World: Holiday Travels


While “tradition” is the tradition of the season, we found some fabulous and festive options to help you ring in the new year in new ways:

1. Christmas Eve in Quebec City

Attending midnight Mass may seem like a purely spiritual way to spend Christmas Eve, but at St-Jean-Baptiste Church, it’s a cultural experience as well, regardless of your religious beliefs. The church’s choir is renowned for being among the best in North America; accompaniment comes courtesy of an organ that, along with the building itself, is a recognized historical monument. “It’s outside the walls of the old city, but it’s not a far walk from there,” says long-time resident Richard Séguin, “and well worth it. Arrive early to have dinner at a neighbourhood restaurant, then plan to be at the church around 11 p.m.”

If chilling with a cocktail is more your speed, take the free 30-minute shuttle from Quebec City to the Ice Hotel, named after the material from which it is made, or, as our francophone amis call it, Hôtel de Glace, celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Then warm up or rest your head on the high-thread count linens at Auberge Saint-Antoine, consistently named by travel experts as one of the top 10 hotels in North America.

2. Get in the holiday spirit in North Carolina

Let’s say North Pole-type weather is not on your Christmas list. If you’re en route to more southerly climes and have time for a detour, this is one that’s well worth it. The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., owned by the famous Vanderbilt clan, is an 8,000-acre domain on which sits the Biltmore House, said to be the largest home in America. This year, the family has opened the Louis XV suite for its debut public viewing. On Christmas Eve 1895, original owner George Vanderbilt opened Biltmore’s doors for the first time to friends and family, a nod to the yuletide season. As a tribute to this history and time-forgotten grandeur, the halls will be splendidly decked for the Candlelight Christmas Evenings event, through the first week of January. You can stay on the property or opt for the Grove Park Inn, overlooking the art-deco resplendence of Asheville centre, tucked neatly in the Blue Ridge Mountain range.

3. New Year’s Eve in Barbados

Ring in 2010 at the Crane Resort (which features one of the best beaches in the St. Philips’ parish area), when Canadian owner Paul Doyle will break out the champagne for the official launch of The Crane Village, a 55,000-square-foot resort centre. It includes duty-free shopping, restaurants and an art gallery built with an eye to 18th-century Barbadian architecture. Jump up to the sound of Caribbean music, festive culinary fare — and what’s a West Indian party without rum punch?

–Vivian Vassos