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Alistair Brownlee’s holiday heaven and hell
Alistair Brownlee, the Olympic gold-medal winning triathlete, on his holidays in the Lakes, flooded hotel rooms and his terror of packing .
Great holidays. . .
Which was your best holiday?
Any of a number of family holidays when I was younger. My grandma had a villa in Spain, in a place called Calpe, around an hour’s drive north of Alicante, and we used to love going there. We’d have a fantastic time, a right laugh with all our cousins. One family holiday that stands out was camping in the Lake District, next to Ullswater. The weather was perfect and we spent our time swimming, playing around in the lake, climbing mountains and, of course, running. It was simple but fun. Since then, I’ve not really had too many actual holidays due to competing.
And the best hotel you’ve stayed in?
Lausanne, on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, stages lots of events and one year the British Triathlon Federation got a new sponsor and we stayed at the Angleterre & Résidence. It’s only little, but it’s really exclusive. I can’t think of any hotel that I’ve stayed in since that was as good. The trip wasn’t a holiday but, staying there, it felt like it.
We also used to stay at Turnberry in Scotland when my father [Dr Keith Brownlee, a paediatrician] was doing conferences. I remember one time we were there, it was the first time Jonny and I were left on our own, and we were staying in a room with a spa bath. We were playing with it and it started spraying water everywhere and we couldn’t turn if off. The water started pouring on to the bathroom floor, so we closed the door and then it started seeping under the door and out into the corridor.
What do you need for a perfect holiday?
Family and friends. I also went skiing a lot when I was younger – I love it – so a ski slope.
What do you always take with you?
I might take my phone on holiday with me, I might not. I don’t feel the need to keep in touch with people, though other people seem to feel the need to keep in touch with me. I’m more than happy to turn it off and leave it.
What’s your best piece of travel advice?
Don’t worry about planning too much, just wing it. Holidays are more fun that way.
Where do you want to go next?
I’ve always wanted to explore South America. I’m going to Brazil shortly, where I’ll be visiting São Paulo, Salvador and, of course, Rio, where the next Olympics will be held.
I’d also love to trek to Machu Picchu in Peru, and walking across Antarctica would be great (or maybe getting dogs to pull me). I used to do lots of walks with my dad – we did the Coast-to-Coast, which passes through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors – and absolutely loved them. I read a book recently about the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain, which definitely appeals, though I’d also like to trek across the Himalayas, so maybe Nepal.
. . . and disasters?
Which was your worst holiday?
A trip to Carlingford in Ireland with some friends when we were younger. Everyone was throwing up on the ferry because the sea was so rough and then we arrived to discover we were booked into a former youth centre that had recently been condemned. Everyone had left four weeks previously but the bins and everything hadn’t been emptied. There were ants in the beds and bloodstains on the sheets. We had a real laugh, though.
And your worst experience on holiday?
I haven’t had many – I’ve not really been anywhere exciting enough to get mugged or robbed or anything like that. I don’t like getting too hot, though. The first time I raced in Japan was also memorably bad. It was in Gamago¯ri, in the industrial part of the country, and ridiculously humid and hot. You’d walk outside the hotel and start sweating. Plus the swim was in a lake where they raced boats, so the water was covered in oil.
What’s the biggest packing mistake you’ve made?
It’s always a nightmare packing to train or for races as you never know what conditions you’ll get. You’ll be expecting warm and get the opposite.
Which is the worst hotel you’ve stayed in?
A hotel at Manchester airport. There were three of us and we were given a smoking room. You couldn’t open the window, so it stank of smoke and it was really hot and manky. It was so dirty I went and slept in the car.
What do you avoid on holiday?
Anything that means having to sit still for too long or be too sedentary. I hate travelling in coaches, so one of those organised tours would be a nightmare for me. I like a drink occasionally but I’d definitely avoid anywhere where it was just partying and drinking. And I keep changing my mind about cruises. I always thought they wouldn’t be for me, but a cruise up the coast of Norway would be great.
What do you hate about holidays?
Packing. I spend my life packing. Unpacking is even worse. I’m fine with different time zones, though. Am I a good traveller? I don’t get frustrated easily, and maybe try a little bit with the language, so not bad. I speak a little French, but I’ve spent a lot of time in France, so it really should be better than it is.
- Alistair Brownlee rides Boardman Bikes (boardmanbikes.com ). For more information on Alistair, and his brother Jonathan, go to thebrownleebrothers.com.
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