I used to think London was best in the summertime but this year I changed my mind. During my two weeks at home this December I spent five days in the capital seeing the Christmas lights, visiting galleries and generally enjoying the availability of restaurants serving anything other than jamón (living in Southern Spain takes it’s toll…)
At Christmastime there’s so much going on in the city. The winter festival on the Southbank involved a Christmas market, a festive train ride, and more mulled wine vendors than ever before. I also visited Somerset house, where the annual ice-skating rink was set up in the courtyard alongside the added delight of the Fortnum and Mason Christmas arcade. This new addition can only be described as a corridor of middle class ladies browsing lose-leaf tea and luxury biscuits to the accompaniment of gentle jazz. It was very festive and very British.
Unsurprisingly, Covent Garden was also beautifully decorated, it had a giant reindeer, giant candy canes and (yes, you guessed it) giant baubles.
The Christmas lights were fantastic as always. This year Carnaby street’s were in a funky head-phone formation, whilst Regent Street’s were promoting Night at the Museum 3 and involved large pictures of Ben Stiller’s face. I also enjoyed the noticeable difference in the friendliness of shop assistants, railway station staff and Londoners in general – Christmas spirit really exists! To top it all off, at the end of each of my visits I got to experience this view of the Thames on my walk back to Waterloo.
It’s fast approaching my favourite time of year. Next week marks the beginning of December which means it’s time to put up Christmas decorations, open advent calendars and listen to Christmas songs without feeling guilty! I should probably admit that my flatmates and I put up our Christmas tree over two weeks ago. There was definitely logic behind the keenness; we had a month left until our flights home so we thought it’d be nice to start our own version of advent to countdown our departure. Also, Christmas trees are great for the mood, as is tinsel… and Michael Bublé.
It’s strange being in Spain at this time of year, especially since I’m used to London at Christmas – which is pretty spectacular when it comes to festive decorations. Living in Durham last year was also fantastically christmassy; we had an illuminated cathedral, real snowfall and none other than Joe Mcelderry, of X-factor ‘fame’, officially turned on the Christmas lights! Here in Zafra the whole Christmas thing is a lot more subtle. There are a few half-baked window displays and some lights but it just doesn’t compare to Britain. There are no wreaths on houses, no town Christmas tree and the very few lights that are up were turned on quite unofficially one tuesday morning. Sadly no Z-list geordie celebrities were involved…
Due to the distinct lack of festivity I’ve been seeking alternative ways to get into the Christmas spirit. If I walk for about half a mile along the dual carriage way (there is a pavement for the concerned parents reading), I get to experience the wonders that Lidl has in store (scuse the pun). Lidl, if you’re not aware, is a haven of cheap vegetables, german-branded biscuits and packaged leisurewear. What I’ve also discovered is that here in Zafra, it’s the only decent supplier of mince pies, Christmas puddings and santa hats within walking distance of mi casa.
For a lot of people this nonchalant approach to festivity is probably quite refreshing. Not for me. I’m someone who anticipates the arrival of Christmas as soon as my birthday ends…in May. You can safely assume that I’m monumentally excited to land in London in a few weeks time. I’ll finally be able to experience the crazy shoppers and dramatic decorations without having to set foot inside a german supermarket to do so. I am fully ready for two weeks devoted to present-giving, parsnip-roasting and penguin-advert watching. Only 20 days to go!