Michael Frye, founder of British Heritage Chauffeur Tours, is one of those lucky people who has been able to enjoy two vastly different professions. For twenty years he was one of the principals of the London Symphony Orchestra, where he had the honour of meeting Stravinsky, and performing with musicians as diverse as Herbert Von Karajan, Bernstein and John Williams. He was able to balance his classical career with the world of pop, recording with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, The Who, Barbara Streisand, Frank Zappa and many, many more.
It was whilst travelling the world as a musician that Mike realised that his homeland had more history and heritage than most of the other places he was seeing and, wanting to share its treasures with others, British Heritage Chauffeur Tours was born.
What is it that you do exactly?
I am one of a team of ‘personal driver guides’ at BHC Tours who specialise in creating the most unique, bespoke tours of London and the UK that are filled with as much fun, culture and gastronomic delights as possible. We pride ourselves in taking the time to understand exactly what it is that our clients want to experience. To give you an example, a typical tour day for me could run as follows:
Meet our clients at their hotel to introduce myself – although usually by the time we meet they already feel like part of the family! Then I might take them to experience the history of Hampton Court Palace followed by lunch at The Carnarvon Arms which is five minutes from Highclere Castle where a magical afternoon can be spent before going on to the ‘living film set’, Lacock. Possibly on to Stonehenge and historical Bath, finishing at the Royal Crescent for dinner.
The great thing about my job, however, is that a day can be turned completely on its head if something in particular captures the clients’ interest. Very recently, for example, after spending the morning at Highclere Castle we didn’t make it beyond The Carnarvon Arms, as the American couple I was with said that if I didn’t mind they were so fascinated by my musical background they just wanted to sit and talk to me for the afternoon! Although I’m not as old as Stonehenge – apparently equally fascinating!!
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I just love the people I meet in my job. Nothing delights me more than seeing the excitement and wonder on the faces of my clients when I take them to a place that I know so well and being able to make a reality something that the vast majority of them have only read about or seen on TV and in films.
Their reactions never cease to amaze me. For instance, on a recent trip to Highclere Castle, the lady I was driving asked me to stop at the gates and handed me a CD to play. As I drove through the gates I realised that it was the theme tune to Downton Abbey that was playing. I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw that she had tears running down her cheeks – obviously a great fan of the series!
What would you say are the 3 best places you’ve ever stayed?
One of my real favourites is Les Rosees – a wonderful private boutique hotel in Mougins. It is such a hidden gem that offers both authenticity and tranquillity despite being so close to Cannes, and it is a firm favourite with the likes of Liza Minnelli, Robert de Niro and the late Whitney Houston. In complete contrast to Les Rosees, is the Encore in Las Vegas – simply WOW, and finally although I was there a long time ago I was privileged to be a guest of the Sultan of Oman at the newly built Al Bustan Palace.
What’s been your most memorable dining experience to date?
Probably the most memorable dining experience to date is actually a missed dinner date that my wife Pam will certainly never let me forget! I had the pleasure of driving Kevin Costner for three months whilst he was filming Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. One Saturday, I had the night off and was looking forward to spending it with my family. The phone rang and it was Kevin, who said that he was going out to dinner with Tom Conte and Tom Cruise and would I like to join them? I thanked him but declined explaining that I was looking forward to spending a relaxing evening with Pam. Kevin suggested that Pam come along as well but it had been a long week and I said no. Well, you can imagine what sort of evening mine turned out to be when I told Pam about the conversation. She didn’t speak to me for a week and still reminds me of it whenever we see any of them on TV!
Have you rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, either through your work or your travels?
My musical career has meant that I have been fortunate to spend my life working alongside the rich and famous. Since forming BHC Tours I have had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with so many of the world’s high profile individuals and their families that discretion forbids me to name any of them.
What currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
Having spent twenty-two years of my life travelling the world as a musician, my wife finds it increasingly difficult to get me to leave the country now. My wish list is fulfilled and there are so many wonderful places to visit in the UK that will keep me satisfied forever.
Thank you for taking part in our interview, Michael. Although I still like to travel overseas, living between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, I can totally appreciate what you say about there being so many places beautiful places on our shores still to visit.