It is one of the givens of a New England winter that at some point you will feel you have to get away. This year may have started almost balmy and you may love snow and may even relish daily walks along the windy shores of Long Island Sound, but at some moment, perhaps when you plunged ankle-deep into a slushy puddle for the 10th time in a week, you’ll say to yourself, “I’ve got to get out of here.”
That realization made the inquisitive editors who dream up S story ideas wonder where our readers go to shake off the winter doldrums. Some of the answers were as predictable as the winter cold: Florida, the Caribbean or a ski trip to celebrate playing in snow, as opposed to suffer living with it.
But this is Greenwich and Fairfield County, home of many people with deep pockets and travel tastes that go well beyond the predictable. For example, a top winter destination for U.S. travelers with unlimited travel budgets is Antarctica. That’s right; leave frigid Connecticut for the even more frigid Antarctica. I know it is summer down there this time of year, but it is still basically the largest iceberg in the world. No Starbucks. No movie theaters. Just ice, ice and more ice.
According to the folks at Abercrombie and Kent, a firm that caters to wealthy travelers looking for access to remote places, exotic destinations or unique experiences, there is a good reason that our winter is the best time to visit one of earth’s coldest places. The months November through February are the only ones in which cruise ships can approach this barren continent. Still, it would have to be one luxurious cruise ship to get me to a place where the biggest show is watching penguins dive into the water, incredibly cute though they may be.
At some moment soon you’ll say to yourself, “I’ve got to get out of here.”
Peru and the Amazon are also quite popular during our winter. It seems water levels in the Amazon vary by 25 feet, depending on the season. Our winter corresponds with the highest water levels of the Amazon year, so you are 25 feet closer to the canopy formed by the treetops, which is where the jungle animals congregate and all the action takes place.
Our winter is also the time of the great migration in East Africa across the great Serengeti plains. Tanzania seems to be ground zero for viewing the largest migration of animals on the planet. As the early morning sun illuminates the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, you might spot an endangered black rhino or see thousands of wildebeest and zebra roaming across the plains.
It may also seem counterintuitive to escape winter by going to St. Petersburg and Moscow, where the sun does not rise until 10 a.m. and sets at 4 p.m., and the famously cold winters make New England seem like the Carolinas. But the Russians know how to do winter right. Instead of hiding from the season, the Russians help visitors embrace it. In Moscow you can go behind the scenes of the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet, home to some of the most famous Russian defectors of the 20th century. Visit the rehearsal hall where dancers and musicians ready themselves to perform. Enjoy afternoon tea in the home of a Russian artist, who will share his collection of portraits, antique furniture and other Russian art.
St. Petersburg is a city of rivers. It was built across the marshlands of the Neva River delta and is crisscrossed by other large rivers and tributaries. Think Venice with borscht.
You can stand on the bridge over the Neva River where it runs through downtown St. Petersburg and imagine Rasputin fighting off his attackers during the days of Tsarist Russia. Or get lost for days in the celebrated (and warm) Hermitage Museum.
It seems appropriate to end this list with a top destination that provides relief from cold weather. North American winter months are among the nicest months in Egypt. The weather is beautiful (compared to the oppressive heat of Egyptian summers) and crowds are gone. You will see such expected sites as the pyramids and sphinxes, but one can also take a four-day cruise on the Nile, visiting such remote spots as the Temple of Hathor.
“This cruise takes people through 4,000 years of history during a 10-day trip. It is truly remarkable,” according to Jean Fawcett, of Abercrombie and Kent.
Bob Horton is a columnist for the Greenwich Time and a regular contributor to this magazine.