My Life In Travel: Ray Stubbs, football commentator
'I'm a mobile beach bum – I can't sit still'
Saturday 05 December 2009
First holiday memory?
A caravan holiday in Wales. I think it was Newgale, during the mid-1960s. I can remember my granddad showing me lobster pots. It rained.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
It has to be Hilbre Island on the River Dee in the Wirral Peninsula. I am from The Wirral and remember looking at this small island in the River Dee from an early age and thinking it was so exciting. You walk to Hilbre when the tide is out then make it back before the tide turns. The Robinson Crusoe in me has always wanted to camp out there.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Never to be surprised. I've also realised that I haven't actually learnt that much.
Ideal travelling companion?
A fully operational credit card that should be taken off me at airports!
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I'm a massive beach bum. My holiday pattern has always been to work throughout the football season and then disappear for as long as possible when it finishes – I retire to a beach and "think". Apparently I hardly ever sit down; I pace up and down thinking, so I'm a mobile beach bum. I'm still searching for my ideal beach and it's a personal thing of course, but Salema on the Algarve is probably top at the moment.
I've been trying to get through a huge history of the Beatles by Bob Spitz for last two holidays, but I always get sidetracked when something funny happens. I will probably read John Motson's Motty: Forty Years in the Commentary Box next as he's a friend and a colleague. But I am toying with the idea of writing, rather than reading, to chart the mad journey from being the worst full back ever for Tranmere Rovers, to Match of the Day and now ESPN. The problem is I want to get stuff down before I forget it, but that would mean having to sit still.
Where has seduced you?
The rugged splendour of the Atlantic coast on the Algarve. I particularly like the Algarve but there is also a hotel just north of Lisbon called Fortaleza Do Guincho. If you open the window, you can hear the waves crash 24 hours a day. Even at my age I keep promising myself I will try to learn to windsurf, although getting into a wet suit would be a challenge enough.
Better to travel or arrive?
Travelling is so exciting but it can also be stressful, so it's a powerful cocktail. The majority of my travel experiences are work related – I got upped to first class once which was fantastic. I wanted to watch every film and drink all the champagne! I really like airports, train stations and ferry terminals so I build in extra time if possible to wander about. I think St Pancras station is fantastic.
A spontaneous trip to Tenerife. It was cloudy and the hotel was poor, but I did end up seeing a tribute act called Ronan Cheating who were very good.
I love the sun loungers by the pool at Hotel Gran Ibiza, and the great service at both the Grosvenor in Chester and the Regent in Berlin. The Regent was the base camp for World Cup 2006 and I returned to The Hermitage Barrière in La Baule, France, because I have such great memories of World Cup '98 from there.
I also have fond memories from the Pulitzer, Amsterdam from Euro 2000 and the Holiday Inn Lee Road, Orlando from the World Cup in 1994.
The hotel where you stay during football tournaments is part of the shared experience you have with your colleagues, where everyone unwinds and recaps on the day's events. Sometime in the future I'd really like to stay at the Bellagio, Las Vegas and have a drink with Terry Benedict!
There's a great walk along Bordeira beach on the Atlantic coast in Portugal. Watching the huge waves roll in and out is hypnotic. I love looking at how the tide and the ocean shape the coastline.
Best meal abroad?
Boia Bar in Salema, Portugal does the best grilled fish with salad, topped off with a bottle of Planalto.
I've always wanted to drive the triangle of Los Angeles/ Las Vegas/San Francisco. The guys in my local talk non-stop about Vegas and say it's terrific but I haven't had a chance to get there myself yet. Otherwise, I have witnessed the wonders of modern Europe through football: Austria, Croatia... it's fantastic. How about a tour of countries ending in "ia"? Now there's a trip.
I was really taken with Berlin when I was there for the 2006 World Cup. I was there previously in 1989 around the time the wall came down making a film about drugs in sport. Walking around Berlin is a history lesson in front of your eyes; I was always fascinated and angered about the wall. When I was 18, if someone said go to Germany for your holidays it would have been laughable. You grow up with the stereotypical images, but through football I have been given the chance to see modern Germany.
What usually happens is I come up with dozens of options – "could do this, should do that, really must go there." No firm plans as yet, but I will probably return to the western Algarve.
Ray Stubbs hosts Barclays Premier League, Scottish Premier League and Europa League football on ESPN (subscriptions: 0844 257 7442; espn.co.uk)
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