My Life In Travel: Keith Allen, actor and comedian
'I like to find live music – it tells you about the pulse of a place'
Saturday 19 April 2008
First holiday memory?
My whole life has been a holiday! I was of the generation that went to stay with family for holidays, so we'd usually go to Wales. Other than that, I'd go from school straight to my parents in Singapore, because my dad was in the Navy – going to foreign climes was in my nature. Singapore was exciting for a lad of 13, namely because you could go to the barber's and they'd give you cigarettes.
Taking the children to Méribel in the French Alps. They all learnt to ski and it was great fun because it was a children-focused holiday.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Minchinhampton Common, just outside Stroud in the Cotswolds. I like the democratic nature of it – there's a golf course that cows graze on. It's a piece of land that is genuinely for the people.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Look at the maps after you've been somewhere. I think it's good to follow your nose, rather than read up on a place before you get there.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I'm a beach bum first and foremost. I love reading when I'm on holiday.
I enjoy all sorts of books but particularly novels.
Ideal travelling companion?
Alastair Campbell, just to see what he's really like.
Where has seduced you?
I took the kids to Brazil years ago. We didn't have any plans – we just landed at Rio de Janeiro, hired a car and drove down the coast to Sao Paulo. We stopped off anywhere along the way, taking in those beautiful colonial fishing villages. It was so different. I arrived in Sao Paulo feeling like my head would explode; it was brilliant.
Better to travel or arrive?
The nature of the beast means that travelling is a nightmare these days; I'm always pleased when I arrive. However, when we drove through Brazil it was all about the travelling. Also, driving from Gloucester to Budapest through the Swiss, Austrian and Italian Alps is lovely. We film Robin Hood in Budapest and I always drive there.
Worst travel experience?
Anything to do with Heathrow is a nightmare. Travelling by air is a real problem for me now, because I become so infuriated at every stage, from queueing to hanging around in the departure lounge. I loathe the very thought of airports and also airlines taking as much from you as possible and giving very little back.
I've stayed in hundreds so it's difficult to pick one out. I went to a hotel in Thessaloniki that was truly awful. The lift smelt of burnt diesel and I had to de-pube the bed.
The Danieli in Venice is pretty well up there; the lobby is fantastic.
Favourite walk/ swim/ride/drive?
I never tire of part of the train journey from London to Stroud, through the Chalford Valley; it's very beautiful.
Best meal abroad?
At a restaurant in Montmartre in Paris, called Marionette. They do the best warm herring salad in the world. I always go when I'm in Paris.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
If I'm by the sea then I'll suss out the beach. I also have a habit of going to look for live music because I think it tells you something about the pulse of a place. Morocco is good for that, but Budapest is hopeless unless you like gypsy bands.
I really want to go to Chile and spend some time taking it all in. I've just finished reading a book about Kazakhstan and that has definitely whetted my appetite; it's the birthplace of the apple and the tulip.
Twenty years ago I would have said New York, but these days it's soulless and corporate. It was lovely back then – fascinating and dangerous. Rome is up there and so is Sydney; I like the lifestyle, the Australians and the architecture.
Probably driving to Budapest and taking in as much mountain terrain as possible along the way.
Keith Allen's autobiography, 'Grow Up', is published by Ebury Press, £7.99
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