Uri Geller, the mind-bending mystifier and distant relative to Sigmund Freud, recalls finding spirituality in Japan and a hair-raising flight from Mexico City.Great holidays…
Which was your best holiday?
In the late 1970s I’d become very successful and was on an ego trip of fame and fortune but I was anxious too and I had bulimia. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were close friends and one day John said: ‘Uri, you look like a skeleton.’ Yoko and he advised me to go to Japan to find spirituality. I didn’t know what they meant but Hanna, my wife and I went with our children Daniel and Natalie, who were very young then, to find ourselves. We rented a hut in the forest around Mount Fuji near Lake Yamanaka and meant to stay for five weeks but we ended up living there for a year. I learned meditation from monks and discovered spirituality. The only reason we came home was because Daniel, who’s now 30, and Natalie, who’s 28, needed to start school. If we’d sent them to a local school we’d probably still be there.
What’s the best hotel you’ve stayed in?
The Dolder Grand in Zurich, which is architecturally-stunning and has amazingly peaceful with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. We went in 2008 when it reopened after renovation. Hanna, who’s 62, and I exercise every day and there’s the most perfect walk from the centre of Zurich up the hill to the hotel.
What do you need for the perfect holiday?
I need it to be a short flight from my home in Sonning, Berkshire. I need to be able to speak the language – I speak Greek, Hungarian, Hebrew, English and German. It must always be warm. It must have the sea, a lake or a river for the powerful positive energy of water and it cannot be a place that is polluted. Many places fit those criteria.
What’s your best piece of travel advice?
Make sure you’re insured. There are so many horror stories about people getting sick or injured and having to spend £200,000 on hospital bills to get home.
What do you always take with you?
I take rubber exercise bands, my Achilles tendon stretcher, running shoes, vitamins, sunglasses, sanitiser gel, face masks in case I encounter major pollution and, of course, my wife.
Where do you want to go next?
Israel. I haven’t been for seven years. It’s an incredible country: the Holy Land where religions meet. I’m in love with old Jaffa, it’s a 5,000-year old town by Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean. I’m looking forward to running with Hanna from Tel Aviv to Jaffa and back again.
What’s the worst hotel you’ve stayed in?
In Punta Arenas in Chile overlooking the Magellan Strait. The room was so tiny that there was no space to turn round by the time I got my luggage in there. Everything stank of cigarettes. The walls were paper thin, there were fleas in the bed, the window was broken so the wind got in and the heaters weren’t working. It’s freezing there and always blowing a gale. The water looked like blood when you turned the taps on because the pipes were so rusty. I went there because I had a show in Argentina and decided to visit Chile and the Easter Islands. It was nearly 40 years ago but it’s scarred me for life.
What was your worst holiday?
I went to the Soloman Islands because I read amazing stories of sunken WWII wrecks and wanted to dive there. The heat and humidity was unbelievable and the islands are inundated with frogs. I’m a huge animal lover and I simply couldn’t drive because I couldn’t bear to squash them.
What was your worst experience on holiday?
In 1976 we were guests of the former Mexican President, José López Portillo, who at the time was campaigning for office. We flew with his wife Muncy on their private jet to Cancun from Mexico City. She was quite a woman. You couldn’t say no to her. The pilot said there was a storm and wanted to divert but she refused to let him because she didn’t want to be late, so ordered him to fly through it. I was sure we were going to die. The plane was tossed around in such a violent manner that I was bruised from the seat belt. The sound of ice hitting the body was deafening and I thought the plane was going to break up. I don’t know why but I calmly took my shoes off – to prepare for death, I suppose. But suddenly there were blue skies and everything was calm. She was very cool. She even told the pilot to do a barrel roll in victory. She smiled at me and I forced a smile back.
What was your biggest packing mistake?
I was in Israel in 2006 during the conflict with Lebanon and I was in an armoured car following the troops. I wanted to do something for my country and thought my fame could help Israel put its side of the story. Rockets were exploding right next to us. One missile just missed us and I decided to collect the remains thinking I might be able to show people on the BBC. It was so hot that I picked it up with a wet towel and at my hotel I carefully packed it in my suitcase. At Ben Gurion Airport the metal was detected and a dozen border police surrounded me. I was recognised and explained what I was trying to do and that the missile was dead and after three hours they agreed to let me go and labelled it as scrap metal. I showed some journalists on my return to the UK and it’s now in my house.
What do you avoid?
Cold weather, polluted cities, noisy places and crowds.
What do you hate about holidays?
They are a huge waste of time. I’m addicted to my routine and it’s like a knife slashing through that. I also get a creative block on holiday. I usually write a lot and I can’t ignite my imagination, probably because I’m distracted by new things going on. I go because I want to treat my family.
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