Saturday, December 24, 2011

HOME AWAY FROM HOME AT CHRISTMAS

With our children away with their "other families" this year, we're staying in downtown Vancouver because we hate an empty house at Christmas. Today as I gaze over the harbour, the rain slants down on our windows in the Westin Bayshore. The clouds are dark, low, and laden with rain pushed by a strong wind from the southeast. Streets glisten, empty of locals and visitors. A big ship, with two tugs cuddled up to her side, berths at the bulk terminal, ghostly in the misty rain. Sea planes land and take off constantly. I watch it all, enjoying the maritime busyness as I drink a cup of tea in my terry bathrobe.

Why, then, if we choose to go away, do we not head south in search of warm sun and golden sand? Road and air travel does not appeal to us at Christmas, especially as my hubbie travels worldwide 50% of the time. Traffic jams and winter road conditions add stress and so do packed airports and bagfuls of unwrapped presents, to say nothing of delayed planes caught in blizzards half a world away .

© Julie H. Ferguson 2011
So we load up our vehicle and drive just eight miles to a good hotel in Vancouver. The restaurants and pubs around us are excellent; we can use room service if we don't want to brave the rain and wind; and we bring some good wine and charcuterie with us to enjoy en chambre. We always pack our "traveling" Christmas tree - it is eight inches high and amused Starwood Hotels (@StarwoodBuzz) so much they wanted a photo to retweet. It stands proudly this year on the table in our Westin Bayshore suite, which is large and comfortable.

Our Christmas presents are wrapped and displayed on a coffee table, along with our bulging stockings ready for Christmas Day. We will get up late have a light breakfast and will take advantage of the excellent Christmas turkey the Bayshore serves at lunch (also at dinner, but we prefer to eat this festive meal at 1:30pm). We'd like to take our own bottle of wine to be opened for us - but this Westin says they can't do it. If they could, we'd get to enjoy one of our favourites rather than have to choose from a very limited wine list. Hotels bend over backwards for their guests at Christmas time and provide as much hospitality and cheer as they can.

For me, a wife, mother and grandmother, this away-from-home, four-day break is relaxing and not tiring. At home, I'd be cooking like a fiend for more than two days and entertaining like crazy. While I love to do this for a houseful of family, it is fatiguing. I also like this break alone with my husband. We've learned how to make it work for us - it took a couple of tries before we got it right! We take books, movies, crosswords, chess, and Scrabble, as well as our iPads and phones to keep in touch with family. A willingness to nap is essential too! In case the weather improves, I lug along all my camera gear.

So, I must stop writing to take in a gourmet lunch at a good Vancouver resto. A treat that requires no effort on my part!

So all I have left to do now is wish my travelog readers a Very Merry Christmas!

QUESTION: where do you go for Christmas when family is elsewhere?
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