Omid Djalili: My Life In Travel
'The decibel level of my snoring can cause problems with the locals'
Saturday 13 August 2005
Being hot and sticky in the back of a car, having just had an ice-cream. We were driving across Europe, but I have no idea where we were going or why. I was about five and had to sit on the floor, so I just remember seeing a row of feet.
A summer holiday in the Tatra mountains in Slovakia last year. Quite a large group of us went and I played football with a bunch of nine-year-olds. The air was so clean and the countryside was breathtaking.
Favourite place in the UK?
Fife in Scotland. It's where my wife's family is from so I have a sentimental connection with it.
What have you learnt from your travels?
In the words of Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, "People are the same wherever you go".
Ideal travelling companion?
Richard Madeley for his enthusiasm, shiny radiance and journalistic approach. He would be very thorough about the arrangements and I'm sure he'd ask me questions that would mine the recesses of my soul.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I'm not an adrenalin junkie; the idea of jumping out of a plane fills me with horror, although I feel I have to do it one day. I'm not much of a beach bum because I feel very fat, hairy and conspicuous. I like unusual cultural experiences - when I was in New York I went to an open-mic gospel night in Greenwich Village.
Greatest travel luxury?
My ResMed sleep machine. I suffer from sleep apnea, which stops me sleeping because I snore so loudly and my airway becomes blocked. Travelling without it causes problems with the locals; the decibel level of my snoring is quite astounding.
I always take loads of books, such as political satires, and end up reading my wife's magazines. I start off with good intentions but always end up falling asleep.
Where has seduced you?
Thorpe Park, because it surprised me. It was much more fun that I thought it would be.
Better to travel or arrive?
There was a time when I loved travelling because the places we went to were so disappointing. Now it's definitely the arriving - I usually catch a cold from the air conditioning on planes or end up feeling nauseous.
Worst travel experience?
In my youthful exuberance I went to Los Angeles for a film premiere with my wife. We'd spent money on a stylist, designer clothes and a personal trainer and when we arrived, British Airways had lost our bags. The premiere was a complete anticlimax - it was just like going to the cinema.
When I was 18, I tried to drive to Monte Carlo with a friend. I managed to lose all my cash before we got there and I crashed the car 30 miles into France. It turned out to be a day trip that cost me £800.
A supposedly four-star hotel in Tunis, that was worse than any one-star hotel. There was no colour in the hotel, and people were unenthusiastic. It was like being in a very mediocre, lacklustre dream.
The Regent Beverly Wilshire in LA. The service is fantastic - nothing is a problem. They don't hang around waiting for tips, which is unusual in the US.
My favourite drive is through London after midnight on a cool summer night during the week when there's no traffic. Possibly with Richard Madeley in the car.
Best meal abroad?
The Peter Luger Steakhouse in New York. The bread was so good that I was full when the main course arrived.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I do like to see the "Welcome Mr Djalili" sign on the TV when I walk into my room; it makes me chuckle. I then check to see if there are any English-speaking channels like CNN or BBC.
Travelling across Biblical lands, to Nazareth, with Richard Madeley in the back of the car. Preferably dressed as the Masked Crusader.
The triumvirate of Vienna, Budapest and Prague. Each of those cities demonstrates the nobility of Europe, which I find particularly thrilling and inspiring. I lived in Bratislava for a while, where there were no McDonald's, but I could drive 30 miles to Vienna where there were. The dream is to rediscover those three cities with Richard Madeley!
Corfu, where I'm going to shoot a film in September.
Omid Djalili will be starring in 'No Agenda' at the Pleasance Courtyard (0131 556 6550; www.pleasance.co.uk) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to 29 August
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