White Christmas

Growing up in Australia, Christmas has always meant summertime, hot weather and time by the beach.

So this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a true White Christmas in the northern hemisphere - and the snow, the sounds and the colourful lights.

Our trip to experience a White Christmas had been planned for about 18 months, and our flights and accomodation was being booked a year out. So it was a difficult decision to make just a few days out - whether to jet off for a once in a lifetime opportunity, or stay home during what was providing to be a really challenging time across Australia.

After some fairly strong advice from colleagues, we decided to go - starting our trip in early December and heading to London, Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, the Austrian Tirrol region, and then Helsinki.

The aim was to experience a White Christmas and see the northern lights.

Mother nature delivered in the most spectacular way.

London

London at Christmas time always conjures up a mental image of cold weather, busy shops, the glittering lights and Keira Knightley. But perhaps I've just seen Love Actually a few too many times in my life.

Our stay was relatively short and we chose to stay at two different hotels - the Shangrila at the Shard, and the Marleybone Hotel across town.

The view from The Shard was incredible, looking down The Thames to London Bridge and beyond. Of course, the weather wasn't ideal (it is London afterall) but that didn't stop us ticking off all the tourist things once again - Buckingham Palace, seeing The Lion King, Covent Garden and the Regent Street Christmas lights.

Berlin

Germany is renowned for its Christmas markets at this time of year, where you'll find lots of Berliners (and plenty of tourists like us) standing around drinking hot wine in an attempt to stay warm, and eating deep fried bread, chimney cakes and sausages.

Berlin is a fascinating city. Many of the buildings look old but they are relatively new, having been rebuilt after the war. Not that you're supposed to mention that there.

Berlin is a beautiful city with a very chequered past and there are still relics of it today - such as small segments of the Berlin Wall and the famous 'Checkpoint Charlie'.

Prague

I've wanted to go to Prague for about thirty years - ever since I saw Michael Hutchence stroll along the bridge and riverbank in the filmclip for 'Never Tear Us Apart'.

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever experienced. The cold still of the morning on the famous Charles Bridge, the history of the Prague Castle, and the pork knuckle all make it a fantastic city.

And at Christmas time, the markets in the centre of the city are incredible. The Christmas tree is easily the best we saw on our travels.