My Life In Travel: Peter de Savary, entrepreneur
'I don't travel without Monty, my chihuahua'
Saturday 18 September 2010
First holiday memory?
A one-month holiday in 1953 at the Islander Hotel overlooking St George's Harbour in Grenada. I grew up in Venezuela, so it was one of the closest places to go for a holiday: right in the southern end of the Caribbean. I'll always remember the smell of the nutmeg, the beach, the water, the fishing. It's where I first learnt to handle a boat. I always thought: I must go back, and now I have a couple of substantial projects in Grenada [the Mount Cinnamon resort hotel and the Port Louis development].
When I was the British challenger for the Americas Cup in 1983 in Newport, Rhode Island: a five-month period of training, building up a team, getting the boat ready, and then ultimately the races themselves. It was a fantastic period of my life that I can never forget.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I have to be absolutely honest, even though it's slightly self-serving: Babbacombe in South Devon. I love going there, and that's why I bought The Cary Arms [now a luxury boutique hotel]. It's just a magical, unspoilt bit of coast, with wonderful green vegetation. The water is very clear; in summer you see dolphins – three, maybe four, times a week. The only thing that's wrong with it is that it's not the temperature of the Caribbean.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Don't be dozy when you travel; you need to be alert. Usually, you're travelling in strange places and there are all sorts of things that can be hazards – from what you eat, to driving, to being in helicopters and planes.
Ideal travelling companion?
I have an ideal travelling companion, and I don't travel without him: Monty, a long-haired Chihuahua dog. I can't fly British Airways and Virgin any more because they won't accept him [in the cabin] on their flights. Everybody else allows him to travel with me. I find him very soothing and very good fun.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Adrenalin junkie. When I arrive somewhere, even if I've been there before many times, I get a sense of enthusiasm, and my energy levels soar. There's a sense of the unknown, a sense of adventure, and a little bit of apprehension about what's going to happen.
Greatest travel luxury?
To go on a private plane and avoid all of the hassles of normal travel at an airport, both departing and arriving.
Where has seduced you?
Grenada: unlike much of the Caribbean, the climate is agreeable 52 weeks of the year, because you're so far towards the equator that the temperature and humidity vary only marginally. It is a mountainous island, with rainforests, rivers, waterfalls, wild monkeys, fabulous wild flowers, and it's a spice island. It is seductive, there's no question.
Better to travel or arrive?
My general philosophy in life is that it's always better to travel, as arriving can be an anticlimax.
Worst travel experience?
I had a dreadful plane crash with my entire family some years ago. We fell into the sea, the pilot was killed, we were all trapped under the water. It's a complete and utter miracle we survived.
In Lagos, Nigeria – I don't really recommend any of the hotels there, but certainly the one I stayed in was my worst experience of a hotel. I didn't like the rats in the dining room.
Obviously one of mine: I think in terms of experience, Vanderbilt Hall [in Newport, Rhode Island] is straight out of central casting. It's a Vanderbilt mansion, and we give guests the Vanderbilt lifestyle in 33 suites.
My favourite swim is on Grand Anse beach in Grenada – two miles of white sand, a handful of seaweed and not a rock in sight. It beats any pool.
My favourite walk is along the banks of the River Windrush in Oxfordshire, through the water meadows, seeing beautiful Cotswold houses.
My favourite ride was when I recently rode an electric bike for the first time. What an amazing thing: you can go up to 20mph, it'll take you along without pedalling, or it helps you pedal.
And my favourite drive is through the Pyrenees, preferably in a vintage car.
Best meal abroad?
When I get to Grenada, the first thing that I eat is West Indian grouper, with rice and peas and some fried plantain, butter and lemon. It feels healthy and delicious.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I like to see what's in immediate walking distance – it's amazing what you discover.
I very much want to go to the Galápagos Islands. I've never had the opportunity or the time to do it, but it's on my agenda.
It has to be Paris. It's a wonderful city: I love the architecture, I love the fact that they keep the buildings clean, not black and dirty. I also like the fact that it's spread out. Different areas have interesting things in them.
If I knew where next was, I would hang up my boots and call it a day. The fact that I don't know where next is the whole excitement and adventure of life. It'll be a new thing, and a whole new chapter in my life.
For more information on Peter de Savary's Mount Cinnamon resort hotel and Port Louis in Grenada, see mountcinnamongrenada hotel. com or portlouis grenada.com
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