My Life In Travel: John McCarthy, writer and broadcaster

'A local fixer can help you get behind tourism'

First holiday memory?

The beach at Cromer in Norfolk with my parents and brother. I remember building sandcastles and making big tunnels in the sand with my dad. He was the classic father-at-the-office, so on holiday I got to see a lot more of him and an adventure like that was fun.

Worst travel experience?

Not surprisingly, being kidnapped in Lebanon! I don't think anything has been quite as bad as that.

Ideal travelling companion?

I travel quite a lot. Sometimes it's with family or friends, but often it's with strangers. I look for someone who's going to be interested in the place and the people and most of all has a sense of humour – but doesn't bang on too much.

Best holiday?

Our honeymoon in India. It was my wife Anna's first time there. It was interesting going from two essentially different cultures from the South up to the North – Chennai to Delhi via Rajasthan. We travelled by bus, train and car, stopping off at temples and being blown away by this amazing country. It was lovely seeing all those places with hardly anyone else about, and particularly seeing them together.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Home, in Woodbridge, Suffolk. When you've been travelling, it's lovely to come home to the family and start to make plans for the garden and think about more travels and adventures.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a mild adrenalin junkie – I like sailing – but I like wandering around in churches or temples.

Greatest travel luxury?

On holiday, it's sleep. When I'm travelling for work, it's the joy of working with a local fixer. On a recent trip in Asia they were just fantastic and I found them as interesting as the work itself.

The serious side is that it's a real privilege to get behind the tourism. They help you get into people's homes and you can ask lots of questions without knowing the language. You get a real understanding of the culture.

Holiday reading?

Normally I'm trying to catch up with work, but on holiday I love to chill out with a light novel. I'm a great fan of Georges Simenon, who wrote Maigret. Otherwise I'll read a travel book.

Where has seduced you?

Italy because of the culture, atmosphere and food. My favourite place is Tuscany – it's so familiar and beautiful. I love driving over the hills, going to Florence and visiting some of the tinier towns.

Better to travel or arrive?

Flying can be boring, but travelling by bus or train is enjoyable because there's so much more to see and you get a sense of the scale of a place. Saying that, I do enjoy coming out of an airport or a station and experiencing the bustle. You get that hit of noises, sights and smells and I think that's really enchanting.

Worst hotel?

A hotel in Delhi. I arrived in the middle of the night and had to beat my way in past someone who was asleep against the inside of the door. When I got to my room, it was already populated with cockroaches.

Best hotel?

The Explora group's Hotel Salto Chico in Torres del Paine, Patagonia. It's in a great location overlooking a lake with the "Torres" mountainous towers in the background. It was fantastic looking out onto the lake in the middle of the night; there was a bright moon shining across the water from behind the rocks – absolutely breathtaking.

Favourite walk?

Dunwich Heath in Suffolk. There's a fantastic circular route over sandy tracks, through woods and the Minsmere Bird Sanctuary and across a shingle beach. Halfway round, there's a little pub – every good walk has one.

Best meal abroad?

I was in a town called Chengde, north of Beijing to see a fantastic Buddhist temple. One evening I was taken to this restaurant which looked like a seedy den but once inside, it was a nice, large room and all we ate were dumplings of every sort. They were just utterly gorgeous. Part of the joy was it was completely unexpected.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I like to get to my hotel room, unpack and then explore the area.

Dream trip?

I'd like to head off across the Silk Route towards Thailand on my own; I've always been intrigued by stories of central Asia. . The main dream is go to India with Anna and our daughter, and also to Africa, because I'd love her to see animals living in the wild.

Favourite city?

London – I always find it an interesting place to be.

What have you learnt from your travels?

People are very friendly – it's a bit of a cliché, but it's true. The joy of travelling is you learn so much by getting involved with people.

Where next?

I'm going to spend New Year in the Lake District with Anna, our daughter and some friends.

John McCarthy presents the series Art of Faith from Sunday 17 October at 7pm on Sky Arts 2 HD. See

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map