Saturday, December 24, 2016

Well, it’s our first Christmas season in London, and despite the crowds, the city sure knows how to deck the halls.

On my days off, I’ve sought out some of the popular places to see for pretty Christmas decorations. By 4 p.m., the city is blanketed in darkness and the Christmas lights are turned on. Such a beautiful sight! 
 Christmas ice skating at the Natural History Museum.
The only problem is that everyone – including your mother and her best friends and hordes of children and tourists – goes to see the Christmas lights as well. Be prepared to elbow your way through the crowds if you want to see the décor like I did. I even went on weekdays to see most of the sites below.

Anyway, London is all dressed up for the holidays. Christmas only comes once a year, so I guess I can bear the crowds to take some pretty photos. Enjoy!

Winter Wonderland
We almost avoided London’s biggest attraction of Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park because of the maddening crowds and security checks – way different from my weekday visit in 2013??? After work, we met up with a fellow American to walk around Wonderland, which is more carnival-like than Christmas market-like. We ended up spending a few hours in the Bavarian section drinking mulled wine and eating German bratwurst around an outdoor fire – an activity more adult-friendly than the rest of the park.
London Bridge to Waterloo
Recently, I had a Saturday off from work so we spent the gray day exploring the numerous Christmas markets that are set up between London Bridge and Waterloo train stations. Along the Thames River, we found dozens of wooden huts selling all kinds of food, drinks and Christmas gifts. We concluded our Christmas market crawl at a market by Waterloo and took refuge from the pouring rain at a craft beer stand where we shared a Korean rice bowl. Nearby was a Polish food stand making bigos and serving Zywiec beer.  

Regent Street to Picadilly Circus
Besides Winter Wonderland, this area of grand shopping from Regent Street to Picadilly Circus is the most touristy of all. However, this shopping stretch gets a Christmas makeover with garlands of lights down the length of the road. On Oxford Street alone, you’ll see 1,778 snowball-like decorations and 750,000 LED lightbulbs lit up for what is the fifty-seventh year the road has been decorated for the holidays.

Covent Garden
Beware of the crowds, but Covent Garden’s cobbled piazza and old market buildings are irresistible when they are covered in Christmas lights. This year’s decorations include a mistletoe theme, with over 40 mistletoe chandeliers hanging over the area’s streets and in the pretty market buildings. I retreated into the Lauduree store to stock up on a box of pastel Parisian macarons.
Carnaby Street
I found this Christmasy street thanks to Instagram. Carnaby Street, a small laneway off Regent Street, is decked out in a theme to match the V&A Museum’s new exhibition ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’. Carnaby Christmas decorations – usually among the most distinctive in town – will remain on display until January 6th.
Possibly the most famous London Christmas lights on a single store are at Harrods, a well-to-do Knightsbridge department store that was established in 1849 selling mainly tea and groceries. To me, Harrods, decked out in its Art Nouveau windows, terracotta tiles and hundreds of lights, is like visiting 5th Avenue in my beloved NYC during Christmas. The store is filled with many high-end brands, but you’ll also find a few things that normal people can afford.
Our Expat Home
Even though we still have leftover moving boxes in our much-smaller apartment, I convinced hubby to get a Christmas tree. We haven’t had a real tree since we lived in Poland and I missed having one. And now our tree is splashed out with decorations from places we’ve lived or traveled to – Istanbul, Warsaw, London, U.S., a tablecloth from Riga, a German village house and more.
As we remain on this expat journey, I guess we’ll just continue to explore our new surroundings and make a home wherever we hang our coats.

Happy Holidays!

My Traveling Joys

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