A Christmas break for my extended family... somewhere cold
Wednesday 19 September 2012
Q. My family have talked for years about going away for Christmas. We have decided 2013 will be the year. There will be about 15 of us from age four to 70. We want somewhere be snowy, ideally without a tiring long-haul flight, and where we can do husky rides etc. The Northern Lights would be a bonus. Gill Grafham, Beckenham, Kent
A. A tricky question. The reliable answer for a festive break for a large family group is the Canary Islands; there are loads of flights and beds, and everyone can find something to love about Tenerife, Lanzarote or Gran Canaria. But, with the exception of the highest peaks, you will find no snow on the ground.
For the white stuff, you need a winter-sports destination – and for huskies, that really means Scandinavia. Trysil in Norway and Kittila in Finland are both strong possibilities. They both offer good terrain for learning to ski and a range of other activities besides, including husky-sledging and snow-shoeing. At Kittila, Santa Claus may make a personal appearance. Everyone speaks English, accommodation is top-notch and the food is excellent. And there is a good chance that, over the course of a few nights, the dazzling Northern Lights might put on a show.
But if you can detect a certain hesitation, that is because Scandinavia at that time of year will be mostly dark, cold and expensive – especially for any of the adults in your party who enjoy an occasional festive drink.
Our alternative may surprise you: Nice, the beautiful capital of the Cote d'Azur. Flights to the south of France are plentiful from across Britain, take around 90 minutes and are relatively inexpensive because of all the competition between airlines. At Christmas there will be a good choice of reasonably priced accommodation. While the weather probably won't be warm enough to inspire a Boxing Day dip in the Med, you can expect gentle temperatures; this is, after all, the traditional winter escape from sub-zero Russia.
A stroll along the Promenade des Anglais sharpens any appetite and dining out in Vieux Nice will be a joy. And with the Alps crowding down on the city, it is easy for snow-seekers to escape to high-altitude resorts within an hour and experience the white stuff. All that's missing is the Northern Lights.
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