Former US Federal Reserve chairman
Where are you going on holiday this year? Aspen, Colorado, and possibly Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to play golf. Golf at higher altitudes is good for the ego – balls fly further.
What do you think about during your holiday? The same things I think about when not on vacation but obviously to the extent that I’m playing tennis and golf, I do give proper consideration to my form.
What will you be reading on holiday? History – Lords of Finance: The Bankers who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed; biography – John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith.
What will you be listening to on holiday? Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, and Brahms. On occasion, a little Benny Goodman.
Ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? My wife. She outdistances all other possibilities.
Do you cook or eat out on holiday? Both. Nobody wishes to partake of my cooking.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? No. I would spend my vacation worrying about what was going on back home.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? The scenic views. I find sitting in contemplation as I look up at the peaks of the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole most rewarding. Airport congestion and long queues can ruin my vacation.
Where did you go on holiday as a child? To the wilds of New Jersey. For a kid brought up on the streets of Manhattan, they seemed truly exotic.
Where are you going on holiday this year? Tokyo because I’ve never seen Japan and have always wanted to.
What will you be reading on holiday? Nella Larsen’s Passing, Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, and the new Nigerian writer Teju Cole’s forthcoming novel, Open City [published next year].
What will you be listening to on holiday? I am mostly musically illiterate and think of much music as noise. But I will take my iPod, which has my favourites: Nina Simone, Sade and Tracy Chapman.
Do you cook or eat out on holiday? Eat out. On holiday, I never have any interest in cooking.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? I am tardy about replying to e-mails and will be even more so while on holiday.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? What I enjoy most is the way the margins of my mind seem to expand when I am on unfamiliar territory, the way I seem to think more clearly and more inventively. What I like least is the stale, sometimes smelly cabin air of aeroplanes as well as the almost-certain scowl of airport officials as they examine my Nigerian passport.
Where did you go on holiday as a child? I grew up in Nsukka, a university town in eastern Nigeria. We went to Lagos sometimes, and once we went to California, which was a highlight. But the most pleasant was a trip to our ancestral hometown in August – strange because we only went at Christmas – when I was 15. My brothers and I did very little, really. We sat outside and watched the stars. We played badminton. Our hometown was familiar and yet, because we were visiting “off-season”, it was also suddenly new.
Politician and writer
Where are you going on holiday this year? I’m going to walk along the Eden River – an amazing river that runs from the spine of England, from the Yorkshire/Cumbrian boundary, all the way towards the Solway Firth. It’s 80 miles long and runs through the most beautiful countryside.
What do you think about during your holiday? I think the ideal is to try not to think at all and to concentrate on my breathing and on my footsteps and on the light from the river.
What will you be reading on holiday? A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, which is about the French Revolution, and Alexander Herzen’s My Past and Thoughts.
What will you be listening to on holiday? I’m hoping to learn to recognise bird song. You can get amazing tapes with different bird song.
Ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? Somebody with long legs who smiles a lot.
Do you cook or eat out on holiday? I will be eating out or at least I’ll be carrying my food on my back.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? I’m afraid, unfortunately, I will have to check my e-mails as I walk because I’m an MP and people get a bit grumpy if I don’t.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? I think best is moving slowly across a landscape, sensing that a line of footsteps is stretching behind you. I don’t think there is anything I don’t like about travelling. I love travelling.
Where would you like to go next? I’d like to take my 88-year-old father to Burma and Vietnam. He was British ambassador in North Vietnam during the Vietnam war and I’d like to take him back there.
Where are you going on holiday this year? A long weekend of dancing in Ibiza in July; a wondrous week in Corfu in August; the Burning Man music festival in the Nevada desert at the beginning of September. And the heavenly Cuixmala resort in Mexico to round off the year.
What will you be reading on holiday? Probably The Fantastic Mr Fox and The Jungle Book as they are my son’s books of the moment.
What will you be listening to on holiday? Theme Time Radio Hour [a CD of the radio series] by Bob Dylan and I always listen to lastfm.com, which is the perfect way of finding new artists that are similar to your favourite artists or music of the same genre.
Ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? Hernán Cortés, who was only 19 years old when he first led an expedition to Mexico in 1519 and discovered the Aztec Empire with 600 men and a few horses. He would have been an exhilarating and exciting partner to go travelling with – real adventuring.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? I try not to look at my BlackBerry when on a proper holiday but it takes a few days to detach myself from it and then I leave it uncharged to avoid temptations.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? Escaping pressure, feeling free, and quality time with special loved ones. Least? Turning my BlackBerry back on at the end and the time it takes to catch up.
Where did you go on holiday as a child? All over. My parents also love adventure and blissful, quiet unspoilt places. We went sailing around Greek islands on a friend’s wooden boat, sleeping on deck under the stars, or taking a car across the Masai Mara in Kenya, sleeping in open-side huts with hippos grazing around us.
