Miranda Richardson, the actress, on relishing wildlife in South America, glamour in Venice and a muddy bar in Somerset.
Interview by Lisa Grainger
Daily Telegraph - 10 Mar 2010
Miranda Richardson is one of Britain's busiest actresses. After a childhood spent in Southport, Lancashire, she began acting in the early 1980s. She has frequently appeared on stage, on television (memorably in Blackadder) and in more than 50 films – from Dance with a Stranger, The Crying Game and Damage to The Young Victoria. Twice nominated for an Oscar, she is the winner of two Golden Globe awards and a Bafta. She lives in London.
How often do you travel?
For years, I never knowingly went on a holiday. When I travelled, it was for work. Now I am a huge advocate, particularly to places which have amazing wildlife, such as Antarctica, India and Patagonia.
Your most recent trip?
To the Galapagos and a bit of Ecuador – both of which were wonderful. We were particularly privileged as we went on a boat called the Eclipse, which could accommodate 48 but there were only 24 of us, in lovely cabins. The wildlife was incredible: marine iguanas, frigate birds, sea lions and phenomenal mocking birds. Nothing there is fearful, so it is like being in Eden. It makes you feel like a child again, it's so overwhelmingly terrific.
What sort of holiday makes you happiest?
I'm not someone who can lie on a beach and do nothing. I am not sure what you are supposed to do, so I get bored. I prefer to have a purpose, such as going to Alaska to see orca whales.
Your most challenging holiday?
A charity dog-sled trip in Arctic Norway. It felt very, very elemental and also romantic, in a perverse way. With the dogs howling, it was like a mad point-to-point, but conducted over the most beautiful, pure white snow. Our reward was seeing this twisting green streak lighting up the sky: the Northern Lights. Truly astonishing.
Do you travel light?
Not as light as I would like. I take quite a smart, sporty-looking zip-up holdall called a High Sierra, which has wheels and a pull-along handle. It is practical and boring, but you can cram a lot in.
What do you always carry in your handbag?
I used to pride myself on having no handbag at all. I used pockets. Now, on an urban trip, I might take a practical bag I can strap over my shoulder for taking along a book, in case I fancy reading.
Do you listen to music when you travel?
I carry music in my head, so I don't need more. It drives me nuts that, in hotels or on boats, people seem to think you need music 24 hours a day.
Your favourite place for a weekend break?
Last year I went with a friend to Antwerp and loved it. I like the personality of the Belgians. They're deeply eccentric, which is something that comes across in their design – terrific.
Hotels you've particularly loved?
The Wild Mahseer Lodge in Assam: lovely little colonial bungalows, which are incredibly comfortable, and where the people are thoughtful and lovely. I love the Kandalama in Sri Lanka, an eco hotel designed by the brilliant architect Geoffrey Bawa, surrounded by greenery and monkeys.
Remi, a Venetian restaurant in New York. One night I went in and said, "I don't want much, but I want something delicious", and they gave me soft polenta with an egg and white truffle. Heaven.
New York, because it is so vibrant. People have experiences there; it opens itself out to you. Bilbao is like that, too. I went for the Guggenheim and loved the energy of the building, the way the place is integrated into the town, the culture, the cuisines. It was such a full experience. I hate Vienna: all those little green coats and twitchy curtains.
The grandest hotels you've stayed in?
I did the Aman thing when I went to Indonesia, which was delightful and very suited to the place: very serene. And I love the Hotel Gritti Palace in Venice, which has huge balconies and beautiful gilted rooms in which to waft.
Luxuries you look forward to abroad?
Caviar, though I don't eat it much now because I don't know enough about where it comes from. Truffles, white or black. Beautiful linens and gorgeous stationery. Moleskine notebooks, to take notes that make the trip come whooshing back. And staying at the St Regis in New York: while it seems madness to have a 24-hour butler, it is amazing. I love its King Cole bar, too.
Favourite places in the UK?
The Peat Inn, in Fife, which is small, close to lovely beaches and has very good food. I didn't drink whisky before, but they converted me; I took one sip and ended up ordering six bottles. There's also a pub called the Queens Arms at Corton Denham in Somerset, where they sell their own pies, some very sexy olives and good wines. They welcome people with dogs and muddy boots, which I love.
The most remote place you've been?
Napo Wildlife Eco Centre in Ecuador. Rooms are little cottages run by the community – all solar-powered – and you get there by dugout canoe.
Best safari destination?
Londolozi in South Africa. It's glamorous, and you see what they say you'll see. One evening, we saw leopards mating from about 15ft away, and my camera made a noise that made one of them look right at me. Another time, an elephant came right up by our jeep, with red eyes and flapping ears. I kept looking at my guide and he would say, "She's OK, relax." He was right; she was putting on a show.
Your roughest trip?
I went to Greece years ago and lived in a cave for a few days. It was fun, but I wouldn't do it again.
Travelling moments you won't forget?
Getting close enough to elephants to look into their eyes. To look right into the eye of any animal is extraordinary – elephant, tortoise, sea lion, whatever.
Your favourite shop?
John Derian, in New York, because it's so eclectic, weird and wonderful, and sells funny old things like découpage plates. In a world where things are so generic, finding odd treasures is thrilling.
Favourite airline and tour operator?
BA Business Class is very comfortable, and they don't overmanage you. Of the operators, I like Sanctuary Retreats
Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour Cream. On a plane, you can just whack it on and, at the end of your trip, your skin will still feel human.
* Miranda Richardson plays Rita Skeeter in the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows