Linda Cropper met the Queen and narrowly avoided a coup, but it was Aretha who really made her cry.
Which was your best holiday?
I had a particularly fantastic time in New York a few years ago, staying in a brownstone on Central Park, which was just around the corner from the Museum of Natural History - surely one of the great museums of the world. We saw Aretha Franklin at Radio City, another icon of NYC. The audience went bananas when she came on stage. What a voice, a living legend and one of my idols, so naturally I cried! Then we saw Novak Djokovic at the US Open, who turned out to be a great mimic and kept the crowd entertained doing impressions of other players. We went to the 2000th taping of the Letterman show and a Sunday morning Harlem service complete with gospel choir and lots of other great New York stuff!
And the best hotel you've stayed in?
I was put up in a suite at The Savoy in London once because Melba, the mini-series I had starred in, had been turned into a film for a charity screening with the Queen attending. (Yes I met her!) The suite was large and sumptuously decorated. I've never seen a bed or bath that big anywhere and there were call buttons next to them for the butler, maid and valet (not that I rang them!). On arrival there was the largest basket of fruit you've ever seen, magnificent flowers and a bottle of champagne. Dom Perignon, naturellement.
What do you need for a perfect holiday?
Good weather is always a big plus and not getting sick. I recently returned from a trekking trip in the Larapinta Trail in central Australia. A stomach bug affected most of the group and I was too sick to do the last day of the trek, which actually turned out rather well as that climb was tough and the weather was very cold and windy on the ascent and stinking hot on the descent.
What do you always take with you?
My beautiful gold St Christopher medal on a fine gold chain that my dear old dad gave me the very first time I travelled to Europe when I was 19 years old. I tend to not take jewellery of any value but that is the exception. It's very beautiful and very precious.
What's your best piece of travel advice?
Don't take too much stuff with you; you can always get it there. I had to buy a suitcase once as mine fell apart. No biggie, suitcases are easy to find, right? Not in Lima, Peru, it would appear. Finally I found an enormous thing which I christened "Pachu Mama" in honour of Machu Picchu, which we'd just climbed ... but that's another story! Another good tip is to book accommodation in advance. You can always move if it's terrible but arriving somewhere and not being able to find a bed for the night is a real drag.
Where do you want to go next?
I'm thinking Turkey or Sicily or possibly both. Istanbul sounds like an amazing city full of rich history and a vibrant culture, and apparently the country is also wonderful. And Sicily similarly is ancient, diverse and beautiful.
Which was your worst holiday?
I went away with a very close friend and we had a ghastly falling-out. I had a birthday on that holiday and she was so mean to me, it was awful. The fall-out was over driving, enough said! My birthday was spent in a villa in Tuscany, a glorious setting, and two friends joined us, thank goodness, as that broke up the tension between us. The meal was great and the wine was flowing liberally. At about midnight my friend hugged me, wished me a Happy Birthday and apologised. I'm happy to say we patched things up and are still great friends.
And your worst experience on holiday?
Coming home from a fairly disastrous love affair in Europe, stopping over in Manila and being told I wasn't on the passenger list for the Sydney leg. I had $50 cash and no credit card ... and it was the eve of the coup, the airport was crammed with hysterical people trying to leave the country! It was pretty touch and go but I got on the plane at the last minute, thank God.
What's the biggest packing mistake you've made?
I'm not too bad at packing but probably taking too much is the biggest mistake.
Which is the worst hotel you've stayed in?
Being diverted to Hawaii and put up by the airline at the Airport Holiday Inn. The carpet had clearly never been cleaned and was sticky underfoot and the sheets were grey with age. We went down to the bar where a talent contest was in progress and I use the term "talent" loosely! I still remember Memory being sung, out of tune but with great feeling, by one woman who looked like she'd been there for a while.
What do you avoid on holiday?
Crowds ... if possible!
What do you hate about holidays?
I try not to travel in peak times, mainly to avoid the crowds.
Linda Cropper is starring in The Mousetrap at Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay, until Saturday.
As told to Angie Kelly