My life in travel: Jeff Stelling

'I defy anyone not to fall in love with the orang-utans of Borneo after seeing them'

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The Independent Travel

Jeff Stelling is a journalist and television presenter for Sky Sports. He appears in the latest Gillette Soccer Saturday DVD, which is released on Monday

First holiday memory?

Going on day trips to racecourses in the north of England, especially Thirsk, Ripon, Redcar and York. Dad used to let me pick out a couple of horses and make the smallest bets humanly possible. We didn't have much money as a family, so it wasn't a case of being big gamblers, but it was just a way to get to see somewhere different.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I don't want it to seem like my life revolves around gambling, but I love Chester and York – both of which are beautiful cities with fabulous racetracks.

Best holiday?

A road trip along the west coast of America. We travelled through California from San Francisco to San Diego and everything in between, stopping at all the usual tourist spots, such as Alcatraz and Universal Studios. It was the first time we'd gone on a family holiday there and my children were the sort of age where they absolutely lapped it up.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Never travel with an out-of-date passport. We learnt that lesson when we were going to Barbados. We were just about to board a Virgin flight, when the check-in person pointed out that my son's passport was out of date and we hadn't noticed. The airline said they would fly us there, but they couldn't guarantee we would get in. So the eight-hour flight was spent with my wife and I glowering at each other and arguing about whose fault it was.

Ideal travelling companion?

A good book. On a long flight, I like to read, sleep and maybe take in a movie. I find flying long-haul is great for catching up on things.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

A nice golden beach, every time. I loved the beaches in Kenya, although it was tricky to set foot on them for more than five minutes before someone was trying to sell you something. Once, we could see the guy approaching us, so we waded chest-deep into the sea and he came in with us.

Greatest travel luxury?

Business class, when you can afford it. It takes all the stress and strain out of travel. We went to Borneo during the summer, which door-to-door took us 33 hours. You couldn't have contemplated it unless you're in a nice airline bed.

Where has seduced you?

Borneo, which I loved because it was so different. Even if you're not an animal-lover, I defy you not to fall in love with orang-utans. The hotel we stayed at was the Shangri-La Rasa Ria, which has a rehabilitation centre on-site, but then we went out to see them in the wild as well.

Worst travel experience?

Coming back from Atlanta and I just knew, when I saw this guy coming down the aisle, that he was going to be sitting next to me. He was flying to Berlin via London to join the German State Opera and he definitely had an opera singer's girth. He was a charming guy, but he made Pavarotti look small by comparison.

Best hotel?

We stayed at Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees on Lake Maggiore in Italy, which was like living in an art gallery. It was absolutely beautiful.

Favourite swim?

It definitely wouldn't be the time I had to be rescued off the rocks in Barbados, which my kids never let me forget about. It was pathetic!

We were snorkelling not very far off the coast and the kids wanted to go back, but I was struggling. So one of my sons alerted somebody who swam out with an airbed and helped me back in front of all these people. He's become a life-long friend since.

Best meal abroad?

A restaurant in Barcelona called Botafumeiro. It's tucked away down a side street and it's cavernous inside. If you get there before 11pm, you're too early. They do fantastic food: ham, anchovies, you name it, they have absolutely everything.

Favourite city?

Paris. I was lucky enough to have a spell working there on a very regular basis for a couple of years, which gave me the chance to get away from some of the tourist areas and find some fantastic restaurants. I loved the lifestyle and I didn't really encounter too much of the infamous Parisien disregard for the English. It's a beautiful city with beautiful buildings.

Where next?

Brazil for the World Cup next year. Hopefully, I'll be able to bring my family out too – although it takes place in school time – so we can spend some time together out there.