Joanna visits the Great Cities of the World...

Thursday:Joanna Lumley’s Great Cities of the World; (ITV, 9pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Wednesday, 16th March 2022, 5:00 pm
Joanna Lumley with dancers from Paris' world-famous Moulin Rouge
Joanna Lumley with dancers from Paris' world-famous Moulin Rouge

At the age of 75, Joanna Lumley remains one of the most glamorous people around.

It’s a fact that makes her look as if she wouldn’t be a keen explorer, but would prefer all mod cons. And yet, Joanna loves ‘mucking in’ – as she has done on TV many times.

After all, this is the woman who once stripped down to her underwear to get the phones ringing for the BBC’s Children in Need appeal (it worked), trekked the Himalayas during In the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon and appeared without make-up for Girl Friday, which saw her stranded on a desert island.

“I’ve been on camera looking as bad as can be, an awful lot worse than when I go to the supermarket,” she says. “You do whatever you can to stop your face looking awful in the morning, then go out and forget about it. If people find you attractive that’s wonderful, if they don’t that’s terrible – but there’s nothing you can do about it.”

You just can’t keep a good woman down – which is perhaps why Joanna Lumley keeps packing her bags and jetting off on adventures in all sorts of far-flung places. It’s also something she’s been doing her entire life.

“As a child I did long boat journeys,” she remarks. “All our journeys out to Hong Kong (her family lived there for two years) were five weeks, and out to Singapore when I was in Malay was four weeks, so I am a good traveller.”

Joanna began her working life as a model, but soon followed her heart to become an actor. Early roles in Some Girls Do and the Bond flick On Her Majesty’s Secret Service led to appearances in Coronation Street and Hammer’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula before playing Purdey in The New Avengers made her a star.

She followed that with cult show Sapphire & Steel, then reinvented herself as a comedy performer thanks to her role as Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. Now you’re more likely to find her on a globe-trotting TV adventure than you are treading the boards.

Although the newly created Dame (awarded in the 2022 New Years Honours list for services to drama, entertainment and charitable causes) has been making travel-related documentaries for more than a quarter of a century, she’s upped the pace in recent years. Even during lockdown, she appeared in Unseen Adventures and Home Sweet Home – Travels in My Own Land.

Now Lumley is off again. Her latest series takes her to Rome, Paris and Berlin. None of these places could be described as off the beaten track, but she promises to avoid tourist hotspots such as the Spanish Steps, the Eiffel Tower and the Brandenburg Gate for more obscure places tucked away out of the limelight.

However, her own ideal destination may surprise some viewers.

“I would recommend Mongolia,” she once claimed. “You can fly direct to Ulan Bator. It sounds like the back of the world, but it’s the friendliest city, very hip kids there wearing skinny trousers, listening to hip-hop artists.”

We’re logging onto the nearest travel agents as we speak…

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