Robert Vaughn: My Life In Travel

'Tip heavily on the first day at a hotel - you'll get their utmost attention'

I was raised by my grandparents because my mother and stepfather were actors and would travel around. I would spend my summer holidays with them wherever they were, which was usually New York City.

Best holiday?

In 1964 I was shooting The Man from U.N.C.L.E. at the MGM Studios in LA and the Russian track team were in town so they were shown around the studios. The Russian world high-jump champion knew me from The Magnificent Seven, so he invited me to Moscow. He organised an amazing two-week stay for me, which was the most extraordinary experience, particularly as it was during the Cold War.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Devon and Cornwall. I love that part of the country.

What have you learnt from your travels?

A lot about food. Before I met my wife I was part of an eating club - we would go to all the different restaurants in Los Angeles. I did the same in London and Paris, so I've learnt that there's a lot of good food out there.

Ideal travelling companion?

William F Buckley: he started a magazine called National Review. I had the pleasure of debating with him about the Vietnamese War in 1967 and since then we've kept up a correspondence. He's got a good sense of humour and is a great traveller.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I prefer cities - I'm not much of an outdoor person.

Greatest travel luxury?

Until I travelled first class I didn't know there was such a thing. Since then I've travelled first class whenever I travel for work, whether it's on a ship, plane or train. I get it written into my contract!

Holiday reading?

I usually have five books on the go, which I take with me when I travel. I particularly like biographies or books about international relations. I recently read American Sphinx: the Character of Thomas Jefferson, which is about his contribution to the United States.

Where has seduced you?

I lived and worked in Africa during the 1980s and I found it absolutely fascinating. I did five pictures there, so I got to see South Africa and Botswana. I really enjoyed the sense of going back in time about a million years when I was out in the bush.

Better to travel or arrive?

I don't mind the journey if I'm travelling first class. The best airline I ever travelled on was South African Airways from London to Johannesburg. The first-class cabins were incredible, you almost had your own bedroom with a TV and wonderful food.

Worst travel experience?

During the Communist era I worked in Czechoslovakia when the Russians invaded. I was put under house arrest for a week. I was surrounded by young Russian soldiers clutching AK-47s. I think they were as terrified as I was.

Worst hotel?

There have been so many. The worst was probably one in Yugoslavia during the Communist era.

Best hotel?

The Dorchester and The Connaught in London, the George V and The Ritz in Paris and the Plaza Athénée in New York.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

I like driving in Big Sur country, northern California - it's very attractive.

Best meal abroad?

A meal at a restaurant called Les Trois Rois in Roanne, France, in the early 1970s. My wife and I had several fantastic meals there.

Dream trip?

I'd really like to go to the Moon, when it becomes possible to do so.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Tip heavily. If you arrive at an upmarket hotel, and you tip generously on the first day you will have the staff's utmost attention for the rest of your stay.

Favourite city?

London and Paris. I love the historic feel in both cities. Paris wasn't bombed during the Second World War so all the beautiful 18th-century structures are still there.

Where next?

I'm coming back to London in July to film the next season of Hustle. As it's my favourite city in the world, I'm happy to be returning.

Robert Vaughn stars in 'Hustle', which continues on 31 March, BBC1 at 9pm

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