Rachel Johnson, the broadcaster, author and journalist, shares her favourite destinations and memories of childhood holidays.

Rachel-Johnson
Rachel Johnson © Martin Godwin

I’m going to New York with Cunard on Queen Mary soon as a speaker and cannot contain my excitement. I love being on the move and out on the open seas. I’m a wind-in-the-hair type of person and love like Ratty just messing about on boats.

The most memorable holiday I’ve been on is when we took the children to Mexico on a ‘double house swap’ with a pair of gallerists who had a museum-style residence in Mexico City and a beach house at Ixtapa on the Pacific coast in an uber-discreet, uber-chic, gated development. When we arrived in Mexico, we were met by a driver and when we got to the house two uniformed maids asked us what we wanted to eat and on it went.

The Mexican couple got our shabby house in Notting Hill and our even more primitive farmhouse on Exmoor in return. We had a cleaner and some mice to greet them. They loved going to the Portobello Market as neither of them had ever done any food shopping before, let alone on foot, and were utterly charmed by the unique experience. In fact, they loved staying in London so much they never made it to the farm. 

I never travel without earplugs. My husband snores.

Rachel-Johnson-Mexico
Ixtapa in Mexico, where Rachel went on a ‘double house swap’ with her family

On our usual August week in Greece we ate melons and tomatoes and swam in the sea (the Mediterranean and the gin-clear Pagasetic Gulf, which is plopping with seals and dolphins). 

My favourite cities are Venice, Paris and Rio (it’s where I met my husband).

We didn’t have much money growing up, so a real treat would be a villa holiday shared with friends in Italy. We always drove to save money. Most of our holidays were on the farm on Exmoor. We lived in Brussels and my father would book the cheapest tickets on the overnight ferry and change into his Viyella PJs inside our Opel Kadett on the car deck at midnight, wish us all goodnight, and sleep in the driver’s seat. We would be in a tumbled scrum on the back seat. 

On my last holiday I read Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. I’d recommend it, although it’s like Fifty Shades for women with intellectual pretensions.

Rachel Johnson volunteered at a kibbutz in Israel as a teenager
Rachel volunteered at a kibbutz in Israel as a teenager

Rachel volunteered at a Kibbutz in Israel as a teenagerVolunteering at a kibbutz north of the Sea of Galilee was unforgettable. I was a teenage girl visiting Israel for the first time and wore army fatigues and was a shepherdess in the Jordan valley, I worked in a valve factory, and I picked fruit. The working hours in the fields were 3am to 11am so after that having small children was a breeze. After a month or so, we left to tour the country: We ‘did’ the main sites of Jerusalem and Hebron in the West Bank; we climbed the fortress of Masada, the hilltop site where 960 Jewish patriots committed suicide rather than face enslavement by the Romans; we bobbed fatly and whitely in the Dead Sea.

On my last holiday I read Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. I’d recommend it, although it’s like Fifty Shades for women with intellectual pretensions.

I recently escaped for a few days to Jamaica. My host was Butch Stewart, the chairman of Sandals, who put us up in his frankly fantastic all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay. I learnt how to scuba dive. The men played golf. There were breezy, over-the-water bars where the barmen learnt fast if you wanted your cocktail ‘leaded’ (ie heavy on the dark cane rum) or ‘unleaded’.

Family and friends. Big meals. Sea. Scrabble. Sun – that sums up my perfect holiday.

Find out what other famous faces, such as Gok Wan and Anton Du Beke, get up to on their holidays in our series of Celebrity Travels interviews.