Around the world with Sam Neill

Around the world with Sam Neill

He took on T Rex in Jurassic Park and a seafaring psychopath in Dead Calm, playing everyone from Cardinal Wolsey to the Antichrist along the way. But, true to his Kiwi roots, he’s a winemaker at heart

Where are you just back from?
I’m not back yet. I am working in Sydney for a few months. No complaints; I love it. Along with Vancouver, it’s the world’s most beautiful city. They are both all about water.

Where in the world have you felt happiest?
In my Two Paddocks vineyards, in the South Island mountains of New Zealand. Not only am I at home, but also, in summer, I am 30 minutes away from some great fly-fishing, and just as close to skiing in winter.But more than all that, it’s my place, my soil, my grapes, my life…

Name a place that most lived up to the hype
I spent a week in Istanbul once, and it felt like I needed another year to get my head around it. What a city, and what a country. Lovely people, too.

And a place that least lived up to the hype
You know, if I am really honest, I get fed up with Paris after two or three days. It’s all a bit the same, and they don’t really like you at all. Romance, shomance… Oh God, now I say that, I just want to be back there!

What is your favourite city and why?
Probably London. It has everything a city should have: culture, history, high-life, low-life, theatre, architecture, great food and, best of all, friends.

Which is your road most travelled?
The road between my vineyards. Of course, it’s wildly beautiful, but the random-track option on my iPod also makes for a different journey every time.

Describe your favourite view
My front door. I travel a lot for work, so getting home is a distinct pleasure.

What do you pack first?
Toothbrush and wallet. What else do you really need?

Where did you go on your first holiday?
Not sure about a holiday, but my first real journey was a month on HMS Rangitiki when I was seven and we were returning to live in New Zealand. We went through the Panama Canal – thrilling – we swam in the ship’s pool and we stopped at the Pitcairn Islands. We bought a carved toy canoe from descendants of mutineers, and Dad smoked a cigar. We got ice cream at 4pm every day. Then I got the mumps and spent 10 days in the infirmary at the stern, with only an albatross for company.

What was your first holiday without your parents?
In the 1970s, my then girlfriend and I tootled around Europe for six months or so in a VW van. It was a great journey. It cost us next to nothing; just as well, as we didn’t have any money. The only thing we lacked was a little more music – all we could afford were five cassettes, and one of those was a ghastly album by Wings. It nearly drove us mad.

Describe a holiday disaster
Every summer we camped in the mountains of New Zealand, fishing being the main attraction. Despite having spent 20-odd years in the British Army, Dad was a hopeless camper, always picking the wrong spot. So we usually experienced some kind of catastrophe – blown away or flooded out. Somehow it made things more memorable, even more fun.

Tell us about a great little place you know
Northern Ireland. No one goes there, and it’s beautiful. I am not sure if it’s a DNA thing or something to do with spending my first years there, but I always feel happy and connected in that part of the world.

Which is the smartest hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
Maybe the Bristol in Paris. But I wasn’t nearly well-dressed enough.

Sightseeing or sun-lounger, barefoot or bling?
I cannot think of anything more boring than getting a tan on a beach. I’m always exploring.

‘I would never, ever go back to…’

Confess to one thing you’ve taken from a hotel room
Some hotels have Hermes soap, and you can’t say no to that.

Who is the most interesting person you have met on your travels?
I ran into Harrison Ford on a beach once. Then we had a few evenings when we drank too much and he told great travel stories.

Which foreign phrase do you use most often?
Une autre, s’il vous plait.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Airline food. And wine. It is the excitement of going somewhere new, getting on a plane, seeing what’s playing on the entertainment channel and opening the menu. Bring it on.

What would you most like to find in your minibar?
Some of my own wine, to be frank. Failing that, there is hardly anything in those minibars I don’t like. Apart from the damned ‘mini’ thing.

Your most regrettable holiday souvenir?
Something I once caught in the East.

How do you relax?
I don’t. Relaxation is overrated. Life is way too short for that sort of nonsense.

Sam Neill was talking to Francesca Babb. He stars in ‘Peaky Blinders’, to be shown on BBC Two this month

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