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He’s green, mean and Orlando’s new star — the Grinch who stole the show at Christmas

WHEN it comes to choosing Grinches, nothing can beat the Jim Carrey variety. Well, nothing but him in person that is.
I’m at Universal Studios Orlando and the Christmas-hating green man is letting out a throat-rumbling belch that I can’t believe isn’t from the gut of the Hollywood star himself.
Kids just love humbug Grinch of the Grinchmas show at Universal Studios©2011 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved.
In fact, the entire Grinchmas show cast are uncannily similar to their on-screen originals.
The musical, which mirrors the 18-year-old classic with a few extra songs thrown in, is a highlight of Universal’s epic annual Christmas makeover.
Within seconds of entering the park that morning I’d been assaulted by an avalanche of Christmas cheer.
A Pitch Perfect band was belting out carols by a giant Christmas tree, while yuletide characters hung around every street corner, from a Nutcracker and the jolly fat man himself.
Universal Orlando has had an epic annual Christmas makeover and cheer is in the air2017 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved
I wasted no time strapping into the thrill rides for some yuletide fear, starting with Revenge of the Mummy, the reliably thrilling Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and on to Jurassic Park River Adventure — which begins as a scenic water cruise, before shocking you with an 85ft drop through the pitch black.
When I wasn’t flying through the air, I was gorging myself silly on festive food at the Three Broomsticks in Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade village.
Stepping off the Hogwarts Express into the snowy streets of the wintery town was bewitching.
Miles of tinsel, fairy lights and garlands make it extra special in winter.
The Hogwarts Castle lights up while the choir is belting out Harry Potter tunes
With Hogwarts Castle looming over me in the near distance, I instantly felt like I was on the real set.
Despite the balmy weather, a nightly artificial snowfall helps to convince you that you’re anywhere but Florida.
The live street entertainment has been given an upgrade for the season too, with the Hogwarts Frog Choir performing recognisable tunes from the franchise, including Hedwig’s Theme, and The Quidditch World Cup.
But the magic really kicks into high gear with the stunning light and sound show projected on to Hogwarts Castle.
Clutching a hot Butterbeer, the seven-minute extravaganza dazzles the crowd with imagery from the franchise.


GETTING/STAYING THERE: Return flights with Norwegian are from £275pp. See norwegian.com/uk or call 0330 828 0854.
A week room-only at Universal’s Aventura Hotel is from £414 per adult, £404 per child, based on two adults, two children (age 3-9) sharing a standard 2-queen room.
Includes 14 days unlimited access to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay and early admission. See attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk.

Wizards fly around the castle, magical fairies come to life against backdrops from the films, including the Yule Ball, before a fireworks finale.
From here, it was just a short taxi boat home to Universal’s Aventura Hotel, a brand new property within walking distance of all of the parks and Universal CityWalk.
The chic, modern rooms feature iPads to control everything in the room, from the heating and lights, to the TV, where you can connect to your own Spotify, Netflix or Amazon Prime.
On my final day, I got to experience the jaw-dropping floats from the Macy’s parade, including a giant balloon Donkey from Shrek, 15 new floats and light displays with characters from Minions and Madagascar.
Finally, after racing around the rest of the theme park’s thrill rides, I visited Universal’s CityWalk for the scariest attraction of all.

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Rising Star! is a karaoke bar on steroids, with backing singers and an entire band who play live on stage with you.
Next morning, a little green around the gills, I listened back to my full rendition of Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles.
Suffice to say, I’ll be leaving the Christmas crooning to Mr Grinch next year.

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Remembering the fallen in Compiègne — where the Armistice was signed twice

Category : City , Travel

AS railway carriages go, Car 2419-D puts all present-day commuter wagons to shame.
It’s a lavish affair, with long teak writing desks, vintage lamps and sumptuous wood panelling. And it’s also where history changed — twice.
Xavier Renoux Car 2419-D is a lavish affair, with long teak writing desks, vintage lamps and sumptuous wood panelling[/caption]
A century ago, the agreement to end World War One was signed in Car 2419-D. Talks were held in utmost secrecy in a forest glade outside the French city of Compiègne, 49 miles north east of Paris.
Then in 1940, during World War Two, Hitler ordered that the wagon be positioned in exactly the same spot for the signing of the second “Armistice at Compiègne” — when France surrendered to Germany.
The first Armistice was signed at 5.15am on November 11, 1918, but the ceasefire didn’t take effect until 11am, so that there was time to get the message to all the battlefronts.
This would stop fighting continuing after the cut-off time, risking the peace. And that is why today there is a memorial garden in the glade dedicated to Augustin Trébuchon — the last French soldier to die in the war. He was killed delivering a message at 10.50am.
Xavier Renoux The French city of Compiègne is where the Armistice was signed to end World War One[/caption]
Were it not for the Armistice, Compiègne would be best known for horse-breeding and its chateau. It’s a leafy, wealthy city, less than an hour by train from Gare du Nord, where the Eurostars pull into Paris.
Wide boulevards are designed with soft paths for riding horses. Forest trails lead to the grand park outside the chateau.
And inside, the gold-panelled ballroom, Napoleon’s shocking pink bedchamber and a gorgeous reception room covered in maps fight for attention.
The Glade of the Armistice is in the forest, near the river Aisne. Much of it is ornamental, looked over by a statue of Marshal Foch, commander-in-chief on the Western Front and one of the men in Car 2419-D as the Armistice was signed.
Xavier Renoux Today there is a memorial garden in the glade dedicated to Augustin Trébuchon — the last French soldier to die in the war[/caption]
The carriage inside the attached museum was built around the same time, and has been furnished in the style of the original.
But the original no longer exists — as the SS is thought to have torched it in 1945 in the dying days of the Second World War in Germany, where it had been taken after the second Armistice.
The museum does a good job of concisely explaining the run-up to the first Armistice.
It starts with how the war happened, then goes into the grim realities of trench warfare and the millions who died.
Xavier Renoux On November 11 it’s the young men on the front who we remember[/caption]
By mid-1918, Germany was on the retreat and knew its chances looked bleak.
The military top brass wanted an opportunity to stop the slaughter, and were sneaked beyond the front line for the meeting in Compiègne.
Negotiations for the ceasefire took two days, with the final reading and signing taking place in the early hours of November 11.
It’s the 11am timing of the announcement that comes as the biggest surprise.


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For unlucky soldiers such as Augustin Trébuchon, it meant a few extra hours to get shot. It’s that story that sticks in the head while walking back through the forest.
The plush carriage in Compiègne represents the war from the perspective of those in charge — as something to be talked over in relative comfort and luxury.
But on November 11 it’s the young men on the front who we remember.


GETTING THERE: Return Eurostar fares from London to Paris are from £66. See eurostar.co.uk. A return ticket from Paris to Compiègne costs £17.
STAYING THERE: B&B La Parenthèse du Rond Royal has rooms from £108 a night including free bikes. See laparenthesedurondroyal.com.
MORE INFO: See musee-armistice-14-18.fr and compiegne-tourisme.fr.

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