The former Emmerdale star talks about all things travel, including the beauty of Barcelona, a seedy drive in New York and the quirky Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton.
What’s your favorite on-the-road moment?
That’s the most Alan Partridge thing I’ve ever said, but really the best moment is discovering Gloucester Services Farm Shop & Kitchen on the M5.
We had had the most horrible day of travel, we were nearing the end of a theater tour and we were all tired and hating each other. Going in there was like a mirage and we were running around like crazy toddlers. I heard people travel there specially.
Barcelona. It has it all: great food, culture, incredible architecture and a beach. I would go again and again if I could. I’ve never seen anything like the Sagrada Familia, an unfinished church in the Eixample district. Inside, it feels like you’re in the chest of a giant creature from outer space.
Park Güell is also a magical place with tiles designed by Gaudi and well worth the climb. Go before sunset and have a drink. I love the Picasso Museum – it houses over 4,000 works of art by Picasso and the building itself is fascinating (entrance fee £10.30).
What keeps you healthy on the road?
Decent people, decent coffee and my own pillow. Never forget your own pillow – it will save you a bad mood and back pain. I always pack my Nutribullet and a French Press. In fact, as much living comfort as fits in a suitcase.
When were you most afraid to travel?
While on a road trip in America, we forgot to book an airport transfer and arrived late in New York, so we quickly booked the first company that came up with an internet search. The man who picked us up took us on a huge detour through a neighborhood where we didn’t really need to be. He drove slowly past a grocery store where six men, more or less relaxed but frowning, surrounded the car. Then we drove off. It was odd – seemed oddly planned – and to this day I’m not exactly sure what it was about.
What was your most life-changing experience while traveling?
On this road trip across America, our first stop was New Orleans. This was just a few years after Hurricane Katrina and the city was still being hit hard. When we arrived we got into a taxi to pick up our rental car.
Our driver was a woman in her late sixties named Edna. She decided to drive us through a huge residential area – she had lived there herself. We drove through streets of Katrina-torn homes—entire front walls were missing and the insides faced outward, almost like a stage set.
They had been left that way for years and no government funds came to help repair the devastation. Edna wanted us to see the lasting legacy before we leave to become tourists. I will never forget it.
Strangest place you’ve spent the night?
The Hotel Pelirocco on Brighton’s seafront (rooms from £75.60). It’s known for its eccentric themed rooms – we stayed in the Lovers Lair, which has a nautical theme with lots of cool features, including an eight-foot round bed with a mirrored canopy and a pole dancing area. It was a nice change from Travelodges.
Have you ever been close to arrest?
I was performing on the grounds of a member of the royal family and the director thought it would be a good idea if I did my first performance from a bush. He forgot to tell security, who were alarmed by the rustle. Luckily I got in just before they reached me.
Where are you going?
Myself and a few friends are aiming for a weekend in Amsterdam in May. And I am fascinated by Lake Bled in Slovenia. It has a perfect little island in the middle, with a church and a few houses. I’ve always wondered who’s on it.
I, Ronald Payne, am a journalist and author who dedicated his life to telling the stories that need to be said. I have over 7 years of experience as a reporter and editor, covering everything from politics to business to crime.