My Life In Travel: Simon Woodroffe, entrepreneur

'For me, it's five-star or no-star – nothing in between!'
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The Independent Travel

First holiday memory?

Cadzand, a Dutch seaside resort near where my father was stationed in Rhinedalen. I was there from the age of about seven to 11. We used to go to sailing on the river Maas a lot. I remember drinking watered-down red wine and eating fried eggs and ham on buttered bread. It's also where I first heard the finger-in-the-dyke story.

Best holiday?

Going to Western Samoa 30 years ago. I met a Samoan girl in Sydney, and when I flew from there to Los Angeles and the plane stopped off en route in American Samoa, as they did in those days, I didn't get back on it again. She gave me her phone number, which was Samoa 65, so I rang her and she came to collect me. I met her father, who sat cross-legged with the men of the village in the fale (thatched houses) while the women prepared the food. They produced the family photos on the first visit – I eventually ran... What might have been, though!

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Right now, it's the bend in the Thames at Battersea Bridge, where I live on my houseboat; it's where Whistler lived and painted. Another spiritual home is the Llanberis Pass in Snowdonia, where I first started climbing as a teenager.

What have you learnt from your travels?

The best experiences come from meeting people and getting off the tourist track.

Ideal travelling companion?

The love in my life, but there currently isn't one, so my 19-year-old daughter Charlotte is pretty cool to travel with. We have fun together.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I like adventures, but I like chilling out and being looked after, too – I say five-star or no-star – nothing in between!

Greatest travel luxury?

Flying on a private jet is the best freedom, but is also hard to justify. There are ways to do it that are more sensible – taking a light aircraft around India or a seaplane in Sweden are on my list of things to do. We're also going to take a rock'n'roll tour bus to the Alps. I was in the music business for many years as a roadie and a stage designer, so I've put in a few hours on those buses. They're great fun, so we're hiring a Phoenix Bussing to drive to the Alps. We'll park at hotels while we ski, and to use the showers and so on, but we'll sleep on the bus.

Holiday reading?

I am a history and biography freak. I'm not work-obsessive in my old age, so I do take the time to read when I'm travelling. At the moment I'm reading Peter Ackroyd's Thames: Sacred River, and also a book by Tim Travers called Pirates: A History.

Where has seduced you?

The South Pacific. I later went back when I was helping to finance extreme-sports films. I ended up going to the Society Islands to present a programme on a Hobie Cat [small catamaran] sailing race. The French navy was involved and I got friendly with the captain of a French destroyer. There was a cellar in the ship and he would always have champagne for lunch. The rest of them would have red wine and pour port into melons, and then do helicopter take-offs and landings!

Better to travel or arrive?

Frank Sinatra sang, "It's very nice to go trav'ling, to Paris, London and Rome... but it's so much nicer, yes it's so much nicer, to come home". That about sums it up for me.

Worst travel experience?

Retreating from Everest base camp feeling sick and cold and hungry, counting every step until I got out of the valley. It was a nightmare because you can't get a taxi out – wheels don't factor in the Khumbu region, everything is carried by yaks. I might add, that it was the most spectacular setting, which I'd dreamt of since I was 16, when I'd read Seven Years in Tibet. It was very disappointing to have to leave.

Worst holiday?

Venice, when it all went wrong with a lover. The most romantic city in the world became the nightmare from hell!

Worst hotel?

In Turkey, in August, on my honeymoon. There was no air-con and I wonder now how I could have been so dumb. We went sailing in the end.

Best hotel?

Aggie Grey's Hotel in Western Samoa, in the days when it was called "the best-kept secret in the South Pacific", for its faded Fifties opulence.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

One of my achievements was doing the 111km Tour du Mont Blanc, walking and living at altitude in huts.

Best meal abroad?

I enjoy "peasant" food anywhere, but especially in Italy. I'm going to Verona by train soon, and one of the specialities is baccala, or salted cod, so I'll be trying that. I think Italy has the best and most authentic food in the world.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Go for a wander and play the left/right game of random choice, until I'm lost and soaking it all up.

Dream trip?

Anywhere when you're in love or with a best friend. Call me romantic, but it's true!

Favourite city?

Amsterdam. I love the water, the people and even the food. It's an old and traditional place, and a seafaring nation. The food is very earthy, and there are two influences: rural Dutch and Indonesian.

Where next?

Scandinavia – there's so much there. I go quite a lot because I had a boat built there. I love the Stockholm archipelago and I'm hoping to explore the Norwegian fjords and the Gothenburg archipelago next.

Simon Woodroffe, founder of YO! Sushi and Yotel,features in 'Making It', a coffee-table book marking Sony's new Vaio TZ laptop (available on www.amazon.co.uk)

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