Unhappy Christmas couples shop divorce vouchers

All I want for Christmas… is a divorce > A British law firm is offering an unusual present for unhappily married couples this Christmas, divorce gift vouchers.

British law firm Lloyd Platt and Company in London said it has received hundreds of enquiries since putting the vouchers on sale last month.

Offering couples half-hour or hour-long advice session with a lawyer, the firm has sold 54 vouchers in three weeks, according to the Daily Telegraph. The firm is calling the vouchers this year’s “must have” present, and cost 140 euros.

“Christmas can be a very stressful time for families as we have always seen by the huge increase of people seeking advice in January” senior partner Vanessa Lloyd Platt told the newspaper. “The vouchers seem to appeal to an enormously wide spread spectrum of people looking for that ‘must have’ gift for Christmas” she said. She added that buyers include husbands, wives, mistresses and people using them as a suggestion to their friends and family members.

However the vouchers have been criticised for encouraging people to seek a divorce rather than resolve their problems through counselling or other means.

“It’s typical ambulance chasing by lawyers who are doing this for business reasons” said Dave Percival, who organises an annual National Marriage Week, which celebrates the institution of marriage.

Lloyd Platt and Company said the vouchers offer people “all the practical options available to them, divorce being only one of the options”.

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Finland, the real home of Santa Claus

Promoting itself as the “real home of Santa Claus,” Finland celebrates Christmas with markets, festivities and traditions, all culminating on Christmas Eve with a taking of the sauna, enjoyment of Christmas treats and gatherings with friends and family, and a visit by Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, or Joulupukki in Finnish, is known to reside in northeastern Lapland, on the Korvatunturi Fell. Legend states that the Korvatunturi Fell is shaped like an ear, allowing Santa to hear the wishes of children from around the world. Korvatunturi is “home base” for Santa’s travels above the Arctic Circle.

Santa Claus’ Office is in Santa Claus’ Village on the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. The nearest town, Rovaniemi, is 8 km away. (Highway 4 north of Rovaniemi).

Santa Claus Village, open throughout the year with free admission, is home to Santa Claus’s Office where visitors can meet Santa, visit his Main Post Office and observe the flurry of the festive season. Cards, letters and parcels sent from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office are stamped with a unique Arctic Circle postmark. Through the years Finland’s Santa Claus has received more than 18 million letters. Each year he receives more than 600,000 letters from more than 150 countries. More info at >  www.santaclausvillage.info

Santa’s Park is a fantasy world inside an underground cave where “elves” work all year in preparation for Christmas. Guests can bake and decorate gingerbread in the Gingerbread Kitchen, learn elf skills in Elf School, or make Christmas decorations in the Elf Workshop. Santa Park’s Sleigh Ride takes guests through four seasons of Finland to the elves’ toy factory where presents for Christmas are made. Entrance is 20 euro for children and 25 euro for adults through January 10. More info at >  www.santapark.com

According to the Finnish tradition, Christmas is brought to the homes by St. Thomas on December 21 (St. Thomas Day) and is taken away by St. Knut on January 13. St. Thomas markets prepare for the December 21 celebration, selling handmade Christmas decorations, ornaments, handicrafts, gifts, and treats such as gingerbread and hot mulled wine, Glögi, a warming combination of wine, spices and fruit. The St. Thomas Market in Helsinki, in Esplanade Park, is the largest Christmas market in Finland with approximately 150 vendors. On weekends, entertainment includes a Finnish Christmas pageant and a visit by Santa Claus. The market is open daily from December 7 to 20. In Turku the Christmas Fair is open on weekends through December 25. More info at > www.visitfinland.com

Christmas shopping in Europe

There are many shopping possibilities around Europe to get travellers in the Christmas Spirit.

Many European cities are attracting guests with the lowest hotel rates of the year allowing travellers to get in some cheap last minute shopping before Christmas. In Milan, 110 euro, travellers save 14 percent in comparison to the previous month, in Venice, 115 euro, twelve percent. Prices have also decreased in Nice, 85 euro, eight percent less and Barcelona, 96 euro, nine percent less.

To prolong the festive season into 2010, travellers can visit the Three King’s celebration on the 6th January in Barcelona.

In comparison to the previous month, hotel prices have risen in European cities that offer Christmas markets throughout December. In the German city of Nuremberg travellers pay 108 euro for a standard double room over the Christmas period, twelve percent more than in November. The same can be seen in other German cities, such as Dresden, 86 euro, an increase of ten percent and Stuttgart, 108 euro, an increase of six percent.

