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Author and former Home Secretary Alan Johnson talks about his travels 

‘I never venture anywhere there isn’t an ironing board and a restaurant’: Author and former Home Secretary Alan Johnson talks about his travels


Alan Johnson checks in to our travel Q&A

This week former Home Secretary Alan Johnson checks in to our travel Q&A.

He talks about his love for Crete, a memorable trip to Brazil and the creature comforts he can’t live without on holiday.

ARE YOU ADVENTUROUS?

No, I never venture anywhere there isn’t an ironing board and a restaurant. Sleeping under canvas doesn’t interest me. What’s the point of a holiday if you can’t enjoy the creature comforts?

EARLIEST HOLIDAY MEMORY?

Visiting New Brighton on the Wirral Peninsula in 1954, aged four. It was the first time I’d been to the seaside and I went looking for cockleshells on the beach with my sister.

FIRST TRIP ABROAD?

Going to Denmark with the Children’s Country Holidays Fund, which was established in Dickens’s day and sent waifs and strays from the slums on holiday. It was wondrous being in a foreign country and they even gave me ten kroner to spend.

FAVOURITE PLACE? 

Crete, for the scenery, the food, the weather and the wonderful beaches.

TOP TIP IF YOU’RE VISITING CRETE?

See both coasts, which are well worth exploring. On my last visit, I chanced upon a ramshackle little restaurant on the west coast whose chef, Dimitri, just served up whatever he fancied cooking that evening — every dish was delicious.

MOST EXOTIC TRIP?

Going to Brazil as a government minister [during Tony Blair’s administration] and being whisked off to see the final parade of the Rio Carnival. Unforgettable.

EVER HAD THE RED-CARPET TREATMENT?

On a trip to the Philippines as a junior government minister, I had a couple of machine-gunners posted at the back of my car, and a Jeep-load of soldiers behind me. I think they thought they were in a Hollywood film.

Alan says his favourite place in the world is Crete due to its beautiful beaches and fine food

Alan says his favourite place in the world is Crete due to its beautiful beaches and fine food

CAN’T TRAVEL WITHOUT?

My wife, who is essential to my health, happiness and arriving properly organised. I also need Rooibos Tea, which unfortunately you can’t get everywhere.

WHERE NEXT?

A literary cruise on Queen Mary 2 to New York in November, which I’m very much looking forward to.

ANYWHERE YOU NEVER WANT TO RETURN TO?

I’ve no great desire to go back to Afghanistan any time soon, though my ministerial visit [in the 2000s] filled me with admiration for the British troops based out there at the time.

DREAM DESTINATION?

I like islands and Sicilian food, so I’d love to visit Sicily some day.

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