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
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen