My Life In Travel: Miriam Margolyes, actress

The My Life in Travel column is produced in association with Andalucia Tourism. See www.andalucia.org

First holiday memory?

Going to Glasgow, where my father was born and where his mother and sister lived. I loved it because we drove from Oxford and I remember going through Hull where they made Reckitt's Blue – the laundry whitener and starch – and all the factory workers had blue faces. We also always went to Cliftonville and Broadstairs. I loved it and still have a holiday home in Kent. I used to be taken to Dreamland in Margate where I'd take part in the talent contests, which I once won.

Best holiday?

When I was at Cambridge I used to go with the experimental theatre group around Europe in a coach at Christmas putting on a Shakespeare play. It was the best fun in the world; I had 34 friends with me and I loved it. More recently, I love going to my Italian farmhouse which I bought in 1973 and share with my partner and another person. It's near Siena in Tuscany, is nearly 300 years old and very simple; I just feel completely at home there.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I love the West of Ireland around Connemara and also St Margaret's Bay in Kent where I have my house. Somewhere I don't get to so often but also love is Shropshire – the countryside is exquisite. It's a border county and for that reason there's something magical about it.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That there's no point in making stereotypes; people are individuals. Also that I carry too much luggage; I keep trying to divest myself but I never seem to be able to do it. I was recently in Palestine and bought a carpet, which I don't need. I'm an inveterate shopper. More seriously, I think travel should be a learning experience. I was in Palestine with ActionAid which allowed me to visit places I wouldn't have got the chance to see ordinarily, such as the refugee camps where I met people who have suffered through the Israeli occupation.

Ideal travelling companion?

My partner; I try to travel with her as often as possible. She's an Indonesia specialist so I learn about places when I'm with her.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Probably all and none of those. I have to be somewhere I can swim, with old buildings to look at, which is why I think Italy is the perfect place because it has beaches, culture, shopping and food. But then I love Ireland which is often warm and wet. The main thing is that I don't want to see people – I like to be quite solitary. I get cross if I can hear music, or people laughing.

Greatest travel luxury?

Flying business class. I very seldom do it unless someone else is paying or I've got Air Miles to use. I think it's essential to have a credit card that is affiliated to an airline. If I had one tip, it's to get yourself affiliated!

Where has seduced you?

I think Venice, because I disapprove of it but I keep coming back to it – it's over the top and has gone too far. It's not really a place for people to live in, but there is something so extraordinary about it.

Better to travel or arrive?

To arrive; these days getting to places isn't all that much fun. I'm against terrorism, but I'd just like to smack them all for making us wait in line. The latest thing is to see people laughing at your skeleton. I'm a funny shape and I think I must look ghastly in the X-ray machine.

Worst travel experience?

When I was much younger and went to Rimini with a group of girls – they didn't like me and I didn't like them and all they wanted to do was meet boys. Rimini was dirty and scruffy and I've never been back.

Worst hotel?

A hotel in Hrodna in Belarus about 15 years ago; it was the opposite of comfort and I had to walk down a corridor for the loo.

Best hotel?

The George V in Paris is the most elegant, beautiful and comfortable place with superb service.

Favourite walk/drive?

In Australia I like walking in Airlie Beach which is a little resort town in the Whitsundays region. The most beautiful drive in the world is what we call "the back road to Asciano" from Trequanda through Le Crete. It's a part of Tuscany that isn't particularly well known and I think is much more beautiful than Chianti.

Best meal abroad?

Rather boringly, it's in Tuscany. There's a little restaurant in Monticchiello run by a husband and wife. They do delicious pasta and wonderful lamb. I'm not going to tell you the name of it because too many people will go and there are only 14 tables.

Dream trip?

To go on a train around India. I've always wanted to do it because India is the most wonderful, interesting, surprising country – and they love Dickens there.

Favourite city?

Melbourne is delicious. There are amazing restaurants and it's very beautiful. The centre of town is great fun and there are wonderful big Victorian buildings.

Where next?

I'm going to Sheffield to do Me and My Girl at The Crucible. I love being in the North of England because my mother was born in Liverpool and my father in Glasgow so I feel very at home there. I'm going to do a lot of genealogical surveying while I'm there.

Miriam Margolyes is an ambassador for anti-poverty charity ActionAid ( actionaid.org.uk ).

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