My Life In Travel: Valerie Singleton

'I'm shocked by the disregard for local customs that a lot of tourists have'


What is your first holiday memory?

What is your first holiday memory?

Staying in a caravan in Ladram Bay, Devon. I used to go out early with the fishermen when they were laying their nets. In those days you could still walk up to the farm with your milk pail and collect milk fresh from the cows, which you're probably not allowed to do now. From there we'd explore the surrounding countryside - Dartmoor and Salterton, which was wild and lovely, and I'd go riding and make friends. We went two or three years running. After that we used to go to Wales.

What has been your best holiday?

I drove through Europe in the mid-Sixties with a friend in my little Morris Minor. We saw Venice, drove down through Yugoslavia, and into the south, which must have been what's now Kosovo. The scenery was fantastic. Then we made our way through northern Greece and discovered beautiful beaches that had not a soul on them. We came back through Italy, because the roads were so bad in Yugoslavia.

Are you a frequent traveller?

I don't travel much for holidays now, it's mostly to write. The last holiday I had was about two years ago in Skiathos. As I'm getting older I like cities a lot more, especially ones that I can walk around like Bologna and Florence.

What have you learnt from your travels?

I always learn about the areas I'm visiting including their history. What shocks me is the disregard for local customs that a lot of tourists have - for example in Muslim countries you see people walking around in the briefest of shorts. I try to learn a few words in the local language. I also suspend any judgement for 24 hours.

Who would be your ultimate travelling companion?

Someone knowledgeable about the history and background of the place that I'm in. I think Jack Kerouac would be fun, you'd have a wild time with him. He was rather good looking, too.

To where have you lost your heart?

My second foreign trip was to Greece to make a film about the Ford Classic car. We went all around the Peloponnese - the beach at Tolo was totally and utterly unspoilt, just heaven. It was a Greece that I don't think exists any more.

Where is the most overrated place you've been?

I've found that the wonders of the world are wonderful - the Pyramids and Niagara Falls don't disappoint. They are generally quite touristy, but you can also beat the tourists by getting up at the crack of dawn.

What has been the worst thing that has happened to you on holiday?

I was in Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast of Mexico. I went on a 4x4 ride through the jungle. During the trip it started to rain. We drove down a hill and suddenly we could hear rushing water. We had no alternative but to drive through the flood and we got stuck. A wire fence kept us from being turned over or washed away, but the vehicle acted like a dam and the water built up behind it. We couldn't open the door, so we got out through the window. The force of the water was horrendous and we hung on to the fence for dear life.

To where would you emigrate?

I always wanted to live in America, perhaps in Boston, but I think I should have done that a long time ago. I also like Vancouver very much; Canada has that fascinating First Nations culture and history.

The world ends tomorrow - where do you regret never having been?

There are a lot of places I'd still love to visit, like Indonesia and the Philippines, Eastern Europe, South America and New Zealand for the scenery. As you get older you worry that you might not see the places that you want to.

Valerie Singleton is a broadcaster and former 'Blue Peter' presenter

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