My life in travel: Craig Charles
'Morocco is a country of stark contrasts. I never expected to like it so much'
Saturday 10 May 2014
DJ and actor Craig Charles plays the Wychwood Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse from 31 May- 1 June (wychwoodfestival.com). The 'Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club 2' is out now on Freestyle Records
First holiday memory?
Being on a caravan site in Rhyl in Wales, 15 miles away from where I was brought up. My mum drove us the long way around to make it feel like we'd gone further. We spent seven days in the rain. I was cold, wet and couldn't wait to get home.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I've just come back from the Lake District, which was very nice – although very wet. We stayed at the Samling Hotel on Ambleside, which has a helicopter pad for when people like Tom Cruise come to stay. It's also got a Michelin-starred chef and a fantastic menu. We did a bit of walking, but there was so much rain, it wasn't great. I looked at all the hikers, with their all-weather pants and boots, and thought: "How much fun are you actually having?"
I went to Sri Lanka a few years ago and stayed at a place called the Elephant Corridor. The hotel is built in the middle of the jungle, with a moat around it so that the animals can't get across. You see elephants walking past your hotel room. They also served curry for breakfast, dinner and tea, which was my idea of heaven.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Always keep your passport safe. I got mine stolen in Long Island at some trendy bar. That area is full of some of the world's wealthiest people, you wouldn't expect to get your pocket picked. I had left my bag dangling over a chair, gone out for a cigarette, come back and everything was gone. I had to phone up the British consulate and they sorted me out with a new one.
Ideal travelling companion?
My wife, Jackie. We went to Mauritius, which was amazing. The ocean was like being in a warm bath and you could walk out for miles with the water still at knee height. Plus, Jackie is fluent in French. We were in the casino playing blackjack and all the croupiers were laughing at us, thinking we were English. Then Jackie took off at them in French – I didn't understand a word she was saying, but she really shut them up. The manager had to come over and apologise.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Beach bum. I work so hard that when I get a couple of nights off, I just want to lie on the beach with my Kindle.
I've just read the two Hilary Mantel books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. I went to Australia earlier this year, because I was doing some gigs in Melbourne and Sydney. The good thing is, when you're a DJ, you're only working from midnight until 2am, so you spend most of your time on the beach. I read both of them. They were absolutely riveting, I couldn't put them down. They really bring that period alive.
Where has seduced you?
Morocco. I love the madness of Marrakech – staying in a riad behind the medina walls, watching the whole city unfold in front of you. Afterwards, we drove out across the Atlas mountains, where people were skiing around the car. Then we drove down to Agadir, where it was 32C on the beach. It's a country of stark contracts: some places were really European and sophisticated, others were mountain villages where people still rode around on donkeys. I never expected to like it that much.
Worst travel experience?
I had a big fight with Jackie on the plane to Mexico once. I thought we had broken up and the holiday was over before it started. Alcohol at 30,000ft is a lot stronger!
The Pacific Coast Highway in California. On a clear day, that drive is amazing. You go through the Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley, through Hollywood with its big houses, to see how the other half live. When I was there, Rod Stewart almost ran me over in a red Ferrari as he pulled up outside a jewellers. Luckily, he stopped to have a chat with me, as I'd interviewed him before. It was quite weird.
Best meal abroad?
I like Asian fusion food, which is really good in Australia, especially since the Eighties. When I first started going, the country was predominantly white, because of the immigration policy at the time. It's only in the last 20 years that they've really opened their borders to Asia. The food has come on leaps and bounds now. There's a lovely restaurant on Mosman Beach in Sydney, which does amazing food.
I'm doing lots of festivals and filming throughout the summer. But before we make the next Red Dwarf later this year, I'll have time off to find somewhere hot. We're thinking of going to India because Jackie swears by it.
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