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 Accounting Firm Offers Employees 12 Weeks of ‘Life Leave’ to Strike the Perfect Work-Life Balance

iStock.com/karenfoleyphotography
iStock.com/karenfoleyphotography

What would you do if you could take a three-month vacation each year? Would you book a flight to Hawaii, catch up on your favorite Netflix shows, or simply spend some quality time with your partner, kids, or dogs? The employees at one Australian accounting firm undoubtedly have a few ideas about how to spend the six to 12 weeks of “life leave” they will soon be granted.

As Travel + Leisure reports, Ernst & Young Oceania decided to introduce more flexible work hours in an attempt to attract and retain top talent. “We’re innovating so we don’t lose these people while they pursue passions outside of work,” company official Kate Hillman told The Independent. Hillman went on to cite volunteer experiences, training programs, and even a trekking trip to Nepal as different ways that employees might take advantage of the new policy, which goes into effect April 1.

Employees can either use their leave all at once or split it into two smaller vacations. The only catch is that the leave is self-funded—so it’s essentially an unpaid vacation. Still, if someone has the burning desire to backpack through Europe for a couple of months, or work on a project, it’s a safer option than quitting their job only to return unemployed and broke.

In addition to this policy, employees can choose to reduce their hours to a part-time schedule for up to three months each year. Parents may also choose to take advantage of a term-time arrangement, which lets them work regular hours when school is in session, then take time off during school holidays.

According to the firm’s research, flexibility at work boosts employee engagement by 11 percent. There are plenty of other reasons to take a vacation, too—not the least of which is evidence that time off may help you lead a longer, healthier, and happier life. Plus, you’ll come back refreshed and motivated, so your boss will be happy, too.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

The World's 10 Most Expensive Cities

An apartment complex in Hong Kong
An apartment complex in Hong Kong
iStock.com/Nikada

If you think San Francisco is pricey, you should see some of the other metropolises that appear in a new ranking of the 10 most expensive cities in the world. As The Real Deal reports, Singapore, Paris, and Hong Kong have been jointly named as the three cities with the highest cost of living in a new analysis by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

It was the first time in the history of the Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living report that three cities have tied for first place. Billing itself as a global business intelligence group, the EIU takes the prices of more than 400 items into consideration for its annual list, including food, clothing, household supplies, private school fees, and recreation.

Singapore's appearance on the list is no surprise, considering that it has been crowned the world’s most expensive city for the past five years in a row, and Paris has consistently made the top 10 since 2003. Hong Kong, meanwhile, rose three places in the newest ranking, while Osaka, Japan rose six places.

New York City and Los Angeles also made the top 10 list this year, tying with other cities for fourth and fifth place, respectively. This is partly due to exchange rates.

“A stronger U.S. dollar last year has meant that cities in the U.S. generally became more expensive globally, especially relative to last year’s ranking,” the report notes. “New York has moved up six places in the ranking this year, while Los Angeles has moved up four spots.”

Check out the 10 most expensive cities below, and visit the EIU’s website to download a full copy of the report.

  1. Singapore; Hong Kong; and Paris, france (tied)

  1. Zurich, Switzerland

  1. Geneva, Switzerland; and Osaka, Japan (tied)

  1. Seoul, South Korea; Copenhagen, Denmark; and New York City (tied)

  1. Tel Aviv, Israel and Los Angeles (tied)

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