War reporter and Unicef ambassador Martin Bell talks about his travels

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War reporter and Unicef ambassador Martin Bell talks about his travels… revealing his favourite bar (in Belfast), how he got shrapnel in his stomach and advice for what to pack


War reporter and Unicef ambassador Martin Bell, pictured, checks in to our travel Q&A

War reporter and Unicef ambassador Martin Bell, pictured, checks in to our travel Q&A

This week, war reporter and Unicef ambassador Martin Bell checks in to our travel Q&A.

He talks about the experience that sparked his travel curiosity, his most treasured souvenirs, his favourite bar of all time – and more…

FIRST TRAVEL MEMORY?

Boarding an aircraft at Southend Airport and flying to Cyprus in 1957. I was 18 and a humble infantryman. It was my first time abroad, first time on a plane and first time away from home.

DID THIS SPARK YOUR TRAVEL CURIOSITY?

It did. I’d see journalists at the Ledra Palace Hotel in Nicosia, immaculately dressed in safari suits, and think, ‘That’s not a bad way to earn a living’.

EVER BEEN SCARED?

Fear keeps you alive, what kills you is panic. It was a huge advantage to be a soldier.

IS THERE SHRAPNEL IN YOUR STOMACH? 

Yes. I was wounded by the Serbs in a bomb blast and robbed by the French on the same day in 1992.

I was taken to the French field hospital, and when I came round, my passport and cash were gone. I had another operation in London, and the surgeon said it was safer to leave in the shrapnel.

ANY TRAVEL ADVICE?

Take twice the money and half the clothes you want to.

Martin reveals that Belfast's The Crown, pictured, is his favourite bar - and a Bushmills whiskey is his drink of choice there

Martin reveals that Belfast’s The Crown, pictured, is his favourite bar – and a Bushmills whiskey is his drink of choice there

BEST SOUVENIRS?

A shotgun shell casing from Zimbabwe and tear gas canister from the 1968 Chicago riots, following the death of Martin Luther King.

I also have a bullet case from Vietnam — I was there in 1967 and 1972. I nearly got John Pilger and myself killed one day.

HAVE YOU STILL GOT YOUR WHITE SUITS? 

Not as many as I used to. I had six at one point.

HOW MANY COUNTRIES HAVE YOU VISITED? 

To be precise, 121. Though I saw Germany when it was two nations and Yugoslavia when it was one (it’s now six).

Martin's next trip will be to visit Paris, where his daughter Melissa works as a CNN correspondent

Martin’s next trip will be to visit Paris, where his daughter Melissa works as a CNN correspondent

FAVOURITE BAR? 

The Crown, Belfast. It has wonderful stained-glass windows and pews. I’d have a Bushmills whiskey.

WHERE NEXT? 

Paris. My daughter Melissa is the CNN correspondent there. I’d love to revisit St Helena. I’ve been twice and loved it.  

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