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?
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
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
  • Get to the point
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

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss