Ice Skating and Father Christmas

The first weekend in December was a busy one here in London! On Saturday morning, I took E ice skating at Somerset House. She enjoyed it so much last year in Vienna, I wanted to take her again this Christmas season.

As I previously mentioned, with Christmas activities in London, you need to book well ahead, or else things sell out. But that means you run the risk of it pouring down rain the morning of your ice skating time slot, as it was this Saturday.

(Rain derailed our plans last year as well, when I was trying to take the kids to Royal Albert Hall to meet Father Christmas, and we couldn’t get a bus or a taxi because they were too crowded due to torrential downpour. RAH wouldn’t refund my ticket, either, grrr.)

We got lucky this time, however. Apparently what I’d purchased online for E was a children’s ice skating lesson, and I wasn’t allowed to get on the ice with her. As we had both thought I was going to accompany her, she was NOT happy about this. I ended up talking to a manager, who kindly let us exchange our ticket for a general skate session a bit later, so I could go with her. So while it was “chucking it down” on the ice rink (could have used flippers instead of skates, seriously), we cosied up in the lounge with hot chocolate, and the rain ceased just in time for our session to begin!

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She fell a few times, which upset her briefly, but overall she said she still loves ice skating. And she made it 45 minutes, which I thought was pretty good. She got pretty wet from falling on the ice (which was covered with a layer of rain), but I’d brought a change of clothes, so I didn’t have to listen to her whining about being cold and wet all the way home.

On Sunday, we took the girls to Fulham Palace to meet “the real Santa” (or “Father Christmas”). This was their first time ever meeting the big man in red. E can be really shy with strangers, and I’ve never wanted to force her to sit on a strange man’s lap, obviously. But she’s been pretty excited about Santa this year, and seemed keen to go meet him.

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Fulham Palace did a really nice job with the Father Christmas experience. When it was our turn, the girls were called and had to knock on a door, then a bell rang, and we could enter. He was sitting on a sofa, so we sat next to him, which the girls were more comfortable with than if we had tried to get them to sit on his lap.

We had him all to ourselves and he took his time talking to the girls and reading E’s letter she wrote him (she wants a remote-control helicopter). We could take our own pictures, but someone somehow left the memory card out of the camera. (It was me. Whoops.) So we got a few iPhone snaps instead.

Then he gave each girl an age-appropriate wrapped present (a memory game for E, and a book for R), and promised to come visit them on Christmas Eve with more goodies.

Before and after the visit, guests can make Christmas crafts in a room down the hall, which both girls enjoyed.

Later that day, we had a babysitter for the kids so we could go to M’s Pedal Pals cycling club’s Christmas dinner party, hosted by one Pal and his fiancee. The group was three English lads, two Irish lassies, and us.

Christmas jumpers and paper crowns from the Christmas crackers were compulsory attire. Also an English Christmas dinner party must: listening to some song they couldn’t believe we’d never heard before, called “Driving Home for Christmas.”

There were even homemade mince pies! Which tasted much, much better than store-bought, which are the only kind I’ve ever had (and I’d take American Christmas cookies over those every time).

In addition to the trinkets from our crackers, we also took home a Polaroid of us.

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