The Indian fashion designer talks about his favourite hotel, Nilaya Hermitage, Goa
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OT: From your brush with imprisonment and bankruptcy, to your tumultuous political career, you've had ample fodder for your bestsellers. What material do you get from your travels?
Jeffrey Archer: The great joy of travel is the journey. I've seen many films on India, but nothing's really captured the atmosphere, the feel here. Take the taxi ride I had last night: nothing prepared me for that! For the lunacy, the smell, the speed. Travel's vital that way — it can be just a paragraph in a book; a simple detail about how cows stay on the side of the road, but it'd make the reader say to himself: Jeffrey's been there.
OT: Where have your most memorable travels taken you?
Jeffrey Archer: I'm a great lover of Italy, as I'm an art collector. Last year my wife and I went to Tuscany, we saw the work of great artists — Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Donatello — and travelled around 11 great cities. That's my idea of a holiday — going from great painting to great painting, great city to great city. I follow my hobbies when I travel. I was in Australia recently, and I saw all the major art galleries; when I'm in New York, I go to the theatre.
OT: Have you travelled to India before? What struck you about it?
Jeffrey Archer: I've been to Mumbai, and Calcutta, when my son was working for Mother Teresa. I was struck by the heat — it's a different type of heat from the south of France, and even Brazil — it's very muggy, sweaty and powerful. There's a different noise, a different smell. And the people here are very calm and gentle. In New York, if there are 1,000 people on two roads, you feel the aggression. Here, when it's as crowded, it's bustling, busy...but there are no such aggressive undertones.
OT: Any hotels you stayed in, that you liked?
Jeffrey Archer: I stayed at the Taj Mahal Palace in Bombay, a wonderful colonial hotel, and here I am, stuck in the Mountbatten Room of the Oberoi...you haven't really got rid of the British, have you?
OT: What sort of books do you read on long journeys?
Jeffrey Archer: I read old-fashioned literature...a lot of dead authors, like Scott Fitzgerald, Dickens and Steinbeck. I'm currently reading Brigadier Gerard, virtually unknown stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He considered them the most important thing he ever wrote, but I don't agree with the great man. Brigadier Gerard is a relic of the Victorian age: a boring old brigadier who fought battles and won them. Sherlock Holmes is a far more interesting character; he's got a dark side to him.
OT: What's the most annoying thing about travelling, and the most delightful?
Jeffrey Archer: The most annoying thing about travel is travel. The best thing is when you get there. I've got to go to Lucknow now, but I want Lucknow to come to me! Packing, unpacking cases: I hate both. Thank god I'm not a woman; I'd have so many more cases to pack and unpack!
(The writer was in India on a Landmark book tour to promote his latest work, A Prisoner of Birth)
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