A couple of Saturday’s ago, I took Seren into London to see the Christmas lights and shop windows to help us get into the Christmas mood. We started at Trafalgar Square and meandered down the Strand, up through Covent Garden and Seven Dials to Leicester Square and through some of Soho to Carnaby Street, ending at Oxford Circus. We got there around 3pm and it was nearly 8pm by the time we got the train home, past her bedtime.
As with most adventures, there were some twists to the plot with bits not working out as intended! A bit of bad planning and unfortunate mishaps but I think overall we had fun.
We arrived in Trafalgar Square with the sun setting and looked around for the famous Christmas Tree which wasn’t there yet as we were a couple of days early (it’s definitely there now!). Seren didn’t mind too much and was thrilled to see the lions just like in the Katie in London storybook and the mer-creatures coming out of the fountains.
We headed off down the Strand to look at their lights and cut through Adelaide Street towards Chandos Place and Covent Garden. At the beginning of Adelaide Street I took a phone call and Seren spend ages playing on a raised bit of pavement behind St Martin-in-the-Fields and underneath the famous East Window.
On Chandos Place, the decorations in the windows of BB Bakery were lovely! I didn’t take a photo though as felt a bit bad about the diners. We walked down Bedford Street and Henrietta Street to get to Covent Garden and on the latter, you start to see the area’s huge bunches of mistletoe themed lights! And gorgeous wreaths. There are more of the mistletoe lights and giant silver balls in the market itself with crates of poinsettia too.
I’m not a huge fan of Covent Garden’s Christmas Tree – it’s a bit dull for my liking and preferred a little one outside the Ivy Market Grill.
We took selfies at the huge mirror wall which faces south. Then the disappointments! Firstly, we were heading to the Disney Store which is no longer there! Seren handled that pretty well and I told her we would aim to get to the one on Oxford Street. Next, I was looking for the famous lego Christmas installation that the piazza has had for the last couple of Christmases … well we were 2 days early for that too. I was convinced I had read online that it was already there though and so I led Seren on a wild goose chase to try to find it, heading into the Apple store to look it up online (though she LOVED playing with the iPads in there) and also popping into the Casper store to ask the store assistants. Massive shout out to this shop by the way, they looked online for us too and gave us a drink and some waffles. The store is laid out as if it were a home made of cardboard (though it’s all more robust than cardboard) with cardboard doors to go through, cardboard TVs to watch and cardboard sofas to sit on. Seren loved it! If you are looking for a new mattress or pillow – check them out!
One of the store assistants mentioned that there was a new Lego store in Leicester Square so to try there. We sat down on a bench in James Street and I got some chocolate coins out of the bag. Then we walked to Seven Dials as their Christmas
decorations are usually great – totally not disappointed, they have an enchanted forest theme depicting woodland creatures. Some beautiful shop windows too. Around this point I realised I had lost my gloves! And not just any gloves, my magic ones that let me work my phone when I’m wearing them. I was OK with that, I explained to Seren that maybe someone needed them more than me and maybe I was meant to get new ones for Christmas. Seren was NOT HAPPY with this and insisted we go back to Covent Garden to look for them. We asked in the Apple Store and Casper but they weren’t there.
Oh well, we decided to get an early dinner to cheer us up and headed to Wagamama which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. As soon as we sat down in there, I realised my gloves were in the front compartment of by bag with the chocolate coins. Ooops!
After dinner, we pressed on down Floral Street to Leicester Square in search of Lego. The Square was VERY BUSY (yes I know, no shock there). There is a Christmas pop up market, grotto and show area for the festive season which makes the already busy square, super busy. It was dark by now and Seren was getting bashed by crowds walking past so I picked her up and carried her through.
Around the edge of the grass area where the market is, they have a really, really lovely display of illuminated festive artwork by primary school children from Westminster schools. We found a quiet (er) spot to look at the artwork and choose our favourites. We found the new Lego Store, complete with huge queue outside so ended up taking refuge in the Nickelodeon store which would normally be my idea of hell but actually worked well as a break from walking and a consolation prize for not making the Disney Store. We spent a while in there at a selfie stand – you can email the photos to yourself and also at the colouring table. We even managed to leave without buying anything!
We headed past Piccadilly Circus onto Regent’s Street for more amazing lights – huge angels with their wings spread wide. We soon turned right down Air Street to avoid the crowds. Air Street has super stylish, simple lights.
We popped into Wholefoods to look at the Christmas displays (some gorgeous, traditional advent calendars) and buy candy canes and the world’s most expensive apple juice (perhaps).
Meandering through Soho we got to Carnaby Street which always has my favourite lights. This year’s are simple words – JOY. PEACE, LOVE, REBEL – quite fitting after the rollercoaster ride which 2016 has been. Seren tried to read them with her new phonics skills. I loved the light bulb style decorations on Ganton Street too.
Then we arrived at Liberty and marvelled at the Nutcracker themed decorations and flower stall displays. The plan was to head to the 4th floor to look at their Christmas Shop. We went to wait for the lift – which is super old, there is no escalator option and I didn’t fancy the stairs with Seren as she was pretty tired. The lift arrived and took a while to empty, we were the first to go in. But the doors went to close and I stuck my arm in to open, they open about a foot and Seren went in ahead of me, then they slammed shut with her inside! I froze with panic and a lovely lady in a large family group behind me said – “run up to the first floor to meet the lift!”. I later found out this lady had then run up to the second floor and her family stayed at the ground floor incase Seren came back down. Lovely people and a reminder of the kindness of strangers. I found the stairs and ran up but the lift had already gone up, I pressed the button to call it back and shouted to a shop assistant who wasn’t that interested and said I would have to find a security guard (!). But the next moment the lift stopped at my floor and Seren was inside! Her bottom lip wobbling and a lovely lady next to her saying that she would help her find her mummy. As soon as she saw me she burst into tears!
I was so pleased that she stayed in the lift as I worried she might get out to look for me, then she could end up anywhere in the store. It was a good reminder to talk through “what if” scenarios with her. Despite us both being shaken we still went up to the 4th floor but I was a bit disappointed with the decorations on sale to be honest. Or maybe I was just over it! We left and marvelled again at the Nutcracker displays.
Then it was time to get on the tube at Oxford Circus to head home, having a sneaky peak down Oxford Street at their NSPCC star themed decorations, which were lovely.
We broke into the candy canes to sustain us for the journey back and came home with a lot of tales to tell daddy!
This post was first published in December 2016.