Peter Snow: My Life In Travel

'I'm not very good lying on a beach. I suppose I'm an adrenalin junkie'


First holiday memory?

In 1941 when I was three, during the war, we used to go to a place called Greystones, which is by the sea in County Wicklow, Ireland. It isn't far from Dublin, where I was born. I remember it being pretty glum, but we all loved it because it was quiet. We used to go for walks in the Wicklow Mountains and watch the ships sailing past the shore.

Best holiday?

My most fruitful and informative trip was in 1964. I flew to Cairo and went up the Nile to Aswan and Abu Simbel, where I saw some amazing temples, then on to the Valley of the Kings. After Egypt I travelled to Lebanon, Syria and down into Jordan. I then drove across Iraq, which wasn't particularly friendly because of the military regime, but there were wonderful things to see such as the ruins of Babylon. I finished off in Iran, where I visited Isfahan - it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was a fantastic trip.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Helmsley in Yorkshire. During my national service training we would drive there in my Austin 10, "Sydney", spend the day walking and then end up in the Black Swan pub for a slap-up dinner.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Peel it, boil it or leave it!

Ideal travelling companion?

Bill Bryson. Or Mark Twain, who had a wonderful attitude towards travel. I love his book Innocents Abroad - I'd like to have been with him on that trip around the Mediterranean.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I like to discover things on holiday, I'm not very good at lying on a beach. I suppose I'm an adrenalin junkie.

Greatest travel luxury?

My wife Ann. She is a luxury because she is such a beautiful person and a great foil for me. She's wonderful company.

Holiday reading?

At present, I'm filming a series with my son Dan about great battles in history, so at the moment I'm reading about the battles we are covering. If I have a chance I read a good racy novel, but it has to be one that I can't put down.

Where has seduced you?

Petra, which is an extraordinary red sandstone city in Jordan carved out of rock. It is spectacular. You walk through a canyon to reach it and when you arrive and see the sunlight all over it, it really is seductive. There's a hotel just outside the entrance called Taybet Zaman where you can have a Turkish bath after you've walked around.

Better to travel or arrive?

It's much better to arrive, particularly after a tough journey by sea. There's nothing quite like arriving somewhere by boat. A city is nearly always far more beautiful when you approach it from the sea, for example Venice when you arrive in the lagoon and drift up towards St Mark's Square.

Worst travel experience?

A plane crash around 1999 or so while I was doing a story near Seattle about volcanic faults. We flew across an island with the cameras running to see where the volcanic fault was and the pilot flew so low that the plane couldn't gain altitude again. We crashed in some trees, but thankfully got out. We were very lucky.

Worst holiday?

Sailing to Ireland in a yacht in 1985 from Corn- wall. We set off from Pen- zance and from the moment we left it rained solidly and the wind was never less than force 5. We only got as far as a place called Sneem in County Kerry.

Worst hotel?

Any of the party conference hotels in Blackpool in the 1980s.

Best hotel?

In 1956 I went to Italy with schoolfriends, aged 18. We were cycling from Pisa to Rome and stopped in Tuoro on Lake Trasimeno, looking for a hotel. Instead, a family took us in and let us stay in their barn - we slept on a haystack and it was unbelievably comfortable and warm.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Walking with my wife and family in British Columbia. They introduced me to Mount Assiniboine Lodge, which is only reached by helicopter or walking. You drive to Banff and then walk 25 miles into the mountains to about 8,000ft. The view from there is spectacular.

Best meal abroad?

In Vietnam. The first day I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City we visited a market, where there were hawker stalls and restaurants. I had the most amazing meal I have ever eaten. It was a real introduction to Vietnamese cooking.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Buy a map.

Dream trip?

In 2001 I sailed across the Atlantic with my son Dan, my daughter Kate and their cousin Alex in our boat Cerulean. We started at Las Palmas in the Canaries and finished in St Lucia. It would be lovely to do the same with the whole family.

Favourite city?

Venice, because of the combination of the water, the unbelievable architecture and the colours of the palaces. The Grand Canal is the most exotic sight - it's just too good to believe.

Where next?

Filming in the Falkland Islands with Dan in January. We are going to cover the story of the 1982 Falklands invasion by Argentina.

Peter Snow presents 'Whose Britain is it Anyway?' on 10 January on BBC2

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