Travel Stories - The enthusiastic traveller and chocolate lover

Paul McKeown

Guest Pick

Englishman and avid traveller, Paul first walked past our stand at The Luxury Travel Fair when the bowl of Lindt chocolates caught his eye. After kindly being interrupted by one of our members of staff during his little feast, we managed to have a chat with him about his travels.

HIP: Tell us a bit about the last place you visited.

Paul: Well, which exact place do you mean? I went to Brighton last weekend but I’m not sure if that counts…

For nearly 50 years, my wife and I have been travelling the world together and ticking off places off our bucket lists until you know, we die. So the last place we visited was earlier this year in Sri Lanka – we’d never been before but were very intrigued about what all the fuss was about! I must say, Sri Lanka is a stunning country and we definitely want to go again. We visited many places (most names that I can’t remember the life of me, but my wife would), but what I do remember was the stunning landscapes of the Yala National Park. There were a bunch of leopards there which was fascinating, but I forgot the camera that day which wasn’t great– meaning my wife didn’t speak for the rest of the day, so I made friends with our tour guide instead (whose name I also forgot).

We rode the famous train from the city of Kandy to Ella, an absolutely breathtaking place where everyone should go and visit at least once in their lives. The train was long, about 8 hours or so, but it was truly worth it! We realised that it’s actually very important on what side of the train you sit on, if you want to get the best views of course. But Ella is just stunning, absolutely stunning. The landscapes were magnificent, I truly recommend.

HIP: Where are you going next?

Paul: Now that’s a very good question, maybe Sri Lanka again as we would like to explore some more, however it most probably will be Panama because I met their ex president, Manuel, there a couple of years back and he’s invited us over there, so it would be impolite if we didn’t go there. He said he’d take us on a private and ‘exclusive’ tour of the country, but he also said he’d “let me know”, so who knows, he’s a very nice man though, so I await his email.

HIP: What is your best travel experience to date?

Paul: Can I give you two? Not sure the first one is exactly our favourite travel experience, but it’s all part of the travelling experience really, isn’t it?

In 2018, my wife and I travelled to South America and ended our trip in Chile. We like Chile very much, we even stayed in one of your HIP Hotels in San Vicente de Tagua Tagua (Vik Chile) – that was a great hotel, total silence surrounded us, it was wonderful. Anywho, we thought we would end our trip before travelling back to the UK by visiting the Atacama Desert; and let me just tell you, they really do mean it when they say it’s one of the driest places in the world. The Atacama is on the West Coast of Chile, literally on the Pacific and I believe it’s about over 1000km long. However, think less desert, and think more Mars – that’s what it felt like for us. The gorgeous hues of oranges and red completely surrounded us, it was breathtaking! Until [sighs] our car broke down, it clearly didn’t like the Atacama as much as we did, that's for sure! There wasn’t that much signal and I think we were stuck there for about 4/5 hours until we managed to get rescued.

Sometimes I think we take advantage of the safety and privileges we have in the First World Country, and if your car breaks down somewhere, just ring up the AA and they’ll come rescue you. Although it was a long and stressful wait, and I’m not gonna lie, there could be worse places to be stranded in, we were finally rescued – my wife wasn’t too pleased by that whole experience.

Anyway, stress aside, I think my favourite travel experience (and cheapest) [laughs] was our trip to Mexico. My wife and I wanted to do it properly and get a proper tour; so instead of hiring a car and possibly getting lost again, we decided to get a bus – you know, one of those sleeper busses that are hot and smelly but super cheap? That’s what we did. We spent 14 days in Mexico, and only 3 of those nights we stayed in a hotel, the rest we spent on busses. It was certainly an experience!

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