My Life In Travel: Comedian Paul Kaye

'We'd go to the Logan Botanic Gardens with hangovers, and hug trees'
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The Independent Travel

First holiday memory?

Birchington in Kent, where we rented a bungalow every year. It was the late Sixties and I remember popping peas with my gran, and seeing Mods and Rockers. They all congregated on the beachfront at Margate. That's where I first saw a pair of [brothel] creepers; I've been obsessed with them since.

Best holiday?

After leaving art college, a group of us went to the Sinai desert and stayed in a Bedouin village. It was just after the Israelis handed Sinai back to Egypt and there wasn't an awful lot there other than straw huts. A bloke called Sunshine drove us around in his car with music blaring out from a cassette player.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

We go to Cornwall a lot, because my sister-in-law lives down there. I also fell in love with Galloway when I was filming for the BBC. We were near the Logan Botanic Garden, which is on a tip on the west coast. It's in the Gulf Stream, so there are palm trees and things that look like rhubarb plants. We'd go down to the gardens with hangovers and hug trees.

What have you learnt from your travels?

When I get the urge to go somewhere, I tend to feel that something great is going to happen – and it is usually a life-changing experience. I took a year off in 1983 and stayed in a kibbutz. A man with a clipboard in an office in Tel Aviv sat there with pages and pages of lists of kibbutzim and just put his finger on one, which turned out to be in the middle of the Negev Desert – and is where I met my wife.

Ideal travelling companion?

My kids. My last family holiday with my parents was when I was 15 and my son is now 16, so I feel I'm on borrowed time. He wants to go to New York, so that might be the next place I take him.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I can't think of anything more boring than lying on a beach. I'm more of a culture and adrenalin person. We once rented a farmhouse in Umbria and went to Assisi, which is an amazing part of the world. We went to the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, where they mike up the monks. If you talked too loudly you would hear "Silencio!" ringing around the church.

Greatest travel luxury?

I'm not interested in luxury at home, so I don't really have a travel luxury – a gold-plated toothbrush, maybe!

Holiday reading?

I always take a suitcase of books with the greatest of intentions, then don't read any of them. I like stuff from Stanfords in Covent Garden, such as Rough Guides and maps.

Where has seduced you?

Everywhere leaves a mark on me. I came back from Toronto a couple of years ago and I'm still buying Canadian cheese.

Better to travel or arrive?

I love travelling. I remember my mum and dad once telling my twin sister and I that we had a surprise holiday. We were sure it was going to be Disneyland, so the whole journey was so exciting. We ended up going to Belfast because my dad had to go there for work.

Worst travel experience?

We were in a minibus in Jerusalem and took a wrong turn. A rock landed on the bonnet, which was pretty scary, so we turned into the orthodox neighbourhood of Me'ah Sharim. It was the Sabbath, so we got stoned by the Jews as well.

Worst hotel?

Staying at the Red Sea Hotel in Cairo, in the mid-Nineties. There was a hole in the ceiling and there wasn't really a door, so people wandered into our room. We found ourselves with some dodgy guys, one of whom was cleaning a revolver and asked if we wanted to see a beheading. I love that about Cairo, though – it's scary and exciting in equal measures.

Best hotel?

The Paramount Hotel in Manhattan, which is my favourite hotel because I hadn't expected to stay there. I was doing Dennis Pennis at the time and we were finding it increasingly hard to get near any celebrities, so the producer made an impulsive decision to go to New York. We stayed at the Paramount, where the Armani-clad staff were our best mates, until we had a problem with the credit card, at which point they turned into Feds from The Matrix.

Favourite walk, swim, ride, or drive?

My favourite swim would be in the Dead Sea and my favourite ride is on a camel – because they don't suffer American tourists gladly. My favourite drive was from Las Vegas to LA; you could see the city shimmering in the middle of the desert.

Best meal abroad?

In Egypt. A mate and I decided to climb one of the pyramids before sunrise. We got to the top just as the sun was rising and just as the soldiers caught sight of us, so we knew we were in trouble. We sat at the top and ate some cheese and onion crisps and a Topic chocolate bar, while we smoked a spliff and played a game of cards before they reached us. It was great.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Have a bath and check out all the accoutrements in the bathroom.

Dream trip?

I'd love to go to India, see a rainforest, and visit friends in New Zealand.

Favourite city?

Hong Kong, because there are extraordinarily hi-tech skyscrapers, but all the scaffolding is bamboo. Cairo is another favourite – nothing prepared me for how ornate it would be; it looks like Paris covered in crap. And you get a proper rush hour: bikes, donkeys, tanks, cars and camels.

Where next?

Maybe Andalucia at Christmas, and diving in the Red Sea with my teenagers.

Paul Kaye stars in 'Strutter', which starts on MTV One at 10.30pm on 23 September

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