Looking to do something different for the end of year holidays? UltraVilla experts from the four corners of the world share some unique festive traditions from their destinations which could have you catching your own Christmas meal, sitting down to table in Tuscany, passing some Santas on the Swiss Alps or joining in on religious processions in Mexico. It’s never an ordinary holiday thanks to the extraordinary expertise of our specialists!
Las Posadas – San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
One of the prettiest towns in Mexico has its best Christmas tradition. On the nine days leading up to Christmas eve, the streets of this charming colonial city in the center of the country come to live with lively Posada processions. Our Mexico expert Pamela H. Murdock tells us more about this unique custom:
“On the nine nights leading up to Christmas Eve, Las Posadas (inns or shelters), begin with a procession that represents the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Candle-bearing residents sing Christmas carols as they walk, joined by “Mary” (usually riding a donkey) and “Joseph”. The parade weaves through the streets and participant knock on house doors while singing the traditional Posada Song, “Pidiendo Posada,”(Begging for Shelter). Nevertheless, they’re turned away because there is “no room at the inn.” “After all, sings the household, you might be a rogue.” Eventually, they find an open door. Here, everyone is given food and hot drinks while the children play at piñatas until they break and spill candy everywhere. A good time is truly had by all.”
Complete your enchanting end of year holidays in San Miguel de Allende by staying at the historic Quinta Quebrada. This gorgeous historic home is hidden behind high walls in the heart of town, the perfect base for a family trip to this beautiful destination. Find out more about it through Pamela H. Murdock here.
It’s not surprising that glamorous St-Tropez celebrates Christmas with pizzazz and with a particularly original holiday custom, revealed to us by our local expert Anne-Claire. Santa doesn’t arrive at this port town on his usual sleigh… he cruises in by boat!
An eagerly awaiting crowd gathers on the Quai de Suffren at 6 pm on December 24th to welcome Father Christmas. The excitement rises as a large boat approaches the dock, aboard which is the enthusiastic special guest. The decorated boat shoots off fireworks which add to the vibrant scene, the buildings of the port already colorfully lit up for the season.
Once on land, Père Noel hops on a small train to escort the town’s children to Place de la Garonne where he gives out presents and candy… only to those who’ve been nice of course!
Experience the lovely holiday magic of St-Tropez by staying at Villa Glamour by Villas Prestige et Services. Anne-Claire Conraud and her team can also arrange for the villa to be prepared with holiday decorations and can even have “Santa” come straight to the villa on Christmas Eve carrying a bag full of gifts!
You can more about the Villa Glamour here and check availability with Villas Prestige et Services at this link.
Tuscan Traditions at the Borgo Finocchieto – Italy
The festive season is the perfect time to be in Tuscany, celebrated in style at the Borgo Finocchieto. According to Pascale Queriot of the Borgo, the private hamlet provides the ultimate concept of luxury: freedom.
“Guests feel at home with an extremely discreet 5-star luxury service,” details Pascale. “There’s no dress code, no constrictions… they are free to enjoy their day as they want, no need to dress up for lunch and dinner, they can walk barefoot in the grass with a glass of wine, have exactly the meal they are craving prepared by our chef.”
The Borgo is just about to start preparing for the holidays. Christmas traditions in Italy start with decorating homes on December 8th which is the celebration of the Immaculate Conception. Today this includes a Christmas tree, however, in the past this was mainly in the form of presepi (nativity scenes). In fact, in Naples there is a whole street with just presepi! Once decorated, the Borgo’s staff gradually works towards the special menus for Christmas Eve and Day, as described by Pascale:
“On Christmas Eve no meat is to supposed to be eaten, the meal is meant to be light and include fish only. On the 25th lunch there is a huge substantial lunch shared by the whole family and children open their gifts. Midnight mass on the 24th is very important as well. the streets in Italy are completely empty during Christmas. People go out from their homes on the afternoon of the 25th to take a stroll to help digest!”
Enjoy a true Italian Christmas at the Borgo Finocchieto or share a special moment by gathering friends or family here at another time of year. Learn more about this unique villa complex here.
Catching your own Christmas Dinner – Queenstown, New Zealand
Just because it’s warm and sunny in the southern hemisphere for the holiday season, it doesn’t mean that it’s lacking the festive spirit! Our experts at MajorDomo tell us what Christmas could entail down on the South Island.
“A sunny summer Christmas in New Zealand might see you start (and keep) some new Christmas Traditions which will leave you with long and lasting happy yuletide memories,” starts Fiona Stevens, co-founder and director of MajorDomo.
