My Life In Travel: Christopher Lee, actor
'In Finland, you can drive for hours without seeing anyone'
Saturday 14 February 2009
First holiday memory?
When I was very young – around the age of nine – my family used to go to a house in Somerset that my stepfather rented every summer. There was fishing, lakes and riding.
I haven't had a holiday for so long, it's difficult to pick one. However, three years ago, my wife and I went to South Africa. We stayed in a very nice hotel just outside Cape Town, and I played a lot of golf.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Somewhere like Exmoor. I love rugged, wild places like that, particularly where there aren't many other people about.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Getting to know the countries I've visited – the only country I haven't been to in Europe is Albania, so I've seen many different places. I try to learn the odd phrase in the language of the country I'm visiting, too.
Ideal travelling companion?
My wife. We travelled apart until our daughter was 16 because we felt she was too young to fly; it wasn't pleasant at all.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I enjoy holidays in places such as Stockholm, a city I know very well. My favourite country is Finland, because once you get to a certain point, you can drive for hours without seeing a single person. I love peace and quiet, something I don't get very often.
Greatest travel luxury?
I've only done it twice – flying by private plane. Once was with the author Sydney Sheldon from Cairo to London; and the second time was from London to Copenhagen for one of the Lord of the Rings premieres. That's the way to go, believe me!
I enjoy things that are easy to read, thrillers mostly. I don't read much; if it's a long flight, I try to doze – not very successfully though.
Where has seduced you?
The most beautiful country I have ever been to in my life is New Zealand. It is absolutely gorgeous and has everything you can think of. I went four or five times when we were filming Lord of the Rings; we were based in Wellington. The people are very nice, too; I envy them, living at the end of the world as they do.
Better to travel or to arrive?
I don't really like long flights any more – I find them too tiring. Flying always involves the same things these days – huge crowds at airports, waiting around, late take-offs, weather problems, and so on. I don't really enjoy travelling, I don't imagine anyone does except young children.
Worst travel experience?
Flying from Washington to Charlotte, North Carolina, years ago on Eastern Air Lines. It was only a 45-minute flight, but I have never known anything like it – including during the war when I was shot at in planes. The turbulence was incredible, nobody moved. Because we were flying over mountains, we had to keep to a certain height and we couldn't fly out of the storm. It was horrendous. The man sitting next to me got through at least 10 miniature bottles of whiskey, but I didn't have anything.
The saddest country I went to was Romania, years ago, during Ceausescu's rule. But I haven't been there for a long time. I can't recall visiting any countries I hated.
The Oriental hotel in Bangkok is pretty spectacular.
Best meal abroad?
A meal at La Tour d'Argent in Paris. Thankfully, I didn't have to pay for it.
I would love to go to China, parts of South America and Cuba. But it would have to be in a certain degree of comfort.
Stockholm, without a doubt. It's a lovely city on the water, with wonderful old streets and buildings; I always enjoy going back.
I'm going to Germany for Unicef.
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