As in, this is where I’m going to attempt to cover the rest of the Christmassy stuff we did in London this month, and also right now I am enjoying my post-Christmas REST, after a super busy month.
It’s New Year’s Eve, so I figure I better finish off the remainder of my 2017 London at Christmas coverage.
The one big fail of the month was going to see Father Christmas. The girls and I were supposed to go see him at Royal Albert Hall with some friends of ours. It was a one-hour interactive theatrical experience of some sort, with a snow queen and a plot about Santa’s sleigh being stuck at the Hall and needing to gather Christmas spirit to fix it, etc. Then at the end the kids get to meet him one on one and he gives them each a gift. Sounded fun.
Due to a series of unfortunate events, we did not make it to our ticketed time. I knew it would be tight, getting there by 4:30 when I pick up E from school at 3:30, but what I didn’t plan on was a torrential downpour right at that time, so that the buses were packed full and the taxis were all unavailable. So I stood at a bus stop with the girls, drenched, trying to get us a bus or a cab, and failed miserably. We just couldn’t get there. So of course E was crying (more about not getting to see her friend we were planning to meet there than about not getting to see Santa), and we were all wet and miserable, and I was out £25 for the ticket (and Royal Albert Hall told me they could neither rebook us for another time slot, as they were all sold out, nor refund my money; thanks, Royal Albert Hall). Alas.
My mom and I searched and searched online for any other Father Christmases in London we could go see, but at that point, everything was completely booked/sold out for the year. Fortunately, later that week, E came home from school excited because Santa had visited her school at lunchtime that day, and, she told me, “It was the REAL Santa!” Well, job done. She saw the Real Santa, so we didn’t need to take her anywhere after all. (Her fifth Christmas, and I still don’t have a single photo of her with the man in red.)
I’d also booked a Christmas lights open-top bus tour that takes you around London to see the Christmas lights on a restored vintage Routemaster bus. Even though my mom and I both had terrible chest colds (I literally googled “can adults get croupe?” at one point, I sounded so awful), I was not going to miss anything else, so we still went.
If you are in London as a tourist at Christmastime, I definitely recommend doing this tour. It was more than just going to see the best Christmas lights displays, there was also a great live guide doing commentary about the city and various sights. I had booked it through LittleBird, and I saw other people with tickets from Groupon, so I’m not sure anyone actually paid full price for this experience.
They book the bus with the assumption that everyone will want to sit up top, so there wasn’t any rushing to claim a top seat, which was nice. We got really lucky with weather that evening; it wasn’t that cold, and it didn’t rain on us at all.
It leaves Victoria Coach Station at 4 p.m. (it’s already dark by then), and drops you back off outside the main Victoria Rail Station by 6 p.m.
The bus stopped twice in case anyone wanted to get off and take pictures, but no one did, so our ride ended up being a little bit less than the scheduled 2 hours.
In addition to the lights, it’s a great way to see the dramatic window displays of the major department stores on/around Regent and Oxford Street, without having to battle the crowds on the street.
Our other outings were primarily musical. I took my mom to the Tower of London Christmas choral concert, which was fabulous.
Unlike the Messiah concert at St Paul’s, where we were far back and couldn’t see much of the choir, this was in the small chapel in the Tower, which was an intimate venue, and we were quite close to the 13-person chorus.
The choir sang songs spanning 500 years of Christmas compositions, and my mom, a former choir girl herself, said it was one of the best choirs she’s ever heard.
A few musicians accompanied the choir. The one thing my mom and I agreed we could have done without were the two organ solo pieces. The organ is just not our favorite. I really enjoyed how they performed Silent Night, though; they performed it in the original way it was done in German, accompanied by guitar.
It was such a treat to be inside the Tower of London at night, without the crowds of tourists. I’ve toured it a couple times, and do recommend it to people visiting London, because it’s an excellent tour, but it can get quite crowded. Walking around after the concert, past the houses in the Tower where the Yeoman Warders live, had such a different feel.
We also took the kids to some Christmas concerts for their age group. There was the Tin Pan Annie Christmas concert, which had a rockin’ feel to it.
I take R, my little music lover, to Tin Pan Annie music classes every week, but that’s a small room and just Annie with her acoustic guitar. Her Christmas concert has a lot more going on, with dancing reindeer and Christmas trees and elves and Santas, and she plays with a full band, including her twentysomething rock’n’roller sons. “She has rock star hair today,” E said.
Tin Pan Annie also donates all the proceeds from the concert to a children’s hospital, so she really is a rock star.
For a completely different sound, we also took the girls to the Bach to Baby Christmas concert, which featured classical piano and trumpet, plus a Christmas carol singalong.
My mom also bought tickets to the Nutcracker for her, E, and me. This was the first year E was old enough to go, and we were so excited to take her. I have such good childhood memories of my mom and grandma taking me.
There are several ballet companies putting on the Nutcracker in London. We saw the one put on by the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum.
E loved it. We were in the third row, so we could see everything really well. She sat on my lap the whole time, completely enthralled. I couldn’t believe she didn’t seem fazed by the mice, who were actually quite scary looking, with skull-like masks. I understood why they said children should be at least 5 years old to attend. Also because young children attending their first ballet have a LOT of questions.
She knows the story, which we have in book form, so she was able to follow along with what was happening. She got a bit more restless during the second act, which was less plot and more long dance scenes, but overall she did really well. She also loved getting to have an ice cream during the interval, of course.
Whew, that was a lot of Christmas. That wasn’t even all we did in December! We also took a tour of the Houses of Parliament, went to the Churchill War Rooms, and I took my mom to see Motown on the West End. But since those aren’t specifically Christmas-related activities, I’m going to stop here, hit publish, and bid adios to 2017. Happy New Year, everyone! Feliz Año Nuevo from Mallorca!