Excess Baggage

Excess Baggage

United Kingdom

Travel magazine, featuring travellers' tales, experiences and anecdotes


The point and the pleasure of travel  

In the last Excess Baggage, John McCarthy talks to three inveterate travellers: Sara Wheeler, who has written on Africa and the Antarctic, explorer Benedict Allen who has travelled in Siberia and New Guinea and documentary maker Simon Reeve who has just returned from the Indian Ocean. He asks them why they are driven to explore the world and what is the point of travel. Producer: Harry Parker.

Africa - Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan  

John McCarthy discusses travel to the African countries of Rwanda, Uganda and to the world's newest country, South Sudan. With his guests, doctor Rob Summerhayes, paramedic Franz Opitz and forensic accountant Benedict Jenks - John finds out what attracts people to visiting a country with troubles past or present. All the guests are sensitive to the highly political issues that are involved in visiting such countries and have wide experience of travel to some of the world's hotspots. All have also spent considerable time in Central Africa developing considerable insight into those countries. Producer: Harry Parker.

Lake Titicaca - Manchester, Bolivia - Malaysia  

John McCarthy meets the former debutante Meriel Larken who fell in love with Peru and rescued and restored a Victorian steam ship on Lake Titicaca. He is also joined by Chris Smith and Liz Peel who went by canoe through the Bolivian jungle in search of the village of Manchester; and Kung Fu expert Nick Hurst explains why he set off to Malaysia and China to spend time with his grandmaster Sugong. Producer: Margaret Collins.

Wildlife travel  

John McCarthy explores wildlife travel with naturalist and tv presenter, Mark Carwardine, who has spent thirty years travelling around the world to observe and aid conservation of a huge range of species including whales, tigers, gorillas and sea birds. He is also joined by wildlife travel writer, James Parry, who has made a unique tour of the world's top twenty deserts chosen for their outstanding wildlife and landscape interest - and award-winning wildlife photographer, Andy Rouse, discusses his recent trips to Rwanda in relation to mountain gorillas, and to India to study tigers. Producer: Margaret Collins.


Sandi Toksvig goes to Reykjavik to look at aspects of tourism in Iceland and discovers that the volcanic eruptions and the financial crash there may not have been so bad for the country. As well as reminding the world of its geological attractions the crises have helped Iceland look at its cultural roots like the sagas and....knitting. Producer: Harry Parker.

Family Travel  

John McCarthy takes a look at family travel with novelist Gill Lewis, who has taken her daughters spotting wildlife both abroad and in Scotland and Cornwall and Ben Hatch who toured Britain with his young children. And holiday lettings agent Wendy Shand explains how self-catering holidays can be more child friendly. Producer: Harry Parker.

Black Prince - Wine trade in Medieval Europe - Lourdes  

John McCarthy meets a writer who followed in the 14th century footsteps of the Black Prince through SW France; an historian who has followed a medieval wine trail through Gascony and a novelist who was seduced by the lure of Lourdes and the Pyrenees. Producer: Harry Parker.

Russia - Crimea - Ukraine  

Sandi Toksvig discusses the 'Wild East' - Russia - with the BBC's former Moscow correspondent, Martin Sixsmith. Actor Michael Simkins relates his adventures on a rail journey from London to Kiev and on to Crimea to visit the former site of the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava in 1854 - and author and linguist Anna Shevchenko explains why she believes Ukraine, where she was born, is a 'hidden' country with much to offer the traveller. Producer: Harry Parker.

Medics abroad; The Oscars  

Sandi Toksvig hears about medical work abroad from Dr Marie Charles who runs an organisation which places volunteer doctors and nurses in developing countries to impart their skills to local medical workers. She tells of her experiences travelling the world in the course of her work. And dentist Ian Wilson relates how he used his skills to start an oral health programme in Tanzania. Sandi also meets writer and comedian Liz Carr who explains how she went to join the red carpet crowds in Hollywood for the Oscars. Producer: Harry Parker.

Ashoka's India; Undesirable Places  

Sandi Toksvig hears about a lost Emperor of India: Ashoka ruled the subcontinent about 2,200 years ago and left many pillars and rocks carved with his edicts. Historian Charles Allen went in search of the legacy of this once great Emperor a journey which took him to some of the remoter parts of the country. Writer Tim Moore and webmistress Cathy Shaw both have an interest in visiting some of the least attractive sounding places in Britain and have made many trips to find out if the reputations of towns like Middlesbrough and Scunthorpe for being undesirable destinations are justified. Producer: Harry Parker.


John McCarthy discusses the diverse attractions of Israel as a destination. It's a land whose tumultuous existence often overshadows a rich, cultural life. The very word 'Israel' is often synonymous with conflict and religious tension, but John looks beyond the political debate to find what it has to offer the ordinary traveller. His guests are a travel writer, Samantha Wilson, a keen hiker, Alma Smith and a chef, Adi Gilo who spent many summers living and working on a kibbutz. Producer: Margaret Collins.

