Have you always lived in West London?
No. When I went to Mountview Theatre School when I was 18 I lived in Wood Green, north London, for over two years. I then moved up a bit and ventured to Crouch End, Muswell Hill area. Having toured in musicals and then worked all over the world presenting various programmes for different companies and channels, I’ve always kept a base in London. An expensive luxury, but I have always been determined to keep London as my “home sweet home”. I went on to live in Ladbroke Grove, Lancaster Gate, Highbury and now I live in Warwick Avenue. Amazing place. Little Venice rocks!
What do you love/hate about the area?
There isn’t much to hate about W9. Even the Harrow Road end brings a whole plethora of amazing nationalities. With that comes some delicious food, restaurants and a wonderful mix in the community. London thrives on being the capital of the world now – so why not cherish that? Sure, Kebab shops don’t look very nice, but they certainly taste great after a few beers! Of course the glamorous places are wonderful, but its the mish-mash of good and bad, cheap and expensive, that makes London so special.
Which is your best local coffee shop?
Easy answer – I don’t drink tea or coffee! I just don’t like hot drinks. That said, the new cupcake craze that has come into London recently is great. Chic cake and coffee shops – very Primrose Hill, you know the type I mean. Nothing better than a slice of cake and reading the newspaper. I choose sparkling water. I’m addicted to the stuff.
And if you’re looking for something stronger?
If I want a good old knees up I head to Soho. I go to the Groucho Club lots, where I am a member.
As well as living in London, Moscow and Cyprus – where would you live?
I thought about moving to Dubai last year. I love sunshine. Something that the UK hasn’t had much of recently! Even though there is no tax, I decided against adding the Middle East to my locations. Filming in minus 20 degrees is cold, but you can always keep warm – filming in plus 50 degrees is just a nightmare! Instead I visit Dubai every year. It’s a great gateway to the world and the skycraper bars are incredible there.
What can’t you live without?
I could be superficial and say my iphone or laptop, but I suppose the real answer is my family and friends. I spend lots of time filming abroad and even though it sounds glamorous, it can become pretty lonely after the 12th night in yet another five star hotel. Sometimes I wake up and I don’t know what city I am in! Social media – although some people hate it – is a crucial way to keep in touch with everyone around the world.
What or who inspired your presenting career?
To cut a long story short, I was given the opportunity to present a spin-off Songs of Praise series for the BBC. Seven years later, after I had established myself in musical theatre, I was determined to break into presenting full time. In a case of right place, right time, I was at a dinner party in New York when I met a TV exec. Two weeks later in 2003, I was sent an email asking me to present a travel series on the pyramids. No screen test, show reel – nothing. From a dangerous diving show, to an extreme series on Russia, my career snowballed since then!
Which is the most fascinating place you have discovered on your travels?
Macchu Picchu in Peru and the Great Wall of China near Beijing were both jaw-droppingly amazing! You can’t compare those places to major cities such as New York or Buenos Aires, for example. Both sensational cities. As for random trips, my adventures in Transylvania, South Korea and Nicaragua were all ones to remember!
Which country must we visit this year?
Russia. Moscow is the most misunderstood city in the world. It now has some of the very best restaurants and nightclubs. Throw in dazzling onion domes, the Kremlin, Req Square and amazing museums and it really is one of the best cities in the world. The media is terrible at portraying it in a bad light.
What’s on your to-do list at the moment?
I’m working on a TV series on the Trans-Siberian Express. I’ve wanted to do that for years. I’m also talking to various people about filming next year in the Philippines. An 18-part series exploring the islands, attractions and amazing nature and wildlife. I visited Manila last year. Great fun. They say the Philippines is the new Bali or Thailand.
How do you chill out?
Something I don’t often do. I have the energy of a small country! I love swimming, going to the gym, the cinema and massages. Everyone in the world should have a massage every few weeks. I also buy lots of flowers and scented candles. Calms the mind.
Tell us a west London secret…
The canal trip from Little Venice to Camden. Its amazing how so many people don’t know it even exists! The journey is so romantic – the tunnels and the trip through London Zoo is really interesting. One word. Go!