My life in travel: Lennie James

'I first went to New Zealand with my daughter. It was our big adventure'

Actor Lennie James stars in the BBC2 police drama, Line Of Duty. Series one is available to buy now on DVD from Acorn Media (acornmediauk.com).

First holiday memory?

Trinidad in 1976. I got taken out of school early for a six-week holiday. It was the first time I got to meet my mum's family. I remember asking her why she'd ever left.

It seemed like paradise. Everything grew on the trees: coconut, mango, lemon and orange. If you were hungry, you just picked something. It was also incredibly liberating not to be "the other". Everybody – driving taxis, working in banks, running the country – looked like me.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, because my brother and I would be taken there for long weekends during the summer holidays. Friends of ours lived right across from the Pleasure Beach. I remember waking up early and the local kids would come running to get us. We would buy doughnuts and ride the rollercoasters.

Best holiday?

New Zealand. I fly down as often as possible. The first time I went was with my eldest daughter, who's now 23, just before she went to secondary school. We went mostly to the North Island, in and around Auckland. It was our big adventure.

Later, a buddy of mine from drama school also moved there and he took me to a place called Piha, which is an old surfing beach, with black sand and a huge rock called "lion rock", that's shaped like a lion in repose. It's so beautiful. If I ever go missing, that's where I'll be.

What have you learnt from your travels?

It's fun to get lost in new places. I like arriving somewhere and taking a left when someone tells you to go right. When all the tourist signs are pointing one way, it's exciting to go the other.

Ideal travelling companion?

My wife, because she's inquisitive and wants to know everything about where we are. I just wander around in blind ignorance, but she likes finding out what the history is and reading all the placards.

For straight up getting into trouble and having fun, my daughters are also great. I have three of them and one is always up for some mischief.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I like lazing around. My wife's family is French so every summer, when we lived in England [James now lives in the US], we would gather in France with the whole family: brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, French and English cousins. We would stay in a lovely house, with a pool and we would just cook, play games and chat. That's my idea of a proper holiday.

Holiday reading?

I particular enjoy the crime writer, Walter Ellis Mosley. He does a series of Chandler-esque detective stories. His most famous character is Easy Rawlins, who was depicted in the film, Devil in a Blue Dress, featuring Denzel Washington. Mosley makes detective writing a real art. It's not just pulp fiction, it's really classy.

Where has seduced you?

I did a film once in the Sahara. It was pretty awe-inspiring. I remember sitting up on the roof of our hotel, watching the sun go down and all around me, for 360 degrees, was nothing but sand. It took your breath away, but also made you feel tiny.

Favourite drive?

Dominica. It is the most beautiful, unspoilt Caribbean island. The drive from Roseau, the main city, up to the top, where there's a Carib- Indian reservation, is beautiful.

Best meal abroad?

When I first came to LA to film the pilot for Jericho [the CBS series], my wife and I drove to Palm Springs afterwards. We stayed in a little bed and breakfast, built out of William Holden's old house. We asked the owners, where was good to eat and they pointed to Copley's, a non-descript, hut-like place. We sat down, ordered and every single thing was brilliant.

Favourite city?

Venice. It's a fantastic place to get lost and turn the corner and be in awe. We stayed at the Hotel Excelsior on the Lido, which was stupidly romantic and luxurious.

Also, Prague, because I had no expectation that it was going to be that beautiful.

Where next?

I'd really like to go Sydney. I've been to Australia a few times, but I have never been there.

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