My life in travel: Henry Blofeld
'I'm quite the expert on honeymoons'
Saturday 05 October 2013
Henry Blofeld is a sports journalist and cricket commentator for BBC Radio 4's Test Match Special. His new book, Squeezing the Orange, is published by Blue Door, £20
First holiday memory?
The only time I ever went abroad with my mother was in her Renault from Newhaven to Dieppe in 1950. I remember going to a fête in Brittany. There was a stall where you were given a stick with a string, and at the end of it was a ring. There were bottles of wine in the distance and if you managed to hook one, it was yours. I won – and I'd never been happier. We went back home from St Malo to Southampton, but when we got to customs, one of the officers kicked the bottle over on the concrete and it broke. I wept for a month.
I'm quite the expert on honeymoons. When I first got married, we went to the Jamaica Inn at Ocho Rios for two weeks, where, among other things, I had lunch with Ian Fleming at GoldenEye and met Noël Coward. The Jamaica Inn was unbelievably luxurious in those days. We had the Principal Suite, before Burton and Taylor made it their permanent home.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Never shout the odds at customs – they're always going to win. Just fix your mind on the caviar bar and that first glass of champagne, which should be just around the corner if you're lucky.
Ideal travelling companion?
It's always nice to have a lovely lady on your right-hand side. Valeria, my Italian other half, who I'm about to marry, fits the bill because she's absolutely beautiful, speaks about six languages and even enjoys cricket.
Otherwise, for all those many, many times I've travelled on aeroplanes to Australia and elsewhere for the cricket – it would have to be my dear friend [cricket correspondent] Johnny Woodcock. We both have absolutely identical tastes in things like alcohol and comfort.
PG Wodehouse. I devour his books and I always take about three or four with me. He was the greatest humorous writer that England has ever produced. Always paperbacks too. I hate Kindles, beastly things!
Where has seduced you?
I've always enjoyed India hugely. The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai is one of most beautiful hotels in the world. It always seduces me whenever I stay.
Also, a very long time ago, I was in the Great Barrier Reef and visited both Hamilton and Hayman islands in the Whitsundays. They were pretty high up on the list.
Worst travel experience?
When I took off from Kingston airport in Jamaica and landed some hours later in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad to discover that my luggage had arrived almost simultaneously in New York.
I once spent 10 days in the Churchill Suite of the Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, which was pretty comfortable. Then there was the night at the Penny Royal Water Mill hotel near Launceston in Tasmania, where I first became involved with a water-bed, which was interesting, too.
I had an extraordinary drive in a 1921 Rolls-Royce from London to Bombay in 1976, on my way to an England tour of India. My favourite part was going from Kabul in Afghanistan, along the Khyber Pass to Pakistan. It was simply unbelievable: the mountains, the gorges, up hill, down dale – the most remarkable scenery I've ever seen.
Best meal abroad?
I remember making an absolute pig of myself once at Babolsar, in northern Iran on the Caspian Sea, by eating a huge amount of caviar.
St Petersburg. If I had a day there, I would stay at the Grand Hotel Europe, visit the Hermitage, and look at all those wonderful palaces – Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo and the Yusupov. The city was built for Peter the Great in the Italian style because he loved Rome. It was marsh until 1700. Today, it's simply astonishing.
Australia, on my honeymoon and to watch three Test matches, then New Zealand and several places in the Far East. New Zealand's a country I absolutely adore. I love the people, the bluff oysters, the whitebait, and wine industry which produces the best of all the New World wines.
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