My Life In Travel: Sir Trevor McDonald

'An engine fell out of the plane on my way to Toronto'

First holiday memory?

Going from Trinidad, where I was born, over to Tobago. It was absolutely wonderful to get off one island and go to the sparkling beaches of another. What I remember most about it was that one was able to do things there that they weren't able to do at home.

Best holiday?

I have really enjoyed holidays in America with family and friends. I find it a fascinating place – I love the west coast in particular – places such as Santa Monica; it's beautiful and very laid-back. People aren't too concerned with international politics or financial crises so it's a real break from the day-to-day world.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

We used to have a house in Topsham near Exeter on the River Exe. When you get there, immediately all the cares of London life seem to fall away.

What have you learnt from your travels?

No matter how much you hear about a place, nothing actually prepares you for arriving there. It's always vastly and amazingly different.

Ideal travelling companion?

A combination of family and friends, because then you get a variety of activities suggested by other people. If you travel in a team, someone normally comes up with a great idea or two.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm definitely not a beach bum or adrenalin junkie so I would have to say a culture vulture, because I like to go to places where one can see art or hear music. My wife and I recently went to Philadelphia to see the Cézanne and Beyond exhibition. It was wonderful and showed how he influenced the works of people both of his era and of artists after his time, like Jasper Johns, for example.

Greatest travel luxury?

Even before I plan the trip I plan the book I'm going to take. I regard holidays as a time to read a lot and I select a book almost before I buy my ticket.

Holiday reading?

Everything, including autobiographies and historical books; the larger, the better. I've had experiences where my book has run out in the last two days of the holiday and I am totally desperate. At the moment I'm reading Antony Beevor's D-Day: The Battle for Normandy and if I was going on holiday I would definitely take that with me.

Where has seduced you?

Portofino, in particular the Hotel Splendido.

Better to travel or arrive?

I really enjoy travelling – the sensation of getting on a plane and the doors closing and knowing that you can't be got at.

Worst travel experience?

There have been quite a few. An engine once fell out of a plane when I was going from Washington to see my brother in Toronto. Also my baggage has been lost a couple of times – I hate that.

Worst holiday?

I have been very lucky as I haven't had too many, usually because they are planned with great care. Fortunately I have escaped any really bad ones.

Best hotel?

The Hotel Splendido is sensational in all senses – the setting, the scenery, the service and the rooms.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

We were recently picked up by one of David Copperfield's people to be taken to his resort, Musha Cay in the Bahamas. It was a 40-minute boat ride to the island and I didn't realise how stunningly beautiful the Caribbean Sea could be. On this trip you could almost see right to the bottom of the ocean.

Best meal abroad?

We went to Montserrat which was almost totally devastated by the volcano in the 1990s. There was a restaurant there called Ziggy's, which is run by a family and we had a fantastic meal there. We walked in and they told us to choose our wine from a cupboard, then we sat down and ate. It was the best meal I had had for a very long time. The food was delicious – we had wonderful roast lamb with rice and vegetables.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Unpack, which is not as mundane as it sounds. I'm a horrendously bad packer and I've not got better at the practice. Anything I wear to look mildly respectable I take out immediately so there is a very vague chance of it looking OK.

Dream trip?

I still harbour a desire to go to Shanghai – people tell me there is an enormous buzz to it with stupendous growth. Everything is new and changes so rapidly, as far as I know, so I would like to see it.

Favourite city?

I think it is probably Sydney, where I travelled a lot many years ago. Taking in the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the harbour itself with an armada of small boats on a brilliantly lit Saturday morning, is one of the great sights of life.

Where next?

I'm hoping to get to New York to watch some tennis at the US Open because tennis is one of my passions. I've been invited and I am really looking forward to it.

'The Secret Caribbean with Trevor McDonald', from 4DVD, is priced £19.99

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