My Life In Travel: Steve Jones
'You can't beat the Beverly Wilshire's ridiculously helpful staff'
Saturday 30 August 2008
First holiday memory?
A family holiday in Tenby when I was about five. It's a particularly nice memory, as my parents were still together and my youngest brother had just been born. I managed to sully the whole experience by breaking my cousin's collarbone by digging a hole in the beach and covering it with a towel.
Magaluf – but let me explain. I was 17 and it was my first trip away – crucially, without the folks and with the boys. It was like a crazy two-week lawless party seen through the eyes of a clueless 17-year-old boy. I had never seen so many drunk girls in all my life! That first trip away with your friends can never be equalled.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Snowdonia is an incredible place. In fact, North Wales is difficult to compete with for sheer scale and beauty.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Apart from geographical oddities like the salt plains of Bolivia or Uluru in Australia, I've found that most places are very similar. It's the people who define them and I'm delighted to report that whether it's been the Karen hill-tribe of Thailand or the French, most people are very nice.
Ideal travelling companion?
Definitely a girlfriend. I have always found a romantic train journey or watching a sun set awkward with my male friends. Girls have a certain get-up-and-go quality I find infectious, while my male friends have a certain sit-down-and-get-drunk-in-a-bar quality that I also find infectious.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
All three can be achieved in a day. Three hours on the beach is enough before checking out the old town, and if the mood takes me I can always do that dodgy vertical bungee jump in the evening.
Greatest travel luxury?
My mobile phone. I think people underrate what an incredible travel tool the mobile is. The ability to text, "Hi mum, I'm in the Arctic Circle and it's -33C" is truly astonishing.
I have spent a lot of time in Thailand and I was there around the time Alex Garland's novel The Beach was published. Everybody, including myself, had a copy. Whether you were on a boat, on one of the islands or in a bar in Bangkok, every backpacker was reading it. It was a fantastic way to meet new people. To be in the country where it was set felt like you were living it.
Better to travel or arrive?
Arrive. Travelling to the airport with the world's most talkative taxi driver at 4am is not good; queuing in the world's longest queue only to talk to the world's most pissed-off employee is not good; and scurrying around like a rat trying to find a taxi at the other end is not good.
Varadero in Cuba has basically been built by the Cuban government to keep people like you and me out of Havana. It's one of those mass tourist resorts that are wonderful in principle but as soon as you arrive you know you've made a mistake. I went for a week-long break alone, assuming I would meet other people, but quickly realised I was the only single person there amid a sea of octogenarians. The highlight of my day was bingo by the pool. After three days, I looked into going home, but was told the only flight out was the one I was due to leave on.
Worst travel experience?
I was in Miami with some friends as Hurricane Frances was due to hit. The whole city was evacuated and it was either leave or bed down in a stadium for a week. We tried to get a flight to anywhere and after 15 hours at the airport we got a flight to Rio. Unfortunately, the plane left without us, because it was full of people and our bags! Twenty-seven hours later, as Frances was on the doorstep, we somehow managed to get a plane to Mexico and arrived with nothing but the clothes on our backs and our passports.
There's a hotel on Sunset Strip that I find particularly loathsome: the funky hair-salon in the foyer and the "you're lucky to be here" atmosphere combine to make it most unwelcoming. Throw into the mix several hundred wannabe actor/musician types who party until 7am in every room and welcome to the worst night's sleep you will ever have.
The Grand Hyatt in Seoul has one of the best city-at-night views I have ever seen. Also, you can't beat the luxury, service, or the ridiculously helpful staff at The Beverly Wilshire in LA (pictured). There are a couple of cracking bars and one of my favourite pastimes is watching women preen over old loaded gentlemen in them.
Favourite walk/ swim/ride/drive?
My favourite drive was London to Le Mans: I go to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race every year with my brothers and some close friends. We drive down in convoy – this year I hired a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. French roads are brilliant – big, smooth and empty, plus there are loads of tunnels en route. The growl of this car had to be heard to be believed.
Best meal abroad?
I'm a beef man. Australia is the place to go for the perfect steak, particularly the restaurant at The Excelsior Hotel in Sydney. I still remember the melt-in-the-mouth texture and the "this cow died happy" taste.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
Iron my clothes. I am normally working when I travel and that means getting up very early for days on end. I like to do the lot at the earliest opportunity. Then I hit a bar.
Space or the Moon.
London. I've been all over the world and no city that I have been to matches the diversity, excitement and culture.
Back to Miami, where I'll be filming T4, then to LA for some meetings. I might be going to the Cook Islands later in the year and Morocco is also on the cards. But first I'm going back to the valleys of Wales to see my mum.
Steve Jones's new show, 'When Women Rule the World', starts on 4 September on Channel 4 at 10.30pm
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