Natascha McElhone: My Life In Travel

'I feel very liberated in any city where English isn't the mother tongue'


First holiday memory?

Going to Ireland at Christmas. I got a sneak preview of my present, which was a treehouse. The British army rummaged through it looking for explosives when we were at the checkpoint on the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Best holiday?

My honeymoon, on the Zambezi River. Waking up on the first morning to the sound of a hippo hiccupping and a monkey squeezing the last of my shampoo on to its head was an instant delight.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Prussia Cove in Cornwall, where we shot Ladies in Lavender. It's spectacularly beautiful and desolate.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That missing flights isn't always a bad thing!

Ideal travel companion?

Definitely my husband. Any time with him is a bonus, and if it's spent travelling, even better. At present we get around five weeks a year to travel together.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

My bum on the beach, my vulture cultured, with no adrenalin or junk.

Greatest travel luxury?

A candle. They make any hotel room feel intimate.

Holiday reading?

Unintelligible car-seat instructions and safe dosages of children's medicines. One day I'll read again...

Where has seduced you?

I'm constantly seduced by anywhere new. I want to move there instantly and then I am gently persuaded by my husband to calm down and stop begging estate agents for any old brochures they might have.

Better to travel or arrive?

The journey is everything: I travel between six and eight weeks a year.

Worst travel experience?

A 12-hour snowy drive from Brighton to Scotland on my 11th birthday. December birthdays should be banned for kids.

Worst holiday?

There's no such thing.

Worst hotel?

The Forgotten Palms Hotel in Nevada. The rooms had water beds that had been punctured by syringes.

Best hotel?

Reethi Rah in the Maldives. It was the most pampering experience of my life, even with my little chaps in tow. We went last November and it was beautifully tranquil and serene.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Walking in Ard's forest in Donegal, near my parents' house. It always takes my breath away, as I walk through the forest over sand dunes and see the Atlantic explode on to an untouched beach.

Best meal abroad?

A six-course breakfast on a glacier in Iceland. We ate everything from eggs and caviar blinis to smoked salmon, washed down with champagne.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Run about and do a few star jumps!

Dream trip?

An exotic movie location, where my family can share the experience with me.

Favourite city?

I feel very liberated in any city where English isn't the mother tongue. Phnom Penh was incredible, buzzy, desperate, and crammed with excitement and colour. I love Paris because of its breathtaking beauty, style and sophistication. However, I'm always excited arriving anywhere new, knowing I can eventually return to London, which I love with a passion.

Where next?

Dog sledding in Svalbard in May, when I've finished the play that I'm in.

Natascha McElhone stars with Diana Rigg in 'Honour' at Wyndhams Theatre, London (booking until 6 May: 0870 950 0925)

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