My Life In Travel: Kevin McCloud
'I'm an obsessive alchemist when it comes to packing. I always travel light'
Thursday 27 September 2012
First holiday memory?
My abiding memories of early holidays are always under canvas. As a family, we would go on very long, wet, walking trips in Scotland, climbing in Wales or hiking in the mountains of Austria. We would camp or caravan, because it was cheap.
Any holiday around the Mediterranean. After those childhood trips going up mountains in the rain, I now enjoy the warmth and romance of foreign climes – particularly the sun around the Med.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
The west of Ireland, especially Roscommon. Also the northern tip of Skye, which points towards Harris, and the east coast that looks on to Raasay. It's a beautiful place to which I'm very attached.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Pack light. I spend my life travelling on trains and planes for filming. I have a rucksack with the lightest-possible laptop, the lightest clothing and waterproofs, and the lightest shoes. I wear almost exclusively merino wool, which means I don't have to wash as many clothes. I'm like some obsessive alchemist when it comes to packing.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenaline junkie?
I'm a serotonin junkie. I like plodding through wild flowers and mountains. I like glacier climbing and cross-country skiing, but at a gentle pace.
A really good pair of boots that you can wear all day, every day for a month and not get blisters. A good boot alters your whole life.
There's no greater joy for me than to read about the culture, language, food, history, architecture and landscape of where I am. It gives me an enormous amount of pleasure in moving through a place and spotting a piece of stone, or an insect, or a view, that suddenly makes sense because of something I've read.
Better to travel or arrive?
After a long walk, it's good to stop, arrive at the house of a friend and take refuge in the evening.
Where has seduced you?
I lived in Tuscany on an organic farm when I was 18. The experience set up a chain reaction of interest in me which I'm still working through. My relationship with the natural world, my interest in botany – it all happened there. Until then, all I did was drink booze and chase girls.
A circular hotel outside Birmingham with wedge-shaped rooms and tiny beds. To access the foyer, you had to walk up a spiral car park, because the lift was out. I've stayed in the slums of India and camped in a former toilet in Turkey, but nothing was as unpleasant as this place.
I'd like to do the GR5 footpath. It begins in Holland, but I'd like to do the stretch from Lake Geneva all the way down to southern France.
Best meal abroad?
In 1984, I was taken to a tiny woodland restaurant between Florence and Siena. The owner appeared with two birds, a couple of rabbits and a shotgun under his arm. Lunch was the most amazing fricassee of tender meat I've ever tasted.
The Furka Pass in the Swiss Alps by train. I've driven it and it's a beautiful, exciting ride. It's got the source of the Rhône, glaciers and sweeping bends.
It has to be Rome. You can see all the layers of its history in the archaeology there. It's like a palimpsest: bits have been rubbed out, and bits have been written on again. For me it's a place of endless romantic imaginings.
Back to Skye for work. I consider it "abroad", because it takes nine hours to get there by train, but I'm really looking forward to the scenery.
Presenter Kevin McCloud appears at Grand Designs Live at Birmingham NEC from 12 to 14 October (granddesignslive.com). The Channel 4 series continues on Thurs at 9pm
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