Monday, November 23, 2015
A Very London Christmas
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has meet me / read this blog / spotted me in the middle distance during the month of December to learn that I adore Christmas. I always have (a running family joke has me as being part elf). I've already written about my Christmas preparations here on the blog, shown off my card crafting attempts, and am running a giveaway of my favourite Christmas films. And it's only November.
The Christmas spirit is strong in this one. I really must remember to add a 'Christmas' category to the options above.
This year, for the sixth year running, Matthew and I will be Christmassing at home here in London. The first year we did so we got snowed in by one of the worst winter snows the south of England had seen in decades. Instead of flying up to Scotland to spend some time with my side of the family, instead we were faced with a last minute dash for provisions and then a cosy Christmas a deux. The two years after that, work kept us down south; and now with the trio of trouble going away is not an option. We do on occasion have guests for the season, but most of the time it's the two of us for the day itself.
One of the huge upsides to this is the fact that I get to have such fun in London at this special time of year, so today I wanted to share some of my favourite London things to do over the Christmas period. Some of them I've already namechecked in my A Very British Christmas piece for FOCUS magazine, and others came up on the 'Wine With Friends' podcast I contributed to....others are gems I'm writing up now! Do let me know if you wind up trying any of these, or if you have other suggestions for me to add to the list.
First up for me has to be a great panto. There's something so quintessentially British about a panto mine (oh yes there is!). I've already seen my first of the season (an am dram effort my friend was in), but am looking forward to my yearly trip to the Hackney Empire to see their show: it's always brilliant! This year they are doing Jack and the Beanstalk and I'm sure it's going to be fab.
Speaking of fun, silly, very British traditions, the annual Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden has to be seen to be believed.
Ice skating is a highlight for many over the winter break. I am an awful ice skater but very much enjoy sipping a hot chocolate on the side whilst others enjoy themselves! There are super rinks at Somerset House, the Natural History Museum, Broadgate Circle in the City, and the Tower of London.
St Paul's is always a beautiful place to visit, but at Advent/Christmas time I always find it even more special. There are events and services you can attend throughout the season.
Something I'm longing to try this year for the first time is the Ski Lodge at the Montague Hotel. Snow, schnapps and hot chocolate, all in the centre of town!
I'm a huge fan of The Prince Charles Cinema and their Christmas showings are brilliant - so many favourites on the big screen! From Elf to Home Alone to Die Hard, there's so much fun to enjoy.
A look at some of the Christmas lights in town is always a treat. Bond Street, Regents Street and Oxford Street are all currently festooned with shining baubles and lights. It's very Love Actually. A great way to take in a lot of these lights is to hop on a 159 bus at Marble Arch - it'll take you all the way along Oxford Street to Oxford Circus, then down Regents Street too! It's always worth heading over to Covent Garden too for some beautiful decorations and lights.
I've heard wonderful things about Christmas at Kew, a mile long trail of sparkling lights amongst the stunning botanical gardens. It's a little far from us but I might see if we can trek over one evening.
A festive afternoon tea is a wonderful treat. I'd love to go to the one at Claridge's, with their Christopher Bailey for Burberry designed Christmas tree and carols at the weekend, or to sip tea while listening to a children's choir at The Dorchester.
For a different thing to do over the festive season, I think Hidden City's Bright Lights Evening Trail would be a fun undertaking with a few friends. Sparkling lights, a few drinks, and a bit of competition? How festive!
The Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park has recently opened and for many Londoners is a festive must-see. The UK's largest ice rink, Christmas Markets, and fun galore. I've still yet to go, which is remiss of me, given my Christmas mania...
For a little history, Christmas at the Dickens Museum has much to offer. The man wrote A Christmas Carol, for heaven's sake.
A walk in one of London's many parks is a great idea on a chilly winter's day. Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park are a few of my favourites at this time of year; we often go for a good leg-stretch on Christmas Day itself!
The choir of King's College Chapel Cambridge do some performances in the city during the festive season - on Wednesday 16th you can see them in concert at the Royal Albert Hall. What a lovely way to mark the season. I'm also hoping to get across to enjoy Carols By Candlelight on Christmas Eve - what a splendid way to start the festivities!
The beautiful church of St Martin-in-the Fields, right on the edge of Trafalgar Square, runs a lovely selection of Christmas services and performances. They also have lovely decorations and gifts available in their shop, and yummy offerings in their super cafe downstairs.
What a glorious city we have to enjoy!