Ilie Nastase: My Life In Travel

'I know it's crazy, but I love to drive around the Arc de Triomphe'
  • @SophieLamTravel

First holiday memory?

I never went on holiday as a child. I have memories of going to the Black Sea in Romania with my parents when I was about 14. When I first went abroad it was to other communist countries, then to Greece and France when I was 20.

Best holiday?

It would have to be a holiday in Acapulco, Mexico in 1972. That was when I was married for the first time, and I had a really great trip there: playing tennis and enjoying the scenery; it was like nowhere else I had ever been.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I like London, but I haven't travelled around the country enough to have a favourite place.

What have you learnt from your travels?

To pack light. I am always the lightest packer in the group when I travel.

Ideal travel companion?

My wife and children, but when I was single it would be my girlfriend - the best companion is always a new girlfriend. I travel quite a lot with my family these days. They came over to England last summer with me for Wimbledon and also just before Christmas when I was playing a tournament at the Royal Albert Hall.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

While I'm on vacation, I like to do all three, but when I'm travelling for work I don't really get the time to do any of them.

Greatest travel luxury?

My raincoat. I take one with me wherever I go, be it the Caribbean or England.

Holiday reading?

I like to read newspapers while I'm on the move; I also speak five languages, so I can read newspapers in several countries.

Where has seduced you?

Italy, because I understand the language, the food is fantastic and so is the lifestyle. I go at least two or three times a year. I particularly like Rome and Florence, and Milan for shopping. I went to Sardinia last year, which was great.

Is it better to travel or arrive?

I like travelling. Nowadays I always have my bag packed so I'm ready to go.

Worst travel experience?

Sometimes you go to places that you don't like, but I don't mind that; there has to be a contrast otherwise if you have good experiences all the time your expectations are too high.

Worst hotel?

It would have to be one of the many hotels that I stayed at in various communist countries during the Cold War. Thankfully, there have been some changes since then.

Best hotel?

The Lanesborough in London, because it has butler service. That's the first time I have had a butler. Buckingham Palace is also down the road, which I like.

Favourite walk/swim/ ride/drive?

I don't like walking or swimming and I can't ride. I do like to drive in Paris, which I know is crazy. I like to be in a relative amount of danger; I especially enjoy driving near the Arc de Triomphe because Parisian drivers are pretty reckless.

Best meal abroad?

Any meal in Italy. I particularly enjoy eating in Rome. Generally, the food is brought to your table almost immediately and there aren't any menus - they bring you what you want.

What's the first thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I ask where the best restaurant or best disco is.

Dream trip?

To Tahiti - that looks very nice.

Favourite city?

Paris. The first time I went to Paris I met my wife - and I have a lot of friends there, too. I also won my first major tournament in Paris and my daughter was born there. I am now working for a French company based in Paris, so I spend a lot of time there.

Where to next?

Back to Paris and then to Romania.

'Mr Nastase: The Autobiography' by Ilie Nastase with Debbie Beckerman (Collins Willow, £6.99) is out now in paperback