On my old blog, I used to do a lot of lists. Some people liked them. Others found them annoying. Well, I think it’s time for one on my shiny new blog, don’t you? So, here are my ten favourite places in the whole wide world… in no particular order…
Washington has everything I want from a capital city. Fantastic sights, great restaurants,political haunts and some memorable bars. I first went to Washington in 1990, visiting friends and I have been back about 20 times since. The magic of the place always gets me. Each time I go back, I make sure I go to the Lincoln Memorial at midnight and just sit in front of it staring down the Washington Mall, just contemplating my life. I also love to sit in the Central Cafe in Union Station. I’ve only been to the White House once, but I got a private tour, and even blogged from the Oval Office. Not many people can say that! I last went in November last year to broadcast a week of programmes for LBC.
I first went to Sydney back in 1992. Twenty years later I returned. Like Washington, Sydney has everything I want from a city. It’s far more cosmopolitan than Washington and is now massively multicultural. For me, Sydney’s main attraction is the water. The beaches are wonderful and the harbour has to be experienced. It’s impossible to describe its magnificence to someone who has never been there. Oddly, up close the Opera house is a little disappointing. I could imagine living in Sydney, and there aren’t many places in the world I could say that about. It’s also possibly the most expensive place I have ever been to, and that includes Switzerland. One day I want to go back and spent three months touring Australia. Can’t see it happening, though.
People who have never been there imagine Switzerland to be incredibly boring, and from this picture, you probably think I do too. Not a bit of it. I’ve spent most of my time in the German speaking part around Zurich and Lucerne. I love water and I love snow, and I love chocolate. So that gives you a clue as to why I love the country. It’s certainly one of the most scenic countries I have ever been to. Driving around there’s always something to look at. I took my mother on a weekend to Zurich three or four years ago. The memories of that trip will stay with me for a long time.
In 1991 I became the first British person to go to Beirut since the release of John McCarthy. Believe it or not I was speaking at a conference on transport privatisation. I got an SAS guard, and this picture shows me at the hotel with two soldiers from the Lebanese army. I was advised to stay in the hotel, but I couldn’t resist it and took myself off into the centre of Beirut and was then shown round the mountains and valleys surrounding Beirut. I must have been mad, but it was a memorable trip and I would love to go back now. Then, the place was largely still in ruins.
North Norfolk feels like home to me, even though I am an Essex boy. The coastline is unique and s very beautiful. When I was at university in Norwich I would often drive up to the coast and walk along Mundesley beach on my own at midnight and just contemplate life. When I became Tory candidate for the area in 2003 I thought I had gone to heaven. We had a lovely little cottage in Swanton Abbott but had to sell it when I lost the election. We’ve just bought a house in Lamas, and hope to move in in the Spring. If I have my way, we’ll move there lock, stock and barrell at some point.
Bad Wildungen is a spa town near Kassel in Hessen. I spent my gap year there in 1980-81. It’s where I learned to speak German fluently, while working in a hospital for paraplegics. I guess it was that year that made me grow up. In truth I love Germany as a whole. I also spent a year teaching in a school near Stuttgart. That was less enjoyable, but I did love my weekends in the Black Forest. This photo was taken in Bavaria. I just couldn’t resist it. I really miss my German family and it’s about time I went back to visit them.
I only spent about four days in Colorado, but what a four days. It was back in 1990. I absolutely loved Denver. We then spent two days in Vail skiing. What an experience. I forgot to apply any sun lotion and suffered the consequences. My face exploded, but it gave me the best sun tan I have ever had, which lasted for about 6 months. The skiing was better than anywhere i have ever skiied in Switzerland or Austria. It seemed a different kind of snow. I also spent a great evening in Boulder, Colorado at a dinner theatre, watching Chess.
I’ve only been to Israel once, and it was only four days, but boy was a lot packed in. This picture is from the Golan Heights. We went to the Sea of Galilee and stood on the spot where the Sermon on the Mount was delivered. I’m not religious, but it did feel like a rather holy experience. Jerusalem was something else too. I love the markets, the smells, the people. We also went to Ramallah. We stayed in Tel Aviv, which is a real westernised city and full of sights.
I went to Budapest on the spur of the moment in 1990. I was in Vienna with an American friend and we decided to drive to the border. We hadn’t realised you could now cross, so cross we did, and ended up spending three days in Hungary. We found that the country’s first McDonald’s was just being built. The food was astonishing and everything was very cheap, including a luxury hotel. The Parliament building was very gothic and made me feel quite at home. Lovely people too. Highly recommended.
Rwanda is not a place I ever thought I would visit, but I am so glad I did. It was back in 2007 and I went to make a documentary, covering the social action projects embarked on by a group of Conservative volunteers. I had never seen such poverty anywhere else before, and yet it seemed a very happy country bearing in mind what had happened in 1994, when 800,000 tutsies were killed. We were based in the capital, Kigali, where the taxis take the form of hitching a ride on the back of a motorcycle. Great fun, but very dangerous. The roads are haphazard and the drivers are lunatics but it’s an incredibly beautiful country and one day I’d like to return.