Roy Marsden: My Life In Travel

'Pompeii in the morning was totally empty and quite marvellous'

First holiday memory?

I was brought up in the East End and went on my first holiday just after the war. A huge crocodile of black taxis drove from where I lived to Southend - I was packed off with a bottle of Tizer, sixpence and some sandwiches. The tide was out when we arrived so we couldn't see the sea. However, when it came back in I remember my first vision of it - the most extraordinary sight.

Best holiday?

Italy. My brother and I own a house in a medieval hill village called Apricale in Liguria. It is about 8km up into the hills. Everything is built on the side of a mountain, so our house is under the crypt of a church. On Sunday morning you can hear mass being sung above you as you sit on the balcony and look out at the olive groves.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

North Norfolk, where I live. Holkham Sands is only four miles away. People don't pass through Norfolk to get to somewhere else, like the rest of England. It's also still old and quiet; at night you can stand in absolute blackness. It's almost unbeatable.

What have you learnt from your travels?

How small this world is. You can get on a plane and fly 12 hours to somewhere like Thailand and although they speak a different language and there's a different climate, people have the same concerns. We have so much in common.

Ideal travelling companion?

My partner, the producer Hilary Bevan Jones (pictured right), or my boys Joe and Bill. Their sense of enquiry is enormous. They're both in their early 20s and keen to do and see everything. I would love to spend a holiday with Ray Mears, too. I admire the ease he seems to have with people.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I don't like too much sun, but I like temperate places like Marrakech. I went for a couple of weeks on my own recently and really enjoyed it. The idea of lying on the beach is not for me, I like doing things. My great passion for many years was sailing, off the Norfolk coast. I would go out of sight of the land and it felt like I could be anywhere in the world.

Greatest travel luxury?

A tiny doll that was given to my eldest son when he was born - it's my amulet.

Holiday reading?

If I'm in a restaurant on my own, a good book is a great friendship. The great thing is that there are bookshops all over the world with English-language literature, although they're usually twice the price they are at home.

Where has seduced you?

Walking through Pompeii very early in the morning. It was totally empty and quite marvellous.

Better to travel or arrive?

I hate the inconvenience of air travel because I'm very tall, unless I'm working and someone pays for me to sit in the posh bit at the front of the plane. I wish air travel were more like catching a bus without all the fuss of airports. The holiday only starts once you get to the hotel.

Worst travel experience?

Since 11 September US Immigration has been very hot on travel to the States and I had a rough time there recently. I have two names, Roy Mould and Roy Marsden. My passport and ticket had two different names on so I spent three hours trying to explain it to the people at immigration. Eventually I was put on a plane and sent back to England. The first thing I did when I got back was to change my name by deed poll to Roy Marsden!

Worst hotel?

A hotel in Zakynthos, Greece. We went before you could fly there and had to take a coach, then a boat and another coach from Athens. As we neared the hotel, we came round the bend and suddenly cranes came into view. It turned out that the hotel was only half-built, the bathrooms hadn't been finished and the lavatories didn't work. It was the only hotel for miles, so we had to decamp to some beach huts instead.

Best hotel?

The Hotel Negresco in Nice. I was filming in Nice many years ago and there was no room in any of the hotels except the Negresco, where I was given a suite. I spent three weeks there and it was to die for. As my alarm went off each morning, I could hear the sound of the bath running and by the time I got out of the bath, the bedroom had been made up with my clothes laid out on the bed and breakfast waiting in the sitting room. I never saw the person that did it.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

Walking through Paris on Boxing Day, it was magical.

Best meal abroad?

At a restaurant in Apricale. It's completely Italian. There's no menu, you sit down and food starts arriving one dish at a time. We have never got past the pasta dish because we're completely full by that point. They use local produce, which is fantastic.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Check the fire escape.

Favourite city?

Stockholm is fantastic, Florence is superb and Paris is beautiful. I lived in Edinburgh for three years and that's a wonderful city, I could very easily live there again.

Dream trip?

I'd like to take a map and draw a line down the US to New Orleans and then drive down that line right through Middle America, without deviating.

Where next?

New Orleans in September for work. I was there last year so I am looking forward to seeing what has happened, post-Katrina.

Roy Marsden stars in 'All in the Game' on Channel 4, Thursday 11 May at 9pm

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