My life in travel: David Nicholls, writer
'I love epic, all-day city walks with map in hand'
Saturday 26 February 2011
First holiday memory?
A week at Pontin's Camber Sands in Sussex with my nana and grampy. I remember staying up late, a glamorous grannies contest, fizzy drinks and not a single green vegetable. I thought it was heaven.
A long, leisurely three-week trip through Italy one early summer, taking in Rome, Naples, Capri and the Amalfi Coast.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I love Edinburgh, and before having children I used to love walking in the Lake District. Also West Dorset, Suffolk and North Yorkshire – I'm loath to choose just one.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Try to resist the guide books. I'm a terrible control-freak in a foreign city – I can't rest until I've done everything, and consequently I'm a slave to travel guide must-sees. It would be much better to discover a city without that knot of tension in the back of my neck.
Ideal travelling companion?
Hannah, my partner. She's incredibly tolerant of my inability to relax.
Greatest travel luxury?
Have you noticed, on planes, those slightly pompous men who ostentatiously unpack their expensive noise-reduction headphones? Well that's me. Also, I'm ashamed to admit this, but first-class train travel – a long train journey in first-class at someone else's expense is a huge treat.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Well certainly not the beach; what are you meant to actually do? And definitely not adrenalin junkie – bungee jumping would kill me, with or without the rope. I love cities, and city museums, so it's culture every time.
I'm absurdly over-ambitious, especially now that Hannah and I have kids. I've abandoned War and Peace on a sun-lounger three times now. More realistically, it'd be a guilty pleasure like Ian Fleming.
Where has seduced you?
Venice in winter for that wonderful atmosphere of gloom, melancholy and menace.
Better to travel or arrive?
Journeys are fine, especially if they don't involve cars, but it's so exciting to arrive. I've barely unpacked before I'm marching off with a city map in my hand.
Worst travel experience?
I've had one or two brief experiences of the Luxury Resort. It's like being held hostage in a gated-community in Guildford, but with palm trees.
There are so many to choose from, especially in Britain. But recently it would have to be food-poisoning in a chain hotel in rainy Normandy – it really made me question whether I should leave home again.
It's a toss-up between the Sunset Marquis in LA – which is both stylish and dissolute – and the Mena House in Cairo – an old-fashioned place with a morning view of the Great Pyramid of Giza at breakfast.
I love epic, all-day city walks, real 20-milers – a complete circuit of Venice, north to south and east to west in Paris, or following the Circle Line by foot in London.
Best meal abroad?
There have been a few: anything at Le Bistro Paul Bert in Paris, sushi in a strip-mall in Los Angeles, Porterhouse steak in Brooklyn, crispy suckling pig in Venice and raw fish with lemon and prosecco in Milan.
At present, I have this incredible desire to go hiking again. I want to go somewhere British, beautiful and remote, in early summer, with blisters, Mars bars and a light drizzle.
This is such a conservative answer, but it's Paris. It's the most consistently beautiful, stylish, fascinating city I've ever visited. Much of my first novel, Starter for Ten, was written there, in a tiny flat in Belleville in the summer of 2002; it is still one of the happiest times of my life.
Outside Europe and two US cities, I'm actually very badly travelled. With that in mind, I'd love to make it to Asia one day, to countries like India, Vietnam and Thailand. But when, I don't know.
'One Day' by David Nicholls is one of the 25 titles being given away on World Book Night, Saturday 5 March. For more details of this book giveaway visit worldbooknight.org. A film adaptation of the novel is being released this summer.
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