Friday, 13 December 2013

Christmas in London

The end of term, and the imminence of the trek home for the holidays, warranted a touristy day out in London. Despite having spent the last 12 weeks living at the end of Tottenham Court Road, I didn't feel like I'd made the most of being so central, and enjoying the city that I've been lucky enough to live in. Whilst always lively, London is bustling at Christmas. Excitable tourists, frantic shoppers and avid sightseers create a cheerful, festive setting.

Starting at Southbank, we scampered through the Christmas market on to the Hungerford Bridge. After a wintery night, the fog had cleared leaving a clear, but very chilly, morning - and a beautiful view of London. Wandering across the bridge, we came across a group of primary school children on a school trip singing along to Jingle Bells with a busker. That's the nice thing about the city: these two completely different groups of people had come together, linked only through a mutual enjoyment of Christmas, to sing. We enjoyed listening to them and, feeling appropriately Christmassy, moved on to our next location...

...The Natural History Museum.
Though not conventionally festive, I love the Natural History Museum and just wanted to visit to see the dinosaurs. Every time I walk into the museum, I want to be Ben Stiller in 'Night at the Museum' and play with all the exhibits! But in the spirit of maturity...and not being thrown out, I refrained. As it was only a quick stop on our tour of London, we headed straight to the dinosaurs. I think I was more excited than all the children in the museum.

Fun fact of the visit: dinosaurs died of hay fever.

Next, we decided to walk through Kensington and Chelsea. Feeling slightly out of place, we got excited about all the pristine houses that we'll never be able to afford; the unusual shop displays, and the extravagant fur coats and wedding dresses. Whilst we failed to spot anyone from 'Made in Chelsea', we got to see the Christmas lights at the Saatchi gallery and experience the exclusive Christmas atmosphere of the Kings Road.

Our last stop led us into Knightsbridge to London's most famous department store, Harrods. Naturally, we headed straight to the Food Hall, and were in awe of the selection and character of the foods on offer. I immediately searched for Paul Hollywood's produce (Great British Bake Off fangirl); I was unsuccessful in this quest, but the cakes on offer were super impressive! Harrods had every food item you could possibly want, with rooms ranging from confectionery to fruit and vegetables to 'Harrods ready meals'! I can't imagine ever doing my food shopping in Harrods, but visiting the infamous Food Hall was a curious experience nonetheless. 

We finished our adventure in Harrods' Christmas Grotto, and exploring the Toy Kingdom. A life size Lego Santa greeted us, and immediately a group of 18/19/20 year olds were transformed into children - fascinated by the replica Harry Potter wands and £1500 toy elephants. In fact, I never wanted to leave Toy Kingdom: I would have quite happily lived there! I wish I'd had the opportunity to go when I was a child. Aged 19, I was so enthralled by all the toys and books, such that I can't imagine how excited I'd have been aged 7 or 8. It never fails to amaze me how extravagant toys have become: with £30,000 cars for children and life size toy camels on offer, I'm intrigued as to who the recipients of these gifts are. 

For the first time, I feel like I've really spent time exploring the city in which I'm living. In the last 12 weeks, we've not ventured much further than the very local sights (Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square), so it was a series of visits that were long overdue. We returned feeling very tired, but very festive- and in no doubt that London is a fantastic place to be at Christmas. 


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