Celebrate the hot and cold seasons at one or more of these international festivities.
Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival, December 1 to 2, 2007 -- Franschhoek, South Africa
Celebrate the "Magic of Bubbles" in South Africa's gourmet capital, the village of Franschhoek. The festival hosts several celebrated Cap Classique producers such as Cabrière, Graham Beck, Krone and Colmant as well as Champagne houses like Billecart Salmon, Mumm, Bollinger, Laurent-Perrier and Veuve Clicquot. The main festivities take place at Franschhoek's Huguenot Monument with a grand marquee set on the green lawns surrounding Franschhoek's landmark. Champagne stalls are intermingled with a variety of food stands where local eateries offer specially-prepared delicacies to enjoy with the bubbles, including strawberries, foie gras oysters and salmon. Entrance to the bubbly tasting costs $22 per head and includes a Champagne flute tasting glass and a book of tasting vouchers. There will also be displays of vintage cars, live music and entertainment. Champagne will be flowing and on sale throughout the two-day revelry and Franschhoek's best restaurants will be opening their doors to visitors and compiling special menus to complement the sparkling wines. For more information, visit Franschhoek Wine Valley Tourism (tel.+27/21-876-3603; www.franschhoek.org.za).
Trongsa Festival, December 18 to 20, 2007 -- Trongsa, Bhutan
The town of Trongsa is located in the middle of Bhutan and features what is largely considered to be most majestic Dzong (fortress) in the kingdom. Built high above the Mangde Chhu River, the imposing edifice built in the mid 17th century can be seen from miles away and was the ancestral home of Bhutan's royal family. The annual three-day Trongsa Tshechu is held in the courtyard of the Dzong during the eleventh month of the lunar calendar. It is celebrated with vibrant displays of demonic and animal mask dances performed by both the monks of Trongsa and local inhabitants. These dances date back to the Middle Ages and are spectacular to witness. Colorful brocades and swords whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the "thunderbolt step." The Atsara (clown) mimics dancers and entertains onlookers while festival deities are invoked through benediction. It is believed that the dances, music and rituals ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune for the ensuing year.
World Buskers Festival, 17 to 27 January, 2008 -- Christchurch, New Zealand
The beautiful and usually quite demure city of Christchurch is transformed into one enormous stage for The World Buskers Festival. For those not in the know, a 'busker' is a street performer and this ten-day festival is the largest of its kind in Australasia, and considered one of the best street performance festivals in the world. Audiences will be entertained by dozens of acts from around the world and the festival promises pandemonium, non-stop chaos and laughter. With over 450 circus, street and comedy shows, performed by more than 40 national and international artists, the 15th annual Buskers Festival offers over 400 hours of world-class entertainment, in a series of free events (although donations are accepted -- usually just a few dollars). Imagine watching trapeze acrobats after breakfast, fire breathers at lunchtime, jugglers in the afternoon, comedians in the evening and contortionists after midnight. Victoria Square, in the center of Christchurch becomes Busker Park with a three-ringed circus environment and a series of night sky aerial performances. Performers include Ojarus and Senmaru (Japan), Klirr Deluxe (Germany), Daredevil Chicken Club and the Piano Juggler (USA), The Chipolatas, The Great Dave and The Two Sopranos (UK), The Tumble Circus (Northern Ireland), Mr Bunk (Canada), The Space Cowboy and Amazing Drumming Monkeys (Australia) and Roy Tukkers (Netherlands) plus many local New Zealand acts. The full program is available on the festival's website (www.worldbuskersfestival.com).
St Kilda Festival, February 2 to 10, 2008 -- Melbourne, Australia
St Kilda is perhaps Melbourne's most colorful and eclectic neighborhood and its stunning bayside location, only a ten minute tram ride from the city center, makes it an appealing destination throughout the year. St Kilda really shines during its namesake festival which used to only last for a weekend but has now been extended to a massive eight day event in its 27th year. Set against St Kilda's picturesque crescent beach, historic architecture and landscaped foreshore, be entertained with a jam-packed outdoor program of live music (more than 50 bands); indigenous music and culture; sports, arts, performances, shopping and of course, St Kilda's renowned restaurants and enticing cake shops. The final day of the festival is the highlight, when close to half a million people pack the beaches on what is always a hot summer's day. There's a Kid's zone with children's activities and St Kilda's landmark amusement park, Luna Park, welcomes visitors with its iconic smiling face entry arch. See www.stkildafestival.com.au for further details and programming information.
Festival Tango Buenos Aires, February 22 to March 2, 2008 -- Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is the heart and soul of Tango -- the classic, sensuous dance that men aspire to conquer and makes women swoon. Each year, Buenos Aires pays homage to its most famous export with a celebration of Tango. Now in its eighth year, the festival takes the music and dancing outside to the streets of Buenos Aires, where Argentina's best milongeros (Tango dancers) strut their stuff and show audiences how to move in harmony. There are concerts, Tango demonstrations and free classes, catering to everyone from beginners to the more advanced. Activities are free and take place in the parks and 'plazas' of the city, along with dozens of accessible public venues. If you don't want to participate personally, you can always watch the proceedings from an outdoor bar or bistro, located around one of the many town squares. There are also exhibitions of Tango-inspired art at major art galleries and museums; free guided tours; auditions for the Tango World Championships; and a Tango fair with apparel, accessories and music for sale. See the official website for schedule information at www.festivaldetango.gov.ar.