Our Favourite Travel Documentaries

Image by Jakob Owens

Parts Unknown

Words by George Gourlay

From sailing the Congo River to spiritual rituals in Bhutan to hunting deer in the Scottish Highlands, there were few parts of the world left unknown to Anthony Bourdain before his untimely death in 2018. The culinary aficionado takes us on a tour of the most wild and fascinating cuisines, cultures and people.

It wouldn’t be an Anthony Bourdain series without food. The chef and restauranteur makes a point to explore everything on the menu. With each episode, a new palette is introduced: down street food vendors in Budapest, onto a family meal in the West Bank, then, a masterclass from sushi chef Masa Takayama in Japan. Bourdain’s enthusiasm for both cooking and eating radiates through the screen. The Rome episode, in particular, is guaranteed to make you work up an appetite.

While Bourdain’s culinary instinct guides him to these places, it’s his capacity for storytelling and adventure that urges him to stay and explore. The nonchalant commentary that accompanies each episode takes the audience through the histories of the bullet-riddled streets of Beirut or the ‘Interzone’ of Tangier where famous writers and musicians sought refuge to create. Bourdain uncovers the hidden anecdotes of uncharted places with an astute appreciation of culture and his trademark dry sense of humour.

At the heart of Parts Unknown are the people Bourdain encounters in every corner of the globe. Meeting with local guides who share their homes and cities with him, Tony, as he is affectionately known by friends both old and new, makes connections wherever he goes. He also recruits some famous friends to join him on his travels. One guest in particular offers star quality like no other. Tucked away in a bustling corner of Hanoi, Bourdain sits across the table of an unassuming noodle bar from former US President Barack Obama, the two reminiscing of previous travels while cupping a bowl of the city’s specialty, Bun Cha. It is moments like these that encapsulate everything Parts Unknown is all about: good food, interesting conversation and the feeling you are watching something legendary.

Bourdain passed away in 2018, leaving the twelfth and final season unfinished. The final episodes pay tribute to the man who, through the unifying medium of food and storytelling, implored his audience to be open-minded to new cuisines and cultures and to get out and explore the parts of the world that are the most unknown. There are few shows that can claim the same legacy.

Gordon, Gino and Fred: Road Trip

Words Clara Boon

As I lazily flicked through the channels, I spotted the Gordon, Gino and Fred: Road Trip. My eyes were instantly transfixed on the chaos unfolding in front of me. I watched as a flustered Gino D’Acampo drove a 45ft motorhome into a tiny side street in the heart of a bustling Italian city.

With my combined love of travel documentaries and guilty pleasure of watching daytime TV chefs, I instantly knew that this was the programme for me. Watching this frantic threesome travel across Europe in an inconveniently gigantic camper van was comical to say the least!

My favourite part of the show was by far the ‘Italian Job’. In this episode, Gino took the trio on an adventure across his homeland – the Amalfi Coast. The premise of their adventure was to seek out the finest recipes and ingredients to cook for Gino’s best friend’s vowel renewal ceremony. First off, they stopped at a lemon farm via boat, just a short hop along the Sorrento coastline.

The interceptions of humour is what made this travel programme so engaging. After fresh Limoncello was made and consumed by the chefs (enjoyed no doubt by the lucky crew too) the team set off to their next destination – the oldest pizza restaurant in Naples. In the midst of some mild bickering between Gino and Gordon, we learn about the history behind Napoli and its origins. Salivating at the food on the screen, I reminisced about my own time in Italy six years ago.

I see another side to Gordon, whose fiery character is toned down on this show, but nevertheless he still upholds his infamous, feisty persona in his bickers with Gino. Quiet Fred, giggles like a naughty schoolboy at the chef’s power struggle. The bond between these three is obvious and as a viewer it is a pleasure to watch the trio’s over exaggerated buffoonery.

Their adventure across Europe continues in the following episodes, which feature both France and Gordon’s homeland of Scotland. I really enjoyed the combination of locations and food explored within their adventure.

After all, three celebrity chefs sharing a gigantic motorhome on a road trip across Europe – what could possibly go wrong?