David is one of our regular contributors who has written a wide variety of features for Silver Travel Advisor.
We talked to David about his career and lifetime in the world of travel and journalism.
When and why did you join the British Guild of Travel Writers?
I joined in 2012, encouraged by a long-serving BGTW member whose book I clutched in my hand on my first visit to his favourite part of the world – and then I had the chance to return to the Baltic, a decade later, in his company. I am gratified that my scribblings over the years are appreciated, and hope to meet many more members and travel contacts.
What’s your earliest memory of travel?
Family trip on Yelloway coach trip to Blackpool to stay with friends when I was about six years old, and seeing the Tower Circus, with live animals and a water finale with semi-naked performers wearing little but gold paint!
What’s your most bizarre memory of travel?
Being grilled by Canadian immigration officials along with my wife, two young daughters and my mum at the start of a month-long sabbatical to go touring and skiing in the Laurentians and New England, while leaving Mum with friends in Toronto. They thought we were a family unit which would try to disappear into Canadian society.
Which is the place you haven’t been to yet but would most like to visit?
So many places! I’ve been lucky to travel a fair bit, but I have never made it to New Zealand and would dearly like to see the glorious scenery and experience its society and values – and ditto for British Columbia, maybe getting there by train. The Blue Train in South Africa also appeals, if I win the Lottery. Nearer home, I have a sneaking wish to party in Iceland before I get too past it.
Where would you never want to go again?
The Canadian Immigration office at Toronto Airport! But most places I have been to are special to someone, even the most unlikely, and I reckon it’s part of a balanced job to put this over to potential travellers, even if I might not think it’s the best spot in the world.
If you could take a day trip back in time to any point in history, when and where would you visit?
A tough one – I flew to Berlin the weekend the Wall came down, and I would be hard-pressed to imagine a more emotional and rewarding experience to write about as wide-eyed East Berliners crossed to the West in their Trabants to be greeted by locals with armfuls of flowers and British squaddies doling out cups of tea. The innocent joy would soon dissipate, but I would love to freeze-frame that day and go back to many, many different spots across the city to talk to people in context.
How did you get involved in travel writing and photography?
I have been a journalist all my working life at regional and national level (Lancashire Evening Telegraph 5 years; Daily Mail 18 years; Manchester Evening News 20 years) and just love writing – joining official Press trips as well as writing about family holidays. My employers, travel firms and PRs seemed to like my writing and photos (I was a picture desk exec at one stage) so I’ve kept at it ever since, now aiming to inspire and help older adventurers with www.SilverTravelAdvisor.com
Favourite museum or gallery?
It has to be the stunning Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour in Tallinn, Estonia, which just blows your mind. The museum shows tremendous flair and imagination with its three-layer approach – above, on the surface and below the sea – and the exhibits in the huge restored hangar include a replica British WWI seaplane and a 600-ton, Barrow-built submarine from 1936 and all manner of things to play with.
Most memorable hotel?
The 5-star La Pleta Hotel & Spa, tucked away in the Spanish Pyrenees in the village of Baqueira-Beret, where King Juan Carlos has a hideaway. One of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, it has glorious mountain views and is lavish and discreet without any snobby ‘edge’ – plus it has no fewer than 42 different gins to try with your tonic on the sun terrace. Close second for a serious pampering has to be the Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa in Estonia, with a recent visit showing just how far hospitality has come in recent years.
Everyone gets it wrong sometimes, so what’s the biggest travel blunder you’ve ever made?
Not a very big one, but I know it was a blunder and THEY know too – so I’m suitably chastened. Nuf said.
Which travel destination has taken you most by surprise, and why?
Riederalp in the Valais region of Switzerland – because I’m ashamed to admit that I had never really heard of it, despite trips to other world-famous resorts nearby like Zermatt and Crans Montana. The village can only be reached by cable car and after an incredibly-steep ascent from the Rhone valley, it appeared like a snow-blanketed Shangri-la as we crested the escarpment. And it has a Co-op.
If you had one tip to share with other travel writers, what would it be?
Always be curious, never be ungrateful.
A favourite travel book to pass the journey?
Not strictly speaking a travel book, but I open Gerald Durrell’s wonderfully evocative My Family and Other Animals and I immediately smell the Greek islands, with the heady scents of wild oregano, sage and thyme. It takes me back to some rather special times.