“Picture yourself waking up on Christmas morning in your luxury villa overlooking the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wakatipu in gorgeous Queenstown. The sun is streaming through the windows early as your in-house chef prepares a fresh and healthy breakfast to fuel you for the adventures to come. Father Christmas comes to New Zealand first on his travels and is sure to find all the little people in your party and their stockings hung by the fire.
“After breakfast around the table and gathering around the Christmas tree to open presents the adventures begin. Your private helicopter picks you up to soar you over the mountain tops, mountain lakes, glaciers, valleys, lakes and rivers, to a remote and wild West Coast beach where your guide dives for crayfish and paua – decadent and luxurious kiwi treats.
“On your way back to Queenstown, your helicopter will land atop a mountain where your guide will cook your fresh crayfish and paua accompanied by another Christmas tradition whitebait patties. It’d be rude not to pop a bottle of champagne at this point!
“After being dropped back at your villa, why not wander down to the lake to go late afternoon paddle boarding or kayaking to make room for a Christmas dinner feast. You may wish to have traditional Christmas fare of turkey, ham and goose or perhaps a lighter Pacific fusion style dinner.”
Don’t forget to pack your sunblock on this adventurous and exciting holiday to Zealand. Jump aboard the private helicopter with MajorDomo here.
Photo Credit: Reno Tahoe / Flickr
Santa on the Slopes – Verbier, Switzerland
The Swiss Alps completely evoke the festive season, as such they attract masses of ski fans and from around the world at this time of year coming in search of cozy chalets in quaint mountain towns, like Verbier. This posh resort definitely does Christmas right.
The town is decked out to the fullest. On Christmas Eve there is usually a lively street parade, a carol concert outside the Tourist Office and a theatrical arrival of Father Christmas or rather der Weihnachtsmann. The faithful can attend Christmas mass is at the church in the centre of town.
The great thing about Verbier on Christmas is the Christmas Day ski, the lifts are open… and if you didn’t catch Santa the night before… it’s likely that you’ll run into him on the slopes!
Enjoy the thrills and charm of a Swiss Christmas by staying at the gorgeous Chalet Merveille. This picture-perfect luxurious chalet is still available for the end of year holidays. You can preview it inthis articleor contact Marina Gratsos of Carpe Diem Luxury Travel at this link to book.
Still looking for holiday ideas for the end of year? Peruse our sunny destinations here and wintery villas and chalets here. The unique Isola Santa Cristina is already decorated for the holidays and ready to welcome guests! View some of these in the photo above or read the full story at this link.
Wishing you all a happy festive season from the team at UltraVilla!
The Christmas season is one of the most eagerly awaited holidays of the whole year. Streets and houses dazzle with twinkling lights, public squares are abuzz with colorful craft markets and shops are bustling with busy shoppers. It’s a wonderful time to get away with family or friends and celebrate this special holiday time together. Attend a Christmas concert in a tiny Austrian church, feast on the best French foie gras or traditional British Christmas pudding, glide down the slopes of in Colorado or Switzerland or curl up beside the fireplace in a magical Irish cottage – you’re guaranteed a very merry Christmas while staying these exceptional villas, castles or apartments in these fabulously festive destinations.
Ski Mansion – Telluride, Colorado, U.S.A.
For a Christmas ski holiday in America, there’s no better place than Telluride, Colorado. The whole ski resort gets in on the holiday spirit with events taking place throughout December, the highlight being the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade. You can have the ultimate Telluride vacation at the luxurious and charming Ski Mansion, available through Villas and Apartments Abroad.
“The Telluride Mansion is a dream,” declares Sylvia Delvaille Jones, director of Villas and Apartments Abroad. “It’s truly the most extraordinary holiday home in the Telluride area, the Ski Mansion is a destination all its own.
“This spectacular seven-bedroom estate boasts incredible landscaping, stunning views and a list of amenities unrivaled by any other residence in the region. Upon entering through the home’s main entrance lined with benches on either side, a cozy living room is framed by vaulted ceilings with wooden beam detail and furnished with a sofa and armchairs which surround a large stone fireplace, flat screen TV and baby grand piano.
“Opposite the dual-sided fireplace is the formal dining room with a round table and seating for up to eight guests. The adjacent kitchen connects this space to the breakfast nook for six and is adorned with granite countertops, custom cabinetry, kitchen island. The home’s main level also includes an outstanding and romantic master suite featuring a king size poster bed, stone fireplace, large office, en-suite bathroom and its own separate entrance as well as an additional king guest suite and laundry room.
