My Life In Travel: Dermot O'Leary

'We think green and pleasant land is a cliché but when you fly over, it's true'


First holiday memory?

Running away from a basket full of crabs on Carne Pier near Rosslare in south-east Ireland when I was about four or five. My parents are from Wexford so we'd go to Ireland for about six weeks a year until I was 11. I remember seeing the crab pot, panicking, then running into a VW Beetle and nearly knocking myself out. There's also a beautiful beach called Curracloe, where my mother wants her ashes scattered.

Best holiday?

My most enjoyable holiday was driving the Garden Route in South Africa. I'd been working in Namibia beforehand, which was beautiful but quite stark, so driving along the South African coast was fantastic because there is a real diversity of landscapes. You also meet the most incredible people in South Africa.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Aldeburgh in Suffolk. My parents live near there so I go quite a lot. There are lovely walks and it's a bit less snobby than Southwold. My joint second favourites are Cornwall and North Devon. I love going down there to surf when the weather isn't great, because even in October the water is still quite warm and there aren't the crowds.

What have you learnt from your travels?

I've learnt that we live in a really nice country. We have so much nature and beauty around us that we take for granted. We think the "green and pleasant land" is a cliché but when you fly over Britain you realise it's true. I've also learnt the commonality of man. I was in Borneo doing some filming where we lived with a tribe. On the last night they held a feast for us and brought round some rice wine in a kettle, which I took a little sip from. The chief looked so insulted, but it transpired they wanted us to down it in one – I guess they want to binge drink as much as we do.

Ideal travelling companion?

One of my heroes is the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, because he led 28 men to safety after their ship, Endurance, was destroyed by falling pack ice in the Antarctic. He travelled with another explorer called Tom Crean, who was as close to indestructible as a human being could be, so I think I'd pick them.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

After working quite hard I always think I'd like to just sit and chill out on a beach but after about three days I start wanting to do things. I'm a waterbaby so I like swimming, diving and surfing.

Greatest travel luxury?

One of the benefits of my job is that I'm able to turn left on the plane, which is the one indulgence I allow myself. There's nothing worse than flying a really long way and feeling awful when I arrive.

Holiday reading?

I never get a chance to read magazines so I usually take six or seven. I've just started reading the first Harry Potter and I'm going to read them in a row because I really enjoyed the films but never read the books. I have also started reading books by CJ Sansom, who wrote a lovely book called Winter in Madrid.

Where has seduced you?

Italy has really seduced me and I haven't seen nearly enough of it. I'd like to see the south and do all the clichéd things. I'm a big Francophile too, I love the south-west and the coastline around Biarritz.

Worst travel experience?

Anything that involves a low-cost airline. You get what you pay for. We went skiing in St Anton and were flying back from Munich. It was so snowy that the plane couldn't take off so we had to get off. Not only would the airline not guarantee when we would be leaving, they wouldn't give us our luggage back and left us stranded at the airport, telling us to come back the next morning. We ended up taking the train to Strasbourg and Paris and then getting the Eurostar.

Worst holiday?

A holiday in Djerba in Tunisia. I went cycling around the island with my girlfriend Dee, who wasn't wearing anything particularly provocative, but it was hot day. We went through a village and all these children came out and waved at us, which we thought was quite endearing. They then picked up some rocks and threw them at my girlfriend, screaming "infidel"!

Worst hotel?

I was in Mumbai last year and I stayed at the hotel in the Brabourne cricket stadium. It was a beautiful old colonial building but the service was unbelievable. You'd order a sandwich that would take hours to turn up and would arrive without an apology.

Best hotel?

My favourite was The Lodge on the Bay in Plettenberg, which is on the beach and is informal. The food was fantastic and you could watch whales breach in the bay.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Driving along the route E6 in Norway, which is a motorway that splits the country apart from north to south. You see fjords on one side and mountains on the other.

Best meal abroad?

A meal at The Boiling Pot in Austin, Texas. You order a huge pot which turns up full of things like lobster, potatoes and frankfurters and they empty it on your table and you pick at it. It was fantastic.

Dream trip?

I would love to go to South America and Russia and go walking in places like Montana, Vermont and Maine as well.

Where next?

I'm going on holiday to Morocco with Dee. We're going to Marrakech for 10 days then Dee is flying out to work in the Cook Islands and I'm going to head to the coast around Essaouira for a few days.

'The Saturday Sessions: The Dermot O'Leary Show' double album is in shops now. The Dermot O'Leary Show is on BBC Radio 2, Saturdays from 4.30-6.30pm

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