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Indy Lifestyle Online
Christmas is around the corner, and you know what's in store: a marathon Victor Meldrew special, more tired turkey, paper-hatted parents, drunk and asleep on the sofa. It's the same old seasonal stupour and you don't need it. You can avoid it. Just scream humbug and scarper. But where to? With a little effort and energy, exit strategies are at hand. So bite the bullet and break out.

abroad: morocco

As a foreign escape, Morocco is about as festiveless as it gets. Unlike other north African resorts, Morocco has few tourists and is so true to its Muslim roots it won't even nod to the nativity. For guaranteed peace, stay off the tourist trail and hit the smaller towns: Taghazout north of Agadir, Eljadida south of Casablanca. Better still, if you fly to Marrakesh, take a taxi to the main square, where you'll be bombarded with bargain trips into the Sahara. Pay just a tenth of what they ask, then mount your camel and head for a bed beneath the stars.

Be quick, because flights to Morocco are limited. Reservations can be made through BA on 0345 222111, or Royal Air Maroc 0171 459 4361. Package tours are available from Creative Leisure on 0171 235 0123 or Alecos Tours 0171 267 2092.


Here's a serious seasonal splinter group. Besides sun and simplicity, the Greek island of Skyros offers alternative holidays: yoga, dance and ritual workshops where you'll unfold and rediscover yourself. For the whole of Christmas you can escape home and hassle and probably achieve an out-of-body experience to boot. Contrary to what you might think, Skyros isn't just a haven for hippies. "It's for independent travellers," say the organisers. "People with a spirit of adventure for whom the status quo isn't good enough." Places are still available for the Skyros session 23 December to 5 January and the fee for the fortnight, exc fares, is pounds 595. The centre is happy to take last-minute bookings. Call 0171 267 4424 for reservations.


Boycott Christmas on The Gambia's Barra Point - where "the beach, the bush and the mangrove delta envelop the horizon". Totally tinsel-free, this serene spot is home to the Black Cow Cross Cultural centre, which is running a range of African drum and dance workshops. Two weeks over Christmas will cost you pounds 330, exc fares. Call the Neal's Yard Agency on 0171 379 0141 for reservations.

indulge yourself

Stuffing yourself stupid, drinking yourself silly. Without doubt the best bits of Christmas. But what about afterwards, when you're all lard and lethargy, when you feel like you've been hit by a large lorry? This year avoid it. Don't degenerate, regenerate, at one of the many health hydros open this season here and abroad.

Pamper yourself with simple sauna and massage. Or for serious purgers, with mud and sea water treatments, at the Louison Bobet Institute of Thalassotherapy Biarritz, in the South of France. Here, you can expel a year's worth of body dross and emerge all smug and shiny for the New Year. For information and reservations call Healthy Venues on 01203 690300.


The water's warm and the fish are fine, so why would you want to lock yourself away with the rellies? With the help of Aquatours, you could bypass all the boredom and instead learn to scuba-dive on the Maltese island of Gozo. "Seventy-five per cent of the world is covered by ocean. That's a whole different universe most of us haven't even peeked at," says Kirk Green, who has organised a special diving trip this month. For more information and bookings call Aquatours on 0181 255 8050.


If you're sick of the same old seasonal spread, then eat oriental. London, Manchester and Glasgow's Chinatowns will all have some restaurants open on Christmas day. One safely unseasonal restaurant is Bloom's, London's noted Kosher eaterie in Golders Green. It'll be open all day, serving it's usual Jewish fare. "Nothing changes here," says the owner. "Same menu, same prices." For reservations call 0181 455 1338.


This year, you could sidestep the hedonism altogether, and redirect your energies towards a good cause. The National Trust wants ready and willing workers for a project at Hardwick Hall, a 16th-century house, deep in the Derbyshire countryside.

The mansion is surrounded by semi-natural, ancient woodland and help is needed with a variety of estate tasks. There'll be plenty of bonfires and woodland walks, so if you fancy communing with nature contact the National Trust on 01225 790290. The cost of the project is pounds 37 and open to anyone over the age of 17.