While we might not admit it, most of us have a little guilty reality TV secret. Mine is Channel Nine’s Travel Guides, back for its second season. I’m sick of bitchiness and rudeness masquerading as entertainment. I’m not sure I can take another cooking show. And I’d rather scoop my own eyeballs out with a spoon than suffer through another show dedicated to anything related to dating or weddings.Travel Guides is, thankfully, different.

And how nice it is to see ordinary people in a travel program. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the usual travel show fare featuring stick thin models and wannabe actresses flouncing about in the latest luxury spa or bragging about some must-have over-priced fashion item they’ve found in a fancy boutique that most of the population couldn’t wear.

The premise of Travel Guides is to take ordinary people with different tastes and turn them into travel critics. The show’s producers pay expenses in exchange for honest reviews of experiences on a different week-long holiday each episode.  At the end of each episode the travellers rate their experience out of five stars. Pretty simple.

The cast for season two, which hit our screens this week, includes three young men who all work together at Target, boy-crazy single girls, twin outback cowgirls and a pair of annoying baby boomer travel snobs who have seemingly already seen and done it all.

My favourties by far are the hilarious Fren Family from Newcastle – parents Mark and Cathy and kids Victoria and Jonathan. At home in Newcastle the family runs a German-themed restaurant.

An image of watching Travel Guides on TV in my slippers
My slippers are at the ready for episode two

The Frens squealed and laughed their way through season one. It was an ‘oh goody’ moment for me to see them back for season two.

The Frens’ self-deprecating humour is infectious. They seem to laugh constantly – at each other and whatever is going on around them – all the while trying to get Jonathan a date. My favourite member of my faviourite family is daughter Victoria; an intelligent, sharp-talking, no bullshit kind of young woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

In episode one, which screened on 29 January, the Travel Guides headed to Italy for a foodie-themed week in Bologna. Poor Victoria thought that Italy would offer “her time to shine” with her ability to speak Italian. But Victoria quickly discovered (and haven’t we all?) that her high school language classes were pretty well useless. Her Italian bombed badly.

This week the Travel Guides negotiated driving hire cars, a hot lap in a sexy Ferrari and a cooking lessons with some no-nonsense Italian nonnas who tried, unsuccessfully, to teach our Travel Guides the art of hand-made tortellini.

The Frens squeezed their ample frames into a tiny Fiat and then into a the sporty Ferrari before grossing out at a festival dedicated to eels. The best bit was a truffle hunt with two Italian guides and their unfortunately-named truffle hunting dog, Poopa. Victoria gave the tour guide a bum-slapping graphic explanation of what Poopa means in English. But apparently in Italian it means ‘beautiful girl’ and yelling ‘Hey Poopa!’ to a woman in the street is actually paying her a compliment. Aah, Italian men…

When Poopa turned up trumps and delivered a nugget of black gold it turned out not to be to the fancy of most of the family. When it was added to a spaghetti dish, however, Jonathan couldn’t get enough.

The Frens delivered a 3.5 star ‘Good onya Bolgona’ verdict.

Next top Bali. I will have my slippers and my glass of wine ready.

Travel Guides screens on Channel Nine on Mondays at 9.00PM



Travel Guides: My little guilty reality TV secret
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