Writer and Professor of English at Columbia University
Where are you going on holiday this year? First, my wife, son and I will flee New York City for our house in rural Vermont, one of few places left in the US where cell phones don’t work. Then, in late August, we’ll fly to Scotland. I’ve been asked to speak at the Edinburgh Festival, and we’ll spend a week touring in either the Highlands or the islands after.
What do you think about during your holiday? In Vermont, how to outwit the deer and groundhogs who devour whatever we plant. Some years I manage to keep the deer out, others the groundhogs. But never both.
What will you be reading on holiday? I’ll finally get to read Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate) by Hilary Mantel, from start to finish. And I’m immersed of late in the 1940s and the second world war, so I’ll be reading Eugene Sledge’s classic With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawaand Daniel Swift’s forthcoming Bomber County.
What will you be listening to on holiday? Not much besides the country sounds I miss all year. Even the angry song of a neighbour’s chainsaw is a much-needed change from Manhattan’s traffic and street noise.
Ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? Redmond O’Hanlon. I’m addicted to his travel writing and am sorry I never got to tag along on one of his mad adventures.
Do you cook or eat out on holiday? The best thing about summer in Vermont is the food. What we don’t grow ourselves and the deer don’t get to first, we find at farmers markets. There’s no need for restaurants. You know summer is over when you’ve gorged in turn on local strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, and finally, in August, blueberries. It almost compensates for the deer flies, poison ivy, and steady rain.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never switched on “Out of Office”. I’m not sure I could survive more than a few days without checking e-mail.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? I most enjoy the quiet of mountains and deserted beaches. I least enjoy driving, especially on the wrong side of the road.
Where did you go on holiday as a child? My parents didn’t have much money to spare so the five of us would cram into the Ford Rambler and go camping every August in a big Coleman tent. We’d set off from Brooklyn for a new destination each year, somewhere between Maine and Virginia. My mother’s reward for putting up with this – she hated camping – was the two-night stay at a motel at the end of the trip.
Controller of BBC Radio 4
Where are you going on holiday this year? To the border of Umbria and Tuscany near Lake Trasimeno, as we have a house there. There is a view of the lake that changes virtually hourly so you never get quite the same view and it is rather beautiful.
What do you think about during your holiday? This will be a slightly unusual holiday because I am switching jobs and so I will be trying to create a grand strategy for coping with not being controller for Radio 4 while also thinking hard about how to do the new job (as head of St Peter’s College, Oxford) as well as I possibly can.
What will you be listening to on holiday? In terms of music it will be a mixture of Marriage of Figaro, James Taylor and the Monkees. Marriage of Figaro is in my head at the moment because I just went to the Royal Opera House to see it recently and have immediately booked to go again.
Ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, before she met Benedict because by the time she got to Benedict it would have been hopeless. Spirited, clever, lively and, I assume, attractive.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? The “Out of Office” will be on but I will be contactable. In my job you can’t turn it off in case of something terrible happening and you not knowing about it. It has been part of a routine for a long time.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? The change of climate. You feel that you’ve moved somewhere. The food. I can say decisively that the things I enjoy least are insects that bite.
Where did you go on holiday as a child? Either Zurich, where my grandmother was, or Brussels, where I had an aunt where I seem to remember tram-spotting. I wouldn’t claim that my childhood holidays were tremendously exciting.
Where would you like to go next? China, because it is something really big and significant that I’ve not done.
Managing director of Condé Nast Publications in Britain and writer
Where are you going on holiday this year? We are going on a family holiday for six to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, a major expedition that involved booking our cabin at the bottom of the canyon a year ago.
Ten hours’ walk down into the canyon, a night at the bottom at the cowboy ranch, then 10 hours up the other side. It has required the purchase of endless new hiking boots and shorts.
What do you think about during your holiday? I try to think about nothing beyond where I am. However, the constant presence of my BlackBerry in my hand makes this difficult. I try not to but tend to reply to all e-mails within half a minute. When swimming, I put my BlackBerry poolside so I can check it at every length.
What will you be reading on holiday? New novels by Michael Ridpath, Where the Shadows Lie, and Tim Waterstone, In for a Penny, in for a Pound.
What will you be listening to on holiday? The contents of my iPod – that is, the complete works of David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Joni Mitchell and Lily Allen.
Who is your ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? Well, I do secretly rather fancy the following six women – Keira Knightley, Agyness Deyn, Kate Middleton, Samantha Cameron, Kate Moss and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Any of them would be fun as sightseeing companions.
Do you cook or eat out on holiday? In Italy we eat in, otherwise mostly out. I am slightly dreading the food in America.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? I love looking at empty, desolate landscape and trying to reach a higher karma. I hate airports, which make me panic.
