My life in travel: Ben Miller, actor and comedian
'A holiday is a crucible for personal relationships'
Saturday 29 May 2010
First holiday memory?
Going to Menorca when I was about seven. It was my first foreign holiday and I remember drinking chocolate milk and lying in my bunk bed at night listening to people outside playing the guitar and singing. It was so exciting. I can also remember my father swimming in the sea and catching a diseased fish with his bare hands and bringing it back up the beach to us.
About four years ago we went to a place called Cazenac in Prigord, France, for New Year with a bunch of friends. I think of myself as a bit of a gourmand and I ate my body weight in foie gras there; it was brilliant.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I feel almost evangelical about Cornwall. When I was 16 I hitch-hiked around Tintagel and Bodmin Moor with a school friend called Richard Davenport and we had a great time. I've always found Cornwall such an exciting, bonkers, beautiful and completely occult province.
What have you learnt from your travels?
There are two trips that changed me. The first was Inter-railing as a student through Italy to the Mediterranean then going off the map a bit through Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and back up through Spain. I had a fantastic time, particularly in Algeria where I first experienced Muslim culture.
The second trip was what they now call a gap year but what we used to call a year off. I was 18 and went to college in Alta Loma in the San Bernardino Valley in California and had such a brilliant time. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Ideal travelling companion?
A holiday is a crucible for personal relationships. My ideal companion is often someone who wants to do the same things as me. Alexander Armstrong and I have had very good holidays because we have the same interests of cigars and foie gras.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I've done a bit of all three, but I prefer to get off the beaten track and find my own way a bit, which is a boring and middle-class thing to say. The last adventurous holiday I went on was to Brazil. I went to Rio and along to Buzios; I found Rio very exciting because you had to work things out for yourself.
Greatest travel luxury?
Staying in a really nice hotel. There's an odd camaraderie in hotels that you don't get anywhere else because you're in a little bubble. I like the soullessness of living in a hotel I'm not far off people like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen who lived in hotels for months on end; it really appeals to me.
Reading is the main thing I do on holiday. I try and read novels because I don't get the chance usually.
Where has seduced you?
Cape Town, Umbria and Los Angeles, in a slightly unhealthy way. There's no better place on earth to ski than Switzerland; New Zealand is the most beautiful place I've ever seen; and Australia has the best food.
Better to travel or arrive?
I did quite a bit of work in Australia last year and I had to go back and forth a lot, sometimes for just a day. Oddly, going for a day was great but going for a month was harder. Travel is so variable, sometimes you can get a great seat on a plane, other times you can have a terrible experience.
Worst travel experience?
Even if you've had a bad time, it can change you. A holiday is effectively a kind of meditation because you remove yourself from your everyday environment and have the chance to think about things.
I was on tour with Alexander [Armstrong] in Brighton and we were put up in some terrible digs. I'm not joking when I say my room was like a small corridor.
Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, California, was one of the most amazing hotels I've stayed in. The Chateau Marmont in Hollywood is my second favourite, just for all the things that have happened there.
Favourite walk/ swim/ride/drive?
I love walking along the Regent's Canal in London. Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire has some amazing walks through little alleyways, too. Walking is a very British thing. I remember walking in Malibu and thinking that someone might come and arrest me.
Best meal abroad?
In Sydney I had grilled cuttlefish with salsa and it was absolutely delicious.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I'm slightly obsessed with being able to have drinking water in my hotel room without having to rely on 10 bottles from the mini-bar or dodgy tap water. So I go out and stock up on bottled water and stuff to eat then walk back through the lobby with a carrier bag feeling like I've broken the rules somehow.
India and China are top of my wish list, and the Orient-Express.
To live in: London, and to visit: Sydney. I always think you'd have the most amazing life in Sydney because of the lovely weather, scenery and food.
I'm going to Robin Hood's Bay with all my family in the summer. We have a big get-together, which is fun.
Ben Miller is appearing at Cheltenham Science Festival, which takes place from 9-13 June ( cheltenhamfestivals.com/science ). The Armstrong and Miller Show Live will tour the UK from 23 September-19 November ( armstrongandmiller.co.uk )
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