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This beautiful Colonial city of vivid primary colors is just two hours by bus from busy Mexico City. It’s home to many Mexican delights, such as mole—the spicy chocolate sauce flavored with chili peppers, cinnamon, and fruit; chiles en nogada, a wondrous concoction of a chili stuffed with meat in a nut cream sauce that’s Mexico’s national dish; and talavera, hand-painted ceramic pottery and tiles. Take a cooking class at Meson Sacristia de la Compania, a hotel that’s hot-pink-and-purple interior is filled with antiques for sale, and is one of five boutique hotels in 16th- through 18th-century mansions called Tesoros de Puebla in the UNESCO-designated historic center. Watch Las Posadas, night processions re-enacting the search of Mary and Joseph for shelter downtown and in neighborhoods in Puebla.
Quebec City, Canada
The walled old town of mansard roofs and stone buildings; the Quartier Petit Champlain, where a cobblestone street is lined by specialty shops and evergreens adorned with lights; the castle-like clifftop Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac hotel that looms over all; and francais heard everywhere: It’s France minus the jet lag. A snowy white Christmas is guaranteed. Nearby is dog-sledding, Nordic spas, and an Ice Hotel, perfect for cuddling with your honey.
Sniff the heady aroma of gluhwein (hot mulled wine), spicy gingerbread, roasted nuts, and grilled bratwurst in the frosty air, and browse the garland-strewn stalls selling handicrafts, tree ornaments, wooden toys, and scarves, surrounded by thousands of lights. You’re at one of 2,500-plus Christmas markets held throughout Germany in December. Most end Christmas Eve, the majority are held in the town’s main square, and regional variations prevail. In the north, Bremen has a medieval-themed torchlit riverside market, plus another one in the main square, while Lubeck has a market depicting Grimm’s fairy tale scenes and a market featuring artisans from nearby Scandinavia and the Baltic in the magnificently-frescoed Hospital of the Holy Ghost. Picturesque Bavarian towns like Rothenburg, Dinkelsbuhl, and Bad Tolz that look storybook-like enough year-round become positively magical in Christmas season. Indoor and outdoor concerts and festively-decorated evergreens abound: Germany, after all, is where the tree-trimming tradition began.