Stone - Sacred sites - Crazy River  

John McCarthy talks to artist Emily Young about her travels to find stone for her sculpture, to travel writer Martin Symington about his venture in search of Britain's sacred places both ancient and modern and to Richard Grant about his exploration by inflatable raft of the Malagarasi River in East Africa. Together they consider the extent to which destinations can be spiritual. Producer: Harry Parker.


John McCarthy visits 'The Heart of the Great Alone' an exhibition of polar photography at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace and, before an audience, introduces a discussion of Antarctica with the explorer David Hempleman-Adams and his daughter Amelia who has just returned from there. Joining them are the author Meredith Hooper and Frozen Planet cameraman Doug Allan. Producer: Harry Parker.

Overland To Mongolia - Wild West - The Calgary Stampede  

John McCarthy discusses the 'Wild West' with former documentary film-maker Tim Slessor who has just written a book called 'More than Cowboys'. He is also joined by travel writer, Kieran Meeke, who, as a keen horse-rider, also loves the cowboy culture and has a passion for the Calgary Stampede, in Alberta, Canada, currently marking its centenary. John is also joined by Nick Hewer (Lord Sugar's right-hand man on BBC TV's 'The Apprentice') who recounts his solo journey driving from London to Ulan Bator in Mongolia in an old Renault 4L to raise money for charity. Producer: Margaret Collins.

The Occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank  

John McCarthy looks at the delights and difficulties of visiting the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank with writer Sarah Irving who has published the first new guide to Palestine for many years, circus performer China Fish who recently returned from entertaining children there and traveller Gail Simmons who sampled the alternatives to the mass tourism. Producer: Harry Parker.

Swimming - Land Art - Sicily  

John McCarthy discusses Art and Travel with leading art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon explaining his abiding passion for the raw art of Sicily which has been drawing him back to the island for over twenty years. He talks about his latest BBC 2 series on Sicily called 'Sicily Unpacked' which, in the company of chef Giorgio Locatelli, reveals the many stunning works of art round every corner as well as the fresh ingredients which make for a delicious and unique cuisine. Part of the appeal, he says, is that the Art is so accessible, not locked up in museums and galleries but available to all at virtually every street corner. The art, he feels, has not become homogenised as in so many other places. Art academic Dr. Amy Dempsey discusses her love of Outdoor Art which led to her book called 'Destination Art' cataloguing two hundred of the most modern and contemporary art sites around the world, mostly in Europe and the USA. Many of the works are unshowy and quite difficult to find, all part of the experience for the traveller. She makes particular mention of works in the Netherlands (the 'positive' and 'negative' Green Cathedrals) and the work of Anthony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. She believes these works have been overlooked in the past and have not received the attention they deserve by the critic and the traveller. Susie Parr explains her ten year quest to chart the history of outdoor bathing in the UK. To that end, she has swum in chilly harbour waters, at glorious beaches and in once stylish lidos. She also explores how immersion in cold water seems to have inspired art and creativity and was enjoyed especially by some of the key Romantic figures including, Wordsworth, Shelley and Byron. Producer: Margaret Collins.

Hitchhiking veteran - Butterflies - Burma  

John McCarthy meets three intrepid women travellers who cross the generations as well as the continents. Naomi Molten is a veteran of many adventures through south-east Asia, India and Afghanistan as well as Europe and the Far East, travelling mostly alone during the 1950s. Isobel Talks is a young student who has just returned from Ecuador where she lived and worked in different local communities as well as tracking down the rare butterfly that was named after her. She also visited Bolivia and the Galapagos Islands. Felicity Goodall is a writer who has retraced the steps taken by evacuees escaping the Japanese Army in 1942. She recounts the horrific experiences of half a million people who fled for their lives on the remarkable trek from Burma to India. Felicity's own father served in the British army then and had a lucky escape when his wristwatch deflected a Japanese bullet. Producer: Margaret Collins.


John McCarthy looks at the changing nature of the traditional attractions of England with historian John Julius Norwich, curator Lucy Worsley and journalist Martin Wainwright. Together they discuss the appeal of English places from Kensington Palace to Watford Gap and why we look for the past in palaces and cottages. Producer: Harry Parker.

Christmas Quiz  

Peter Curran presents an Excess Baggage special quiz for Christmas from the Radio Theatre with Sandi Toksvig, John McCarthy and their special guests Caroline Quentin and Arthur Smith answering questions on the world of travel and travelling the world. Producer: Harry Parker.

Travel Biography from The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival  

John McCarthy discusses travel biography at October's Cheltenham Literature Festival with eminent writers in the field; Sir Christopher Ondaatje, Sara Wheeler and Alexander Maitland. Producer: Harry Parker.

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