My Life In Travel: Ruth Wilson, actress

'In Namibia you're surrounded by the sounds of nature'

First holiday memory?

From a very early age, I went on Eurocamp holidays in France with my family, which meant it was all of us in a tent, washing up plates in communal sinks. I was a real water baby too; I loved swimming.

Best holiday?

I went to Cuba for two-and-a-half weeks with my mum, which was just amazing. We started in Havana, then travelled down the coast and into Santa Clara. I also recently went to the southern states of the US – through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, researching my forthcoming part in A Streetcar Named Desire. I was in New Orleans during the Jazz Fest, which was completely mad; there was fantastic food and jazz emanating from every corner; it was a complete musical education for me.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Salthouse, around Blakeney Point on the North Norfolk coast, which is where my parents come from. Salthouse has a shingle beach that is beautiful, but incredibly windy – we fly kites up there. If you're brave, you can go for a swim. It's quite rough and wild up there.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That we should count our blessings in the UK, because there is nothing remotely dangerous in terms of wildlife here.

Ideal travelling companion?

My camera, my diary, or my mum.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a mix of culture vulture and adrenalin junkie. I went to Africa recently and did lots of game drives and quad biking across the sand dunes in Namibia. I tried to do as many dangerous things as possible.

Greatest travel luxury?

A cashmere blanket that I was given – it is really good for plane journeys.

Holiday reading?

I don't read much apart from about the area where I am going to.

Where has seduced you?

Etosha National Park in Namibia. It's absolutely beautiful and I really felt at one with nature there. There is no unnatural light – the sky is big and open, and you're surrounded by the sounds of nature; elephants, giraffes, lions and cheetahs.

We stayed around a watering hole one night and watched the animals coming to drink. At one point we heard an elephant trumpeting; he was circling around and looked in tremendous pain. Then three other elephants came over and held his trunk to calm him down. Moments later, all four of them just walked off.

Obviously he'd just lost his family and was calling out to them in distress. It was incredible to see.

Better to travel or arrive?

To arrive, unless it's by train. I hate airports – having to take your earrings off, get your laptop out and put your liquids in a bag.

Worst travel experience?

Going skiing in Italy. I was travelling there on my own, lost my bag en route, and ended up stranded in the middle of Italy at about 10pm not being able to speak a word of Italian. I had no money on me either. Not knowing what to do or where to go was awful.

Worst holiday?

A family skiing holiday in Tignes. My dad fell in a frozen lake and I skied head-first into a rock. My brother also threw some eggs from our balcony into the café below, the police arrived, and so he almost got arrested. Then, when we finally tried to leave this situation, the car wouldn't start.

Another terrible one was a family holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. There was no running water in the cottage and the landlord disappeared. We had to use a stream to get water, clean dishes and flush the loo.

Worst hotel?

Somewhere in Essaouira, Morocco; I woke up in a horrible hotel covered in flea bites.

Best hotel?

Cambo House is a beautiful Victorian mansion in St Andrews with spectacular views, and wonderful owners. I have many funny memories of prancing around the grounds devising various shows for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival there.

I also love Playa Azul in Tulum, Mexico. The thatched cabanas were a bit basic, but being located on one of the most incredible beaches I have ever set foot on meant I soon forgot about the insect bites.

And I liked the Okaukuejo Lodge, which is in the heart of Namibia's biggest game reserve with cosy, romantic chalets and balconies overlooking the watering hole.

Best meal abroad?

Steak in Cape Town, calamari in Namibia – I've never had anything like it – and ice cream in Lecce, Italy.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I'll have a beer in the local café or bar.

Dream trip?

I'd love to go on the Trans-Siberian railway or see gorillas in their natural habitat.

Favourite city?

I fell in love with New Orleans. I found it intoxicating – the music, the laissez-faire attitude and the warmth, spirit and soul of the people.

Where next?

I'm staying in London for the next four months for a play, but I might go to Rome for a weekend.

Ruth Wilson is playing Stella in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' at the Donmar Warehouse in London from 23 July to 3 October (for tickets call 0870 060 6624 or visit donmarwarehouse.com )

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