After 100,000 miles, Palin gives up globetrotting
He has been the politest and most amiable globetrotter this country has ever produced, but now, after almost 17 years of criss-crossing the world, Michael Palin has decided to hang up his boots and never make another travel series.
After notching up 100,000 miles that took his impeccable manners to over 80 countries, from the desert of Algeria to the wild tribal areas of Pakistan, Palin said that age had finally caught up with him.
"I'm too old now for these big series. They can take, with planning, filming and editing, up to two years, or more. I might do the odd one-off programme, but no more series and definitely no more long trips," he said.
Palin, who shot to fame in 1969 with Monty Python's Flying Circus, has been credited with raising the demand for exotic holidays in what has been dubbed as the "Palin effect" by the tourist industry.
His six series have had him rush Around the World in 80 Days, travel from Pole to Pole, trek around the pacific in Full Circle, cross the Sahara, yomp across the Himalaya and trace the footsteps of "Papa" in Hemingway Adventure.
His last series, which gained audiences of more than 8 million last autumn on BBC1, seems to have done for his roaming.
"That's it. I could never top Himalaya. I had a fantastic crew on that series and I can't believe I'll be so lucky again. When we are making the series and putting the books together there isn't much time for a life outside travelling, and that's what I intend to have for the foreseeable future.
"Of course, I shall be looking at maps, and reading books and timetables as avidly as I ever did before, but, for a while at least, they will lead me on a few trips of my own. Perhaps I could do a simpler one, like A History of Gospel Oak," he said.
For many years, Palin has lived in the north London "urban village" of Gospel Oak with his wife, Helen, whom he met on a childhood holiday to Southwold, Suffolk.
His travels began in 1988 at the Reform Club in London with a series called Around the World in 80 Days, an attempt to replicate, albeit in a different way, the fictional journey of Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg.
He once said about that trip: "I always wanted to be an explorer, but until September 25, 1988, it seemed I was doomed to be nothing more than a very silly person. On that day, I set out on a journey which was to change my life. With one bound, it transformed me from being a very silly person to being a very silly explorer."
His subsequent travels have earned him numerous accolades including a Bafta special award for his television career and, just last week, the TV and Film Book of the Year award prize for Himalaya at the British Book Awards.
During his travels, he has had brushes with Maoist rebels, washed elephants in Assam, eaten maggots and bull's penis, drunk a palm wine in Peru fermented with human saliva and had an audience with the Dalai Lama, who greeted Palin, saying, "I know you, I've seen you on the television".
His popularity has pushed sales of books, videos and DVDs associated with his series into the millions - the hardback version of Himalaya alone has sold more than 600,000 copies.
His series have also led to a rise in the number of people travelling to exotic locations. A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents, said: Over the years Michael Palin has been more responsible than any other individual for inspiring people to travel to exciting locations."