• JOANNA LUMLEY’S HOME SWEET HOME – TRAVELS IN MY OWN LANDAbsolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley has retired the infamous Patsy Stone and gone on to make a string of travel documentaries, flitting from the USA to Japan. Her 2021 series is closer to home as she drives around the UK in an Aston Martin DB5 taking in some of the country’s most popular staycation spots. Episodes include stints on Devon’s epic moors and Cornwall’s pretty island of St Michael’s Mount, as well as in North Wales, the Peak District and her hometown, London.
    Available to watch on ITV HubITV PICTURES
    • BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNERIn this offshoot from his Ugly Delicious show, the preposterously busy David Chang hits the road for four hour-long adventures with comedians. He’s in Vancouver with local lad Seth Rogen, fishing and giggling, getting lost in a maze and above all revelling in the city’s Asian food emporia. Then he’s in Marrakech with Chrissy Teigen and in LA with Lena Waithe before the best of the bunch, visiting Phnom Penh with Kate McKinnon. The Saturday Night Live comic and Ghostbusters actor is charming, open and interested in everything around her as they talk Buddhism, ride helicopters and tuk-tuks, and dig surprisingly deep into the issues of a rapidly changing country.
      Streaming on NetflixCONAN WITHOUT BORDERSThis really is something different. For those outside of the USA, chat-show host Conan O’Brien is very much an unknown quantity, and this show may well be equally baffling: it’s a travel programme but directed primarily for laughs and with the reaction of a studio audience added as if it’s an in-show segment. We get Conan being tall, zany and actually pretty witty in the usual places Americans are interested in: Cuba, Korea, Mexico, Israel, Haiti and Italy. Don’t expect to get all the references but give it a go.
      Streaming on NetflixNETFLIX
    • FRANKIE BOYLE’S TOUR OF SCOTLANDWell, he’s certainly mellowed. Once the scourge of tabloid and liberal broadsheet alike, the comic has revealed more humanity as his face has been ever more hidden under a beard. He’s still sharp, as the introduction shows – ‘There comes a time in every comedian’s career when they decide to do travelogues,’ he tells us – though this is much richer than the sitcom-character-goes-to-Africa formula we’re used to. Over four episodes, each given a very loose theme, he enjoys Scotland’s camera-friendliness – the coast, moors and monumental architecture – and meets a parade of eccentric locals. His secret weapon is asking unusual questions, ensuring a wide range of subjects: one episode alone covers Mary Queen of Scots, martial arts, protests and funfairs. Be warned: contains adult content and sarcasm.
      Streaming on BBC iPlayerGREAT RAILWAY JOURNEYSWant to take the train but can’t face Michael Portillo and his range of bright slacks? Now’s the time to dive into iPlayer, then, as the Tory grandee’s monopoly on rail travel falls off the rotation, leaving this multi-presenter series from 1994. Follow the lovely Michael Palin to Ireland and the awkwardly charming Clive Anderson to China, and watch ballerina Natalia Makarova take on her native Russia and the great BBC correspondent Mark Tully head to India.
      Streaming on BBC iPlayerBBC PICTURES
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    • GRIFF’S GREAT AUSTRALIAN ADVENTUREDespite an unpromising start – do we need a TV comic to tell us that ‘this is a big place’, or that he’s about to embark on ‘the journey of a lifetime’? – this is well worth your time. Griff Rhys Jones travels around the great southern land by train, packing a great deal into his 30-minute episodes. Along with crocs, sheep-shearing, gold-prospecting and whitewater-rafting, he joins the drag scene in Broken Hill, digs into the poetry of the Outback and hitches a ride with a Flying Doctor. Throughout, he transcends the formula by being well-informed and showing an interest in people.
      Streaming on ITV HubMY GREEK ODYSSEYIf you enjoyed the last season of The Trip but felt there was too much competitive banter and not enough Greek scenery, then this is for you. Be warned, however, that host Peter Maneas is a character beyond even the imaginings of Steve Coogan: a full-on Aussie of Hellenic extraction, he’s colourful, exuberant and generally not backward in coming forward, all to the power of 10. If you can handle that, then join him on his mission to visit every one of his homeland’s 227 inhabited islands, starting with Season 1’s tour of the Saronic and Ionian, including HydraSpetses, Kefalonia and Zakynthos.
      Included with Amazon Prime membershipITV PICTURES
  • Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father
    • JACK WHITEHALL: TRAVELS WITH MY FATHERThe comedian is a divisive figure, but less so than the man he insists on calling ‘Daddy’, an old showbiz hand who’s loving his spell in the spotlight. It’ll take five minutes to decide whether you’re up for this show, but if you can take the intergenerational eager-puppy-versus-stuffed-shirt banter you do get a lot of travel for your time. In season one they hit South-east Asia to live out Whitehall’s cancelled gap year, while season two is a cultural tour of eastern Europe led by his father Michael. In both cases, hijinks ensue, locals are baffled and we’re lightly entertained.
