Sunday, 5 March 2017

Naomie Harris's Travel Secrets

The Moonlighting Miss Moneypenny has grappled with Frankenstein's monster and walked with Mandela, but her secret talent is knowing the words to every song in The Sound of Music

Where have you just come back from?

Puglia. Friends of mine have a house between Bari and Brindisi, and luckily for me, they invite me to stay every year. I travel so much for work that I'm really reluctant to leave my home in London when I have time off. Pottering around my flat, having friends over for dinner and just being able to have a routine feels much more appealing than getting on yet another flight. The only way I take a holiday abroad is if friends drag me kicking and screaming. But then, when I'm there, I remember that travelling for work and for pleasure are completely different experiences, and I have an amazing time.

The place you felt happiest?

As a teenager, I was obsessed with Jane Austen novels and spent hours imagining I was one of her heroines. I mention this because once, on a flight to Northern Ireland for work, I struck up a conversation with the man next to me, and he invited me to his home for lunch with his wife. I think the best way of getting to know a new place is by befriending people who live there, so I took him up on his offer… but being a cautious Londoner I arrived with three friends in tow as security! My hosts turned out to be the Viscount and Viscountess of Brookeborough, and their home is the Colebrooke Estate, one of the most historic stately homes in the country. Alan and Janet, as I now know them, open their house to the public and I've had the privilege of staying on a few occasions. I wake up in a four-poster, to no sounds except the bleating of lambs, waft down the magnificent hallway following the smell of Janet's incredible cooking, and totally believe that I'm Elizabeth Bennet!Which is your favourite city, and why?
London. Hands down! For countless reasons… its historical charm, culture, ethnic diversity, architecture, elegance and sophistication. And the way London manages to be a thriving metropolis without being overwhelming, but still maintains peaceful pockets that make you feel as though you're in a village.

Which is your road most travelled?

I'm super close to my family, so close in fact that I live on the same street as them. So this is my road most travelled, as I trudge up and down to visit them for lunches and dinner, or claim back items of clothing and bits of equipment that my teenage brother and sister have a habit of 'borrowing' from my flat.

What do you pack first?

I am a terrible packer. I literally take everything. I'm always envious of people who can go on holiday with nothing but a carry-on - how is that even possible? I read a book on time management and one of its suggestions was if you travel a lot, buy double of everything you need and always keep a packed suitcase ready to go. I do that now and it does save time, but I still take just as much.

Any memories from childhood holidays?

When I was about nine, my aunt treated me and my cousins to a Butlin's holiday. It definitely wasn't luxurious but all you really need for a great holiday is good company, and as I was with my cousins I remember having a blast. We got to feel like adults as we were allowed to roam the camp by ourselves and stay up well past midnight. I remember crying my eyes out when we had to go home; it seemed like I was being booted out of paradise.

When was the first trip you took by yourself?

It was to Mexico, on a backpacking holiday. I remember my mum acting very cool about the whole thing; she almost seemed indifferent to me leaving. After I landed in Mexico, exhausted from the flight, I went straight to sleep in my hotel room - and was woken by the staff saying my mum was on the phone. The funny thing is that I hadn't given her any details, as I had no idea where I'd spend my first night. She had called almost every single cheap hotel in Mexico City until she found me.

Describe a holiday disaster

My friend Sekina and I were both in our 20s and getting over broken hearts. We decided that the best way to do that would be to jump on a flight to Cuba and have a fun holiday. We ended up in a cockroach-infested dive of a hotel. We ate the worst food, and spent most of our time starving as we ran out of money halfway through…

'I lost my heart in …..'

Ghana. I made my first-ever film, Anansi,  there and was blown away by the kindness of the locals. There's a Ghanaian saying that 'there's no such thing as a stranger; everyone is a brother or sister you haven't met before'44d such a magical time in Ghana.

Any favourite foreign phrase?

Amore - I love the feel of that word in my mouth, and how warm and endearing it is.

What's your guilty pleasure?

When I'm in LA for any length of time I take classes at S Factor. It's a women-only pole-dancing class done in the dark and I absolutely love it. It's the best upper-body work out ever! And I'm a terrible singer but I love that karaoke allows me to pretend I'm Whitney for the night.

What would you like to find in your mini-bar?

Water. I don't drink alcohol and I don't have a sweet tooth, so I'm not interested in the wine or gummy bears. I would even go so far as to say I have a love affair with water. Just a whiff and a sip, and I can tell you what brand I'm drinking blind-folded. I'm not sure how useful that skill is, but I'm proud of it nonetheless.
Naomie Harris was speaking to Francesca Babb. Her latest film, 'Moonlight', recently won the Oscar for Best Picture.

This feature was first published in Condé Nast Traveller November 2016

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