My life in travel: Chris Hollins, BBC sports presenter and journalist
'I tasted the freshest, most wonderful clams ever in Emilia-Romagna'
Friday 01 June 2012
First holiday memory?
Rimini, Italy. My parents used to know the owner of the Hotel Ambasciatori, so we would go every year as a family. It was very simple: a great little beach, where we had our own umbrella and would build sandcastles, and then eat our own bodyweight in food. They had one of the most fantastic chefs there, so at the age of eight, I was eating whole pieces of fish, profiteroles the size of my sister and spaghetti vongole (spaghetti with clams). We used to go to the sala giochi (games arcade) to play ice hockey, then order three scoops of ice cream in a cornet.
A family holiday driving through France in a Volkswagen Golf convertible. We spent the entire time with my dad constantly going the wrong way. We all slept in the same bed one night, because we got lost and that was all we could find. We had three cassette tapes – The Kids from Fame, The Beatles and Billy Joel – which we played non-stop for three weeks. The Champagne region was a highlight. We stayed at Hôtel d'Angleterre in Châlons-en-Champagne where the restaurant served wonderful amuse-bouche. It was a great adventure.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
My parents have a flat in Caswell Bay, South Wales. Through that, we have fallen in love with the beaches, the walking, the golf and the people of the Gower peninsula. It's fantastic.
What have you learnt from your travels?
That you must try everything. So, when in Rome, as they say, find the busiest local restaurant and have what everybody else is eating. For a family like mine, that lives to eat, that's been the most rewarding tip.
Ideal travelling companion?
My wife, Sarah. I never organise anything, but she's always planning ahead and looking for an adventure. One of the most fantastic things we ever did was in Barbados. We were lounging by the pool and Sarah said: "We must go out and explore." She booked this little expedition by plane to the Grenadines. We went on a catamaran around the islands, some of which were utterly uninhabited. I would never have done that had it not been for her.
I like autobiographies or biographies. The most recent ones I've read are Richard Attenborough's Entirely Up to You, Darling, Michael Caine's The Elephant to Hollywood and Andrew Marr's A History of Modern Britain. I'm always fascinated by people's big change in life, their big discovery or how they were discovered.
Where has seduced you?
The Caribbean is very difficult to beat, but we also recently fell in love with Sardinia. We went down to Chia Laguna in the south and were seduced by all the Italian families and the fun they seemed to be having together.
Better to travel or arrive?
I love to arrive. My wife and I only just got married in March. For our honeymoon, we went skiing for five days in Val d'Isère. Despite the fact that you're supposed to have that special glow, we were absolutely exhausted from the wedding. When we arrived at the Hôtel Le Blizzard, there was a bottle of champagne in the room and snow on the mountains. We put on our dressing gowns, opened the bottle and had that real "I'm on holiday" moment.
Worst travel experience?
Being ill on a flight back from South Africa. I'd been filming non-stop for four days ahead of the last World Cup. I felt fine when boarding, then we took off and I suddenly felt really unwell. There's no escape on flights.
A place I stayed at on a cricket trip to Bangladesh. We visited the city of Sylhet, which was an amazing place. But in the hotel there were no bed-sheets, hot water or soap. It was a life experience, as they say.
I stayed at Loch Lomond Golf Club as part of a charity golf tournament. It's not open to the public as a hotel, but the rooms were incredible.
The Gower – from Caswell Bay along the coast to Langland Bay. It takes about 30 minutes and you'll get sunshine, rain and wind. At the end, there's a fantastic cup of tea and an egg and bacon sandwich waiting at the Surfside café.
Best meal abroad?
The first time I had vongole in Italy when I was 10. We were driving around the countryside of Emilia-Romagna and found this restaurant which served the freshest, most wonderful clams I've ever tasted. If only I could have had some wine, it would have been perfect.
Tokyo. I think it's mostly because of the relationships I've built up there through work, but it was the most extraordinary experience having to learn about their customs and culture.
My wife and I want to get in a car and drive around Italy. That's our next plan.
Chris Hollins presents the Olympic Breakfast, every morning from 28 July to 12 August on BBC1 (6am-9am): bbc.co.uk/sport
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