The same trend can also be seen in popular cities in Austria and Switzerland. A standard double room in Vienna is 109 euro in December, five percent more than the previous month, while in Zurich prices have increased due to the Christmas market by three percent to 183 euro.

Although Christmas markets in Europe are mostly associated with Germany and Austria, many others can also be found in England, Estonia, Finland, France and other countries around Europe. However, my favorite one is in Berlin, Germany and that is not due to hot mulled wine only!

Take a look at the following links >

http://www.germany-tourism.de/ENG/culture_and_events/christmas_markets.htm

http://www.aboutaustria.org/veranstaltungen/veranstaltungen5.htm

http://www.enjoyengland.com/attractions/events/calendar/december/christmas-markets.aspx

http://www.tallinn-life.com/tallinn/christmas-market

http://www.helsinki.fi/en/index/tapahtumat/4643390f17ab2f7905aed556678f0fde.html

http://gofrance.about.com/cs/festivals/a/christmasmarket.htm

More Christmas short break ideas in the UK

More Christmas short break ideas in the UK >

* Aston Hall by Candlelight, Birmingham > Beautifully lit by over 300 candles. 3rd-12th December (closed 7th December).

For additional details visit > http://www.bmag.org.uk/events?id=382&start=42

* Cheltenham Christmas Market > Discover a wide range of festive crafts and gifts. 20th November-6th December.

For additional details visit > http://www.cheltenhamchristmasmarket.co.uk/

* Wincanton Racecourse > Blow off the cobwebs at an exciting Boxing Day meet. 26th December.

For additional details visit > http://www.wincantonracecourse.co.uk/Home.htm

* Taste of Christmas 2009, Excel, London > Taste of Christmas runs from 4-6 December. Tickets from £19.

For additional details visit > www.tasteofchristmas.com

Top 12 Christmas ‘dream toys’

The most hotly-tipped ‘dream toys’ for this Christmas were unveiled recently.

Film and TV shows have made their mark on this year’s wish-lists for both boys and girls.

And hi-tech gadgets rub shoulders with more traditional board games and dolls in the Toy Retailer Association’s predicted top toys for Christmas.

A Dr Who Cyberman Mask and the interactive toy car Fast Talkin’ McQueen, inspired by the hit movie Cars, will be hot favourites with boys this year.

Hollywood movies Pirates Of The Caribbean and Star Wars have also made their mark, inspiring the Isla Cruces playset and a Transformer toy set.

The girls’ top 12 list includes a Disney Princess chair, and a Let’s Dance Barbie, based on the sixth Barbie movie, will add a new twist to the long-standing favourite doll.

Pre-schools will prefer toys inspired by Bob The Builder and Thomas The Tank Engine.

Their top 12 also includes the V Smile Baby game, an interactive toy for children as young as nine months.

For older children, the list includes Hasbro’s Trivial Pursuits 90s and the electronic board game of Deal Or No Deal.

Toy Retailers Association (TRA) chairman Gary Sadler said: ‘We are currently seeing a resurgence in licensed toys, which combine fun and playability with the familiarity of popular characters.’

The TRA’s independent predictions are based on retailers’ opinions, items requested by shoppers and the latest trends in new products.

Hot Christmas Gadgets include Nintendo Wii, Sat Nav and iPods

Christmas, of course, comes earlier every year. For retailers it starts earlier than most as they try to identify the year’s ‘must have’ gifts. In order to give them a bit of a hand, we’ve spent the last week analyzing search data in order to make some predictions as to what we think will be this year’s hot gadgets, entertainment, toys and fashions.

First a word on the methodology. Search term analysis provides great insight into people’s habits and desires, so we analysed the top 2,000 search terms that sent traffic to a Hitwise Custom Category consisting of the top 100 online retail websites in the UK during the four weeks ending 22nd September 2007. Gadgets are up first, and our defintion encompasses a range of consumer electronics products including mobile phones, computers and peripherals, games consoles, in car entertainment and navigation systems, and audio-visual equipment,

The Nintendo Wii is the most searched for gaming console in the UK, ranking as the sixth most popular gadget heading into Christmas, ahead of the Xbox 360 at number 7 and the Nintendo DS at number 8. There were 5 times as many searches for the Nintendo Wii as the Sony Playstation 3, which did not make the top 10 gadget list.

