Travel expert Rose Jacobs shares with us her Top Five Christmas Destinations, that will have you craving a different kind of present this year.
If you're like me, the older you get the less interested you are in material presents at Christmas time. Instead, the one thing you'd rather ask Santa for is a wicked Christmas holiday, somewhere that really gets into the festive spirit with the people you love! So, in the season of giving, here's my hand picked list of the World's Top Five Christmas Destinations. You're welcome. (Oh, and you may even need to pack a bikini!)
1. NEW YORK, USA
It’s official, no other city on earth embraces the festivities of Christmas quite like New York City does. In the weeks leading up, if it doesn’t snow for real, you wouldn’t notice, as the city goes to extreme effort to transform into a winter wonderland! Department stores light up their windows with the most imaginative fairytales, Christmas trees are decorated from top to toe, streets and houses are lit up like fireworks at night, carol singers spread their joy and there’s not a street corner that isn’t bursting with colour and activity!
My highlights for a Christmas season in New York are:
• A night-time ice skate at the Rockefeller Center under the Christmas lights.
• Riding a horse-drawn carriage around Central Park with someone you love, with a blanket over your knees and a warm bagel in your hand.
• Standing amid the crowd under the ball drop on New Years Eve.
• Booking a helicopter ride to see the Statue of Liberty from the air and gaining an aerial perspective of this city that is buzzing with energy.
• Enjoying a traditional Christmas Day banquet with friends at one of the many beautiful old established hotels in New York, complete with all the trimmings.
2. SANTA’S VILLAGE, LAPLAND
Meet the big man himself! There are many of us who still believe in Santa, and Lapland is the reason why. After a visit to Santa’s Village in this remote, snow capped tiny town of Rovaniemi in the Lapland region of Finland, you’ll never question his existence again. If this visit to the Arctic Circle doesn’t leave you breathless then a trip to Santa’s office will, where you can meet the big guy himself and sit on his knee (not in the slightest bit creepy or wrong, no matter how old you are or how much you weigh!), meet the elves in the official Post Office where all his mail is coordinated (officially the coolest postcard you will ever send your loved ones back at home), sit by the fire and drink a warm glass of red wine, toasting marshmallows, or step outside and view the magic of the Northern Lights while throwing snowballs at your loved ones.
3. PARIS, FRANCE
This is the Christmas destination that will sweep you off your feet. Whether you’re a natural romantic or not, the sounds of piano accordions floating through the cobble stoned streets will melt your heart on the crispest of wintery Paris nights.
My highlights for a Christmas season in Paris are:
• Climbing the stairs up to the Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart) in the Monte Marte district and sitting in the cathedral, listening to a mass delivered in French.
• Stoping for a glass of gluehwein (warm, mulled wine) in the Artist’s Quarter and watching the local artisans sketch up portraits of passersby.
• Taking a slow stroll down the Champs Elysees at night time, and admiring the fairy lights that glisten through every tree dotted down this famous Rue.
• Letting the lights guide you to the Eiffel Tower for a night-time view of the lights that dance up this structure in every colour imaginable. It’s hypnotising!
• Visiting Shakespeare & Co bookstore on Rue De La Bucherie. Throw a coin into the well and make a wish, before finding the oldest and most books you can find. Leave a Christmas love note on the board upstairs, using the ancient typewriter. This place is an institution.
4. PHUKET, THAILAND
Who said the best Christmases had to be white?! If you’re more of a warm-blooded person, then head south from Bangkok (after snapping up some of the world’s best Christmas shopping bargains!) and find yourself a hammock on a beach in Phuket for Christmas!
My highlights for a Christmas season in Thailand are:
• Enjoying some of the most luxurious hotels in this part of South East Asia, minus the price tag of many other exotic locations.
• Enjoying a sunny Christmas Day of celebrations as the weather is consistently warm at this time of the year.
• While the rest of the world is shivering through the cold, worrying about burning the turkey or avoiding relatives they are forced to endure on this one day of the year, you’re lying on a lilo in an infinity pool overlooking aqua beaches.
• Instead of buying yourself a knitted jumper, treat yourself to a foot massage by the best Thai massage therapists in the world.
5. TOKYO, JAPAN
Opposite attracts. And in Japan, this is the farthest you can get from a traditional Christmas celebration. The religions here are predominantly Shinto or Buddhist, meaning Christmas is entirely a commercial affair. However, Japan happens to do commercial exercises brilliantly!
My highlights for a Christmas season in Tokyo are:
• Admiring the paper lanterns replacing Christmas lights.
• Ice sculptures carved by the best in the world.
• Enjoying Tokyo Disney Resort with rides, characters and Christmas tunes blasting at full volume, on high rotation!
• Daring to be different and treating yourself to a traditional Japanese breakfast of sushi and sashimi on Christmas Day at the Tsukiji Fish Markets. It’ll be one to remember!
• Watching the Tokyo Winter Skyline light up from the Sky Tree Tower.
So, you’re Christmas choices are to sit on Santa’s knee under the Northern Lights, to ice-skate under the sleepless lights of New York City, to bask in the warm Christmas glow of Phuket’s eternal sunshine, perhaps hobble down the musical rues of Paris or even share a sushi platter with Tokyo’s Disney Santa. Which one to choose?! Well, that’s the beauty of Christmas isn’t it… why not ask Santa for ALL of them!!!