like enjoying a nice flight with leg room.
I'm a sucker for crime fiction by writers such as Patricia Cornwell. I also love a good autobiography. I've got The Alastair Campbell Diaries, which I'm slowly working my way through. They're slightly too heavy and long to take on holiday, which I'll tell him next time I see him. I also thought Chris Evans's Memoirs of a Fruitcake was a fascinating read, too.
Where has seduced you?
Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. I've been a couple of times. It's just the most extraordinary place: a subtropical island just off the coast of Cornwall. There are no cars, no one locks their doors and everyone knows each other.
Better to travel or arrive?
I'm awful when travelling. I put so much pressure on a holiday to be perfect as soon as I arrive. But by the second day, I've relaxed and realised that wherever I am, I'm with my wife and kids and I'm going to have an amazing time.
Worst travel experience?
A bitter-sweet one. I went to Haiti with GMTV last summer, six months after the earthquake. I've never experienced anything like it: the absolute devastation of a country because of a natural disaster. It was fascinating meeting the people, but in the last few days I got food poisoning. We had to film in this makeshift shelter. I was chatting with this beautiful family and it was about 50C in their tent; I was so ill but that was their daily existence.
In Spain for a friend's stag do. It should have been on Holidays from Hell. The rooms were disgusting and dirty and the food they were serving was awful. There was no redeeming quality, except that the sun was shining.
Babington House in Somerset. It's always incredible and the walled gardens are a luxury. I'll also never forget the Oberoi Amarvilas, which overlooks the Taj Mahal – just the sumptuous nature of the architecture, the bedding and the view.
One that we all used to do together as a family from Port Quin to Port Isaac in Cornwall. We used to finish Christmas lunch and my uncle Mark would make us go before we could open our presents. We would stop at Nicky's bakery to get pasties and head over the hill, past the dramatic coastline with seals and various birds. I do the same walk now with my kids.
Best meal abroad?
A curry I had at the Royal Mirage hotel in Dubai. I was out there working for Sony and was blown away by this extraordinary curry.
I'd love to go back to New Zealand with my family. Of all the countries I've visited, it's the one that suits me most. Everyone lives outside, there are no airs and graces, you just get on with life. It's got the beautiful coastline and stunning beaches on the North Island. Then all the adrenalin stuff on the South Island. I've had some amazing experiences there, and I know my boys would love it.
London – I love everything about it. The eclectic mix of people and the fact that I still don't know where I'm going after years of driving around. There's so much personality in London. As soon as the sun comes out, it turns into a magical city.
My kids don't know this yet, but Florida. I want to take them to Disney World this summer. And maybe we'll try to visit Babington House for a few days too.
Ben Shephard is working with Cadbury and the National Trust to promote Easter Egg Trails throughout the UK ( eastereggtrail.com)
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