Celeb travel tales
'We are the champions': what Queen singer thinks about Saffers overseas
Warren Vernon-Driscoll, starring as Freddy Mercury in a smash-hit Queen tribute show, shares some tales and observations from his travels
My first trip abroad was to the US when I was 14. I went on a tour with the Drakensberg Boys Choir. I remember being interrogated by customs officials. And then I remember staying with host families in various cities, which was cool to see how Americans lived at home and not just from a hotel tourist perspective. Michael Dickens (who plays Roger Taylor in Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic) was actually on that choir tour with me.
The most difficult, remote or adventurous destination I’ve ever been to was also when I was at the Drakensberg Boys Choir. We used to do weekend hiking into the Drakensberg. In my grade 9 year we hiked to the summit of Champagne Castle. Other than that, I was very fortunate when I was younger to travel to Mozambique with my family every year because my father was in the hospitality industry there.
My favourite international city is Singapore. I love its architecture, vibe, food and cleanliness. The people are also great. I spent a month there and loved all my time there. On a typical day, I would grab a breakfast at a new place every morning, then sightsee and visit a new tourist destination, such as Marina Bay, and then go shopping with my fiancé and find a new place to go for dinner. We also did an evening boat tour of the city, which was awesome.
A bizarre thing that’s happened on my holidays was when I was very young, about eight years old. I went to visit my father with my mother and sister in Xai-Xai, Mozambique. I think the year was 2000. It was around that time that Mozambique had massive floods and we couldn’t leave the country because all the roads and infrastructure had washed away. So I ended up missing a whole year of school. There was a story about a woman giving birth in a tree and I happened to be there at that time.
Here's a funny travel story: I was going to Korea when I was in grade 10 with the South African Youth Choir. We were flying via Dubai and when we landed there, we found out that all flights had been cancelled due to a swine flu outbreak. So I used the toilet and took the next flight back home. I flew all the way to Dubai to use the toilet.
Another one is during the Covid-19 pandemic, we were flying to New Zealand from Australia — specifically from Brisbane to Auckland, which is not such a long flight. But because New Zealand had blocked all flights from Australia, we had to fly via Singapore. So instead of travelling for four hours we travelled for two days, including a long layover in Singapore. And this happened on my birthday!
My most relaxing destination is Medjumbe Private Island Resort in Mozambique.
My hometown is Cape Town, the best place in the world. If I were hosting a tourist there, I'd show them Table Mountain and take them to Constantia and Stellenbosch because I love wine. I'm a big foodie, so I'd take them to all my favourite restaurants.
My worst travel experience was definitely any time I had to get on a plane or travel during Covid-19. My best was Singapore, but that’s not to say I haven’t had amazing times in many places.
I am an adventurous eater when I travel. I will always say yes to something at least once. The weirdest thing I've tried was probably eel, in China, which I really did not enjoy.
I think Cape Town is the best place in the world for a night out. Because it's cheaper than most and South Africans are always a vibe!
The one thing I always make sure I do on holiday is eat well.
When travelling, I am a sucker for new experiences and shopping.
I'd say Canada has the most welcoming/friendly locals. Everyone always seems so nice there, although I haven’t experienced Canada in winter. As for unfriendly, I'd say moving to Cape Town for the first time and trying to make friends with Capetonians was definitely on the tricky side of the scale.
My ultimate bucket-list destination? I'd love to see Scandinavia and the Northern Lights.
My perfect holiday involves the ocean, beachside lounging and scuba diving.
My best holiday ever was with my family in Mozambique. We used to go every December.
When I see South African travellers overseas I think: “We’re four-time Rugby World Cup champions!”
I don't really collect souvenirs when I travel. I did try to get into the fridge magnet thing but I always forget.
• Catch Vernon-Driscoll take on the role of Freddy Mercury in the Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic tribute show at GrandWest, Cape Town, on December 9 or at The Globe at Suncoast, Durban, on December 21, 22 and 23. Tickets, priced between R335 and R435, are available here.
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