A short Christmas Shopping trip to London
Find a hotel .......
So let's talk about the first challenge to find a payable hotel during the Christmas weekends in London that does not break your bank account and has rooms which are bigger than a storage box. Not so easy in London. Brexit ......???? Never heard about that if you check the hotel prices in London - everybody is talking that travelling to UK got cheaper, but not when it comes to hotels in London for sure.
So in my case I got an ok hotel through www.hrs.de which was the Copthorne Tara Hotel (www.milleniumhotels.com) in Kensington. A quite old 4* hotel, but with a good location and beside the metro station of High Street Kensington. Well, from outside the hotel looks horrible - Eastern Europe communist style, but I promise it gets better inside. Still old, but somehow charming.
We also got a special promotion deal for additional 25$ per night - for which we got an up-grade in a higher floor, which really had a great view over London, breakfast for 2 people, 2 bottle of water upon check-in and 2 drink vouchers for the bar. The up-graded room was quite big, but old fashioned, however the beds were really comfortable.
So all in all for a short city stay, where you mainly use the hotel just for your sleep it is fine. Most annoying was on Saturday and Sunday when they were fully booked the elevator situation where you had to wait 10 minutes to squeeze into one of the elevators and no, we were not too lazy to walk - there are no stairs you can use! Also the breakfast room was more like a train station hall these days, but we stayed until Tuesday and the last two days were more quiet and relaxed. Breakfast was fine - mix of international and typical English breakfast items and even some noodles and kongee for the Asian guests.
So after our arrival in the late afternoon we decided to spend our first evening at Winterwonderland (www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com), which is advertised all over the city. Located in the corner of Hyde Park which is close to the Marble Arch metro station - we were expecting some sort of Christmas market.
Well as Germans we have of course always our traditional romantic German Christmas Markets in mind - but what we found at the Winterwonderland was a mixture of Munich Oktoberfest combined with a winter mulled wine party. So not really what we have expected, but interesting to see - especially all the drunk Brits that stumbled out from the Bavarian Village. So if you are up for a quiet Christmas atmosphere stay away from here. And if you come by metro already get your return ticket or otherwise you will wait for ages in front of the ticket machines when leaving.
The Bavarian village is basically all about typical sterotypes - but in itself somehow with authentic food and drinks.
But London would not be London if you would not find also here the typical multi-cultural mix so if the Bavarian Village is not your thing, you maybe find yourself in the American Village, some Bollywood like stands or with some Russian Petruschkas....... WinterWonderland has it all!
And yes for all people from Munich among you or people that have been to the Munich Oktoberfest - something familiar in that picture below?
Yessss, that is our original roller coaster loop from the Oktoberfest - so we felt like home :-)
London Christmas Lights
As I live in a city where one of the main activities is shopping - this trip to London was not so much for shopping but more to walk around and see the Christmas street lights and get into the special Christmas buzz. For that I must say London did really not disappoint us as a lot of streets were light up with beautiful decorations. So best is to just stroll around and explore this atmosphere in the streets. Here are some impressions of our walks......
In and around Covent Garden
Old Bond Street
Window Shopping at.....
Fortnum & Mason
Harrods - maybe here also a stop in the food halls for some delicious snacks!
or Afternoon Tea @ The Ritz in a real Christmas ambiance!
If the whole tea is not your thing you can also just have some nice Champagne at the Rivoli Bar, which of course comes with a price tag - but come on we just live once :-)
For the Foodies
Of course the numbers of bars and restaurants in London is almost uncountable and we were only there for three days, but here are some places I discovered a bit off the common tracks.......
Ok, London has so many excellent Indian restaurants that I would not say this place is worth the drive all way down to Dulwich, but if you are in that area I can really recommend it with its nice cosy atmosphere and its superb food and friendly service.
54, Lordship Lane, Dulwich, Greater London / www.dulwichtandoori.co.uk
An excellent place for Vietnamese food in the otherwise very touristic neighbourhood of China Town. Usually here it is hard to find a good quality restaurant, but Viet Food is a hidden jewel there. Already when entering the restaurant you will feel the difference as the place has a lovely Vietnamese decoration that puts you direct inside an eatery somewhere in Saigon. Super fresh food and a good variety. We had Vietnamese spring rolls and the famous noodle dish BUN, which were all excellent.
34-36 Wardour Street, China Town, London / www.vietnamfood.co.uk
The Azulito Bar
which is a part of the Wahaca group is located in Soho and Soho alone has a sheer endless number of restaurants and bars. We chose that place because of its lively vibe and the friendly Latin American ambiance. Also the food did not disappoint here and came with some creative twists of modern Mexican cuisine. On a late Monday evening when we visited the place was more quiet, but I can imagine that the weekends are packed here.
80 Wardour Street, SOHO / www.wahaca.co.uk
And some after lunch dessert or coffee
I found a real cute ice cream place this time in my beloved Old Compton Street in Soho, which I anyway like for all its excellent bars and restaurants. The place is called Amorino and does authentic italian ice cream with natural ingredients.
Old Compton Street, Soho London / www.amorino.com
London on a Saturday.......
One of my favorite Saturday activities in London is to stroll down Portobello Road market. If you are starting from the side which is close to the Notting Hill metro station you will first find a lot of the typical Portobello antique stores followed by a section for mainly fresh vegetables and fruits and going into the area for cloth and other items. It is really worth to walk down the full length of Portobello Road and explore as well the little side streets, which can keep you busy for a full afternoon.
Under the bridge where the Westway Motorway is crossing over Portobello Road you can find a cool food market, the Acklam Food Village, that is selling a big variety from the whole world from Cuba to Jamaica and further afield to India and Africa - also many European countries as Spain, Italy or Poland are presented through some food stalls. Once you have decided on your choice take your food and take a seat in one of the inside halls under the motorway bridge. You can sit comfortably on sofas, have a drink from the bar and listen to some local talents on stage. So urban and so London underground.
Not far away from the Food Village you can also try out some delicious freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee. Just follow the smell.......
London on a rainy day
I have to admit that I am usually not the biggest museum goer, but on a rainy day in London a visit to one of the many museums is a good choice.
One of my favorite ones is the Museum of London at the London Wall (www.museumoflondon.com.org.uk) Here you can get a very good idea of the development of the city and the different time epochs. The exhibits are lively and far away from a boring museum exhibition. This time I visited there the special exhibition of the Great Fire of London, which was informative but smaller than I thought.
Another all time favorite of mine is the famous Natural History Museum (www.nhm.ac.uk) - with its impressive dinosaur exhibits and also the building itself is worth the visit. Ok, to be honest many of the animal exponents are timed out and have a bit a funny look, but the exhibition of natural disasters as earthquakes and volcano eruptions are great stuff. Kids of course will love the dinosaur part.
In Christmas times you can find a nice ice rink in front of the museum as well.
Some last impressions.....