Great holidays. . .
Which was your best holiday?
A friend paid for me and my kids to go to Mauritius for two weeks to celebrate his 50th birthday. We stayed at Le Saint Géran and it’s a completely over the top, best of everything sort of place and I’d never had a holiday like that before. My kids had the best time and they still talk about it now. The people in Mauritius are really friendly and the weather is balmy. We also played on the nearby Le Touessrok golf course, which is a very hard course, especially for me as I’m rubbish at golf. I lost a lot of balls, but who cares? I was on holiday in Mauritius.
And the best hotel you’ve stayed in?
The Emirates Palace, in Abu Dhabi, is a different class of hotel. It’s huge and the level of luxury is so ostentatious that in the foyer there’s an ATM that dispenses gold bars. Unbelievable. Sadly their hospitality didn’t extend quite far enough to give me a gold bar.
What do you need for a perfect holiday?
Lots of things to do. I particularly like to go to LeSport in St Lucia, where I can do a little bit of cycling, windsurfing, kayaking and go to the gym. I’ve got five kids between the ages of five and 24 and they’re always up for a game of tennis or some activity. I don’t like reading books and I don’t like sightseeing. I like to do stuff. When they all go off to look at cathedrals I go to the gym.
What do you always take with you?
My iPad. I’m kind of a technophobe but it’s lured me in. I mainly use it for reading newspapers and magazines.
What’s your best piece of travel advice?
Don’t get stressed by things that you can’t control. If something is late, don’t worry – you’ll get there sooner or later.
Where do you want to go next?
I don’t travel much now as I’ve spent so much time away that I love being home. Whether I’m in London, or England, or Scotland, or Wales or Northern Ireland, I love it because we have such a diverse country and we’ve got some of the prettiest places to see. If I had a week to totally switch off, I’d probably drive up to the Highlands or go to Cornwall. When it’s sunny in Cornwall, why would you want to be anywhere else?
. . . and disasters?
Which was your worst holiday?
I flew to France or Germany, I can’t remember which, for a competition and my pole vault poles didn’t appear on the baggage carousel. These things are 18ft long and I had five or six of them, so they are quite hard to lose. I was there for two days and they didn’t turn up. Eventually, two weeks later, they were delivered to my home address and they had all kinds of stickers on them, from places like Brazil and Venezuela. I’d had to borrow someone else’s poles for the competition and it definitely affected my performance.
What’s your worst experience on holiday?
I’ve been pretty lucky really, but if bad things happen they’re normally rather amusing if you’ve got the right attitude. I went to Hong Kong with Sebastian Coe right at the start of the bird flu scare and when we got off the plane there were about 25,000 people in the airport with masks on and we were the only two without masks.
What’s the biggest packing mistake you’ve made?
I’m a bit of a worrier when it comes to packing. I’ll pack an item, unpack it, have a look and then pack it again. There’s possibly a bit of OCD but it probably comes from when I was competing. The margins between success and failure at the top level are so fine if you don’t have the right kit.
And the worst hotel you’ve stayed in?
I went to a couple of lodges on the way to Everest Base Camp and they were pretty sparse. If you wanted to have a shower you had to ask a bloke, who would then get a bucket of water, go up onto the roof with it to where there was a funnel and he would then shout when he was about to pour it into the shower head. Obviously it wasn’t heated water, so I didn’t have a lot of showers. That was a smelly holiday but then everybody smelt, so it wasn’t too bad. I also ate some of the worst food I’ve ever eaten on that trip. They tend not to have a lot of meat, so you eat the yaks when they die and they are all fat and gristle. You seriously don’t want to try yak.
What do you avoid on holidays?
Nosy people. I don’t mind being recognised but some people want to sit at your table and just chat away. It happens all the time and it depends on my mood as to how I deal with it. Sometimes it’s OK, but if you’re with your wife – or somebody else’s wife – and you’re having a proper conversation, or you’re with some people doing some business, it gets a bit much. On the whole, though, people are good but occasionally some do over step the boundary.
What do you hate about holidays?
Getting out of my routine. I’m big on my routine. I don’t know whether that’s because of my competing career or just because I’ve got OCD. I don’t know. I’ve always been like that. I like to know that every day I’m doing this or every day I’ve got to be there. My life doesn’t crumble around me if that routine changes, but I just feel uncomfortable and want to get back to it. After a couple of days on holiday I’m ready. But I do love having holidays with my children, despite the fact that I want to go home.
by: Nick McGrath