“The upper level plays host to three additional queen guest suites, each equipped with televisions, vaulted ceilings and en-suite bathrooms. The largest of these guest bedrooms is better known as the Family Suite which also includes a kitchenette as well as a selection of baby equipment, including a crib, highchair and baby swing.
“The lowest level of the Mansion is an entertainment paradise. The large den has an oversized sectional leather sofa, a flat screen TV, surround sound, fireplace and full bar with mini fridge, dishwasher and copper sink. The home’s bunk room with en-suite joins the den to the game room, complete with a dart board, mini basketball hoop and ping pong table as well as a couch, fireplace and television. For the movie lovers in the group, the home’s theater includes a large projection screen, reclining theater seating for eight and a vast selection of movies. The resistance gym sits adjacent to the theater and includes a full set of weights, five machines and bench.
“But that’s not all. The west end of this floor also has a pool table, a two-lane commercial shooting range, AMF Bowling Alley, 75’ long pool with hot tub, aerobic gym, infrared sauna and full steam shower leave guests with endless opportunities for exercise and entertainment. A full kitchen, powder room, laundry room and his and hers changing rooms service these amenities, so guests never have to leave. A beautiful solarium lined with tropical plants and orchids rounds out the lowest level and leads way to an incredible outdoor space with its putting green and bunker, as well as generous patio space, full-scale labyrinth replica and outdoor hot tub.
“Lastly, for the in-laws or those wanting additional privacy, the home also has a separate apartment with full living area, kitchen and queen guest suite with en suite bath and full-size washer/dryer.
“With a staff on site, two transferrable ski passes, amenities galore and absolutely impeccable surroundings, the possibilities are endless at the Ski Mansion at Highlands.”
Design your dream winter escape to the Ski Mansion with Villas and Apartments abroad here.
Schloss Kogl Castle – Near Salzburg, Austria
It’s hard to top the fabulous Christmas spirit of Austria. Visitors are treated to some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, plentiful meals of hearty Austrian specialties and graceful Christmas concerts in quaint local churches. You can make the most of this festive ambiance in the picturesque Salzkammergut area, near Salzburg. Our expert Monika Mayr-Melnhof of Schloss Kogl castle, gives us some further tips.
“Of course, Salzburg has a wide variety of events and some excellent Advent markets, however, there are some exceptionally charming markets in nearly every village in the Salzkammergut,” says Monika. “The ones I like most are around the lakes like in St.Gilgen, St Wolfgang and Strobl.
“From November 20th to December 20th 2016 you can enjoy the Advent of the Villages event which takes place in the six villages of Fuschlsee. The weekends feature additional events like concerts and sleigh rides. St Wolfgang has some fabulous festive spirit around the market, plus you can also take boat rides on the lake.”
You can make enjoy the region’s Christmas spirit to the fullest with a pre-Christmas stay at the elegant Schloss Kogl castle, which has availability from now until December 24th (and then from January 2nd). A short drive from the pretty village of St. Georgen i. Attergau, the baroque castle was originally built in 1750 for the noble Khevenhüller family. In 1872 the Barons of Mayr-Melnhof acquired it and today the 4th, 5th and 6th generations of the family still reside at the castle.
In 2000, the entire castle was fully renovated with careful attention to retaining its historic character and beauty. In the evenings after you’ve toured the markets, relax by the cozy fireplace in the library or savor a gourmet meal in the refined dining room.
Get into the festive spirit yourself by staying at Schloss Kogl castle here.
Travelers dreaming of a white Christmas can’t go wrong with a festive break in the charming village of Klosters, Switzerland. James Palmer-Tomkinson, our local expert and director of PT Ski, entices us to this beautiful Christmas destination:
“With trees covered in white, icicles adorning wooden chalets and the crunch of snow underfoot the stage is set for a magical holiday,” describes James. “You can ski the extensive slopes of the Parsenn by day, stopping for cosy hot chocolates in the charming mountain restaurants that adorn the slopes. In the evening you can go out to dinner by horse and sleigh.
“On Christmas night the bells of the old Church of St Jakob ring in Christmas celebration. And if you can arrive earlier enough, you might be able to caught the London Philharmonia Orchestra and Lund Student Choir will be performing in Klosters Church on Saturday December 17th and Sunday the 18th. These concerts would be a lovely way to kick start Christmas!
