My Life In Travel: Mark Radcliffe. BBC broadcaster
'The Lake District is unbeatable'
Saturday 01 May 2010
First holiday memory?
I vividly remember being at a hotel in Llandudno and being horrified to learn that children ate separately from their parents. I also remember getting prickly heat on a holiday in Bournemouth and sitting down to meals with a big bottle of calamine lotion on the table.
Kerala. I went with my wife, Bella, and we did one of those backwater cruises on a rice barge with another couple. There was a bedroom on either side of a dining area and each one had a little deck with a pair of wicker chairs. We stopped at little villages where kids would run out to see if you had sweets and pencils. It was lovely.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I like walking and I've gone to the Lake District since childhood. I have done the Coast to Coast Walk, and walking over the top of the Lake District is pretty unbeatable. I also love Anglesey, which I walked around a year ago – the crags, the beaches and the cliffs are still a little bit of a secret. It's a spectacular slab of landscape that changes a lot in a relatively small area.
What have you learnt from your travels?
It's good to travel because you find out that there are people who see the world in an entirely different way to you. The other thing I've found is that if you walk and feel dwarfed by the landscape, all your problems seem to fall into perspective. It's also amazing to see how far you can get by putting one foot in front of the other. You turn around and see the distance you've covered and often it's pretty astonishing.
Ideal travelling companion?
My wife. I'm not a natural traveller; I wasn't born with wanderlust. But she's great at organising and enjoys the administration of travel. I like to be told on the morning where we're going – I work on a need-to-know basis.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I don't feel the need to hurl myself off cliffs, though I do like being bashed about in boats. I'm a bit of both of the other two though. We went to Egypt and I didn't feel like I needed to see every single pyramid, but in Sharm el Sheikh I found that after four or five days of being on the beach I got a bit itchy.
Greatest travel luxury?
I've got one of those e-readers, which I like. I have to get someone young at work to download books onto it for me though – I'm not very good with gadgets. But now I've mastered it I feel terribly proud and modern and read it quite ostentatiously.
My favourite books are those that create a little world that you can get lost in for several weeks. I remember reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which is about two magicians and is really odd. I also loved Company of Liars by Karen Maitland, which is about a group of misfits gallivanting across England in the Middle Ages.
Where has seduced you?
I am constantly seduced by England. I love parts of the Cotswolds – those little bridges over the River Windrush are still really enchanting, and I love having afternoon tea in pump rooms.
Better to travel or arrive?
Definitely to arrive; I get no joy from travelling. I've got three children of various ages, so you're always hoping for no delays and listening to "are we there yet dad?". I'd probably get to the airport the day before if could because I don't relax until I get to where I'm supposed to be.
Worst travel experience?
About three years ago, my wife took one of our daughters to a wedding somewhere and I took our other two daughters to Eurodisney. On the way back we got to the airport to find that Air France had gone on strike. I'm not fantastically resourceful so we were stuck at Charles de Gaulle airport with no means of getting home. Luckily I had a mobile phone and a credit card, so we eventually got a train to the Gare du Nord then another to Lille, where we stayed for a night, and got the first Eurostar the next morning then travelled north from Euston.
I remember staying in a dreadful hotel in Criccieth in Wales. It had every cliché in the book, with wallpaper in the heaviest 1970s patterns. For breakfast you could have bacon and egg, or sausage, or tomato. You actually had to choose between them. How mean is that?
We stayed in a really nice boutique hotel off the main square in Tallinn, Estonia. It wasn't particularly luxurious but it was in a great location.
Best meal abroad?
Recently we had an amazing meal in Cairo at the Mena House Oberoi, which overlooks the pyramids. It has been there for years, before there was much tourism there, and it felt like a place of linen suits and the Man from Del Monte. We ate at an Indian restaurant on Valentine's Day, which was really atmospheric.
An amazing drive is on the west coast of Scotland. When the weather is good it's amazing because there's nobody there and the lochs and beaches are spectacular. I drove up to Applecross Bay and the road really twisted and turned, in bright sunshine. We swam in the bay, which was comparatively warm because of the Gulf Stream. I also walked Hadrian's Wall last year and the central part of that is a fantastic place to walk. You're on high ground and you feel very close to the history of it – you really get the sense that people had physically hauled those stones there.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I like to watch and feel a place, so I go for a walk and find somewhere to sit with a drink.
I would really love to see more of India, particularly the really grand hotels of the days of the Raj. I'd like to travel around by train.
Rome. It is the most extraordinary city with history at every turn, great food, culture, architecture, art and romance.
Center Parcs in the Lake District with all the kids and my granddaughter. Then we'll go to Anglesey and Cornwall, taking in Glastonbury and the Cambridge Folk Festival on the way.
Mark Radcliffe narrates a new series, 'I'm in a Rock n' Roll Band!', starting tonight on BBC2 at 9.40pm
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