'When we could see France from Dover, Dad said, "That's where it all begins"'

First holiday memory?

At Hunstanton in Norfolk, where I was kidnapped for the first time when I was two and a half. It was a wonderful summer week and the beach was glistening. I asked my dad for an ice cream and he wouldn't give me one so I walked off in a huff. A woman took pity and bought me one. She asked what I liked, so I said trains and she took me to see some, then to a funfair. By the time I got back to my parents, it was evening, but I think I'd have been perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life with her. I'm always being kidnapped by women.

Best holiday?

The best of many was when we didn't have much money; my dad was a doctor who worked mainly in coal mines, and our holidays were normally a week spent in a tent in a farmer's field within 25 miles of the sea. One year we drove from Kent through Hampshire and Dorset to Devon, and every three days we stopped at a fantastic beach. The drive across Kent and Sussex into Hampshire was thrilling, partly because it was the longest drive I'd ever experienced; I can still smell the petrol. We stopped off at a pub and I can remember the flavour of the steak-and-kidney pie. We ended up staying on a farm in Beer, Devon, where I drank unpasteurised milk that was an hour old. Delicious.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The white cliffs of Dover I love the sense of freedom. My father first took me when I was four or five. We could see France and he said, "That's where it all begins."

What have you learnt from your travels?

Every single day you wake up, it could be the best day of your life. I open the window and wonder what's going to happen. It's a real sense of the brilliance and luckiness of being alive.

Ideal travelling companion?

I've been travelling a lot with James May. He's an excellent chap to travel with because he's an old curmudgeon. Otherwise it would be my friend Metcalfe, who taught me about wine at university.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I like skiing and seeing great cities, but I'm essentially a beach bum.

Holiday reading?

I'd read all of Dickens' novels by the age of 12, and I'm currently reading them all again. They're easy to read and you can't put them down.

Where has seduced you?

Most places, but a particular favourite is Australia. Every time I go I wonder why I haven't emigrated there. It's a place of fantastic paradoxes a place of both enormous wealth and poverty of resources. Melbourne and Sydney are two great cities, and Adelaide is a lovely town. As you gradually move out from the city, it gets wilder and more inhospitable.

Better to travel or arrive?

To travel I look forward to getting on the Tube! I'm sometimes disappointed when I actually arrive.

Best hotel?

The Grand Hotel in Stockholm, which I've stayed at for years. I try to have the same room, which has a wonderful view across the harbour to the Royal Palace. I love the grandeur and elegance, and the fact that you can have four types of pickled herring for breakfast.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Swimming to a limestone rock called Fungus Rock, off the Mediterranean island of Gozo. It takes about an hour, in very deep, cool water. As soon as you reach it, you get the waves, but as you turn around, it gets calm again.

Best meal abroad?

It's always a picnic, which is probably something to do with childhood because the best holidays take me back to the innocent days of my youth. I once hitchhiked out of Florence to a village where I bought cheese, tomatoes, bread and salami, filled a bottle with some purple chianti, and enjoyed them in a field. It seemed like the most perfect place. My first time in Burgundy, I had a picnic above Montrachet and gazed down, while drinking some local wine, at this vineyard that produces bottles costing thousands of pounds.

Dream trip?

I'd like to spend the whole of spring to early summer travelling from Poole to Anglesey from pub to pub, cliff to cliff, and beach to beach.

Favourite city?

London is the one that has the most to offer and that I've discovered the least about. Sydney is exciting and exotic.

Where next?

Next year I want to drive a steam train in Poland. I'm also going to the desert in Namibia and then to the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa, where I want to swim about eight times a day and eat fresh fish.

' Oz And James's Big Wine Adventure' is on BBC2 on Tuesday at 8pm

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