Frances Barber: My Life In Travel

'I drove through California with a girlfriend - like Thelma and Louise'
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The Independent Travel

First holiday memory?

A caravan holiday in Blackrock Sands on the North Wales coast. I remember it raining all the time, sitting in the caravan bored and hitting my sister on the head with a snakes and ladders box.

Best holiday?

The Amalfi Coast. We went to places like Positano, Ravello, Amalfi and Capri. I was in love, the scenery was spectacular, the food was delicious - it was a gorgeous holiday.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I really love Cornwall. This spring we rented a lovely cottage just outside Polperro, and all the wild flowers had just started to come out. The coastline around Fowey is just gorgeous and we walked our dog there.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Take enough credit cards.

Ideal travelling companion?

A lover, otherwise you get bored.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I enjoy all three, depending on what mood I'm in. I love lying on a beach and doing nothing, but also things like white-water rafting and kayaking. I often travel for work but it's not the same as being on holiday. However, I've taken advantage of cheap travel and gone away quite a lot in the last couple of years.

Greatest travel luxury?

A little transistor radio, so that I can pick up the World Service. It's strangely comforting.

Holiday reading?

I love reading anything by Patricia Cornwell. Her books are easy to read and you can pick them up at the airport.

Where has seduced you?

A walled medieval town called San Gimignano, outside Siena. We stumbled on it and spent the most wonderful evening wandering around the streets. We heard music coming from somewhere and followed it - it turned out to be jazz coming from a car radio and a man was dancing to it with his girlfriend in the square. We joined in which I think rather spoiled his romantic gesture.

Better to travel or arrive?

I hate travelling and I loathe airports, particularly with the heightened security now. I can't bear it.

Worst travel experience?

I was filming in the Seychelles and on the way back there was a mix up with my flights. I had to fly to Cairo and spend the night there before a very early flight to Zurich. I asked the receptionist at the hotel I was staying in to wake me in the morning, but someone came into my room in the middle of the night and tried to rape me. Thankfully they didn't succeed but it was really upsetting.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

I love walking along the coastal path from Polruan to Polperro in Cornwall. My favourite swim was in Koh Samui, Thailand. We rented a place called the Rice House that had its own infinity pool overlooking the beach, and we swam on our own in it, which was fantastic. I also drove along the Pacific Highway in California with a girlfriend when we were young and free - we were Thelma and Louise.

Worst holiday?

Bali. I went with a girlfriend to write an article and got really sick. I was in bed for five days and I was really frightened because they gave me all sorts of injections.

Worst hotel?

We went to Morocco last year and stayed in lots of marvellous riads. However, one place in the Sahara which was run by French Algerians felt like we were in a military camp. The staff were so rude and the food was vile.

Best hotel?

The Villa Feltrinelli on the shores of Lake Garda. It looks like a Moorish palace and I had the most enormous room I've ever seen with a sunken marble bath and an amazing lake view right outside the windows. It was like a film set. Unfortunately I was on my own because I was working, so I had nobody to share it with.

Best meal abroad?

My two great friends have a house near St Antonin in Tarn-et-Garonne in the south-west of France. My friend Richard is a brilliant cook and a few weeks ago he did rabbit, which was the first time I had eaten it and it was sensational. I'm glad I didn't see it before he cooked it though!

Dream trip?

I'm reading a book about Charles Darwin and his ship The Beagle at the moment and it has really made me want to go to Latin America. I'd love to go to Mexico all the way down to the Andes.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I immediately make the bathroom look as untidy as it's ever been by throwing my cosmetics all over the place. It's a gift.

Favourite city?

Verona. It's not as touristy as Venice and it has an extraordinary amphitheatre. It's the only place where you'll see window cleaners whistling Tosca.

Where next?

I'm going on a world tour with the RSC next year, which will take me to places like Mumbai, Hong Kong, Japan and possibly Australasia for three or four months. I've never been to India or Hong Kong so I'm really excited.

Frances Barber plays Cleopatra in 'Antony & Cleopatra' at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London SE1, until 8 October (020-7401 9919; www.shakespeares-globe.org).

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