My life in travel: Ray Parlour

‘Singapore was like a different world. Hot and humid, but the food was great’

Former footballer Ray Parlour, hosts talkSPORT’s coverage of the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil from 12 June to 13 July

First holiday memory?

Playa de las Américas in Tenerife with a couple of friends. We were young and there was plenty of sun. It was a typical first holiday: a few pints, warm weather and a nice beach.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The North-east. I went up there when I played for Middlesbrough and lived in a place called Yarm, which has a lovely high street with bars and restaurants. There are a lot of great villages there. It was a real eye-opener because I’ve always lived in London or Essex, so I didn’t know what the North-east would be like. But it’s absolutely fantastic, with lots of beautiful places and some great coast around Whitby.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Always go on time. I’ve missed a few flights before, which is never good. One year, we went to the airport with my little girl who was five years and one month old. We only realised then that her passport was for only five years. They wouldn’t let us check in. We had to go back home and request a passport for the next day, then go two days later. The kids’ faces ....

Ideal travelling companion?

I do a lot of travelling on my own, which is fine. However, I prefer going away with my family really, because you can have a laugh and talk to each other more than ever. There’s one place we go every single year in Portugal called Alvor, on the Algarve coast. It’s a little fishing village and we love it. When I retire, I will go and live there.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I get easily bored on the beach, so I will have a walk every hour, but I’m definitely a beach bum. Holidays for me – especially when I was playing after a long, hard season – are to relax and wind down.

Greatest travel luxury?

I love playing golf. In Portugal, there are great courses to play. I always look forward to it. The weather is fantastic and I often play four times a week. Especially in the morning, at seven o’clock when the sun is coming up – it’s beautiful and not too hot.

Holiday reading?

I like to know what’s going on in England, so I always get the papers – even though they’re a day behind. Other than that, I go for autobiographies – especially sporting ones. At the moment, I’m reading my former teammate, Dennis Bergkamp’s, book. I think Dennis really enjoyed playing in London and for Arsenal. He was a great player, one of the best I played with. 

Where has seduced you? 

I really enjoyed Singapore. It was a different world: it’s hustle and bustle, very warm and humid, but the people and the food were great. Amazing buildings too: I went to the Marina Bay Sands which has a great pool on the roof. I didn’t expect it to be that nice – but I’ve been back three or four times since.

Worst travel experience?  

Any dodgy flight where it’s bumpy or moving around. We had a couple of flights when I was playing for Arsenal where, if you didn’t have your seatbelt on, you would have gone flying down the plane. I’m so relieved when we touch the ground. Then I can relax.

Worst hotel?

I was playing football against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine and I remember we had to take our own bed linen to this hotel. We turned up and our feet stuck to the floor. It was awful. When I pulled the chain on the toilet, it came off. We had to play football the next day but no one wanted to sleep in the rooms. Needless to say, we lost the match.

Best hotel?

The Venetian in Macau, which is one of the biggest hotels in the world. It had a football stadium with 15,000 seats. We went into the casino and you couldn’t see the other end because it was so big. There was also a massive shopping mall.

Best meal abroad?

Fresh fish and salad. There’s a restaurant in Alvor, where I know exactly what time the boat comes in with the day’s catch. The waiter goes and buys the fish, guts it, cooks it in front of you and serves it up. It’s stunning. I always lose weight when I go on holiday, believe it or not, because I eat much better food.

Favourite city?

New York is an amazing place. It is a little bit hectic. You have to walk a long way, but it was amazing seeing all the bars and shops. There’s so much going on. You think London’s busy, but you go to New York and everything’s buzzing. 

Where next?

Brazil for the World Cup, which will be epic. I’m based in Rio but then I’ll be flying in and out of everywhere, going to all the games. I’ve got about 10 flights, because it’s a big country. I’m sure it will be a great atmosphere. I’m hoping to get some days at the beach in the last week, when there will be fewer games with just the semi-finals and the final.

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