My Life In Travel: Norman Jay, DJ

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The Independent Travel

First holiday memory?

Going to Brighton when I was about 12. It was our first family holiday and the first time I saw the seaside. I found it really disappointing because I was expecting to see sand but instead I was greeted by this windswept stretch of pebbles. Subsequently though I've grown to love Brighton.

Best holiday?

Taking my sons to New York for the first time; it was in the early to mid 1980s. We did the touristy thing – we went up to the observation deck of the Twin Towers and we went on a sightseeing cruise. It was the first time I'd been able to explore the city properly with my family.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I love the countryside, from the Welsh Valleys to the Home Counties and Scotland. But I love London the most, simply because I believe it's the best city in the world. I'm a Londoner, born and bred in Notting Hill. It's a brilliant city with so much going on.

What have you learnt from your travels?

To expect the inevitable delays; I seldom leave on time. The other thing is to travel light, so you don't have to check stuff in and deal with lost luggage.

Ideal travelling companion?

Anyone who can put up with me. Therefore, it'd be my partner Jane. She's organised and makes sure I don't miss flights, especially if it's an early one where I have to go straight from a gig to the airport.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

None of the above, I'm more of a lounge lizard. I'm usually so tired after gigs, that I take any chance to sit or lie down and close my eyes.

Greatest travel luxury?

Flying first or business class – if I can blag it. It's essential if I'm travelling for work. Otherwise I'd be on my iPod listening to a selection of music to help me fall asleep.

Holiday reading?

I don't read books much but if I'm at the airport I do like picking up magazines such as Private Eye, New Statesman, and Time. I enjoy reading in-depth, political reports when I'm travelling.

Where has seduced you?

Anywhere I've been to for the first time. However, I recently went to Puerto Rico and it was pretty amazing. I expected it to be very Caribbean but it was a real mix of Afro-Caribbean and Latin American culture. I went on a tour of a Bacardi rum distillery and visited the old town in San Juan. I loved the people and the food.

Better to travel or arrive?

There's nothing like arriving, but I also like coming back home.

Worst holiday?

I didn't enjoy taking my sons to Greece. We went to a resort on an island which took ages to get to – I'm not really into resort holidays, but the kids loved it. The lackadaisical attitude of the staff in the hot sweltering sun really grated on me.

Worst hotel?

In the 1980s during my early days of DJing I stayed at some pretty cruddy places, particularly in Eastern Europe. However, in the years since they've improved no end.

Best hotel?

I have a few favourites – The Tribeca Grand in New York, The Blue in Sydney, Hillside Su in Turkey and Tokyo has some great hotels. I tend to return to places I like rather than take risks with the unknown.

Favourite walk?

I like walking in cities, although I'm the laziest person when I'm at home. I like walking in San Francisco, New York, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam... most of the great European cities are good to walk around. It makes you realise just how sprawling London is.

Best meal abroad?

A fish restaurant in Cannes called Astoux et Brun. It converted me to a fish-eater. The food is amazingly fresh and I always eat there when I'm in Cannes.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

When I travel on my own I'm full of energy, so I tend to drop my bags and then I'm out of the door, no matter what time I arrive. If I get somewhere early enough I like to go for a walk and get lost. I like the randomness of not knowing where you'll end up.

Dream trip?

I would like to go with close friends and family to parts of Africa. I've been to South Africa a few times, but a couple years ago I went to Namibia and Sierra Leone and they were a revelation to me. I'd like to explore the continent more. I'd like to do South America properly too. I've only been to Brazil but I'd like to go to Argentina and Colombia.

Favourite city?

New York. It was the first international city I flew to and when I got there it was just how I'd pictured it. It left a lasting impression on me. Sydney is a close second favourite, for its climate and lifestyle, plus I have many friends there. I've been made very welcome in Australia from the start; it's my biggest fan-base outside of Britain.

Where next?

I've recently got back from China and I'm going back soon, then to New York, Wellington, Auckland, Tokyo and Singapore – they're just the places that I remember! That's all happening between now and Christmas time.

Norman Jay MBE is a creative mentor for the Bacardi Pioneers project. To find out more log on to To download rumba-influenced tracks created by the UK artists mentored by Norman Jay see