Mobile phones are the most popular gadgets in the UK, capturing 46% of all searches, followed by computers, iPods, satellite navigation systems and high definition televisions. The success for the TomTom brand of satellite navigation systems continues, with the number of searches for ‘tomtom’ double that for the generic term ‘sat nav’. Searches for ‘external hard drive’ have increased by 15% year on year, reflecting a desire among UK consumers to back up their precious collections of digital music, photos and video.

The Nokia N95 multimedia phone captures almost one in ten searches for mobile phone models in the UK, making it the most popular handset. It is followed closely by the stylish Nokia 6300, with 8.7% of searches, and the Samsung G600 5 mega pixel camera phone, with 8.5%.

The top mobile phone manufacturer by share of UK Internet searches is Nokia, which receives 35% of searches across the top 5 brands, followed by Sony Ericsson with 29% and Samsung with 24%. Motorola is at number four with a 6% share, followed by LG with 5%.

There are 14 times as many searches for the Apple iPod as for all the other MP3 players combined. Two thirds of searches are for the generic iPod, while one in five searchers is looking specifically for the iPod Nano, which has seen searches increase by 67% year on year.

The new iPod Touch and the UK release of the iPhone were announced too late to have a significant impact on the retail search data, but there is a huge amount of internet buzz about both products. For example, the volume of searches for ‘iPhone’ sending traffic to News and Media websites has increased 5 fold over the last month. With Apple the most searched for gadget brand in the UK, it seems likely that both products will find eager fans amongst British consumers. Dell is the second most searched for brand, receiving almost four times as many searches as its nearest rival HP.

Via > DigitalMediaWire

Two cities > one great Christmas experience

Combine the capital of Copenhagen with Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, for a true Scandinavian pre-Christmas experience. Copenhagen is especially wonderful at Christmas time and the historic city of Malmö in Sweden is another great Yuletide attraction.

Thanks to the Öresund Bridge which majestically links the two countries, it’s never been easier to enjoy the delights of being part of a Danish and Swedish build up to Christmas. With a convenient rail-link the cities are just 35 minutes apart.

COPENHAGEN > In Copenhagen, serious shoppers head for Ströget, northern Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street. From mid November onwards, shopkeepers try to outdo each other in creating the most attractive window displays. Many look for exclusive designs or perhaps special quality decorations for the Christmas tree, if so, head straight for Illums Bolighus, a centre for Danish and international design. Next door at Amagertorv Square stands the Royal Copenhagen flagship shore, a wonderful 17th century building filled with fine porcelain, crystal and collectable Christmas plates as well has Georg Jensen silverware.

Royal Copenhagen is also famous for its display of Christmas tables. They have a different theme each year and are decorated with the best of Royal Copenhagen finery. Be prepared to queue for this annual visual highlight!

Another must do, is a visit to the annual Christmas Market at Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli Gardens is the most popular attraction in Denmark, and this time of the year they put on a fabulous display of the best illuminated trees you will ever see in Europe. Some sixty stalls sell Danish handicrafts, seasonal foods and gifts. The market is this year will open on 16 November.

MALMÖ > Just over the Öresund Bridge, Malmö is another great place for shopping. The big department store, Hansakompaniet, is the place to go when in need of inspiration for last-minute Christmas gifts. Here you’ll find trendy clothes, restaurants, beauty products and household goods. Then move on to Saluhallen, at the picturesque Lilla Torg Square, a true mecca for gourmets with several small shops selling tea, chocolates and seasonal delicacies. There are several copy bars and restaurants surrounding Lilla Square, where locals and visitors alike meet up for a traditional warm ‘glogg’. From 25 November the City of Malmö puts on its Christmas market, attracting more and more visitors each year.

A good time to be in Malmö is on the 13th December for Lucia! This tradition takes place each year on the 13th of December, when Lucia, ‘The Queen of Light’ wearing candles in hair, together with her attendants, travel through the city in a horse drawn carriages up to the Stortorget Square where locals will have gathered to sing traditional carols and watch the official crowning of Lucia.

Getting there > With flight times around two hours you can be there in no time at all. SAS Scandinavian Airlines operate regular direct services out of London Heathrow and City airports, Dublin, Aberdeen, Manchester and Birmingham. For latest offers www.flysas.co.uk

For further information go to www.visitdenmark.com

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