Which of the hotels would you spend your own money on?
If I won the lottery, I suppose I would go to The Brando in French Polynesia.
There are more intrepid ones, but The Brando was paradise. I went snorkelling with humpback whales and saw a giant turtle for the first time while scuba-diving. I’ll have to make 50 series of this before I can go there myself.
The one in Switzerland was an amazing place. As well as being a holiday, it’s also a medical. I had sleep checkups and exercise checkups, they can do facelifts there. If I had three days to myself, I might go there and just have a massive all-body medical while also drinking champagne.
In January we spent a weekend as a family at Claridge’s and that was amazing. That probably is the best hotel in the world. We had a weekend in a suite and when we arrived they brought up afternoon tea on a trolley – fingers sandwiches, scones and little cream cakes – and my children couldn’t believe their eyes.
The Six Senses in Zighy Bay in Oman. There’s an episode from this series in Oman but it’s not at Zighy Bay sadly. You can fly to Dubai which is only six hours and then drive a couple of hours to Zighy Bay. It’s a small hotel, not more than about 50 rooms. You have these little Polynesian style huts with their own swimming pool, two or three really good restaurants. There’s loads for the kids to do. It’s absolutely wonderful.
I don’t like big ugly corporate hotels. Normally when you’re working for the BBC, the money goes on making a great programme and you stay in a Premier Inn. Do you know the worst thing? The windows never open, so the air from 200 rooms full of fart is circulated round and round. I think it’s because of the risk of people jumping out of the windows because they can’t bear the thought of eating the horrible breakfasts.
What’s your least favourite hotel in the whole world?
The Hotel de Russie, which is one of the most famous hotels in Rome. I went there with my wife for a romantic pre-honeymoon and it’s the worst hotel in the world. When I booked over the phone, I was sure they told me it was £1000 for five nights. When I got the bill at the end it was £1,000 per night.
They recommended a room with a view of the beautiful garden, but I had a view of a garage and the bins. I got so upset about it I went down to the lobby and threatened to kill myself. In Italy, they take that kind of thing seriously and moved me.
My Kindle. About five years ago, I thought to myself: Wait a minute, I’ve got loads of room in this suitcase, why is that? And it’s because I used to have 20 paperback books in it.
I always take PG Tips. The first time I went on this show, I got to Ecuador and my wife had put in a little pack of PG Tips and I was just so amazed she’d thought of that. I sat there drinking PG Tips looking out at the Ecuadorian cloud forest. Now I always take PG tips with me because you always need a decent cup of tea.
And the other thing is a pair of Speedos. I don’t have any truck with board shorts or long swimming shorts or these terrible things that Englishmen wear because they’re ashamed of their bodies and their packages. I like a nice pair of really tight brief swimming trunks so that a) I can swim properly b) I can get a proper sun tan and c) it clears the pool area.
What’s in your overnight bag?
Earplugs and Nytol, which is an over-the-counter sleeping remedy. I don’t get into the whole valium thing because I travel so much I’d probably get addicted to it. But if I’m in economy on a long-haul flight, I need earplugs, an eye mask, Nytol and then I need to drink a bottle of merlot, or as many of the little bottles as you can get from the flight attendant.
If the broadcasting career ends, which of your new hotel skills would you put to use?
I’m absolutely useless at all the jobs except being a barman because I used to be one and know how to pull a pint. Cleaning rooms is quite therapeutic but making a bed to the level that they insist that it’s done in these hotels is beyond me. It’s an extraordinary origami with cotton sheets.
My favourite barman shift was at Ashford Castle in Ireland. They had this beautiful oak-panelled bar with two taps with the best Guinness in the world – proper, waters of the Liffey, local Guinness. People would order a pint of Guinness, drink it and be so happy. You’d brought such pleasure to the world.
It was also good because it was open to four in the morning, so whenever we finished shooting I could get a pint of Guinness immediately.
Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby is on Tuesdays on BBC2 at 9pm