My Life In Travel: Jason Byrne, comedian
'Don't queue behind old people at the airport'
Saturday 25 June 2011
First holiday memory?
The Isle of Man. We went nine years in a row because it was cheap to reach from home in Ireland. We went on a horrible boat which we called the "Isle of Man bucket" because it was so rough and everybody was always sick on it. I went with all my granddads, aunties and uncles. But they never got seasick – they got drunk instead. I remember them standing at the bow of the ship, with their feet hooked underneath the barriers, swaying.
I once did this show in Jakarta where the comedians were invited to bring their partners and spend 10 days in Bali afterwards. I thought Bali was awful; like Ibiza but for Australians. But I didn't want to leave because of the accommodation; we stayed in a private villa with our own swimming pool, grounds and a personal chef. That was my first luxury holiday.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Guernsey. I never really knew where or what it was, but I did a show there for Specsavers. The owners – Doug and Dame Mary Perkins – live there, so I was treated well. It was a little bit weird, because everybody seemed to know that I'd arrived. But I'm from the countryside in Ireland so I loved how peaceful it was; a beautiful place.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Always travel light. Always have something with wheels. Don't go on underground or overground trains with a massive rucksack – especially in hot countries. Don't queue behind old people at the airport. Don't go near people with children (even though I have them myself). The George Clooney film Up in the Air tells you everything to avoid when travelling.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Culture vulture. I went to see The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan. I absolutely lost it. I'm not religious, but that was amazing.
Greatest travel luxury?
My iPad. I may sound like an old man, but it has all my games and puzzles on it. I'm a really jittery person, so I like to have something to do when I'm travelling.
The last thing I read was by American crime writer Jeff Lindsay, who created the novels behind the TV series Dexter. His most recent one, Dexter is Delicious, was really dark – perfect reading for sitting on a beach. Not that I want to kill anyone.
Where has seduced you?
Melbourne. It's my top city in the world; I hate leaving. If you're from Britain or Ireland, and you don't want year-round heat, it's great because it has seasons. It's very cultured and has lovely restaurants and it's mapped out really well like New York, plus there are trams. Everyone's really positive and happy.
Better to travel or arrive?
Arrive. I don't get excited by airports or train stations any more. The best bit is walking into the hotel foyer – I'm a big fan of foyers. I know exactly what a hotel will be like based on the reception.
Worst travel experience?
Flying back to London from Pisa. I had my whole family with me on a Ryanair flight and we got delayed on the apron for an hour without anybody telling us what was going on. The kids were crying. Then the pilot told us we had missed our departure slot. We landed at Stansted two hours late, and missed our connecting flight back to Ireland. We all had to stay in a hotel at Stansted for the night and pay extra to get back the next day.
A place in Glasgow. We were told the rooms were "en suite" but the toilet was actually in the room. I wouldn't get into the bed because it was so dirty. It was like a prison cell.
The Savoy in London. I got out of my car, the bellboy asked my name and whispered it down his sleeve. Then in reception a girl arrived with a clipboard and showed me straight to my room. There was no waiting at the desk to check in. It was absolutely stunning. Also The Dorchester, where the foyer and the bar are gorgeous. Everybody assumes you're rich if you're staying in hotels like that, so the service is incredible. They make you feel very special.
Favourite walk, swim, ride or drive?
A drive from Melbourne to Lorne along the Great Ocean Road. I've done it more than 20 times. You skim along the coast for ages and you're right on the cliff edge. It's absolutely gorgeous. And, to be fair to Ireland, the Ring of Kerry route is also great.
Best meal abroad?
The Press Club in Melbourne. The chef there is George Calombaris, who's a judge on Australia's Masterchef. He knew I was coming, so put on a taster menu of 12 dishes. I tried everything: veal, quail, octopus, lamb, beef. It was incredible.
I'd like to replicate what Karl Pilkington did in An Idiot Abroad where he visited the New Seven Wonders of the World. I'd like to see all the amazing cultural sites, but I wouldn't stay in the places he did – I love my luxuries too much.
New York is great fun, apart from the fact that there are too many people there. The last time I went was actually pretty horrendous – all my wife wanted to do was shop, day and night, and I just wanted to see the Empire State, the Chrysler building and all the sights. But it's a really exciting city.
Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. I always like going there – it's a beautiful city. And I'm trying to visit Sicily with my wife for a week.
Jason Byrne performs at the Edinburgh Festival (3-14 August) and starts a UK tour in September ( jasonbyrne.ie).
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