Celebrate the Holidays With Christmas Dinner at Downton Abbey

iStock.com/Emily_M_Wilson
iStock.com/Emily_M_Wilson

For diehard Downton Abbey fans, Christmas won’t be celebrated on December 25 this year. That’s because this year, Highclere Castle, the real-life country estate where much of the beloved show was filmed, is open for a special Christmas dinner on December 15, according to Architectural Digest.

With the help of a company called Premium Tours, you can celebrate the holidays like a Crawley (or at least the Downton cast) on the 5000-acre estate in Hampshire, England, roughly 60 miles outside of London, exploring the castle you've seen countless times on TV.

Each ticket gets you transportation to the estate and back again from London. Once you’ve arrived and grabbed some champagne and canapés, you’ll wander around the castle’s saloon, smoking room, drawing room, and temporary Egyptian exhibition, with official guides on hand to answer questions and talk about the house’s history, architecture, and art. You’ll be served a three-course meal with wine, with dishes like Lady Carnarvon charred salmon and avocado tian leaf salad (one of the sample appetizers) and baked goat’s cheese, pine kernels, and red onion puree wrapped in filo pastry with watercress foam (a sample second course). Once you’re stuffed with Christmas pudding, you’ll be treated to a performance by a group of carolers.

From pick-up to drop-off, you’ll have eight hours and 30 minutes of aristocratic fun. You’ll need to dress the part, though. The event page specifies formal dress, with suits and ties for men and cocktail dresses for ladies.

Tickets are priced at $625, but if you book now, you can snag them for $155 apiece. Sounds like the perfect way to spend your year-end bonus. Hopefully, that will tide you over until the long-awaited Downton Abbey movie premieres next year.

[h/t Architectural Digest]

Australian Island Wants Visitors to Stop Taking Wombat Selfies

iStock.com/LukeWaitPhotography
iStock.com/LukeWaitPhotography

Spending a day observing Australian wildlife from afar isn't enough for some tourists. On Maria Island, just off the east coast of Tasmania, many visitors can't resist snapping pictures with the local wombats—and the problem has gotten so out of hand that island officials are asking people to pledge to leave the cute marsupials out of their selfies.

As CNN Travel reports, the Maria Island Pledge has been posted on signs welcoming visitors to the national park. It implores them to vow to the island to "respect and protect the furred and feathered residents." It even makes specific mention of the wombat selfie trend, with one passage reading:

"Wombats, when you trundle past me I pledge I will not chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you, or try and pick you up. I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea. I pledge to let you stay wild."

The pledge isn't a binding contract guests have to sign. Rather, park officials hope that seeing these signs when they arrive will be enough to remind visitors that their presence has an impact on the resident wildlife and to be respectful of their surroundings.

The adorable, cube-pooping wombats at Maria Island are wild animals that aren't accustomed to posing for pictures, and should therefore be left alone—though in other parts of Australia, conservationists encourage tourists to take wildlife selfies. Rottnest Island off the country's west coast is home to 10,000 quokkas (another photogenic marsupial), and the quokka selfies taken there help raise awareness of their vulnerable status.

[h/t CNN Travel]

The Picturesque Italian Town of Sambuca, Sicily Is Selling Homes for $1

iStock.com/DeniseSerra
iStock.com/DeniseSerra

If you want to impress your friends, take them to the swanky new bar in town and order a round of flaming sambuca shots, which are made from Italian anise-flavored liqueur. If you want to impress them even more, tell them you just bought a home in Sambuca, an old Italian town on the Mediterranean island of Sicily.

A little extreme? Maybe. But with homes selling there for as little as €1 (roughly $1.14), you can't beat the price. As The Guardian reports, dozens of homes in Sambuca are currently on the market "for less than the price of a takeaway coffee" as local officials attempt to lure newcomers to the hilltop town. Over the years, many of Sambuca's residents have moved to bigger cities, leaving their former homes deserted.

Sambuca was founded by the ancient Greeks but was later conquered by Arab groups, which explains the blend of Moorish and Baroque influences that can be seen in the town's architecture. City hall owns the homes that are currently up for sale, and locals officials have been singing the town's praises in hopes of wooing buyers.

"Sambuca is known as the City of Splendor," Giuseppe Cacioppo, Sambuca's deputy mayor and tourist councilor, tells CNN. "This fertile patch of land is dubbed the Earthly Paradise. We're located inside a natural reserve, packed with history. Gorgeous beaches, woods, and mountains surround us. It's silent and peaceful, an idyllic retreat for a detox stay."

(Lowercase sambuca, by the way, originated in the Italian port Civitavecchia, not far from Rome. However, Sambuca is home to many wineries.)

Officials say buyers will be able to move in quickly, but as always, there's a catch. Some of the homes are "badly in need of a makeover," Cacioppo says, and buyers will have three years to devote at least $17,000 to home repairs. They will also need to fork over nearly $5700 for a security deposit, which will be returned once the work is complete.

If this still sounds like a good deal to you, email case1euro@comune.sambucadisicilia.ag.it for additional details.

[h/t The Guardian]

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