HEAD around the world? It’s all I ever seem to do! If I’m not travelling for work, then I’m exploring somewhere with my family. Having said that, I do get itchy feet; the longest I can spend in one place is two weeks.
|‘Mosquitoes love me. I’m the only person they’re looking for. They don’t touch Diane, and they don’t touch the kids; but they regard me as a feast. I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, but all that happens is I get sick. The bites seem to last for ever, and I scratch myself to death’|
There’s something really exciting about watching the plane doors being locked and then taxiing along the runway. Whether I’m on a private jet or a commercial flight, I just know there’s a new adventure looming. I get the same thrill when the lights go down at the cinema, theatre or concert hall.
I still take regular flights if I’m heading from A to B for a concert. But if we can’t make the schedule work, I’ll take a private jet. For instance, one day I had to be in Amsterdam for breakfast, in London at lunchtime, and then in Rome in the evening.
I never tire of travelling, or wish I didn’t have to do it. But you have to like the adventure, like the adrenaline. I know I keep using that word, adventure, but that’s really what it is.
Favourite places? Well, I’ve obviously got a soft spot for Tuskegee, Alabama, which is where I grew up, and LA where I live. For sophistication, London and Paris tick all the boxes. I think Hong Kong is very sexy, Dubai is becoming a top destination, and Hawaii is so welcoming.
To pick just one out of that list is so difficult. It’s like I have a harem of best places. Each one has its own style, its own charm, so it’s virtually impossible to choose. I suppose it all depends on my mood at the time.
As strange as this may sound, if I want to get away from people, I’ll pick somewhere bustling, such as New York. There are so many people going about their everyday business that I can just blend in; I’m almost invisible.
As for London, it’s like my second home, and I love it. London’s been a very big destination for me for as long as I can remember.
In the early days, I loved to walk through Hyde Park. I must have been there a thousand times since, and yet each time I go back, it surprises me with something new. I often joke about the five-star experience, and I want to be as spoiled as possible (Who doesn’t?); but sometimes, the only way you can really appreciate somewhere is to stay at a B&B. That’s what I do when I go with the guys to Ireland or Scotland; because it’s important to experience countries like those properly.
But I must confess, there’s a big difference when it comes to travelling with the family.
Hotel Georges V
They go for the ‘Oh My God!’ factor; so, if we’re in Paris, there’s only one place to stay: The Hotel Georges V, close to the Champs-Elysees.
The first thing I like about the Georges V is its central location. If you want to go shopping, just head across the street. The accommodation is brilliant, and even the flower arrangements are fabulous. The guy who does them used to be at the Four Seasons in LA; he is so good, they moved him over to France.
My two youngest children, Miles and Sofia, usually bring some friends with them; and when they arrive, they’re like buckshot: They scatter all over the place.
My former wife, Diane, also comes along; so when the kids go to hang out with their friends, she loves nothing more than making the most of her huge room and wading through a big pile of magazines.
People are surprised that I go on holiday with my ex-wife; but she’s ‘Mom’, and we’re still best friends. What you have to understand is that she’s the one who controls the tribe. ‘Mom’ knows the signals better than Dad. When you want to control the mob, you have to take the main traffic controller with you.
Everything works perfectly well. The kids have adjoining suites; Diane has her room; and I have mine. Simple!
A typical day
So, what do we do in Paris? Well, you can’t go there without doing some sightseeing. I love the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower, of course. Even though I first visited them years ago, I always say: ‘Let’s go back and do that again.’ But as well as visiting old favourites, we also like to explore new haunts and venues. We might stumble upon a new gallery, a new clothes store, or a new bookshop.
And who won’t be tempted by all that glorious food? Whenever I’m in Paris, I’ll go to a wonderful restaurant called L’Avenue, on Avenue Montaigne, order a nice glass of wine, and just sit and watch people all day.
I also had a brilliant experience the last time I was in Paris. There’s a police boat that travels the waterways, and the officers invited me and the kids aboard. It was very special; I can honestly say it blew us away. We saw the city from an entirely different perspective.
For romantic holidays, there’s the One & Only hotels in Cabo, Mexico, and in the Maldives. Both places are fabulous. Lake Como, in Italy, was the place I went to when I could first afford a really great holiday, while Hawaii is another location I always go back to. Anywhere with warm water is fine with me.
The Caribbean is also difficult to beat. The only bad experience I’ve had there was when the family rented a house in Jamaica in a little bay called Blue Ridge. Although the property looked superb from the outside, when we walked indoors, there were mosquito nets all over the place.
Mosquitoes love me. I’m the only person they’re looking for. They don’t touch Diane, and they don’t touch the kids; but they regard me as a feast. I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, but all that happens is I get sick. The bites seem to last for ever, and I scratch myself to death.
Anyway, at this particular villa, there was a gardener. After a couple of hours on the first day, I asked him about lunch, hoping that he might say that a chef was on his way. Instead, he replied, ‘You want lunch?’ before marching across the road and returning a minute or so later carrying a live chicken.
I said: ‘Hey, perhaps we don’t need to be quite so rustic!’ To add to our problems, our mobile phones weren’t working. Believe it or not, the only way I could get a signal was to head 700 yards offshore on a jet-ski and call from there. What with all the mosquito bites I suffered, it wasn’t exactly one of my best ever holidays.
A safari is definitely on my list of things to do, and friends tell me to go to Kenya for an experience I’ll never forget.
One of the guys said to me: ‘Lionel, it’s a five-star safari.’ I replied: ‘Are we going to be in the bush?’ When he said we would be, I said: ‘Well, that’s a two-star for me. If we spend the day in the bush, and then you send me in a helicopter back to a hotel, that’s a five-star holiday.’ My friend said: ‘But the lions can’t actually get into the tent.’
‘No? OK, call it a three-star!’ I’m joking about the whole luxury holiday thing. As I said, I like to get stuck in to get the full effect. However, I would probably draw the line at dog-sledging in the North Pole. If someone suggested I do that, I would say we’re roughing it a bit too much.
My adventures will always continue, though, and my next stop will be my first-ever trip to the Great Wall of China. I’m taking the kids there in a couple of months.
The real adventure in travel is meeting the people who live there. You’ve got to let the locals take you somewhere off the beaten track. Get off the bus, find a local, and ask: ‘Where do you hang out?’ Apart from excitement about seeing new things, my whole life is about people. I write my songs from what people tell me; I’ve had some of my best adventures based on what people say. It’s what makes life so special.