Star man Neil McKay blogs from French Alps...California/NYC/Montreal deals
Here on the northeast shore of Lake Geneva, the city known worldwide for its summer jazz festival (www.montreuxriviera.com), stages one of the finest Christmas markets in Europe, the Montreux Noel (www.montreuxnoel.com).
Some 140 illuminated wooden chalets line the quays along the lake offering all sorts of trinkets, snackage and hot drinks to keep the chill out. (Some of the hot drinks will keep the chill out for hours and, it turns out, are not suitable for children. How was I to know? My French isn’t very good.)
Just past the Freddie Mercury statue – one of many celebrities who fell in love with Montreux and settled here -- sits a large covered market where visitors can escape the snow and tuck into Swiss specialties like roesti, raclette and tartiflette – piles of cheese, bacon and potatoes in various combinations. Mulled wine and hot cider are the preferred choices to wash it down.
The market is best seen in the evening but during the day families can climb aboard the Santa Train at the main station for a spectacular 55-minute ride up into the mountains on a cog railway and visit Pere Noel at his house at Rochers-de-Naye (2,045 metres) and a Christmas Village with farm animals and reindeer at the village of Caux.
Inside Santa’s house, Pere Noel’s cozy office is as good as it gets, his desk covered in letters and The Lists. Pere Noel himself has a nice, long chat with our girls and quizzes them on their multiplication tables and spelling. (That French Immersion is paying off, whew.)
With Christmas requests registered, we head back down to Montreux. The train this time packed with Russians who have spent the night in yurts(!) at Rochers-de-Naye. Russia is the Guest of Honour at this year’s Noel. If ever you were looking for a fur hat or one of those little Russian wooden dolls, this is the Christmas to be in Montreux.
But really, any Christmas in Montreux is a good idea, one Yule you'll never forget.
Now, back to Jim...
CALIFORNIA FOOD BARGAINS
Twenty-three destinations across California have created special restaurant week or month-long promotions in January 2011, featuring gourmet prix fixe menus, wine pairings and chef talks throughout California Restaurant Month; a new promotion created by the California Travel and Tourism Commission.
“Visitors can save up to 25 percent on meals at hundreds of the best restaurants across the state, from mountain and coastal regions to urban and wine country hotspots," said Caroline Beteta, CTTC president & CEO. "We’ve got deals going on throughout the month, so there’s still time to book a delicious California foodie getaway.”
The following destinations are participating in California Restaurant Month: Costa Mesa, El Dorado County, Fresno, Irvine, Los Angeles, Madera County, Marin County, Monterey County (see photo of Pacific Grove, one of my fave spots in California), Napa Valley, Newport Beach, Oakland, Oxnard, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo County, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley, Shasta Cascade, Temecula Valley, Tri-Valley and Yountville. For more information on dining promotions in these areas, visit www.visitcalifornia.com/restaurantmonth.
NEW YORK HOTEL DEALS
NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for the City of New York, today announced that 16 hotels in The Signature Collection, a group of New York City's luxury hotels, will participate in The Signature Collection Third Night™ promotion this winter. The program gives visitors a complimentary Third Night at participating hotels after they book and pay for two consecutive nights between January 2 and March 7, 2011. The Third Night program is being extended for a week this year, through March 7, to coincide with ART x NYC, a week filled with some of the biggest art events of the year, including The Armory Show and The Art Show, plus numerous gallery exhibitions, museum shows, tours and studio visits. Detailed booking information for the winter promotion is available on nycgo.com/thirdnight www.nycgo.com/thirdnight
Hotels include the Plaza (I got to stay there in September; wow!), the Pierre, the Peninsula, two Trump properties and more.
Closer to home (no worries about too much snow at Heathrow!), Montreal is offering up its Igloofest next month. Taking place in (most likely) sub-zero temperatures over the Jacques - Cartier Pier, the festival delivers nine evenings of fun. It's slated for three weekends in January: 13, 14 and 15, 20, 21 and 22 and then 27, 28 and 29.
For the fifth year Igloofest will play host to top acts of the electronic scene, as well as deliver a unique audio-visual ambience and atmosphere. With confirmed acts including celebrity party favourite British DJ Andrew Weatherall, international popstar Robyn, Egypthxx, Green & Lateez Anja Schneider and Terror Danjah, to name a few. IGLOOFEST has attracted more than 27,000 festival goers.
MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS FESTIVAL
For the first 11 years, the Festival featured a different city, country or region through its programming - a featured region implies we'll invite celebrated artists and chefs from the region.In 2011, the Festival will put a twist on its tradition by not celebrating a region, but rather by celebrating women. Some of the world's best female chefs are said to be heading to Montreal. The Festival also presents two special activities - The High Lights events and the Nuit Blanche à Montréal. The first is a multimedia outdoor spectacle and the second is the only Nuit Blanche (from the worldwide network of Nuit Blanche) to be celebrated in winter conditions. It will be Nuit Blanche's 8th edition and as it is the case every year, it serves as the closing event of the MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS Festival and will once again offer some 175 activities (the vast majority of which are free) to be enjoyed in different Montreal boroughs.
So get out there and enjoy. For more information, www.tourisme-montreal.org