My Life In Travel: Jenni Murray, broadcaster
'It was wonderful being a tour guide in Paris'
Saturday 26 November 2011
First holiday memory?
Learning to swim in the sea in Scarborough, when I was three. My mother had knitted me a swimsuit using a pattern from Woman's Weekly. What we hadn't accounted for is that when wool gets wet, it goes down to your knees. I've never been more embarrassed.
Barbados, when my children were young. At that time it was really undeveloped – I remember driving up the coast and thinking it was absolutely stunning.
We rented a house on the beach for £200 a week, with a maid and cook. It was absolutely gorgeous – a wonderful terrace with hammocks where we could eat, and the children could walk straight down the steps to the sea. I'd never go back now – I wouldn't want to change the memory.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
The New Forest. I lived in Lymington as a young reporter, and the area had everything I wanted: the sea in front and miles of trails to go walking and horse-riding through.
What have you learnt from your travels?
You need to stay in a place for more than the statutory two weeks to see how it ticks. My best travels were during my student years when I could take long summer holidays. I once spent six months in Israel and the rest of the year in France, which allowed me a reasonable amount of time to observe, rather than dip in.
Ideal travelling companion?
Any member of my family – but separately. We've just had five weeks in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup. We saw geysers in Roturua, visited Cape Reinga and it became a family joke, that every time we turned the corner, there was an even more beautiful beach waiting.
It was lovely being together, but you have this romanticised idea of family getting together. In reality, everybody falls out, so I'd rather travel with one. Beach bum,
Culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I like becoming part of a community. When we were in Te Kao in North Island, we met a couple of women who invited us to dinner and through them we met a lot of local people. That's my preferred way of travelling.
Greatest travel luxury?
I was working in Bangkok and for the first three nights I booked into a really flash new hotel. We had our own huge apartment with separate rooms, a bathroom each and a shared living space. Because it was Thailand, it wasn't excessively expensive but it was worth every penny. I'm far too old for fleapits now so, when it's affordable, I love luxury accommodation.
The Kindle has been a revelation. I used to take at least 15 books away, so my suitcase was always full of novels. This time I went loaded with Lee Child, Sophie Hannah and Mark Billingham – crime authors who write about the society we're in with conscience.
Where has seduced you?
The south of France. I studied French civilisation at university and spent a summer in Montpellier, visiting the small coastal villages.
The best memory was driving down an unmade road with a bunch of French students piled into a battered old car, arriving at a completely undeveloped beach that had nothing but a little shack for a restaurant, where we ate fresh bread, butter and moules marinière as the sun set.
Better to travel or arrive?
Arrive. I absolutely detest flying. When I was a child I used get really excited about going to Manchester airport and walking across the Tarmac, but it was much more glamorous then. Now it's a drag.
Worst travel experience?
Arriving in Beijing after a long flight, feeling extremely tired and finding out the hotel didn't have a room for me. I was there for the UN Women's Conference, so I had to go straight to work. I rang the producer and she told me not to panic: she already had Shirley Williams crashed out on her bed, because they didn't have a room for her either. It was a very long day.
A place in the outskirts of Birmingham. It was businessman's hotel which stank of cabbage, sweaty feet and cigarette smoke. The décor involved horribly-patterned wallpaper and carpets, with nylon sheets. I couldn't wait to get out of there. It was horrible.
I took my sons around the Dingle peninsula in Ireland in an old-fashioned gypsy caravan. We made enquiries about going horse-riding at one of the campsites.
Off we went to some stables, where a young boy came out with very good horses all nicely tacked up and a beautiful grey with no saddle or bridle for him. We started at the top of an endless beach, as this lad galloped into the water and leapt effortlessly over rocks. I've never seen man and beast so completely as one.
Best meal abroad?
The Grove in Auckland. They serve really unusual flavours – wonderful crayfish and snapper paired with fruit and pomegranate, followed by an exquisite chocolate pudding.
Paris. I worked there as a tour guide when I was a student. I would collect a bus load of American tourists from the airport, lead them around the city – along the Seine and the Champs Elysées, to Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge. We had the most wonderful time. I remain a Francophile to this day.
South America to visit our son. He's a vet and works all over the world. Depending on where he goes next, we're off to Peru or Bolivia.
Jenni Murray's book 'My Boy Butch' is published in paperback by HarperCollins on 8 December
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