My Life In Travel: Monty Don, television presenter

'I've travelled a lot through work, but have the unitchiest of feet'
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The Independent Travel

First holiday memory?

Budleigh Salterton, Devon, in 1959. This was one of two holidays that we all went on as a family; the opportunity for group holidays ran out when I was about seven. I'm of a generation where my memories are shaped by home movies, and I still have some from that holiday, so I "remember" it very clearly. We would stay at richer relatives' houses on the south coast while they were away.

Best holiday?

The Shiant Isles in the Outer Hebrides in 1983, which are deserted. My wife, Sarah, and I, and a couple of friends, were dropped there. We took all our food, there was a spring for water, we collected driftwood for a fire and we fished. One day I rowed out into The Minch channel with Sarah and told her I wouldn't go back until she agreed to marry me. She did and we got married when we got home, five days later.

Another fantastic holiday was a long weekend at a small hotel called Trasierra near Seville for my 50th birthday.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

My home in Herefordshire, and the Black Mountains in Wales. My favourite place is always home. I've just finished Around the World in 80 Gardens, but I've never seen anywhere I want to live more than where I do now. Even though I've worked on the Holiday programme and travelled a lot through work, I have the unitchiest of feet.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Always look for the particular – the thing that makes a place different. What I hate most about travelling is the familiar. Also, always have a loo roll on you and always eat street food. I've got ill quite a few times from hotel food.

Ideal travelling companion?

Sarah, but the irony is that she is the person I travel with least. She is a very experienced and good traveller. She always arrives having researched the place and learnt how to speak a bit of the language, whereas I never think about it until an hour before I have to leave. Also, the film crew I did all 80 gardens with became great friends.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

There's enough adrenalin in life without hunting it out. I go on holiday to rest. I really like lying by the sea or a pool and reading. I can do that without distraction for about five to seven days, and after that I want culture. I love climbing mountains, canoeing and horse-riding, but would never want to go bungee jumping.

Greatest travel luxury?

First-class flights, which are essential for a long- haul flight. They transform everything. A cashmere jersey and cashmere socks are two essentials I can't live without, and a driver is great. Everything else, you can buy.

Holiday reading?

I like a good detective story or a biography. I like to read anthropology books, but not gardening books! I want my mind to freewheel, and as the exhaustion fades I get stuck into something meatier.

Where has seduced you?

India was stunning, as was the Australian outback, and Mexico is fantastic. I have loved Chile, the Hebrides and the Arctic. It's always deserts and mountains for me.

Better to travel or arrive?

Always to arrive. I actually loathe travel. I like places, people and culture.

Worst travel experience?

Anywhere on a boat and various odd moments with bowels in India.

Worst holiday?

A holiday on a gulet in Turkey. The plane was delayed for 12 hours, then the boat was a five-hour drive away – rather than the hour we had been told. The captain chose not to understand things he didn't want to, and he had his wife and fat son with him, taking up most of the room. We were all seasick and they wouldn't take us where we wanted to go. We hated it.

Worst hotel?

Any chain hotel. I'd rather stay in a good B&B than a bland place. Food is also important; bad food ruins it for me.

Best hotel?

Strawberry Hill in Jamaica's Blue Mountains is probably my favourite hotel.

Favourite walk/ swim/ride/drive?

It's always mountains: walking in the Alps, the Pyrenees or Scotland. Or riding on the North Yorkshire moors or the pampas of Argentina.

Best meal abroad?

Florence in 1985. I had a leather business there and our agent took us to an amazing little backstreet place that was almost in a suburb. It had Formica tables, pictures of local football teams on the walls, and served the best seafood I've ever eaten, which just went on and on. The sort of experience you need to tell your grandchildren about.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Unpack and sort out my stuff, then go for a walk and look for a good restaurant.

Dream trip?

I would like to drive from Vancouver down to Baja California, in Mexico. I really like America and would like to travel more there. I'd also love to take the train to Madrid.

Favourite city?

I'm not a city person, but I do like Manhattan in New York City, Venice, Rome and San Francisco. If I had to pick one, it would be Manhattan – I love the smell of it.

Where next?

Sarah and I will probably go to Italy. It's the most civilised, beautiful country in the world. I tend not to make holiday plans, they just happen.

'Around the World in 80 Gardens', by Monty Don, is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20

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