Travellers often strive for the unorthodox. They hunt the globe for untouched jewels looking for what has rarely been seen before. They are like some kind of latter day Don Quixote, trying to find a windmill to tilt at, but a windmill that has not been visited by a coach party of retirees from Basingstoke, under strict instructions to get back in time for the bingo.
But here's a suggestion - why don't these folks start swapping the unusual for the literal? For example, if you are a looking for a party, head for Disko Island, just off Greenland. If you are a bird lover, fly to the Canaries. If you're a fan of packed lunches, make your way to Sandwich Island. Admittedly, this may not always be a sensible or ultimately successful way to plot your holiday strategy, but such a logically flawed approach to travelling could reap unexpected rewards.
All this talk may seem like aimless meandering (and could indeed encourage such activity) but it serves to tee up the following suggested 'literal' travel itinerary - Places To Go At Christmas That Sound Christmassy - or PTGACTSC as your local travel agent will call them.
Christmas Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Christmas Island, Nova Scotia
Our first stop is North America, but not the USA. Instead we head further north into Canada, or Nova Scotia to be more precise. Here you will find Christmas Island, a place where the Post Office does a nice little sideline in postal markings for those people who like their festive letters to have an extra seasonal sprinkling. I paid a visit there a few years back as part of a tour round the sensational Cabot Trail on Cape Breton. It was the middle of September, but it would have taken a real Scrooge to not get into the spirit of things.
A letter being stamped with the Christmas Island postmark
Christmas, Florida, USA
OK Team USA, stop panicking because now it's your turn. But here's the problem; if you tap 'Christmas' into the Sat Nav of your US hire car, then expect to hear a trace of panic emanating from the digital tones of its computer generated voice. That's because there are just so many Christmas inspired places over there. Of all the many to choose from, I reckon Christmas in Florida is a grand choice; the weather is likely to be marvellous, it's near enough to Orlando to drop in on Disney World, and it is also home to the world's largest alligator shaped building. How could you resist?
Christmas Common, Oxfordshire, England
The Chiltern Hills, near Christmas Common (copyright Chris Smith)
Perched high up on an escarpment in Oxfordshire is Christmas Common. It's a blink and you miss it kind of place but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in location. That's because it is in the bosom of the Chiltern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Walkers can enjoy the Ridgeway Trail, part of which runs nearby (some sections of which are suitable for cycling) and also watch astonished as dozens of Red Kite's fly overhead. Re-introduced into the area back in 1989, they now dominate the skies around the Chilterns, and you never tire of looking at them. For those with young children, you are also only 45 minutes from Legoland and you can take in Windsor Castle whilst you are there.
A Red Kite flying over the Chiltern Hills (copyright Chris Smith)
Surfing at Matanzas Beach, Navidad, Chile (photo courtesy of Lilian Suárez, Muni Navidad)
"..and Feliz Navidad came off the bench to score the winner for Real Madrid in the 85th minute". Yes, for me 'Feliz Navidad' will always sound like the name of an exotic but temperamental European footballer, but for those who speak Spanish, it means 'Happy Christmas'. And that is why any place called Navidad qualifies for this list. Navidad is a small county (known as a 'commune' locally) in Chile. It is in the wonderfully named O'Higgin's region (take a moment to look up why such a typically Irish name is so prominent in Chile) and what makes it special as far as we are concerned is its surfing. The town of Matanzas is host to what is described as the longest and most tubular wave in the country, and you don't have to go far to find even more first class surf. About 50 miles away is Pichilemu, one of many places in Chile that has hosted the world surfing championships.
Seals just off the coast of Navidad, Chile (photo courtesy of Lilian Suárez, Muni Navidad)
La Navidad, Haiti
Christopher Columbus, who founded La Navidad, Haiti (photo taken from HuffingtonPost.com)
There are a number of places that failed to make this list, because they weren't necessarily suitable. For example, Advent City in Norway, is an old mining settlement that was abandoned and its buildings moved to Hiorthamn. Which itself was also abandoned. Rotten luck, eh? Another tale of disappearance is associated with La Navidad in Haiti, but this has a far bigger role to play in the history of travel and adventure. La Navidad is where Christopher Columbus set up camp during his voyage to the Americas. It is thought to have been the first European colony set up in the 'New World', and only happened here because Columbus' largest ship, the Santa Maria, ran aground nearby. Columbus left the settlement to continue his travels, but when he returned almost a year later, all he found was 11 corpses on the beach. Since the 1980s archaeologists have tried to pinpoint exactly where in Haiti La Navidad would have been, and also where the Santa Maria sunk. Nobody has offered up any conclusive evidence so far, but if they do, expect it to make the news bulletins worldwide.
La Navidad was named as such because it was founded on Christmas Day. The chances are that any adventures you have around December 25th won't involve discovering a new world, but don't let that stop you trying.Suggest a correction