Where would you like to go next? It is my life’s ambition to drive to India and back in a red London Routemaster bus, converted and adapted to the highest standard of comfort. And, furthermore, it will happen.
Professor of pharmacology at Oxford University
Where are you going on holiday this year? I don’t actually go on formal holidays away. Because I travel pretty much every week, if I do have spare time I like actually not going very far. But when I am away, often there is a day or two of downtime and this is like a holiday because I just make the most of where I am. So my next big trip is Australia in August.
What do you think about during your holiday? I don’t have a division between work versus everything else in life. Work is not my whole life by any means but it is an important aspect of it. So the idea that it is something that you escape from, I find rather strange.
What will you be reading on holiday? I am reading Alone in Berlinby Hans Fallada, which is fantastic. What I don’t like reading is anything to do with science. I love historical novels.
What will you be listening to on holiday? I like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday – very mellow, eternal and timeless. I also like 1970s west coast rock music such as the Eagles, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. And I listen to Radio 4 a lot.
Ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? Elizabeth I. She was very strong-minded, hugely clever and well-read. I think she also must have had quite a sense of humour and a sense of fun. She also cared a lot about what she looked like. She would have had the shopping gene, I’m sure! She encapsulates all the weaknesses and strengths of being a woman.
Do you cook or eat out on holiday? [Laughs] Sorry, I am one of the can’t cook, won’t cook, don’t cook brigade! I am very comfortable with a cold can of baked beans. I love nice food but I would rather have just calorie intake than go through what would laughably be called cooking.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? Modern communications have given us a voracious appetite for instant feedback that we are loved and important and I like to feel loved and important.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? I have a childish idea that as soon as I go through security, spending money in duty free somehow doesn’t count. I always feel very profligate and tend to buy clothes as well as duty free stuff. I least like the large amounts of other people.
Where did you go on holiday as a child? We went either to Eastbourne, or Brighton, Bournemouth or Bognor. I have vivid memories of that because usually it rained.
Where would you like to go next? I love the Mediterranean and its way of life and diet.
Writer and economist
Where are you going on holiday this year?Recently I have lived like the George Clooney character in Up in the Air (a film I watched on a plane). If I get a vacation this summer it would possibly be a tour of crisis-hit countries – if I am still allowed in them: Spain, Ireland, Iceland, Latvia, Greece and, maybe, the oil spill-ridden US Gulf Coast.
What do you think about during your holiday? How to forget financial crises and get a PhD in Pleasure and Leisure from the Institute for Advanced Vacations.
What will you be reading on holiday? Lofty geo-globaloney tomes on the future of the world.
What will you be listening to on holiday? Cheesy, schmaltzy, corny, syrupy beach songs such as those I would listen to in my teens on the Italian Riviera.
Ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian economist who – as a true Renaissance man – argued that his three goals in life were to be the best economist, the best horseback rider and the best lover of his generation. He claims he achieved only two of them: I would ask him which and for good practical tips to achieve such goals.
Do you cook or eat out on holiday? As an economist I strictly believe in the principle of comparative advantage: so I always eat out. Also it is the best way to get to know the local cuisine.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? I am a total “crackberry” addict so I never switch off. Last summer I wrote a whole article, that was urgently due, on my BlackBerry while sailing off the St Tropez coast.
Where would you like to go next? Bora Bora in Polynesia for scuba diving among the sharks.
Writer and former director of communications for the Labour party
Where are you going on holiday this year? Puyméras, a village near Vaison-la-Romaine in Provence. My partner Fiona and I have been going on holiday in the region ever since we met 30 years ago.
What do you think about during your holiday? It depends. When I worked for Tony Blair holidays were interrupted by work. Last year I finished a novel. This year I intend to finish volume two of my diaries and reflect on how to spend my time differently now Labour are out of power.
What will you be reading on holiday? There are a couple of Henning Mankell novels I still want to read, and I will have my third attempt to get into Wolf Hall. I always find a good new Tour de France book when we arrive.
What will you be listening to on holiday? I will find new Jacques Brel compilations at Vaison market. Otherwise it will be same old iPod stuff when running and cycling. I am really into Elvis at the moment.
Who is your ideal travelling companion – dead, alive, historical, fictional? Shakespeare, so that I could persuade the rest of the family finally to accept my view that he was the greatest ever Briton. He would have to come cycling up Mont Ventoux though.
Will you switch on your “Out of Office”? I never turn off my phone or BlackBerry, though I might put them on silent when I go to bed.
What do you most, and least, enjoy about travelling? I least enjoy getting there, especially as we drive, and always have a row on day one. I most enjoy the feeling, usually a week or so in, of not caring when I wake up. Then I know I’m on holiday.
