So much to be thankful for

Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular column about her recommendations for a good read and life as she sees it ...

Gosh - this is my last column for the year and the Mayan calendar predicts that the world is going to end today or tomorrow, as well. In such circumstances, how can I write something meaningful and important, when that really isn't my style at all?

So much has happened this year that it feels as if I've somehow squished two years into one. At the hotel I was staying in last week, I was remembering the keycode by knowing it started with 53, which is my age. Or so I thought. In fact, I am still 52 but it took my helpful friend's input to remind me that I was using next year's age to remember things. Even if it's not the end of the world, it's looking as if it's the end of my memory.

I completely forgot I was 50 anything when a cheery snow host asked the person behind me if they were waiting to join the seniors' ski and lunch group. When I turned to see who they were talking to, I discovered it was me. Me, a senior? I take back everything I said last week about things not looking Christmassy in the southern hemisphere.

I had forgotten about strawberries and raspberries, roses and sunburnt noses (all things that smell, funnily enough!). We can let the northern hemisphere celebrate their sunless Christmas with twinkly lights and tinsel and all their real snow and icicles, while we luxuriate (especially in the Wakatipu) in those long and luscious summer nights biking and hiking and barbecuing and fishing and playing golf and tennis from after work till nearly bedtime.

Lucky us.

But it was lovely to get a fix, albeit a quick one, of snow and cold and all the cosiness of winter. Thank you for all the grumpy emails begrudging me my fantastic stint at Big White Ski Resort in Canada's British Columbia. I promise it was work, even though I had to keep pinching myself to remember that when I was having so much fun. Loads of you are saying that you didn't get enough of a snow fix this year and all I can suggest is that you get online and see what deals there are. If you've got a ghastly family Christmas coming up, you could escape it by going skiing for the week instead.

Don't look at their Facebook page if you're aching for snow - it will make you cry with envy. One place I went in British Columbia was way too cold, though. An Austrian partnership has built what must be the world's most elegant and enormous 3700sq m spa called Sparkling Hill right next door to the Predator Ridge golf course. They offer all sorts of delicious treatments to make you feel pampered and precious and very, very relaxed. But one of them is the cold sauna.

The aftereffects are all about making you feel not just good, but pain-free and deliriously happy. Unfortunately I didn't have any pain before I went in, so I can't tell you if that side of it worked, but I was very happy afterwards. Clad in a fetching outfit of bikini, shoes and socks, gloves, a mask and band to cover your ears and nose, you spend three minutes (now that's a way to sort out the problem of time going too fast) in a tiny room chilled down to minus 110degC.

t was an extraordinary sensation freezing yourself. The cold becomes almost tangible - it feels heavier and bigger and the warm bit of you shrinks and shrinks until it's just your heart beating - very strange. All sorts of sports teams are using these cold saunas now, and it's even being used in research to cure depression.

Given how hysterically we laughed afterwards, I can see how it could work.

Being away from Wakatipu makes you see how well we do at making our magical corner of the world such a great experience for visitors. Given how tiny our population is and how far we are from the rest of the world, it's always astonishing how well-known and well-loved Queenstown is. If pride comes before a fall, I should be tripping over constantly - I'm so proud to come from such a fantastic place.

A big thanks to Tourism NZ (and congratulations on the 2012 best destination marketing award) and to our own Destination Queenstown who are doing such a great job.

New Year is less than a fortnight away and a book I just read and loved - The Secret Letters of the Monk who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma - will help you make some useful resolutions as well as entertaining you.

It's a completely predictable story but told in a new and lovely way. It's always interesting getting the same old message in a different format and with our lives and world getting increasingly complicated, it's good to get things stripped back to basics.

Robin Sharma is a Canadian author and motivational speaker who is a master of getting the message across. Read it and make your 2013 the happiest year yet.

Have a very peaceful Christmas and enjoy being with your favourite people.

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