Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Into the Christmas Spirit

Saturday evening Josh and I took the train to Waterloo station to check out the Christmas market at the Southbank Centre.  We had come across this market purely by chance when we were here last December and found it quite charming.  German-style Christmas markets are VERY popular all over Europe, and there are several in London alone.  At any other time of year, you couldn't PAY Josh to visit anything Christmas-themed, but now that it's almost Thanksgiving, he is ready to get into the Christmas spirit.

We discovered that there was also a Tea & Coffee Festival going on over on the other side of the Southbank Centre, so we made a quick circuit around that and realized we were starving.
Tea & Coffee Festival
Rather than indulge in all the cakes, cookies, and pastries they were selling to go with the tea and coffee, we ducked into Ping Pong for a proper dim sum dinner, and THEN went back and treated ourselves to cookies and pastries.  Once sated, we crossed over to the brightly-lit Christmas market along the Thames waterfront.
Southbank Christmas Market
Part of the whole market experience to sip mulled wine as you stroll among the little wooden huts selling crafts and food.  We were pretty full, but we shelled out the £4 for a little paper cup of hot, spiced wine to share as we took in the sights.
Mulling the mulled wine
Most of the stalls were little wooden huts selling crafts, jewelery, souvenirs, hats, and assorted knickknacks.  There were some larger huts selling food, and a few shaped like a German "pyramid."
The Steak Hut
Since the market was right on the bank of the Thames, we had a lovely view of Parliament and the London Eye all lit up.
Christmas Market with Eye and Parliament
Once we had seen -- and eaten -- everything there was to see, we walked across the bridge and up towards Oxford Street to check out the festive lights in the main shopping areas, since Josh hadn't been up that way yet.  It gets dark by 4 pm at this time of year, so the holiday lights are probably very effective in luring shoppers out of their cocoons after the sun goes down.  It does make the city look quite pretty at what would otherwise be a very dark and dreary time of year
Near Piccadilly Circus
Regent Street
Along Regent Street, we finally came across a store with very Christmas-y window displays (unlike Selfridges and Harrods).  Hamley's toy store, the FAO Schwartz of the UK, had adorable LEGO-themed windows.  If the store hadn't just closed, we would have been drawn right inside.
LEGO Advent Calendar
LEGO Christmas tree
We took a little detour along Carnaby Street, which had holly and mistletoe themed lights.  This shopping area has been pedestrianized, so (once you find it) it's easy to stroll around and take in the sights.

Carnaby Street
All the stores were closed by this time, so we continued on to Oxford Street, which was all lit up as well.  The other big department stores did not have very interesting window displays, but at least there were lots of pretty lights.
John Lewis on Oxford Street
Debenhams department store
Boots (the CVS of the UK)
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night -- if you are a cheap date, like the both of us.

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