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24 December 2005
CATHERINE ZETA HOMES
So where do you spend Christmas when you have six houses to choose from?
By John Hiscock

DECIDING where to spend Christmas usually comes down to which relatives you saw last year. But for Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas the choice is far more tortuous than that.

The glamorous Hollywood couple now own so many homes that it's a nightmare weighing up the pros and cons of them all.

Should they go to their mountain villa in Majorca, where they could invite neighbours Pierce Brosnan and Boris Becker over for Boxing Day drinks?

Or maybe their lavish lakeside holiday home in Aspen would be better - at least the kids would be guaranteed a white Christmas.

What about their pad in Mumbles in an area dubbed the "Welsh Riviera"? Then Swansea-born Catherine could pop round to her mum's for homemade mince pies.

And that's before you even take into consideration their New York apartment, the estate in Beverly Hills, and their Bermuda base.

"Like people collect art, we collect homes," explains 37-year-old Catherine. "A bit of art, too, but predominantly homes.

"We love architecture and we love the difference between New York and Bermuda, and the beauty of Canada and Spain. It's like a passion.

"We don't collect vintage cars or swan around in Rolls-Royces - actually, we swan around in a Peugeot - so we buy homes."

Adding to their collection the couple have just splashed out on a £1.2million plot in the wilds of Canada. It is thought they will build yet another home on the 1,000-acre forest site.

Alongside a beautiful lake, it is a stone's throw from the Mont Tremblant ski resort and six golf courses - Catherine and Michael are both keen skiers and golfers.

Their hobbies clearly influenced this year's Christmas plans.

THEY kicked off the festivities at their £8.6million home in Aspen, Colorado, with their children Dylan, five, and two-year-old Carys.

Michael and Catherine have been spotted whizzing down the ski slopes with Dylan in tow.

But for Christmas Day they are expected to leave the crisp, white snow behind for the sunny, west Atlantic island of Bermuda.

The former British colony has links with the Douglas acting dynasty stretching back almost 400 years.

Catherine and Michael bought their £2million mansion there shortly after they were married in 2000.

Out of all their homes, this is the one they have made their permanent base. They decided it was the best place to bring up their children.

"Bermuda's a sanctuary," says Catherine. "We haven't got to be 'on'.

We're just mum and dad. When I go home there I have that fuzzy feeling in my stomach about coming home.

"One of the beauties of living there is that the children aren't hiding from the outside world, they're enjoying the outside world. They don't get hounded and the kids and mums and dads at school are cool.

"We try to keep them as grounded as possible. They are certainly not Hollywood brats and they have the weirdest Bermudan accents - very broad American sometimes and very, very British at other times. They're good kids and I'm proud of them.

"My children are so well-behaved. My son can go to a restaurant and sit for two hours. He says 'excuse me' before anything else, even if he hasn't decided what to say next.

THEY kind of get what we do but they're surprisingly unaffected and nonchalant about the whole thing, which is healthy for them."

Starring in The Mask Of Zorro in 1998 made Catherine hot property in Hollywood. Since then she has met and married Michael, had two children, won an Oscar for Chicago and become one of the most photographed actresses in the world.

"I had always thought that if you really focus on your career, as I was doing, you have to forfeit other things, which I'd done in the past and that was fine because acting was my love then," she says.

"But to meet Michael, fall in love and have children... Well, I never thought I'd be able to have that and a career, too. So that's been the biggest surprise."

Last year she took time out to concentrate on her family and found the role of wife and mum more rewarding than any other she's played.

"I literally took a year out because I'm never going to get this time back with my children and it's a real pivotal time in their lives," she says.

"My husband thought I'd go bananas without going to work but you'd be surprised how quickly I adapted to not having anybody telling me what time I had to get up or what time I had to be on set."

She and Michael make sure that when one of them is working the other is free to be with the children in Bermuda, where Dylan has already started school.

"My kids and family give me such joy. My little boy said on the phone to me last night that he loved me from Bermuda to the space shuttle and back. That does me in pretty good," she smiles.

After Christmas, Catherine will be going back to work, playing a top chef in the romantic comedy Mostly Martha.

"The first thing I have to do is learn how to cook - that's a major problem right now," she laughs, knowing as she says it what a fortunate hand life has dealt her.

"I wouldn't change a thing. I've learned so much from the films I've done, people I've met, experiences I've had and journeys I've taken that I feel blessed.

"If it all ended tomorrow, I'd say, 'goodnight and thank you. I've been very happy."

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