4 Great Holiday Travel Destinations
T+L taps into local experts for the places to visit when traveling for the holidays.
Carlos Urroz, director of the city’s annual art fair ARCOmadrid, reveals his top holiday traditions.
Sweet Treat: “Roscón de reyes—a soft bun made with orange-blossom water—is only available at Christmastime. Try it at the historic boulangerie La Duquesita (2 Calle de Fernando VI; 34/91-308-0231; roscón de reyes for two $10), a favorite of Pedro Almodóvar’s.”
City Lights: “The city commissions designers and architects to craft Christmas lights that are really creative. You can see them all around the city, including Calle de Preciados and Calle de Serrano, which are both main shopping streets.”
Nativity Scenes: “I always go see the nacimientos, depictions of the birth of Christ. The nicest ones are at the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (3 Plaza de las Descalzas Reales; 34/91-454-8800) and the Real Monasterio de la Encarnación (1 Plaza de la Encarnación; 34/91-454-8800). Some of the figures are more than two hundred years old and are only shown once a year.” —Brooke Porter
Hotelier Rogerio Fasano offers his favorite holiday spots—at the beach or in the city.
In the City
Day: Fasano loves the Maria Luisa and Oscar Americano Foundation (pictured), which “has a superb art collection and beautiful gardens.” For lunch, make your way to Rodeio (1498 Rua Haddock Lobo; 55-11/3474-1333; lunch for two $160), a churrascaria, or Brazilian steak house.
Night: Check out a concert at the Municipal Theater (Praça Ramos de Azevedo; 55-12/3397-0300). “It just reopened after three years of refurbishment,” Fasano says. In town on New Year’s Eve? The “it” place to be is the city-organized party on Avenida Paulista—and make sure to wear white for good luck. “And clothes have to be new,” he advises.
Stay: Fasano’s own Hotel Fasano São Paulo (doubles from $720) is right in the center of the action; the new Hotel Fasano Boa Vista (Km 102.5, Rodovia Presidente Castello Branco; 800/745-8883; doubles from $795) is an hour outside town.
At the Beach
Day: “Because it’s summer here, São Paulo over Christmas is a bit like Milan in August, with everyone heading to the coast,” he says. In-the-know locals forgo Rio for the northern shore of São Paulo state, which “is like the Hamptons of Brazil,” Fasano says. “You have beach after beach.” Spend the afternoon sunning at Barra do Sahy, where he travels with his family. Other great beaches include Ubatumirim, Juquehy, Guarujá, and São Pedro.
Night: Go to nearby Camburi to sample Brazilian fusion dishes at Manacá (dinner for two $140), set among banana trees at the end of a 100-foot wooden plank. “It’s one of my favorite restaurants in the country,” Fasano says. “I go for the fresh seafood.”
Stay: There aren’t many hotels on the beaches; your best bet is to rent a house. Fasano recommends booking through Matueté (villas from $1,500 per night, five-night minimum), which specializes in Brazil and is on T+L’s A-List. —Ed Stocker
Food journalist Michal Ansky tells T+L how Hanukkah and Christmas are celebrated throughout the Holy Land.
Stroll the Old City: “Jerusalem is holy year-round, but the atmosphere during Hanukkah is truly special. I love to walk from Zion Gate to Jaffa Gate, stopping for a view of the Western Wall and the golden Dome of the Rock at the Aish HaTorah Center (1 Western Wall Plaza; 972-2/628-5666).”
Take a Cooking Lesson: “During Hanukkah season, pastry chef Eran Schwarzbard offers workshops specializing in traditional and contemporary holiday recipes at Shuk HaNamal (Tel Aviv Hangar 12, Tel Aviv Port), an indoor farmers’ market facing the Mediterranean.”
Attend a Church Service: “As home to Tel Aviv’s Christian Arab population, the Jaffa district has many churches. Christmas Mass at St. Peter’s Church (1 Mifratz Shlomo St.; 972-3/682-2871)—originally built on the site of a medieval citadel in 1654—is the most atmospheric and elegant in town.”
