Rob Beckett braves St Petersburg with Richard Ayoade: “He’s not much of a talker”

Channel 4's tongue-in-cheek travel show returns with 48 hours in Russia's cultural capital

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Rob Beckett is the latest comedian to brave a city break with reluctant traveller Richard Ayoade for the Channel 4 series Travel Man.

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In tonight’s episode, Beckett and Ayoade sample some of St Petersburg’s weirder offerings: sightseeing from a tank, fish eggs, a vodka sommelier and a herring in a fur coat.

It wasn’t love at first sight for Beckett, but he did develop a taste for vodka…


What’s your idea of the perfect holiday?

Lying down by a pool and not moving for two weeks. 

What was your first impression of St Petersburg?

So cold and so bleak. If you Google St Petersburg, it shows you some amazing buildings. When you go there, you realise that there are a lot of grey depressing ones that aren’t on Google. 

Would you recommend sightseeing from a tank?

Absolutely not. I had to have a travel sickness tablet and a lie down after. The smell of petrol made me feel sick. I would be awful in a war.

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What did you make of Russia’s cuisine?

It felt like doing a bushtucker trial in a fridge. Such weird stuff. And they do too many soups. 

Are you partial to vodka?

The vodka was really nice there. They said what we drink in the west is all the cocktail mixer vodka. I had some of their good stuff and it was lovely. 

Did anything about St Petersburg surprise you?

No one smiled. At all. I was told Moscow was the tough place and St Petersburg was the hip, happening, cultural centre of Russia. I’ve never seen so many miserable people in my life. If that was hip and happening, god knows what the vibe is like in Moscow.

Any tips for viewers who decide to follow in your footsteps?

You can’t wear too many layers. I was frozen. I had hand-warmers in my gloves, my hat, my socks and my pants at one particularly low moment. 

How do you rate Richard Ayoade as a travel companion?

He’s not much of a talker. When travelling with Rich, be prepared for him to just wander off, sit down and start reading a book. Also, he needs the toilet. A lot. I’m talking once an hour. 

How do you think he rates you?

I think he thinks I’m a bit too much of a talker. He likes his quiet time.

And holidays you’d like to wipe from your memory?

I went to Kos on an 18-30s holiday with 15 mates. You would not be allowed to print what happened there. I keep it in a very dark place in my mind. 

Rob Beckett will be one of the presenters of Comic Relief on 24 March. Travel Man: 48 hours in St Petersburg is on Monday 6 March Channel 4 9pm

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