My Life In Travel: Nicholas Owen, broadcaster
'Wherever I go, I always seek a decent margarita'
Saturday 29 January 2011
First holiday memory?
My parents weren't well off, but once – and very unusually – we went to Guernsey. We flew from Northolt because it was 1951 and Heathrow wasn't yet fully operational. I was four years old and I remember running along the beaches and falling into some seawater. It was a great experience.
In the year 2000, my wife and I went to Israel and Jordan. We were very lucky to be able to see Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Golan Heights and Jericho in relative ease before we crossed into Jordan, where we ended up at Petra. When I was in Petra my mobile rang and it was my son-in-law telling me that our first granddaughter had arrived – the ancient and modern colliding. It was a sensational holiday.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I started my broadcasting career at the BBC in the North-east of England and I think Northumberland takes a lot of beating, particularly the coast. It is the most gorgeous, wild and not too overpopulated place. It tends to be chilly, but in the summer you can have glorious weather there.
What have you learnt from your travels?
I've learnt the value of a good hotel. I'm not someone who wants to sleep in a tent or self-catering villa. Give me a good hotel any day.
Ideal travelling companion?
Without a doubt, my wife. We're very lucky, because we go on a lot of holidays together and the great thing is that we love exactly the same sort of holidays.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
My wife and I are not great beach people but we love cities and mountains. I don't necessarily have to go into every museum and in fact one can very quickly get bored doing that. I prefer walking the streets, meeting people and seeing new things whether they're ancient or modern.
Greatest travel luxury?
A decent and properly made margarita; that's what I seek wherever I go. The best one I ever had was at a very nice hotel on the shores of Lake Como, looking out over the lake as the sun set over Switzerland. The margarita was the best I'd ever tasted, though the environment played an important part too.
I always take books and have just bought a Kindle to download them on to. I'm a great one for books of modern history, less so novels. I like to read a book that's relevant to a place I'm in, so if I'm in France I like a bit of 20th-century French history.
Where has seduced you?
Italy, particularly the lakes and cities in the north. Seduction is extremely short; you're off the plane and seduced in a trice.
Better to travel or arrive?
I love flying but I hate airports. Nowadays I'm always looking for ways to get the train and I'm delighted by the fact that it's getting easier to get to places on the Continent on the Eurostar and TGV.
Worst travel experience?
Flying out of New York with two hours of the most appalling turbulence. It wasn't pleasant and the pilot didn't bother to reassure us, which was quite annoying. Also, my wife and I went to northern Spain a few years ago – "green Spain" as they call it. We found that it wasn't as advertised; "industrial Spain" would have been more apt. It wasn't a happy experience.
A hotel on that fateful Spanish trip in the Picos de Europa national park. We drove there in thick fog and arrived at this ghastly hotel. Not only was it miserable but there was no breakfast beyond a piece of bread; it was a shambles.
The Castillo Hotel Son Vida in Mallorca. It did all the right things: it was luxurious, the staff were terrific and I think it must have been high up the margarita index! A joint favourite is the Bareiss Hotel in the Black Forest, where we've been back to several times. It is family-run but quite large and just superb.
We love going walking through the beautiful countryside of the Black Forest. You can set off for three-quarters of an hour, stop for a beer and a bun then continue for a bit longer, then stop for a coffee. The Black Forest is very under-appreciated by British people, plus you can get there by train.
Best meal abroad?
A meal in what used to be East Berlin. We went to a restaurant not far from the Brandenburg Gate about a year ago which was Michelin-starred. We didn't know what to expect but we had lots of small courses served with great style. It wasn't overbearing and the food was wonderful. I think the fact that it was unexpected made it so memorable.
When I was royal correspondent for ITN I once got to the Falklands. One day I was stood looking out to the horizon and a man next to me said "next stop Antarctica". I would really like to get to Antarctica; that is an outstanding ambition.
London. I think it has everything that a city should have. In recent years I think the riverside has become sensational. To stand on one of the bridges across the Thames at night is just wonderful.
To Cannes, for holiday.
Nicholas Owen hosts Saturday afternoons from noon on Classic FM, available on100-102 FM, digitalandclassicfm.com
The My Life in Travel column is produced in association with Andalucia Tourism. See www.andalucia.org
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