I counted it up the other day, and I was a bit surprised. Turns out, I’ve spent Christmas Day in New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Portugal, Ghana and Canada – not to mention plenty of times in England, my usual home.
That might seem like enough travel for anyone at that time of year, but a travel writer never quits dreaming of their next destination. And Christmas is certainly a time for dreams.
So here’s how I’d spend my perfect travel Christmas, if ony the laws of space and time would permit.
(And a big shout out to photographer to Kevin Dooley, whose amazing Christmas images just seemed perfect for this blog post.)
Christmas morning, Lake District, England
My own bed in my own house, in England, obviously, or how else is Santa going to find the right chimney to come down?
But I am going to move the house to my beloved Lake District and engineer things so that I throw open the curtains on to a sparkling view of Derwent Water, my favourite lake. It will be cold, crisp and gloriously sunny and I’m taking an early morning mug of tea down on to the jetty where – only hours before – Santa parked the water-sleigh.
Gift-giving, New South Wales, Australia
I’m setting the Christmas tree up on a beach somewhere in New South Wales. I want to feel sand between my toes and the sun on my back as gifts are handed around between friends and family. It’s a northern European thing. You probably dream of snow-covered hills and roaring fires, but it’s my Christmas fantasy so sun and sand it is.
Christmas lunch, Penang, Malaysia
Turkey? Oh no, sorry.
Grilled fish, garlic prawns, a slow-cooked rendang, black-pepper chicken, noodles, fiery fried rice, garlic tossed vegetables, some chilli-coconut soup and a platter of fresh fruit. Sat outside on a simple concrete terrace with a view of the water and an ice-bucket full of chilled Spanish rosé wine.
Afternoon walk, Barcelona, Spain
I love a good city stroll, and Barcelona is the best place in Europe I know to walk off Christmas lunch – heading down the wide boulevard of the Ramblas, turning left at the Christopher Columbus statue, winding through the port district of Barceloneta and then soaking up the sea views along the shoreline promenade.
We are definitely calling in at Can Paixano on the way back for a glass of cava, Catalan champagne. I insist it opens, even on Christmas day.
Pantomime at The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, England
If you’ve never been to a traditional Christmas pantomime, then the beautiful Edwardian theatre in Bradford, The Alhambra, is the place to educate yourself. Three hours of riduclously silly fun with Billy Pearce – Yorkshire’s pantomime king – after which you are hoarse from shouting “He’s behind you!”. It’s basically licensed shouting, singing and comedy violence – sort of like the opera for children.
Christmas cake and carols, New York, USA
Afterwards, we’ll pack some Christmas cake in a backpack and take it out to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, which is one of those iconic holiday experiences that turns out to be pretty magical. The lights twinkle and the music echoes around soaring midtown skyscrapers – and you get to ice skate and drink hot chocolate.
Sunset over Taomina, Sicily
Bring a blanket – we’re going to sit in the old Greek theatre in medieval Taormina and watch as the sun goes down over the Mediterranean, with Mount Etna framed in the distance. It’s an extraordinary view to end an extraordinary day.
Header: The magic of Christmas by Kevin Dooley, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Christmas 25 by Kevin Dooley, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Christmas 33 by Kevin Dooley, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Christmas 34 by Kevin Dooley, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0