Scandinavia, LA and the Scottish Highlands feature highly in TV presenter Jean Johansson’s list of favourite destinations…
“I went snorkelling in a Scottish loch”
When we caught up with Jean, she’d just been announced as the new presenter on TV’s A Place in the Sun. And, with her new-found knowledge of Spain (where she filmed much of the series), her Finnish husband – former Rangers star Jonatan – and a home in her native Scotland, we figured she’d have plenty to tell us about the best places to travel. So it was a bit of a surprise when she told us her favourite holiday destination is Los Angeles.
“My best friend moved there and it’s so much fun,” says Jean. “It’s got everything: fantastic landscapes out in Hollywood, the beaches at Santa Monica, food, scenery, bars and clubs. I like to go out there without my son and enjoy a few cocktails and really relax!’’
In contrast, the family have a home in Jonatan’s native Finland, near Turku. “It’s on the sea, tranquil and so quiet,” says Jean. “We walk out of the house down the garden and we’re by the sea.”
Finland is home to the Moomins, and Jean’s house is just half an hour from Moomin World, a theme park based on the beloved Moomin books by Tove Jansson. “It’s lovely for little ones; you can walk up to the Moomins and give them a cuddle. It’s a place we went to all the time when my son Junior was small.”
Crosshead: Island life
Jonatan’s family have a holiday home in Gotland, a little island between Finland and Sweden. ‘’It’s in a little old fishing village, as we always love to be close to the sea,’’ says Jean. “There’s something about Sweden, it has a quiet, serene beauty. You feel like you’re on a movie set. The Swedish director Ingmar Bergman filmed there all the time – it’s all black rocks and white sand beaches.’’
It seems the sea is a constant wherever Jean travels, who lives next to the coast in Scotland. “I regularly spot porpoises and seals on the rocks,” she says. “We’re not far from Largs, which is a really old-fashioned seaside resort, complete with Victorian promenade and ice cream parlours. It’s a traditional place, with fish and chips and everything – not a lot of sun though!”
Jean has a great affection for her native country. “I love the Highlands and even went snorkelling in a loch. I couldn’t believe it – snorkelling in Scotland. I put on a wetsuit and off we went, and the marine life was amazing. It made me realise I don’t need to fly 24 hours to the Maldives.’’ And with Aviemore on hand for skiing, Jean can enjoy plenty of active holidays without even approaching an airport.
Crosshead: A Spanish love story
Jean’s new job on A Place in the Sun does require getting on a plane though, and has allowed her to start exploring Spain, where much of the filming takes place. Is there anywhere that has particularly taken her fancy?
“Denia: I’ve fallen in love with the place,” she says. “It’s about two hours south of Alicante. It’s so historical, it looks really Spanish, has white sandy beaches and a lovely, medieval feel to the town. I’m definitely going back there with the family.’’
Crosshead: Family fun
While the ideal holiday spot for Jean is a place near the beach, unsurprisingly, with a footballer dad, her seven-year-old son Junior is really sporty, so finding a holiday destination with plenty for him to do is important too. And that’s how she discovered Center Parcs: ‘’I thought there would be too many people, but it was great,” says Jean. “Junior had climbing, swimming and lots of activities to take part in. We went to Longleat Forest Center Parcs and had our own little cabin – it felt safe and contained and we loved it.’’
And talking of Longleat, Jean is a regular at the Wiltshire safari park, filming for the TV show Animal Park with Ben Fogle and Kate Humble, which is always an amazing experience. Any tips for anyone planning a visit to the attraction? “You need the whole day to explore as there’s so much to see,” says Jean. “Make sure you arrive early, and talk to the keepers – they’re there to help educate visitors.’’
natan’s family have a holiday home in Gotland, a little island between Finland and Sweden. ‘’It’s in a little old fishing village, as we always love to be close to the sea,’’ says Jean. “There’s something about Sweden, it has a quiet, serene beauty.
Sign up to receive latest offers
Group Travel World is the place for news, advice and inspiration to help you plan your next group trip. Whether you’re a group of seven friends or 70 work colleagues, we can help you choose where to go and what to do. And our sister site, grouptraveloffers.com gives you access to discounted tickets – so head there for the best deals!