Trip­ping with...

Hugh Bon­neville loves Ibiza – but not for the foam par­ties

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Where are you right now?

I’m on the bor­der of West Sussex and Hamp­shire, in my sit­ting room, look­ing out at a soggy gar­den.

And where did you go on your last trip?

St Moritz. We [Bon­neville, his wife Lulu and son Fe­lix, 15] sailed, we moun­tain­biked and we hiked. My son learnt kitesurf­ing. We got ab­so­lutely ex­hausted and I needed a hol­i­day af­ter­wards.

What was your typ­i­cal child­hood hol­i­day?

My most vivid me­mories are of hot and sweaty plas­tic car seats and the smell of cala­mari. I re­mem­ber the five of us get­ting into a small, un-air-con­di­tioned Volvo, driv­ing for days to a lit­tle cove on the Costa Brava in Spain, called Ta­mariu, which was then a rel­a­tively sleepy fish­ing vil­lage. I re­mem­ber these elab­o­rately com­pli­cated can­vas tents my dad had from his ser­vice days. They’re not like the ones now where you press a but­ton and they pop up. They weighed a tonne and took five of us to erect.

How long would it take all of you to put up a tent?

Af­ter the ar­gu­ments, it prob­a­bly took – I don’t know – an hour? I re­mem­ber watch­ing M*A*S*H once and think­ing, “Ooh look, that’s one of our tents!” Then there was a small one for when my dad got fed up with us and went off on his own. Mice got those tents in the end.

Do you pre­fer to wan­der the streets or check maps?

A map is es­sen­tial on the first day or I’d end up in the gun-run­ning dis­trict. I al­ways claim I’ve got a pretty good in­ter­nal com­pass so af­ter day one I’m pre­pared to go off-piste, so to speak, know­ing I can find my way back. Usu­ally.

Has ex­pe­ri­ence proved that claim true?

There was a dodgy mo­ment in Cairo when I was 18. I was back­pack­ing and I ei­ther bought a camel or was be­ing sold as a camel – I can’t re­mem­ber which. I had to back­track fairly quickly.

Which des­ti­na­tion was a sur­prise to you?

The big­gest shock I got was in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo [in 2005, with med­i­cal char­ity Mer­lin, which merged into Save the Chil­dren], on the bor­der of Rwanda, and see­ing a boy of no more than 14 or 15 hold­ing a ri­fle and a rocket launcher and


look­ing me in the eye with ab­so­lutely no emo­tion. He’d seen and done things that no boy should have. The dead­ness in his eyes as he guarded a par­tic­u­lar post was shock­ing.

You also trav­elled to Liberia with Mer­lin in 2010...

To see how the coun­try had been dec­i­mated by civil war and how mirac­u­lously it was get­ting back on its feet was a shock. But an even big­ger shock was that in Liberia, I got the best broad­band sig­nal I’ve had any­where in the world. You cer­tainly don’t get de­cent broad­band in Sussex, I can tell you.

When you travel for plea­sure, do your tastes lean towards the rus­tic?

Oh no. I need clean basins and a fan­tas­tic wine list.

What’s been your most mem­o­rable din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence?

I was shoot­ing a film in Thai­land and two Bri­tish ac­tresses and I walked for a cou­ple of hours un­til we came across a road­side shack, where I had pos­si­bly the best meal of my life. It was just a bit of fish and some pad Thai with a view down over the bay in Cape Panwa. I can re­mem­ber ev­ery mouth­ful and it prob­a­bly cost a dol­lar. We were all wear­ing flip-flops. It’s a snap­shot of my life that I cher­ish.

What do you like to find in the ho­tel mini­bar?

Free stuff.

Is there a des­ti­na­tion that you keep go­ing back to?

Ibiza, most sum­mers. It’s not be­cause I like get­ting cov­ered in foam. It’s just a beau­ti­ful is­land, with a cer­tain part in the north that’s very peace­ful. I’ve never been to one of the huge clubs but maybe as I en­ter my twi­light years, it’s time to do so.

Have you ever been fleeced?

It in­volved a hat in Morocco. I was prac­tis­ing my hag­gling and, in a wannabe the­atri­cal ges­ture, I said no and walked away, know­ing he would call me back and re­duce the price. Un­for­tu­nately, he didn’t and I re­ally needed that hat so 10 min­utes later I had to go back and buy it at full price.

Is there a city that you could have given a miss?

Gori, the birth­place of Stalin, in Geor­gia. They have a mu­seum that’s re­ally a shrine to how mar­vel­lous Un­cle Joe was. They haven’t re­ally wo­ken up and smelt the cof­fee. When you’re film­ing in a for­eign city, do you try to see the sights? The thing about ac­tors is that when they’re out of work, they’re whinge­ing. Then as soon as they get a job, they ask how many days off they can have. There’s noth­ing bet­ter than be­ing paid to go abroad but the re­al­ity is the work­ing hours are so an­ti­so­cial that all you want to do is raid that free mini­bar that doesn’t ex­ist and go to bed.

Have you ever gone com­pletely off the grid?

I was back­pack­ing through north­ern and south­ern Su­dan 30 years ago – some­thing one wouldn’t do eas­ily these days. It’s prob­a­bly the most beau­ti­ful place I’ve ever been to, pass­ing through the tribal lands of the Shilluk, the Nuer and the Dinka and see­ing these great gods of south­ern Su­dan. I felt prop­erly off the grid. Then you come back to re­al­ity with a thump as you en­ter Uganda.

If you could be any­where in the world right now, where would you be?

A tiny ho­tel out of Jodh­pur, called Mi­hir Garh. It’s a lit­tle oa­sis with views across flat scrub­land for hun­dreds of miles. The owner grew up nearby and his fam­ily used to pic­nic on this par­tic­u­lar spot. He had a dream of one day build­ing a lit­tle ho­tel there and he’s done it. It’s as close to pure peace as you could hope for.

On the radar The Bri­tish ac­tor stars in Padding­ton 2, which screens in cin­e­mas from 21 De­cem­ber.

The pyra­mids of Meroë in Su­dan, a coun­try in which Hugh Bon­neville felt truly off the grid

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