      Streaming on NetflixDARK TOURISTNew Zealand journalist David Farrier looks like a geography teacher and often appears more scared than you’d expect from someone in his line of work, but he’s a curiously engaging host for this tour of unlikely, unsafe and unsavoury destinations. Usually wearing pink patterned shorts, he ventures to nuclear disaster zones, serial-killer hotspots, voodoo rituals and the dreadful, monolithic emptiness of Turkmenistan. His show is genuinely informative and remarkably un-hipster.
      Streaming on NetflixNETFLIX
  • Travel Man
    • TRAVEL MANNow eight seasons in, this short-haul travelogue is admirably dependable. A lot of that is down to actor-director Richard Ayoade, who can bend his deadpan wit to provide a foil to whichever fellow comedian he has in tow for that week’s 48-hour city break (including occasional Hollywood stars such as Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd). It’s basically a comedy but, for all the eccentric hotels, drinking and quirky-museum-hunting, this show is still a reliable indicator of whether you’ll enjoy two nights or more in that week’s destination, so bring on season nine.
      Catch up on All 4THE MIND OF A CHEFChef-profile shows can merge into a blur of hot men in dark rooms talking about sourcing and knives, but this PBS show is in sharp focus – partly because episodes last just 23 minutes. Each of its five seasons are hosted by a different chef, from David Chang, who presents Netflix’s Ugly Delicious, to Prune author Gabrielle Hamilton, who traces a dish to its source, has a good dig and still manages to get in more travel trimmings than most of the hour-long competition. Season five’s resident Ludo Lefebvre is particularly good value – look out for his outraged attempt to reclaim Jersey for France on a lobster-fishing trip.
      Stream it on NetflixBBC
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    • THE MISADVENTURES OF ROMESH RANGANATHANCurrently vying for the title of most familiar face on British TV, Ranganathan generally trades on sardonic wit but these tours of ‘the places others avoid’ break through the cynical veneer to show the thoughtful and frequently terrified everyman inside the comedy sports-quiz panellist. In the latest, second season he journeys to Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Colombia.
      Streaming on BBC iPlayerAROUND THE WORLD IN 80 GARDENSLed by the soothing, earnest tones of Monty Don, this is a different and highly satisfying tour of the globe, first screened in 2008. Naturally each region’s flora and plant-husbandry tell us something about the culture and landscape, and our thoughtful and well-informed host is just the man to tell us how. Starting in Mexico and Cuba with rainforests and colonialism, he passes through the the tomb gardens of India’s Mughal emperors, the floating wonders of the Amazon, the Imperial Summer Palace of Beijing, Emperor Hadrian’s Retreat in Italy and the perfection of the Alhambra in Granada, via Bali, Bangkok and the Arctic Circle. You don’t need green fingers to enjoy this, just a love of beauty.
      Streaming on BBC iPlayerBBC/RUMPUS MEDIA
  • Somebody Feed Phil
    • SOMEBODY FEED PHILIf you don’t know Everybody Loves Raymond, the American sitcom he created – actually, even if you do – you may find Philip Rosenthal a distracting host: odd, distracted, awkward. Still, he sure loves his food and Netflix sure loves him, bankrolling 12 episodes of this foodie travelogue that takes him all over the world to BangkokTel AvivBuenos AiresDublin and Mexico City (always Mexico). It’s a pretty easy ride – he walks around a bit, eats some local dishes, gets excited – but it’s fun, and you’ll like Phil.
      Streaming on NetflixNATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PRESENTSDig deep into the travel-related content from the always-reliable NatGeo. For that unique combination of brashness and culinary genius, there’s Gordon Ramsay Uncharted, where the king of the TV cooks heads for Peru, Morocco, Laos and more. The Bear Grylls-narrated Hostile Planet is a fascinating look at how animals have adapted to the most difficult conditions, from icecap to desert to ocean – highlights include a jaguar hunting crocodiles in the Amazon. Adventure fans, meanwhile, should dive into Lost Treasures of the Maya, where explorer Albert Lin hunts down lost civilization with new tech.
      Streaming on Disney+NETFLIX
    • THE TRIPSteve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s semi-improvised wander between scenically sited restaurants is a journey that bears repeating. The original six-part run through the North of England in 2010, where both idea and stars were at their freshest and there was a real edge of melancholy tod the impressions and repartee, remains the best but it’s hard to argue with Season 2’s finale in Capri, where two middle-aged men talk rubbish against one of the world’s most beautiful backdrops, and Season 3’s visit to Spain kept up the quality. This year, of course, the boys were back for a tour of Greece.
      Find out where Season 4 of The Trip was filmed. Stream on Amazon Prime
      Pictured: Adatepe Ida Blue HotelALL ABOARD! THE GREAT REINDEER MIGRATIONFrom BBC4’s ‘Slow Christmas’ series, this 2018 programme follows the Sami reindeer herds of Norway on their 160-mile trek north through Finnmark to the Arctic Circle. With no eager presenters to tell us how amazing/dangerous/unchanged it is (though all those things are true), the result is more like a visual poem or guided meditation – most of it just the jangle of the animals’ bells, traditional singing and barking dogs over aerial views and close-ups. And breathe…
      Streaming on BBC iPlayer© SKY UK LIMITED
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    • ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWNDating from 2013 to 2018, this CNN series may just be the great legacy of the Godfather of the foodie-travel genre. The effortlessly cool and much-missed NY chef really scratches his adventurer’s itch here, starting with the just reopened Myanmar, Libya and the Congo, and throwing in local-knowledge trips to US cities as well. Regardless of the destination, though, the aim is the same: to live a more interested and interesting life. Watch and learn lessons for travel and beyond.
