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My life in travel: Sofie Grabol - ‘Assisi seduced me – it has a peace that makes you forget the world’

Hans Christian Andersen said: 'To travel is to live.' I think that holds a lot of truth, in the sense that travel is almost like being reborn

First holiday memory?

I don’t have any specifics. I just get flashes of holidays on bikes, holidays on skis and holidays in canoes, because I grew up in the Seventies, when the whole concept of an “active holiday” was very much in fashion. It was not until I was a grown-up that it dawned on me that holidays could be relaxing. I didn’t take a beach holiday until I was 19.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I’m not educated enough to answer that because I am only just beginning to discover the British Isles. On my current trip, I started in London before going to Birmingham to rehearse, then I headed up to the Edinburgh Festival to perform The James Plays.

While I’m up here, I also want to go to Stirling, because the castle is where Queen Margaret, my character in the plays, lived  the last years of her life and died. I plan on taking a small tour. 

Best holiday?

I had a very memorable trip to Japan with my boyfriend before I had children. What I long for when I travel is to meet something unknown. Very often, there are not a lot of places where you don’t have references from films before you  go. But I remember very clearly coming up from the underground in Tokyo and just standing with my jaw dropped, looking, because there wasn’t anything familiar. All my senses were sharpened.

Hilltop haven: the medieval town of Assisi (JLImages/Alamy)

What have you learnt from your travels?

Hans Christian Andersen said: “To travel is to live.” I think that holds a lot of truth, in the sense that travel is almost like being reborn or being a baby again. Everything is strange; you have to learn a new language, new food and new culture.

Ideal travelling companion?

It’s actually a big test, because you can get along with some people in other situations, but you can’t necessarily travel with them. Travel is a bit like dancing, you have to have the same rhythm. Some people are very active and have a whole list of things that they need to experience. I prefer to travel with someone who allows the unexpected to happen. Someone who doesn’t need to have everything planned.

Greatest travel luxury?

Being allowed to do nothing. Normally, if I  relax at home, I don’t really relax because I constantly feel I need to do some washing or answer emails. I never really just turn everything off. So the biggest luxury is allowing myself not to do anything.

Holiday reading?

I don’t, because I have two children. Holiday is time to be with my kids. If I do read anything, it’s something I need to read, such as scripts.

Where has seduced you?

Assisi in the Umbrian region of Italy. It’s a medieval hilltop town where St Francis came from. It’s very beautiful and has a peacefulness that makes you forget about the world.

Hans Christian Andersen said: 'To travel is to live.' I think that holds a lot of truth, in the sense that travel is almost like being reborn

Worst travel experience?

Mallorca, when my son was little. We just really needed some sun and everybody said: “Go away for a week, enjoy life!” So off we went to Mallorca around Easter, when it’s normally  really warm and lovely.

It poured the whole time and it was so cold. We’d rented this apartment and all the sofas were white, with a big expensive wine collection on shelves and my two-year-old son was all over the place with greasy hands.

We tried to get home earlier, because it was the most awful holiday. We froze and we didn’t have the right clothes.

Best meal abroad?

I do enjoy good food, but it’s not something  I focus on. The funny thing is that I live across the canal from Noma in Copenhagen – one of the world’s best restaurants – and I’ve never been. I do remember the first time I had pesto in Cortona in the early Eighties though: I didn’t know what it was. It was home-made in the restaurant and it was like a revelation.

Favourite City?

Right now, it’s London. At first, when I  arrived, I felt it was intimidatingly big. There’s  such a massive concentration of energy.

But I’ve got to know it better now, so  it’s not as frightening and I’m beginning to discover that you have all these little neighbourhoods. It has so much to offer and I am just seeing the tip of it.

Where next?

Denmark, because all this year, I’ve been in London and Scotland and also Iceland, filming a TV series for Sky called Fortitude. I’ve been working abroad all year, so the next place is definitely home.

Star of “The Killing”, Sofie Grabol performs in “The James Plays” at  Edinburgh International Festival until  21 August, before it moves to the National Theatre from 10 September to 29 October (nationaltheatre.org.uk).