My Life In Travel: Pete Waterman

'I went white-water rafting and it frightened the life out of me'
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The Independent Travel

Favourite city?

Coventry, where I was born. It's a great place to come from. I think it's ironic that when they built the M6 they missed Coventry.

First holiday memory?

The Co-op holiday camp in Rhyl, 1951. After the war, there were camps like Butlins, just for people who shopped at the Co-Op. It was a magic holiday – we've still got the pictures. We caught the steam train from Coventry – I can still feel the horse hair on the back of my legs and the pipe smoking.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Somerset, because I went there so often as a kid. I saw the Beatles at Weston-super-mare.

I particularly love the Quantock Hills – I was there recently for the steam festival on the West Somerset Railway.

Best holiday?

St Moritz, where I wrote my autobiography. It snowed the whole time I was there and I spent more time watching the trains than I did writing. It looked like an N gauge model railway, but of course it was the real thing. I sat on my balcony and watched the trains all day. Magic.

Worst holiday?

I went camping in Swanage, which was awful. It rained all the time and I ended up back in Coventry after three days.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm definitely not an adrenalin junkie – I once went white-water rafting in the Colorado Valley down the Grand Canyon and it frightened the life out of me.

Greatest travel luxury?

I always take a railway book – just in case. I tend to take most of my holidays in Great Britain and you always need something in case it rains.

Where has seduced you?

Japan and India. India, because it reminds me of England in the 1940s – people say "India can't be like England because of the sun", but it really is. And Japan because of the breathtaking natural beauty.

Better to travel or to arrive?

To travel. I'm the only person that sits on a train when it's delayed and goes, "this is fantastic".

Worst travel experience?

Planes. I've been in a couple of really near misses, horrendous air pockets when you think "this is it". I flew out of Narita airport in Tokyo one day and the plane dropped 1,000ft. I instantly reached for my mobile phone to say goodbye to the kids. The First Class flight attendant was still serving champagne – they didn't take the slightest bit of notice.

Worst hotel?

I stayed in some dreadful hotels in America when I started in the music business, which cost about $12 a night. They were so rough, the bed bugs didn't even bother getting in because they were frightened.

Best hotel?

The Takanawa Prince in Tokyo is the most unbelievable hotel I've ever stayed in.

Best meal abroad?

Kobe steak from beer-fed cattle in Nagoya, Japan.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Find out if there is a railway station there.

Dream trip?

It sounds silly because it's so easy to do, but I've never done a battlefields tour. I lost my grandfather on the Somme, and my father served there during the Second World War. That's one thing I've got to do before I die.

Favourite journey?

Glasgow to Fort William. I find it just beautiful – a different world.

Where next?

I haven't had a holiday this year because we've been so busy. I just want to go and see some sun now.

What have you learned from your travels?

Go by train.

Pete Waterman presents 'Beeching's Tracks, travelling north from Matlock' on BBC4 next Thursday 18 December, at 8.30pm.

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