“Tucked away in the heart of the beautiful Prattigau Valley, Klosters is a hidden gem which has maintained its authentic charm. Chalets built in the traditional style blend happily with local farmhouses while the absence of large tour operators and its safe and cosy atmosphere make Klosters a perfect choice for family holidays. Glamorous and up market, but at the same time cosy and low key, it combines all this with the comfort and convenience of a modern ski resort.”
With their extensive local experience PT Ski can organise every aspect of your holiday to Klosters. Their helpful staff will be on hand to show you round the slopes, negating the need to wrestle with piste maps. Why not stay at the stunning Chalet Bear, a beautiful log chalet, lovingly restored in 2006 to create one of the finest chalets available for rent in Klosters. The interior has been sensitively decorated to maintain all the character of a traditional chalet, but with the comfort of a luxury home. Within easy walking distance of the lifts and centre of Klosters village, it is perched on a small hill with beautiful views of the valley.
Chalet Bear has four floors and sleeps up to eight guests in four bedrooms. There is one double room with en-suite bathroom and the other three rooms are twins. Two of these have their own bathrooms and the third is en-suite. The entrance hall is on the first floor and here there is a very comfortable sitting room with large fireplace, a television room/study with DVD and internet access, and a small pantry/bar. The plasma screen has Sky channels and the music system can play throughout the house. The dining room on the ground floor is wonderfully spacious and features a fireplace and a long table which sits up to 16 people.
Plan a magical ski holiday with the help of James and his team at Pt Ski at this link.
Villa Glamour – St-Tropez, France
St-Tropez is one of the chicest places to take in some fabulous holiday ambiance along the Mediterranean. You can have your own private oasis close to all the festivities at the exquisite Villa Glamour by Villas Prestige et Services. Its director, Anne-Claire Conraud, shares her favorite aspects of Christmas in St Tropez:
“The beautiful village of St-Tropez is a very special spot for Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” says Anne-Claire. “The buildings along the Harbour are projected by magical coloured lights, there is an ice rink in Place des Lices which is surrounded by a magical “Christmas Forest” and stands selling holiday treats like roasted chestnuts and candied apples, or you can attend a serene midnight mass at the cathedral… plus perhaps nowhere else does Santa Claus arrive by boat!”
The beautiful eight bedroom / eight bathroom Villa Glamour is located a 12-minute drive from the village. Its elevated position provides breathtaking vistas of the sea and the snowy peaks of the Alps in the distance. The latter can help bring a little more of a wintery feel, but the large fireplace in the large living room definitely creates a cozy atmosphere. Plus, in the evenings you can enjoy dinner en plein air on the terrace, lit by candles and torches.
Pamper yourself in the massage room or in the heated, double pool. Alternatively, Anne-Claire can arrange for a private yoga class on the terrace. The villa also features a snooker room, a gym and Sky TV. There are plenty of activities in the area from hikes to cycling excursions, or get inspired to make your own Christmas meal à la francaise with an advance cooking class held at the villa.
Anne-Claire and her team can also arrange for the villa to be decked out in holiday decorations and can even have “santa” come straight to the villa on Christmas Eve carrying a bag full of gifts!
The Villa Glamour is a fabulous destination any time of year, so if you can’t have a Tropezian Christmas, why not slip away for some French Riviera sunshine later in winter or spring?
Let Anne-Claire assist you in planning a glamorous Christmas by reaching out to her here.
Victor Hugo Chic – Paris, France
“Chocolat chaud, raclette, outdoor ice skating, the stunning lights decorating the Champs-Elysées and the city’s department stores… Paris is an ideal holiday destination,” says Erica Berman of Haven In luxury accommodation specialists. We couldn’t agree with her more. There’s so much going on in the city over the holidays, plus, not to mention all of the amazing shopping – there’s everything you could need for an enchanting Christmas away from home.
Staying in a holiday rental is the best way to truly experience local traditions. Haven In‘s elegant Victor Hugo Chic three-bedroom apartment is an excellent option for this time of year. Situated in Paris’ stylish and stunning 16th arrondissement, it’s close to some of the city’s best food shops where you can pick up delicious supplies for your festive meals. It’s also a short stroll from the Arc de Triomphe, where you can admire the wonderful Christmas decorations, and to Trocadero, which has gorgeous views of the Eiffel Tower, an ice rink and Christmas market.
