My Life In Travel: Richard Bacon
'Club Class is great. I've often sat there thinking I don't want to get off'
Saturday 18 November 2006
First holiday memory?
Going to the Norfolk Broads as a child. My great aunt had a house there, and we hired a boat and went out on to the Broads. My memories are a little vague, but I know I was eight because I remember listening to "Now That's What I Call Music 1983" and Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go".
When I was 16, I went to New York and Las Vegas, which was really exciting. I remember winning lots of money on a one-armed bandit in Vegas and when I went to cash in my chips, they challenged me because I wasn't 21. I said: "How dare you!" and they handed over the cash.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Whitby, in Yorkshire. I have an emotional attachment to it because my family and I have gone there since I was a child, usually for the regatta in August. I remember watching trucks arriving on the Sunday evening to set up the funfair on the pier. I like Whitby because it's a romantic place and not too touristy, and there are a lot of good restaurants, particularly the Magpie.
What have you learnt from your travels?
That using a tour operator is a good idea, because you get the best deal.
Ideal travelling companion?
Maybe someone like Elvis, Alfred Hitchcock or JFK, but then again the reality of sitting next to them on a sun-lounger for a week might be a bit disappointing. And I'd feel a bit uncomfortable with JFK rubbing sun cream into my back. For that reason, it would have to be my girlfriend.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I recently went to Dubai and lay on the beach because I was tired, but usually I prefer doing things, such as going to Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam, and visiting the war museum there. I'm more interested in history and culture than art. I went to St Lucia not long ago, but didn't just laze around on the beach, I went out and tried to understand a bit about the place and the people.
Greatest travel luxury?
I always take DVDs and am then disappointed when the hotel doesn't have a DVD player. I recently bought a hard drive that you can download films and TV programmes on to. I buy things like that as a luxury, then go off them almost instantly because I have such a short attention span.
I read Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner in Dubai, which was so descriptive and moving. I like learning things from books. Some of my favourites are George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman novels; he researched them meticulously.
Where has seduced you?
I've got a lot of time for Italy, in particular Sorrento, Florence and Tuscany, for the history and the food. Taormina, in Sicily, is beautiful too, with breathtaking views.
Better to travel or arrive?
I don't mind travelling if I can wangle an upgrade. Flying in club class is great because you get a flat bed; I've often sat there thinking that I don't want to get off.
Worst travel experience?
Coming back from a wedding in southern Spain. I was flying back from Malaga on the last flight on a Sunday night and got there to find it was cancelled. There were queues everywhere and there's something slightly threatening about Malaga airport anyway. I managed to get myself onto a Monarch flight, which was packed and hot.
I wouldn't go back to Malaga. There's something about that part of Spain - it's very arid and I don't find it very appealing. I don't understand why so many people go there, when there are more appealing places you can get to for the same money. I wouldn't hurry back to Brussels either; there wasn't that much to do apart from visit Mini-Europe.
I had a bad time at a Travel Inn in Nottingham. I didn't get to my room until after midnight and found sick all over the bathroom. I also stayed at a boutique hotel in Nottingham. I arrived back quite late with the people I was staying with and we walked through the front door laughing. The guy on reception told us we were making too much noise and that if we didn't stop, he'd throw us out, because he had us on CCTV. Laughing!
The Hotel Arts, in Barcelona. It's really stylish, with lots of exotic flowers in the lobby, and the service is great. If you get a room high up, you have a great view of the sea. You get a free apple and a bottle of water when you go to the pool each day; it's a very thoughtful place. It's also right by all the good fish restaurants.
I love walking in the Peak District, particularly around Bakewell.
Best meal abroad?
A meal in Tuscany with my family. I don't know the name of the restaurant. We had salt-baked sea bass and I remember thinking it was the best meal I'd ever had.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
It depends on the time I arrive. I usually check out the bathroom. I enjoy eating and sometimes I'd rather go straight to the restaurant than to my room.
I'm going to Australia after Christmas for the first time. I'll be going to Melbourne and Sydney. People eulogise Australia, so I'm quite excited, particularly about the food. I've been fortunate enough to go to interesting places such as India and Mexico, but I want to go everywhere. I'd love to go to St Petersburg and Japan, but it never seems to be the right time to go; I usually end up choosing somewhere else instead.
Boringly, I'm a big fan of London. It's really grown on me. I didn't like it when I first arrived 10 years ago, but you need to get to know it. It's not beautiful like Paris or iconic like New York, but in terms of diversity of restaurants, theatre and history there's much more to London. It's so much further ahead than any other city in the UK.
Australia in December; I've got two tickets to the Ashes, which should be great.
Richard Bacon is the presenter of 'The Big Idea', in association with Vodafone, Saturdays 9pm Sky One
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