Sometimes, it’s sledging the wrong way down a Swiss mountain. By Alison Boleyn.
Jamie Oliver loves a classic British seaside holiday as much as being in a place where he can only make himself understood by pointing and smiling. And he’s happy to wander without a map. But don’t expect the celebrity chef to go off-grid. It would never last…
Where did you go on your last trip?
My last work trip was to Naples with [chef] Gennaro Contaldo for a new TV show and my last family holiday was a long weekend in Reykjavík [in Iceland] with my wife [Jools]. She and I did all the touristy stuff, which was a total job. The standouts were browsing the flea markets, doing a Golden Circle tour and a south coast tour and, of course, seeing the Northern Lights.
What was your typical childhood holiday?
Most summers, we went on seaside holidays in the UK, to Cornwall, Devon, Wales or the Norfolk Broads – classic British, very simple holidays. Sometimes we camped, sometimes we stayed in caravans or B&Bs. But once every two or three years, we’d go somewhere nice and hot, like Madeira or the Algarve in Portugal.
Do you wander the streets or check maps?
I’m a wanderer. My life is always crazy, moving quickly from place to place, so if the opportunity arises just to wander and get lost for a bit, I love it.
Which destinations do you keep returning to?
Cornwall, for me, is about family and I love taking my kids there. And I’ll never get bored of Italy; it’s my inspiration for so many things.
What’s the greatest road trip you’ve done?
I’ve done it in America on my own for work but never as a family. I’d love to do that with them – I crave it.
Have you ever experienced culture shock?
In Japan, the people were intriguing; everyone I met had a story. I’d also say Palermo, in Sicily: a brilliant, delicious, hilarious place that always seems to be seconds away from total anarchy… in a good way!
What’s the worst place where you’ve been lost?
I got lost at 2am in Switzerland recently when I was a little merry and I sledged the wrong way down a mountain. I then had to find my way back to civilisation. Luckily, it was a full moon so I wasn’t too scared.
When you go away, what are you most likely to bring home?
Good whisky and tequila, new sunglasses, chocolates for my wife and some gifts for the kids, of course.
Resort or rustic?
When you walk into a hotel room, what’s the first thing you look for?
I check out the bathroom. I love a good bath.
What do you like to find in the hotel minibar?
You know what? I never consider looking in the minibar so it’s often not even used.
Where’s your home away from home?
I’ve got a wonderful old wooden boat on the Norfolk Broads. She’s nearly 60 years old, all wood, cute as hell and has the cosiest, snuggliest bed and tiny kitchen – I love it.
Which destination was a surprise to you?
Recently, I’d say Turin [in northern Italy]. It’s such a brilliant city with so much to offer, both new and old. It has countryside and mountains butting right up to the city and the French border on the doorstep.
Have you ever gone completely off the grid?
I tried to about 10 years ago. I’d rather not say where I went or what I did but it didn’t last long. I actually didn’t like it much. Also, it failed because my PA is too efficient and tracked me down.
Have you ever been fleeced?
On holiday, in life, at work – loads. Too regularly, to be honest.
Where would you like to take your children?
Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Peru, San Francisco. I’ve been lucky enough to see the world and I want the same for them. It changes you as a person, for the better.
When you’re in a foreign city for work, do you try to get out and see the sights?
I’m a massive believer in seeing predictable sights but also getting out and about to seek out hidden gems – the contrast of both makes travel really special. I did the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb on one trip and bloody loved it.
What’s been your most memorable dining experience?
I’ve had so many experiences that revolve around the warmth and generosity of people that it’s too hard to choose. If you smile and ask questions about what people are doing, they tend to really look after you. I’ve done that in many countries, often where there’s a language barrier. With pointing, smiling, your eyes and good energy, you can communicate very well.
What’s your No. 1 travel bugbear?
Customs. Consistently, I find it quite scary, often slow and a bit miserable. It can be a terrible first impression of a country. But I do understand it’s a frustrating and repetitive job. It’s kind of public relations, though, if you think about it. Customs workers should be paid more and given more holidays to ensure they make a good impression!
If you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would you be?
I’ve never done a white-sand holiday in my life and I feel like I need one. Even more than that, my wife needs one, because having five kids means we’re really busy.
Jamie Oliver has bought back all six of his Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Australia.