The spacious and sophisticated apartment sleeps six (in four bedrooms) so it’s big enough for families or groups of friends. It features refine, classic French decor featuring antiques, a crystal chandelier, hardwood parquet floors, and full-length French windows perfect for enjoying the winter Parisian sunlight. The separate dining space with a decorative marble fireplace is perfect for your special holiday dinner, which you can prepare in the fully-equipped modern kitchen.
The bedrooms and bathrooms are situated on two levels, ideal for groups seeking both shared space and privacy. The master bedroom has a king bed and en-suite half bath with sink and rainshower. The second bedroom also has a king bed, which can be converted into two singles, and a similar half-bath. Both bedrooms share a separate W.C. in the main hallway. The third bedroom is found up a charming winding staircase and has a single bed as well as a floor futon, for additional sleeping space. It also has a full en-suite bathroom with toilet, sink, and rainshower.
Enjoy an enchanting Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Paris with Haven In here.
West Cork Retreat – Glengarriff, Ireland
If you’re looking to retreat to the country for the holidays, you’ll have perfect seclusion and an abundance of old world charm at the luxurious West Cork Retreat, available through Elegant Ireland. The fairytale thatched cottage is hidden away on it’s own private island in the ancient oak woods on the Glengarriff River in County Cork. The city of Cork puts on a wonderful Christmas festival, every Friday to Sunday from November 25th to December 18th, so it’s a joyful time of year to visit the area.
A former hunting lodge of the Earls of Bantry, it has received such illustrious guests as Wordsworth, Thackeray, Prince Puckler Muskau and Lady Hall who describes her experience as follows:
“After crossing another bridge one is invited to ascend a soft and gentle looking hill which commanded a scene fit to illustrate The Happy Valley; nothing could be more delicious, more varied, more enchanting than the panoramic view, a view of such luxuriance that painters there might study nature under every shade and form”.
The enchanting lodge was completely renovated in 2006 and now boasts a tasteful combination of historic character and modern luxury, with accommodation for up to eight people in four double bedrooms with three ensuite. Three of the bedrooms, including the master bedroom with en-suite, are on the second floor and feature a unique decor and spectacular views over the river and/or grounds. The downstairs bedroom is another large and comfortable double bedroom with views to the mountains.
The large kitchen/dining room forms the centre of gravity of this home with a heated slate floor, oak beams, large sandstone fireplace and antique oak dining table. There is also designer crockery, utensils and place settings for twelve people – perfect for your special holiday meal at the lodge made with fresh ingredients and fine artisanal products from the area.
The grounds extend over almost fifty acres of woodland and meadows and a three-acre landscaped garden where many specimens of trees and shrubs flourish in the subtropical climate for which this area is renowned. The island is connected to the rest of the property by three timber bridges, which give access the many paths and trails, offering plenty of opportunities to explore.
The rate for one week for Christmas 2016 is €5000 including heating and electricity. This is a self-catering property, but with option of catering on some nights and mornings.
You can arrange your storybook Christmas holiday with Elegant Ireland at this link.
Faringdon House – Oxfordshire, England
England truly embraces Christmas. Buildings are decked out to their finests with lights and decorations, delectable holiday specialties are abundant and a festive cheers echos throughout the country. After you’ve done your Christmas shopping in London, retreat to Faringdon House, one of the loveliest manor homes of Oxfordshire, or possibly even the whole country.
Available through Loyd & Townsend Rose, this fully staffed 18th-century manor is only a one-hour train ride from London (Paddington Station). The current Georgian house was built in 1785 on the site of an Elizabethan house that had been badly damaged by fire. It can comfortably accommodate up to 14 guests in eight luxurious double bedrooms. There is also additional accommodation for staff and domestic offices. The classic and refined interior rooms feature beautiful mouldings, like the beautiful examples adoring the chimney breast above the fireplace in the dining room.
The elegance is carried over into the gorgeous gardens and parkland surrounding the house, secluding it from the nearby thriving and historic market town of Faringdon. A stroll of the grounds will grant you magnificent panoramic views of the valley or the fine lawns towards Faringdon Church. Nestled on the grounds, you can seek out the orangery, a walled garden, the orchard and lake with its boathouse. You can also explore them on horseback as the estate has extensive stabling for horses, should you wish to bring any.
The manor and the area are an idyllic place to spend Christmas or New Year and celebrate the festive period. Plus it’s an excellent base for exploring Oxford (21 miles away) and Cirencester (20 miles).
Have your own very merry Christmas at Faringdon by contacting Loyd & Townsend Rose at this link.