Quebec City is an ideal place to celebrate Christmas, with its fortified Old Town—a unesco World Heritage Site. The annual Winter Carnival (Jan. 27Feb. 12) is famous for its cold-weather revelry, but for a taste of French-Canadian tradition try Québec Fête Noël (877/266-5687; www.quebecfetenoel.com; Dec. 1Jan. 1). Shop the daily Christmas Market in the Quartier du Vieux-Port de Québec for locally made duck prosciutto and organic maple syrup, then warm up with a cup of artisanal cider. For a panoramic view of the city and the St. Lawrence River, visit the Observatoire de la Capitale and stroll through the building's exhibition of international Christmas trees (ranging from a white candlebedecked German Tannenbaum to a Mexican arbolito). Serious history buffs can even try on period costume and reenact Christmases past. With daytime temperatures hovering at 32 degrees, bundling up is essential for the many outdoor musical events.
My partner and I want to visit a beach resort and would prefer a property that doesn't allow children. Any suggestions?
—A.T., ATLANTA, GA.
There are many adult-only options. In Costa Rica, the Hotel Makanda by the Sea (Manuel Antonio Rd., Quepos; 888/625-2632; www.makanda.com; doubles from $230) has 11 luxury villas and studios, and is surrounded by rain forest and adjacent to a private swimming cove. The Turks and Caicos' Grace Bay Club (Providenciales; 800/946-5757; www.gracebayclub.com; doubles from $555) is kid-free and its pool, gym, spa, and restaurant are newly renovated. At Club Med Cancún (Punta Nizuc; 888/932-2582; www.clubmed.com; doubles from $680, all-inclusive), you won't be sharing the popular seaside bars and their extended happy hours or the outdoor activities—beach volleyball, kayaking, snorkeling—with anyone under 18. Be aware, however, that adults only can sometimes be code for nude beaches.
I have read that new passports will soon be biometric. Are there measures in place to protect my personal information against identity theft?
—D.D., DILLON, COLO.
According to the U.S. State Department, by the end of 2006, all new U.S. passports will come with a data chip containing a digitized photo plus the information found on the first page—name, date of birth, and country of origin. The main purpose of the chip is better security. For example, when the passport is scanned, a full-screen image will be available to customs officials instead of the small photograph in your old passport. Privacy advocates were initially concerned that the chips could be compromised and the information on them misused, so a number of safeguards have been added: the chip's protective metallic material requires a special magnetic scanner, and the passport is readable only when it's open—no one can scan your data through your pocket or carry-on bag. These ID's will be impossible to tamper with, since the chip cannot be written on more than once.
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