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Giving lifestyle experiences: a guide for Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner and, like every year, we set out in search of the perfect gift. Of course, the excitement of the colourful packages stacked under the tree immediately makes children come back and the rustle of the paper under your fingers is a feeling that, alone, is worth the year long wait. Globalization has taught us that you can buy everything with a simple click; advertising continuously offers us that object that we really lack and the tools that we just can’t live without. But there is a type of gift that is difficult to pack, that you do not buy online and never goes on promotion: time.

Lifestyle experiences under the Christmas Tree

To lovers of nature and animals, to all those who have recently received the call to a more conscious tourism, but perhaps also to the most sceptical, you could suggest a visit to an animal sanctuary: a wonderful way to be and do good. The sanctuaries are present throughout Europe, the United States and Canada, including the Farmhouse Garden Animal Home, created by former breeder Mike Lanigan in Ontario.
The facilities are responsible for redeeming and looking after "farm animals", in an effort to give them a free and carefree life, away from places of terror such as slaughterhouses, cages and fences, and with the utmost respect for the particular needs of each species. Visiting these open spaces, spending a few hours in the company of horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, ducks and chickens, returning to a dimension in which there is no exploitation, but only sharing, knowledge and mutual curiosity. These experiences can return a lot in terms of personal enrichment.

If instead you dream of visiting a place where more exotic species find protection, you could opt for a centre dedicated to the recovery of bears, such as Tam Dao in Vietnam, or that of Chengdu, in China. For both you can book a visit through the reference association Animal Asia. The animal species that need protection are now many and, whether you choose to observe the gorillas of Uganda or the whales of the Azores, every trip can become a way to contribute concretely to the life of the structures involved in the protection projects and the economy of the countries that host them.

Experiences for the taste

For gourmets, a tasteful experience and dinner in one of the many starred restaurants is certainly a welcome gift. The advice is to experience the cuisine of Clare Smyth, Best Female Chef 2018 with her London restaurant in Notting Hill. A pupil of Alain Ducasse and then for many years alongside Gordon Ramsey, the chef of Irish origin has won over critics and the public thanks to a solid career that led to the opening of the restaurant of the same name, marked by an original cuisine that aims to enhance the value of local producers and the raw materials of the British culinary tradition.
But for those who are always on the lookout for new frontiers, we can suggest a visit to Hamburg's Fischmarkt, the traditional fish market, which since 1703, every Sunday morning, is animated by local patrons, tourists and people who are just curious to see what’s going on. There are the dawn-breakers, who perhaps really go there to buy fish, fruit, flowers, bread and cakes, and there are the night owls, who wander around the stalls to conclude the best evening that has gone on beyond expectations. The show, in any case, is worth the visit: from opening hours to the end of negotiations, is a blaze of colours, sounds and smells. There are live concerts that warm the atmosphere and especially many banquets that offer for breakfast coffee, waffles, fruit salads, but also the typical Fischbrötchen, sandwiches with raw herring and onion, and craft beers.

Giving or giving yourself time, finding an opportunity to share an experience, is a luxury that now unites all pockets, but it is the best way to make any day a special day.

Choice decidedly more bourgeoise, but within walking distance of our borders, you can decide to spend a weekend in Switzerland at the luxurious The Chedi Andermatt, opened in late 2013 in the town of the same name and affiliated to The Leading Hotels of the World, a guarantee of quality and uniqueness. The location itself, thanks to the nature that surrounds it (Andermatt is an alpine village set at 1447 meters above sea level) and the designer furniture designed by the architect Jean-Michel Gathy, would be enough to amaze, but the real gem is the Japanese restaurant inside. Here Arman Jafri, first sake sommelier graduated from the Sake Sommelier Association of Tokyo, offers guests the unique experience of sake tasting, a typical Japanese alcoholic beverage obtained from the fermentation of rice, to be combined with the dishes of the kaiseki menu.
A trip out of town is an excellent opportunity to leave behind - at least for a few hours - the increasingly hectic routine: what could be better than a trip to a place where time seems to have stopped? Among the various European destinations, the city of Matera, chosen as European Capital of Culture 2019, is also ready to host an extraordinary exhibition: Salvador Dali - The Persistence of the Opposites, with about 200 original works by the Catalan artist, including sculptures, furniture, glass works and illustrations. Flanked by installations and holograms, it offers a complete and totally immersive experience of art, culture and entertainment in a totally unique city.

It's the right time to have unique experiences

And if instead what you are looking for is a journey to unplug from devices and reconnect with yourself, a weekend of digital detox may be the best choice to ward off stress and find peace. For those who are looking for something more, a Vipassana meditation retreat (which means "to see things in depth, as they really are") can become an extremely transformative experience. The programs dedicated to "silence retreats" are present throughout Europe, but if you have a few more days to devote you could leave for the East, choosing a fascinating destination like Burma or opt for India, where you can really enjoy the essence of meditation. The world's most important centre of Vipassana meditation is the Dhamma Giri in Igatpuri, Maharashtra. The ten-day courses are a very intense but unforgettable experience for those who are not afraid to experience an authentic full-immersion meditative experience.
Finally, we suggest the go-ahead to activities related to interests that have never developed or have been set aside for lack of time and, above all, organisation. For fans of the genre, the associations dedicated to the art of calligraphy, promote the art of handwriting: A hobby, passion, vocation, charm of an art that comes from the past and that today, in times of digitization, is at risk of dying out. A hobby that promotes manual gestures, and training for a mind free from tensions and distractions. From the techniques of the scribes, passing through the eastern tradition and the most contemporary declinations, the world association of reference for this art is the American AMPETH, which recognizes only twelve living masters of calligraphy.

And so, with Christmas now just around the corner, as well as asking us what to give, it will be good to understand when and with whom to leave.

If you have always dreamed of becoming a "nose" or if you want to learn how to recognize all the elements that make up a perfume, you could treat yourself to a seminar in Grasse, the home of French perfumery. At Galimard, a brand founded in 1747, you will find a wide range of workshops dedicated to the art of perfume, even in the exclusive private formula, that will open the doors of an enchanted world, made of coloured bottles, essences, rare and refined raw materials, a world in which technology, tradition and art come together to create real olfactory universes. Here you can treat yourself to the emotion of making your own perfume, based on reactions, favourite fragrances, memories that each smell carries behind. A journey to discover yourself in your own essence.

For those who want to cultivate taste, World Wide Sommelier is the association to which make reference to find the opportunity to learn how to taste and combine the best wine, beer, extra virgin olive oil or even chocolate and coffee: because it is in the shades that hides the greatest richness.

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