These days, many of us are keen to reduce our air travel for ecological reasons and so-called 'staycations' are all the rage due to the recession. That's why it's good to know you don't have to travel far to get a taste of the exotic during the forthcoming festive season.
One ad in my local paper runs with the headline 'Bring the kids to the North Pole this Christmas' and tells me that I'll be 'magically transported' to Santa's home. The bargain price of £25 seems a little too good to be true. After all, it costs me £15 return to get into central London during rush hour and they're saying that I can get to Lapland and back for just a tenner more?
Closer inspection reveals the catch. Santa's temporary home is, in fact, the Hook Road Arena in Epsom. The good news is that I'm guaranteed a white Christmas, as well as lots of other authentic stuff that you'd normally only find in the Arctic. Like a funfair, snow tubing and a traditional European market.
As if this weren't exciting enough, another company has taken over Syon Park in Isleworth and invites me to 'tantalize' (sic) my senses in the 'vibrant and energetic city of Marrakech'. In an explosion of kitsch completely inappropriate to the genuinely historic setting, I am promised fountains, ornate bronze sculptures, scented oil lamps and - God help us - a 'twinkling starlit ceiling'. As you'd expect, visitors will be entertained by belly dancers, acrobats and fire jugglers. The Camel Rodeo and dodgems may, however, come as something of a surprise - particularly to those of you who've actually been to north Africa.
Morocco not to your taste? Then why not make your way to Walton-on-Thames in Surrey and take shelter in the Russian Forests? A Cossack encampment 'complete with snow-clad pine trees' is the setting for 007 themed parties. Sword dancers will duel while diners paying £34.50 + VAT join a company of Bond girls in a recreation of a Tsar's Palace.
There's definitely money to be made in all of this, so I'm laying some plans for next year. I have a feeling that Battersea Power Station might well be the right setting for my 'Mysteries of the Pharoahs Christmas Celebration'. Now, what kind of dodgems did the ancient Egyptians prefer?