Stephen Bayley: Travel refreshes the spirit – even when you stay put

 

Alas, I am not a poet, but for a long time I have had an opening couplet nagging me to become one. It goes: "The places I will never go/The list gets longer every day." I can hear the as yet unwritten rhythms in my mind's ear and the theme is absolutely clear: the bittersweet mixture of promise and disappointment, delight and dismay, that is forever part of travel's baggage.

They say travel broadens the mind. I rather think the opposite is truer: the more places I visit, the fewer to which I want to return.

People tell me "you really must see the pit latrines of Lamu", but I am not so sure. Maybe some experiences are best left imaginary. I have also been told of amusing things to do and see in Almaty, but, as Keith Richards said to Marlon Brando when the actor suggested a mischievous threesome: "Later, pal."

I am not interested in giraffes, Himalayas, deserts, forests, surf, diving, tundra, veldt, tribes, folklore, steppes, hunting, climbing, rafting, jungles, snow, or, indeed, anywhere at all where the vine is not indigenous. Great viticulture and great architecture tend to go together. The combination equals high civilisation which, if I am honest, is what I am talking about when I talk about travel.

This is not lack of curiosity. It is more a determination to get even more out of places I already know to be enjoyable. After all, great books can stand rereading. So the places where I go back comprise a sort of autobiography. It'll be a short book: Nice, Paris, Rome, Florence, Naples, Seville and New York. As an afterthought, Tokyo. I cannot say that I actually like the Japanese capital, but it is the least boring place I know. So that's good.

But this leaves another short list of the very few places I have not yet visited, which I intend one day to add to my internal travel library: Trieste, Lecce, Biarritz, Istanbul, Tasmania, Vancouver, Korcula and Buenos Aires. What do I hope to find in my new destinations? Trieste: faded and Italian-flavoured Austro-Hungarian pomp, distinguished literary ghosts plus that curious mood you find in all border settlements. Lecce: Richard Rogers said it is the most beautiful city in the world. And I believe everything he tells me. Biarritz: another frontier city, this time with beaches and grand hotels. Istanbul: a world city for nearly 2,000 years and I have never heard anyone complain about the food. Ever. Tasmania: the Wales of Australia, which may or may not be a good thing, but certainly fascinates. Vancouver: I have never been to Canada and this seems the optimum version of it, combining sophistication with isolation. Korcula: Croatia, I am guessing, is the virgin Côte d'Azur before the tourists ravished it. Buenos Aires: I want to sit in a dark, wood 'n' leather bar reading Borges and sipping Viña Amalia Malbec Reservado, spasmodically dreaming of cheerful chiquitas and brooding, vintage racing drivers.

All of the above I wrote in London on a day with a wrought-iron sky and flurries of sleet against the glass. Travel can be a nightmare, but is sometimes a dream. Because most of us are optimists, we follow that dream. This is why we travel, in the head or on the road. And on these pages.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?