Celebrity + travel = TV hit. That seems to be the formula many programme-makers are using these days anyway.
Over the years we’ve been enthralled by the adventures of Michael Palin, with the likes of Martin Clunes, Paul Merton, Stephen Fry and Billy Connolly all following in his well-worn footsteps.
On Wednesday, Sandi Toksvig jumped on the bandwagon in Channel 4’s new series Extraordinary Escapes, while in recent weeks, Susan Calman, Joanna Lumley and Gordon Ramsay, accompanied by Gino D’Campo and Fred Sirieix, have journeyed here, there are everywhere; Gregg Wallace, meanwhile, has been in South Africa.
In fact, the MasterChef judge has been getting around quite a bit, because here he is again in another travelogue. That’s not bad going when you consider we’re currently under travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
But that’s probably why such shows are so common right now – we can’t get away, so we’re living vicariously through the people we see on screen, many of whom must have filmed their programmes months, even years ago, thus avoiding breaking any rules and regulations.
Wallace’s new programme runs for the next four weeks and sees him explore the sights, sounds and, of course, the tastes of various destinations. Think Travel Man but without the humour – although we’re promised the emphasis will be on having fun.
The series begins in Barcelona. Spain is a popular holiday destination for many Brits, but most of them tend to head to the beaches of the Costa del Sol, Blanca and Brava, many of which have little UK-style enclaves making them a home from home. Those who prefer a city break, however, usually make for the Catalonian giant – and with good reason. As the food expert is about to find out, it provides a veritable feast of entertainment and culture for visitors of all ages.
He begins by exploring his own cultural side by learning more about local boy Antoni Gaudi, whose extraordinary architectural designs continue to dazzle and delight; the still-unfinished Sagrada Familia is one of the city’s most recognisable and visited landmarks. Pablo Picasso is another of Barcelona’s most famous sons, and Wallace finds out what made him so special while trying to do a self-portrait in the artist’s memorable style. Let’s just say he probably shouldn’t give up the day job. While Wallace walks the streets, he begins to realise that most of the locals seem to be creative. A festival proves to be an eye-opening experience too, and he’s left almost speechless by an amazing castell, a tower or pyramid comprised of humans – the Catalonians have been creating them since the early 18th century.
He’s on more comfortable ground when he’s sampling the cuisine. The sight of cones of ham, tapas restaurants and traditional dishes cooked up by grandmothers will make viewers wish they could taste the sights as well as see them.
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