My life in travel: Mark Watson
‘When people say they’re not into sightseeing, I lose respect for them’
First holiday memory?
Dad brushing my teeth and telling me we were about to move to Canada for a year, so I should probably pack a bag. It was more of a job exchange than a holiday, to be fair. My dad’s a teacher and got a post at a school in rural Alberta, around 50,000 miles from the nearest town.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Bristol. But, for a day trip, Cambridge is ideal. Few places communicate such a sense of history without being boring. I’m also a Stonehenge fan. I’m sure the people who built it will be pleased to hear that.
My wife and I went to Italy with all my siblings and parents in 2009, for a traditional Eurocamp trip. It was some years since we’d attempted a proper family holiday and it could have been disastrous, but it was delightful. We stayed near Venice on what I’d regard as the ideal campsite: one without much actual camping, where you’re in a mobile home and don’t have to collect milk from a farmhouse each morning.
What have you learnt on your travels?
That you can be happy, or miserable, in exactly the same way wherever you are. In other words, travelling is not an escape from your real life, just a way of putting a different spin on it.
Ideal travelling companion?
My whole family. Not everyone can say that, but the Watsons are a pretty tight bunch.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
When people say they’re not into sightseeing, I immediately lose respect for them. It means they’re more interested in themselves than in the world around them. The “adrenalin junkie” label doesn’t apply. I have a pretty stressful job, so I don’t need to contrive adrenalin-heavy situations.
Greatest travel luxury?
Flying business class. I’ve done this a few times when other people have being paying. I’m quite fond of flying at the best of times, but business elevates it to a different level.
I’m helping to judge the First Novel category of the Costa Book Awards, so I currently have a stack of excellent but obscure novels, which I read with a serious expression.
Where has seduced you?
All hot places. There’s nothing quite as seductive as a warm evening with cicadas chirping and people eating outside. Being a skinny, cold-blooded creature, I’m a huge fan of warm climates. I’d have made a good Italian, except I hate Parmesan.
Better to travel or arrive?
Despite my love of flying, it’s quite obviously better to arrive. If you enjoy the travelling more, then you've chosen your destination very badly.
Worst travel experience?
When I was 10, we went on a trip to Aberystwyth. It rained all day, the steam train we’d come for wasn’t running and I said the day was “crap” and got in trouble. Then my parents forgot the keys to the holiday cottage and we had to break in.
I’ve got fond memories of L’Hotel in Paris. It’s where Oscar Wilde died, but they can’t really be blamed for that. It’s chic in that Parisian way that normally intimidates a scruffy person like me.
When we were penniless students, my wife (then girlfriend) and I were in London for the night and found a hotel in Gower Street within our budget. The temperature was about 42 degrees, the sheets were dirty and the “minibar” was a fridge with just one Twix in it.
Around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. I’m a keen runner and it’s the best track I’ve ever come across. There’s lush foliage and an attractive cityscape, and it attracts all abilities, from marathon experts to people who threaten a heart attack .
Best meal abroad?
Carnivore, outside Nairobi. My wife and I were on our honeymoon. It was an extreme-sports version of the all-you-can-eat concept, where you had a little flag on your table and they brought you food until you hoisted it in surrender. We thought it was a joke until we saw it in action.
Melbourne. It has everything, without making a fuss about it. It’s beautiful, sexy, unpretentious and easy to live in. It normally comes near the top of “most livable cities” polls, and rightly so. I’d live there myself, except my family would object to making 10,000-mile trips to see me.
My hit list: (1) Egypt; (2) Brazil; (3) Japan. Apparently there’s some sort of World Cup in Brazil soon, so perhaps that would be a good opportunity. I’m sure my wife will agree.
The comedian is supporting ActionAid’s “Child Sponsorship Week”. To find out more about how you could transform a child’s life, visit: actionaid.org.uk/child
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