Rose Tremain on her love affair with France
If you own a house abroad, you don’t have holidays any more. You go to your house and work harder than you do at home, keeping everything shipshape and catering for guests. When you get back, you need a holiday. But there is this other rather brilliant thing going on: your sentimental love for a place you’ve made your own, against strangely significant odds, increases year on year. In the English winters, I dream about our French swimming pool, and the delicious, repetitive coming and going from kitchen to sunlit terrace, and the sound of nightingales at dusk.
I’m doing research for my new novel, which will be the sequel to Restoration, so I’ll take as many books on the late 17th century as I feel my head will tolerate. These will be cut with some obligatory reading in French – Maupassant, Balzac and possibly JMG le Clézio – and also by some new American fiction, Joyce Carole Oates’s Little Bird of Heaven and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.
I do a ton of cooking in France, where everything – from melon to mussels, from chicken to chickpeas – tastes better. But there are also a couple of adorable local restaurants, where we sink into familiar chairs and wait for familiar greetings and for simple splendours to arrive.
Long ago, I loved air travel: one whiff of airport diesel and my heart beat faster. Now, I loathe and detest almost everything associated with flying, from start to exhausted finish. We used to fly Ryanair (that blue-and-yellow plastic purgatory) to Nîmes. Now, we go by train to Avignon and this swift ride through France is a fine and enjoyable thing.
Richard Holmes, my partner, is my ideal travelling companion. He stays calm and good-natured. He always knows which way north lies. He’s stoical with difficult crosswords.
If I couldn’t travel with him, I think I’d choose Prince Charles and get the benefit of some topiary tips from him as the Rolls-Royce purred along or the helicopter lifted off.
As children, my sister and I were taken to France when we were very young and my love affair with that country began then, on dusty picnics, in the smell of oysters, in the complicated rhythms of the language. Now, I don’t really want to go anywhere else.
Five fabulous UK beaches
● Best for a traditional seaside experience: Southwold, Suffolk
If you want to be immersed in a quintessentially British seaside experience, Southwold ticks all the boxes. There’s Punch and Judy shows, delicious ice cream, fish and chips and an award-winning, privately-owned pier. www.exploresouthwold.co.uk
● Best for kids: Lusty Glaze Beach, Cornwall
Children aged eight to 14 can become lifeguards for the day and learn about beach safety on the Junior Baywatch course. There’s also a course for three- to eight-year-olds, where kids accompany a lifeguard and explore the rock pools. www.lustyglaze.co.uk
● Best for isolation: Sanna Bay, Highlands, Scotland
Sanna Bay is reached along mainly unclassified roads along the Ardnamurchan Peninsula or by ferry from Tobermory on the island of Mull. To stand alone on this beach on a bright sunny day is a moment to treasure. The beach is as likely to be dotted with the footprints of the local wildlife as it is with those of humans. www.visithighlands.com
● Best for the active: Greve de Lecq beach, Jersey
On this sandy stretch of the north coast, you can join a kayak tour and bob about on the crystal clear waters, exploring the rocky coastline and the spectacular caves. www.jersey.com
● Best for scenery: Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales
This sheltered slither of sand lies within the National Trust-owned Stackpole Estate. www.visitpembrokeshire.com
Stuart Kirby is the author of ‘Great Britain’s Top 100 Beaches (Studio Cactus)’
Five houses with private beaches
● The Beach Hut, Devon, England
Not luxurious but romantic and secluded, the Beach Hut sits at the bottom of a steep cliff path, looking out over its own tiny cove on the south Devon coast. It sleeps two, in a double bed that’s reached by ladder. Weekend stays from £399. www.carswellcottages.com
● Crystal Springs, Barbados
Set amid two acres of gardens, Crystal Springs sleeps 16 and is just above a private sand cove. There’s a swimming pool, sailing boat, and a terrace on a rocky outcrop where guests can dine as they watch the sun set. From £14,198 a week. www.cvtravel.co.uk
● Prisnjak Lighthouse, Croatia
If you like the idea of hiring a private island but don’t have deep enough pockets, you can rent a Croatian lighthouse instead. Prisnjak offers basic accommodation for four, and numerous swimming spots. From £600 a week, www.adriatica.net.
● Itapororoca, Trancoso, Brazil
No beaches in Brazil are privately owned but this 10-hectare estate has 500m of beachfront so remote that it’s rarely visited by anyone not staying at the property. Surrounded by forest, it sleeps 10 and has a river running through the grounds. From £15,000 a week. www.originaltravel.co.uk
● Frankfort, Jamaica
A 17th-century fortress that’s been made into a four-bedroom home sleeping up to 10, Frankfort has hosted Winston Churchill, Henry Kissinger and Noël Coward. From the 80ft veranda, you can look out over the white sand beach. From £8,805 a week. www.cvtravel.co.uk.
Tom Robbins is the FT’s travel editor