      Season 1 streaming on My5. Seasons 1-5 included with Amazon Prime membershipFLOYD ON FRANCEA time capsule from a different age (1987, to be precise), this makes a pretty startling contrast to the current Netflix foodie doc. Bow-tied and boozy, the late Keith Floyd sets off from a land barely out of the boiled-mutton-and-suet dark ages and barges into the kitchens of France, then considered the world leader of haute cuisine. However misguided his confidence, his enthusiasm and astonishing ability to drink and talk are wondrous to behold as he charges through Provence, Périgord, Burgundy, Alsace, the Basque Country and Brittany.
      Streaming on BBC iPlayerGETTY IMAGES
  • UGLY DELICIOUSMomofuku chef and Vice graduate David Chang (see also The Mind of a Chef) gets down and dirty on this show, sold under the motto ‘Food is a four-letter word’. Each episode looks hard at one home-cooking favourite, with help from guest chefs or foodies, giving American comfort food, from pizza to fried chicken, the kind of attention usually reserved for haute cuisine. Just added is Season 2, where David deals with worries about feeding his forthcoming baby, looks at ways of eating beef, investigates curry with Aziz Ansari and explores the world of kebabs.
    • Streaming on NetflixWORLD’S MOST SCENIC RAILWAY JOURNEYS – C5/MY5If you’re drawn to the romance of rail travel but don’t need the usual celebrity guide, fill your boots with this six-parter. There’s a Rocky Mountain ride past lakes, rainforest and wandering bears from Vancouver to Banff, an architecture-heavy tour of northern Spain, volcanoes and sacred hunting grounds in New Zealand, plus trips through Wales, Norway and to the Matterhorn in Switzerland. It’s packed with business and all very thorough, well-researched and beautifully filmed, and the narration is in the capable hands of Bill Nighy.
      Streaming on My5NETFLIX
  • Salt Fat Acid HeatSALT FAT ACID HEATHosting this adaptation of her own book, chef Samin Nosrat proves an exuberant, natural presenter. The high-concept format – four journeys in pursuit of the four titular pillars of cooking – provides the structure, leaving Nosrat to enthuse and convince with the help of chefs from JapanItalyMexico and California. And though it’s mostly kitchen-based, the show always has a strong sense of place, whether in the olive groves of Liguria, Italy, on the cable car to Japan’s Shōdoshima island or under the corrugated roofs of Oxkutzcab in Mexico.
    • Streaming on NetflixNETFLIX
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  • Huang’s WorldHUANG’S WORLDTattooed, perma-vested Eddie Huang is a true one-off. An attorney, restaurateur and author (of televised memoir Fresh Off The Boat), he’s also a man with a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for food, and the most energetic host in food-travel TV. This series is excellent value; Huang is unafraid to talk to experts and locals alike and always has his nose in the action.
    • Catch up on All4BBC
  • …with Simon Reeve…WITH SIMON REEVEWhile others provide entertainment, the perturbingly youthful but tremendously wise Reeve brings the information part of the BBC’s Reithian values. With his background in investigative reporting, he digs that bit deeper while retaining the Bear Grylls-meets-Brian Cox enthusiasm that ensures you always know this is about travel rather than history or politics. You’ll find a selection of his trips on BBC iPlayer, from the six-part Indian Ocean journey and three-part whistlestop tour round Australia to a one-off in ColombiaCatch up on BBC iPlayerRICK STEIN’S SEAFOOD ODYSSEYIn this series from 1999, the doyen of British seafood has a quick look at how the rest of the world does it. He cooks shark vindaloo in Goa, tries percebes (goose barnacles) picked from the rocks in Galicia, has seabass and oysters in Chesapeake Bay and generally enthuses about grills, saucepans and fishing nets in Naples, Queensland and Thailand before heading closer to home for a fish supper in Whitby.
    • Streaming on BBC iPlayerGETTY IMAGES
  • Arabia with Levison WoodARABIA WITH LEVISON WOODBritish Army officer Wood is an explorer in the classic mould, and solo walks are a speciality (the Himalayas, the Nile, Central AmericaRussia). This programme finds him, Bedouin-scarved and deeply tanned, touring 13 countries and 5,000 miles of the Arabian peninsula, crossing Oman’s Empty Quarter by camel, embedding himself with troops fighting Isis in Yemen and exchanging selfies in Saudi Arabia. There’s all the derring-do and endurance you could ask for, but he’s also a sensitive and curious companion.
    • Watch on Amazon Prime

Source: cntraveller.com