Eat Latkes: “My family and I love preparing classic Hanukkah recipes, including latkes, or lightly fried potato pancakes. The sweet-potato latkes from Orna & Ella (33 Shenkin St., Tel Aviv; 972-3/525-2085; latkes for two $10)—though sweeter than the classics—are a winner.”
Go on a Weekend Side Trip: “Galilee—an easy two-hour drive north of Tel Aviv—has many sites that are special for Jews and Christians. My favorite holy spot is the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, located in the biblical site of Tabgha. The shrine dates to the fourth century A.D. You can take a lake tour that follows in the steps of Jesus.” —David Kaufman
Fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra shares his favorite holiday travel destinations, from his home state of Orissa in the east to Goa in the west.
Orissa: “The season actually starts in October with Durga Puja, which honors the goddess Durga, and Diwali, the festival of lights (the date depends on the Hindu calendar). On Hindu holidays, my mom would make a traditional Orissan dish called pitha, steamed crêpes made of rice and stuffed with anything except meat—grated caramelized coconut; chopped vegetables and spices. There is a local chain of restaurants called Dalma known for its pithas.
“Between Christmas and New Year’s, we stay at the Mayfair Hotel (Chakratirtha Rd.; 91-67/5222-7800; doubles from $160), on the beach in Puri, one of the four major religious spots in India. As a ritual, we go to the Jagannath Temple (Sri Nahar, Puri; 91-67/5222-3002) and Konark Sun Temple (Konark; 91-67/5823-6821).”
Mumbai: “At the Taj Mahal Palace hotel (doubles from $459), I beg to get a room in the Palace wing. I eat at Trishna (dinner for two $75), a seafood restaurant just behind the hotel, and Mahesh Lunch Home (8B Cawasji Patel St.; 91-22/2287-0938; dinner for two $75), a hole-in-the-wall where they get their fish from coastal villages daily. The crab meat cooked with garlic and butter on freshly baked naan or roti is heaven, though I’d probably die of a heart attack if I ate it every day.”
Goa: “Christmas is the best time to be in Goa. One year we rented an old stone house in the beach town of Morjim. We woke up Christmas morning to church bells ringing and walked around the village, and then went to the Convent & Church of St. Francis of Assisi (just off Old Goa Rd.) for the service.” —Sarah Khan
Chef Edinho Engel started the Cambury dining revolution 18 years ago when he opened the restaurant in the rain forest at the end of a 50-foot boardwalk. His specialty is seafood, and signature dishes like caper-shrimp-and-banana–stuffed pargo (snapper) fish en papillote are some of the best to be found outside the big cities.
This Sao Paulo-based boutique travel agency specializes in custom luxury itineraries from Bahia to the Amazon. Robert Betenson is an invaluable local resource for everything from locating the perfect pousada in Fortaleza to gallery hopping in Caruaru and finding secret beaches in Natal.
Fundação Maria Luisa e Oscar Americano
Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
1903 grande dame with dramatic interiors—vaulted ceilings; silk carpets; onyx columns—overlooking the 85-foot-high Gateway of India. The lobby of this a plush Edwardian palace has a new contemporary look, with dragon-patterned panels and etched glasswork, but the heritage wing’s 285 rooms and suites remain reassuringly classic, filled with period furniture and original works of art.
Brazilian innovators Isay Weinfeld and Marcio Kogan designed this sexy retreat with clubby leather armchairs and Brazilian modern art. Downstairs, there’s the see-and-be-seen Italian restaurant, where São Paulo’s creative set gathers. Best for Sophisticates and fashion gurus.
Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales
This collection of fantastic, if occasionally brutally themed, religious art, including pieces by Peter Paul Rubens, is in an appropriately creaky and forbidding 16th-century working convent smack in the heart of Madrid’s central district. The art can be viewed only on a tour (5 euros, about $6.50), and Madrileños and tourists alike line up several times a day for the privilege. The pièce de résistance is the tapestry room, a hushed and softly lit space with massive handwoven tapestries displaying biblical scenes in lurid color. Unfortunately, it’s all too brief on the tour and individual wanderings are a strict no-no. Tours are in Spanish, but well worth it even if you don’t speak the language.