Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!” Santa’s familiar greeting booms out from nowhere, taking me by surprise. I had just arrived on Main Street, USA, the first destination as you enter Disneyland Paris. And even though Christmas trees and decorations are everywhere, the fact that it’s daytime in mid-November, with fairly mild weather, means the experience is a little more confusing than anything else.
But it doesn’t take long to get into the Christmas spirit – this is the holiday season at Disneyland Paris, after all. Indeed, a light flutter of ‘snow’ appears as if on cue – as it does at least 12 times a day here – and the already excitable children around me start jumping up and down with their hands in the air.
Overhead, fairy lights are twinkling against the shiny baubles on Mickey-shaped garlands all the way from City Hall, where a 24-metre-tall Christmas fir takes pride of place, to Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
DRIFTING through a curtain of bubbles, I spot the Yolanda Reef for the very first time.
The majestic coral cliff is a scene of vibrant orange creatures, green plants and fluorescent yellow bannerfish, which loop around the rocks oblivious to my presence.
I’d only tried diving for the first time just a few days earlier and I’m now inside what feels like the world’s largest tropical aquarium, Ras Mohammed National Park, just outside the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt.
Jostling for space is quite the norm in the Cotswolds. But Malmesbury, a modest market town between Cirencester and Chippenham, has somehow escaped that plight — a surprise given its rich history as England’s oldest borough.
Athelstan, the first king of all England; the philosopher Thomas Hobbes; and the historian William of Malmesbury have all called this honey-coloured town home. So did Eilmer, the Benedictine monk who strapped on a pair of wings and leapt off the church tower in an 11th-century foray into aviation — although unlike Icarus before him, the amateur aviator did live to tell the tale.