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James May: 'Our tour of Argentina was so contentious we were forced to flee with a police escort'

Riots and angry mobs greeted James in Ushuaia
Riots and angry mobs greeted James in Ushuaia Credit: The Grand Tour
The TV presenter recalls calamitous road trips, eating his way around Tokyo, and fleeing Argentina

It wouldn’t feel like Christmas if I went abroad

I like to be at home, surrounded by family and friends, eating a traditional Christmas dinner with lots of sprouts.

Growing up, our holidays consisted of camping in Devon and Dorset

The most memorable trip was when I was 12 years old and went on a school exchange programme to Germany. It was the first time I’d ever been abroad. I became very good friends with the bloke I was staying with, and we are still in contact 45 years later. 

I got a pilot’s licence 13 years ago

I’ve owned three different propeller planes since then. I’m not a fan of turbulence, but it bothers me less when I’m at the controls. When I was little, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. These past few years I’ve been so busy, I’ve not flown very much beyond north Wales from Berkshire.

My idea of the perfect holiday has changed a lot as I’ve grown older

I used to go Interrailing and do cycling holidays through France. I liked to visit art galleries, historic buildings and things such as the ruins of Pompeii. These days, we reserve that for weekend breaks in places like Copenhagen or Barcelona

Copenhagen is one of James's regular weekend haunts Credit: iStock

I’m a massive snorkelling fan

三级成人视频I’m visiting the Maldives just after Christmas to do just that. The food’s great, too, although I don’t eat too much while I’m there as the small portions are ruinously expensive! What’s so great about snorkelling in the Maldives is that it’s just so easy – you can walk straight out of your hotel room or villa and paddle out to a reef that’s 20 or 30yd away. 

Facing riots and angry mobs in Argentina was one of the most dangerous experiences I’ve had

When Jeremy [Clarkson], Richard [Hammond] and I filmed a 1,400-mile road trip for a Top Gear Christmas special in 2014, we attracted so much negative attention that by the time we reached our hotel in Ushuaia we had to flee the country with a police escort!

But the height of our stupidity was our race to the magnetic North Pole

We attempted to be the first people to reach it in a motor vehicle, but we didn’t have the proper backup or equipment, despite training and preparing for months beforehand. The difficult terrain and bitter cold really took a toll on our health. I hate the cold. I know people talk about the barren purity of the wilderness, but I’d much rather go into the desert than a polar ice cap.

James and his fellow Top Gear presenters were escorted out of Argentina by police Credit: iStock

I spent several months filming in Japan this spring

It was for my new programme, Our Man in Japan三级成人视频. The country is a stimulant for all the senses, and an etiquette minefield for the unwary. Despite some of the outstanding beauty, coastline and beaches, I noticed that the Japanese, on the whole, don’t really like being outside much. 

I didn’t have any major diplomatic incidents when I was filming in Japan

I did make several faux pas, however, such as eating the meticulously prepared props of food that the Japanese waiters ceremoniously placed in front of me on the train. They had only made one. I ate their only prop!

I hate the way aeroplanes make you smell

It's a combination of fuel, stale air and the aroma of reconstituted vomit. I think American airports are a terrible introduction to the United States – especially JFK in New York City三级成人视频. You stand around for hours, and they are just very badly organised.

I was disappointed when I visited Pompeii and realised how disorganised it was

三级成人视频The ruins are fascinating, but you have to queue for ages to get in and, while you’re queuing, chaps approach you saying they can get you in quicker if you pay them a fee. It’s surrounded by heaving cafés and chaotic car parks. It made the whole experience quite sordid, and was in complete contrast to when I first went there in my 20s.

I didn’t expect to like Australia as much as I did

I thought it was going to be full of Aussies saying, “G’day mate!” but once I got into the Australian mindset and accepted the vastness of the country, it was fascinating. There’s so much diversity, from the very sophisticated Sydney to the Wild West nature of the Outback.

James wasn't impressed by Pompeii Credit: iStock

My bucket list is quite extensive

It includes Pakistan, Iran, India, the Middle East, and parts of South-East Asia, such as Malaysia. I’d love to go back to Canada, too. I went to Vancouver and explored some of the little islands while doing a story on seaplanes once. Actually, that’s got me thinking about my next programme… watch this space. 

Interview by Sarah Ewing

James May’s new six-part series Our Man in Japan launches on Amazon Prime Video on Jan 3