I would like to learn the basics in a few days during the holidays.
Dive in to Python is considered by many to be the best starting resource.
Also, I would strongly recommend installing ipython to use as the interactive shell.
If you already know how to program, I'd recommend you consider the python.org Python Tutorial. As far as quickly getting a feel for the language, I was quite happy with my experience learning Python via it. It fairly quickly got me up to speed, and from there it was a lot about learning the standard library and what was available there.
If you have specific things you want to do, such as web programming, there may be better books that focus largely on those areas.