My Life In Travel: Stephen Frears

'I thought Calcutta was the most exciting place in the world'

First holiday memory?

When I was young, my family used to go and stay in hotels on the south coast in places like Devon. I loved those holidays because they were with my brothers, who were away at school; I really looked forward to them.

Best holiday?

We tend not to go abroad that much because we have a house in the countryside in Dorset. I like it there – it means I can watch my wife doing the gardening.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I used to go walking in the Lake District with my dad, which I loved mostly because I liked being with him but also because of the mountains and scenery. I went back there recently but it seemed suddenly much more ordered and tidy, which was disappointing.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Alan Bennett once said that travel doesn't broaden the mind, the mind broadens the mind, which is rather how I feel. However, I just spent the weekend in Moscow and I suppose I know a little bit more about it than I did before.

Ideal travelling companion?

You mean would I like to have gone on holiday with Samuel Beckett? I haven't a clue!

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I can't deal with 90 degree-heat anymore, so I now take holidays in winter; last Christmas we were in Pondicherry in India, which was very nice. It was warm but not too hot.

Holiday reading?

I usually take books I've failed to read during the year. At the moment I'm reading Geoff Dyer's Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, which is very funny indeed.

Where has seduced you?

I went to St Petersburg 18 months ago and I thought it was very romantic. Similarly, I liked Vienna, particularly for the cinematic and literary history.

Better to travel or arrive?

I have to travel for my work, so the idea of getting on planes depresses me. They give me frequent-flyer points and I think, I don't want them because I'm sick of flying!

Worst travel experience?

I've had rows with people, but I haven't fallen from the sky in a plane or anything like that.

Worst hotel?

I'm not a fan of modern hotels. I spend so much of my life in those golden prisons that I prefer to be at home.

Best hotel?

The Lancaster in Paris is very nice. I think it's rather homely, but on the other hand it's very grand too.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

I like driving a lot. I used to enjoy driving in the south west of the US in places like New Mexico and Arizona. I've driven across America from the north to the south; it's an absolutely fantastic country to drive in. Anthony Hopkins used to say that was the best part of making a film was working out how to get there by car.

Best meal abroad?

I had a fantastic meal at a restaurant called Le Duc in Paris two or three weeks ago. I can't remember anything about it other than it was wonderful. I also like places in Italy where they do things like pasta with truffles. I live quite a simple life, so sometimes it's nice to indulge.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

I usually find out where I can sleep during the day.

Dream trip?

I have never been to Australia because the flight terrifies me, but I think I would like to go there one day.

Favourite city?

It was fashionable to go to Rome in the 1960s and I started going there again in the 1990s; it is still an incredibly beautiful city. I also once spent the day in Calcutta about 30 years ago and thought it was the most exciting place in the world; the people seemed to be incredibly interesting and sophisticated.

Where next?

I am going to Switzerland to teach this weekend. I'll be at the far end of Lake Geneva at the foot of the mountains.

Stephen Frears is director of 'Chéri', on general release

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