My Life In Travel: Sam Neill, actor
'In Sardinia I met Harrison Ford on the beach, of all places'
Saturday 18 July 2009
First holiday memory?
Camping in New Zealand's Alps courtesy of our Bedford Dormobile in the mid-Fifties. My father, in spite of his considerable experience fighting the Wehrmacht, was terribly impractical, and most years we'd get flooded or blown away. But we loved it, and I learned to fly-fish, which I do to this day.
In 2000 we sailed for two weeks with friends and family in a gulet around the Turkish coast and the Greek islands, with some attention to archaeological sites and much more attention to fun. We liked the Turkish part the most.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Well, London, of course, for all the usual reasons, not least because there are so many people I love there. But for all the other reasons, the Outer Hebrides because they are bleak, empty and beautiful.
What have you learned from your travels?
You can't beat a flat bed. It's hardly a profound thought, but if you can sleep on a plane, you can function at the other end. And also, make sure your luggage comes with wheels – it can be a long walk between planes. I know I should be waxing lyrical about other cultures, but the bed takes precedence, I'm afraid.
Ideal travelling companion?
I always think I want to travel on my own, but when I actually do, I find it isolating and rather desolate. So companions are critical. What they need is a sense of enquiry and wonder. There is no substitute for enthusiasm – or a joke when it's all going pear-shaped.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I've always thought the beach the dullest place on earth, and a little mild skiing occasionally is quite enough adrenalin for me. So, if food and wine count as culture, then culture vulture it is.
Greatest travel luxury?
My iPod. At last count I had 12,500 songs on board, which is ridiculous, I know, but most of my life is stored in that little machine. This is a bit sad, now I come to think of it.
I try to find a novel or two set where I am, so Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, for instance, when in Jamaica. I've just had a holiday in Malaysia, so I picked up Somerset Maugham. I have to say it was creaking a bit, unfortunately. I wish I'd been in Leningrad when I read David Benioff's City of Thieves.
Where has seduced you?
In the Seventies I lived for three or four months in a village in Bali, which was the most overwhelming experience of my life. It's barely recognisable now, sadly, and an entirely different experience. Still, I can't stand nostalgia, so I'll shut up about that.
Better to travel or arrive?
We travel so fast now that we seem to have forgotten the journey itself. I'm very fond of trains, and on the right train (they still have steam trains in parts of Asia) I'm as happy as Larry, and twice as happy as Larry on arrival.
Worst travel experience?
Getting bumped off an overbooked British Airways flight after the Rugby World Cup and spending a grim 24 hours at Heathrow. The wretched airline reluctantly finally promised a free ticket in compensation, which proved impossible to redeem. BA: a formerly great airline. I remain, yours truly, embittered.
A very expensive and dull trip to Sardinia a few years ago. It was compensated to a large extent by a couple of funny and rather drunk nights with Harrison Ford, who we met on the beach, of all places.
I detest grand hotels, particularly in France – uncomfortable, patronising and with hideous furniture.
I like the Soho Hotel in London, the Hotel du Vin chain and the Shangri-La in Sydney. A good concierge goes a long way.
I walk everywhere, but given a choice I'd take a horse any time; an agreeable horse, that is. A horse tried to roll on me once, which I thought a little excessive. A stuntman called Dinny Powell saved me from a wheelchair, bless him.
Best meal abroad?
Hands down, my last great dinner with my father, at Lucas Carton in Paris. But some of the most enjoyable meals I've had have been on the street, particularly in Asia.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I head for the cathedral if there is one. You can't beat a bit of Gothic, but I'll settle for Christopher Wren, if necessary. I don't pray, but I do gape in astonishment. I think it's sad that some – such as St Paul's – have to charge now.
The trouble with favourite cities – Prague, Rome, Venice and New York – is that everybody else loves them too and are there in their legions unless you go there mid-winter, which I like. So if I had to choose, it'd be Prague, maybe in March.
Since you're offering, a month on a boat big enough for all my friends in the Caribbean, with unlimited Dom Perignon and Two Paddocks wine, entertainment by perhaps BB King, Lily Allen, Rufus Wainwright and Jools Holland, food by Peter Gordon, with maybe a stop or two for the cricket or a carnival. If I can't do that, I would just like to go home, please. I'm not there enough.
Toronto. See what I mean?
Sam Neill stars in 'Skin', an ICA Films release, which opens 24 July
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Top 10 cheapest cities to visit, according to TripAdvisor
Iceland volcano: Travel agency has 'Volcano hotline' for dare-devil tourists who want to visit Bardarbunga if it erupts
Contactless payment donkey rides are a thing now
August Bank Holiday 2014: Five ways to make the most of it
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
- 4 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 5 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
£6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...
£17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
£23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...