London’s festive lights! (Part 1)

When does Christmas start in London? If you believe some of the shops it’s September or even August but for me it’s when the famous Christmas tree is lit in Trafalgar Square on 4th December.  The tree has been sent from the people of Norway every year from 1947 to thank the people of Great Britain for their support during the Second World War. I was in the square to see the lights go on as the carols are sung and suddenly felt all Christmassy! The reflection in the fountain was a bonus.

A tour of all the Christmas lights with a good friend is a Christmas tradition and here is this year’s photo gallery so you can join our tour virtually. There are so many lovely lights I’ve split them into 2 blogs – welcome to part 1:

Selfridges department store is famous for its lights and windows: 

A bold claims
Paddington is everywhere this year with his marmalade and a taxi

Mother Goose

Golden spider’s web

 Marks and Spencer are making their slogan as big as possible:

 Classy Mayfair has great windows and some peacock feather new lights:

House of Fraser is hard to miss:

South Molton Street is an annual favourite of mine – classy, simple, festive: 

John Lewis have gone big on penguins in their window among household bringing us cute fun – penguins with pants on their heads!!

Part 2 of London’s festive lights to follow very soon. 

Bye for now,
Sue
@itsyourlondon
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas in London!

London always looks beautiful at Christmas time as the shops, large and small, and the famous streets, like Regent Street and Oxford Street,  put a huge effort into their lights and window displays.  Most of them are up and twinkling now so I thought I’d give you a tour around London by night to enjoy these festive sights.   

There has been a big debate about whether it’s too early to turn on the lights and does the build up to Christmas last too long but I’m swerving that and am determined to just enjoy them!

Harrods’ fine building is outlined in lights all year round but the addition of the trees makes it look even more festive. 

Harrods


 Another place that uses the same lights each year is South Molton Street but they are so  beautiful and striking that I hope they never feel the need to change them!

South Molton Street

Love the red London phonebox framed by the lights

Oxford Street’s lights are much better this year as they are less branded and more subtle, although quite hard to photograph!

Oxford Street from Marble Arch

Selfridge’s is one of London’s most famous department stores and its Christmas windows are keenly anticipated. This year is not a vintage one as my award (so far) goes to John Lewis – see below – but the amazing biscuit display is fun. 

Made from biscuits!

Biscuits and golden syrup (on the right)

Gorgeous biscuits
Making a statement!

Non biscuit window!
Love penguins

A good way to sell headphones

 Onto my winner of best window – so far – John Lewis on Oxford Street. They have shown amazing invention and wit by using household items to make creatures from penguins, to deer through owls and hares made from vacuum cleaners, luggage, washing up brushes and more.  Take a look:

Twinkling outside

Turkeys made from towels

Gorgeous luggage bear

Not sure what but very jolly!

Flying hare

Amazing what you can do with hair equipment!

More penguins…

Fluffy brushes

Vacuum cleaner deer

 And finally for now – Regent Street – who are also staying with last year’s very successful look incorporating the 12 days of Christmas:

Lights filling the whole length of Regent Street

‘5 goooold rings’

 
Watch out for part 2 of London’s Christmas lights very soon…..

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk 
@itsyourlondon

Christmassy London in lights

Only 15 days to go! I’m rushing around trying to make sure I have bought everyone’s presents, posted all the cards and, most importantly, enjoyed London’s Christmas lights! 

One of the wonderful traditions in London at this time of year is the lighting of the tress in Trafalgar Square. Every year since 1947 the people of Norway have sent us a magnificent Christmas tree as a gesture of thanks for British support during the dark days of the Second World War. The switching on of the lights attracts huge crowds and this year was no exception with the square and every viewing point crammed with excited Londoners and tourists.  The 70 foot tree looked fabulous with its 600 bright lights hanging vertically, as is the Norwegian style.  Here are some photos to show you the scenes in the square including the  fine voiced choristers who braved the cold to entertain us!


To top off the evening, we went into the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields for the annual VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) charity Christmas Carol Concert where we had great fun belting out all the old favourites, listened to a wonderful choir doing it properly and heard some fun and inspiring readings and talks about the work of VSO.  A festive glass of hot  mulled wine was also happily consumed!

Inside St Martin-in- the-Fields


The British Museum has a special open evening for members so we could shop in private and enjoy the Egyptian Galleries by night, which was a bit spooky and put me in mind of the film A Night at the Museum. The famous inner courtyard and Reading Room looked festive with their snowflake design.

The museum by night – watched by a Pharaoh!




South Molton Street, just off Oxford Street has very striking lights and they have done the sensible thing and used last years’ again – good to see the recycling and the dramatic blue arches would be hard to beat.
  


Another example of recycling is Oxford Street where they have kept most of the lights used last year but added several sections sponsored by Marmite. The advertising for this quintessentially British spread is ‘you’ll love it or hate it’ and that seems to apply to the lights too!  I think most of them are ok but the section where people’s faces appear is rather creepy. Have a look at the good bits:

 Selfridges, one of London’s top department stores on Oxford Street, is famous for its Christmas windows and although they are not all as good as usual this year, I particularly like these two. 


I’ll be back soon with some more sights of London at Christmas time for you.

Bye for now
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon
 

More gorgeous London Chrismas lights!

There are so many fabulous Christmas lights in London this year I just had to put up another selection for you!  I still have some lights left to visit, so there could even be part 3…

Not quite fitting the heading of lights, but very Christmassy none the less, were the sights on show this Saturday in Trafalgar Square where I stumbled upon a massive Santa gathering! Hundreds of Santa were streaming out of the tube stations and off the buses to hang out together, sing songs, do congas and (shock – horror!) drink beer!  Everyone was having such fun it was infectious, although the tourists who had come to check out the Olympic clock were rather bemused. They kept asking ‘why’? It seems the only answer was to have fun…

Nearby Covent Garden always looks beautiful at Christmas and I was eager to see if the giant reindeer was there again. Yes, he was although he had set up camp round the other side of the piazza. I missed the real ones who had been there during the day but I love this chap with his proper red nose!  There was also an intriguing and beautifully lit chalet which turned out to house a digital installation work by Martha Fiennes called Nativity. The market sections were decorated with enormous baubles and the whole area looked wonderfully festive, as I’d hoped.

Regent Street is a posh shopping street but they have a habit of putting up the most commercial lights with product placement to the fore. This year, however, they have been more restrained and have some lovely lights about sledges and elfs!

All the big shopping areas in London are great for lights, festive window dressing and decorated trees – even skating rinks!   Here is the last set of photos showing: the window at Selfridges, the tree at Whiteleys;  and the skating rink at Westfield Shepherds Bush.

I hope you’ve enjoyed more Christmas in London!

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

Great to be back….

Despite really enjoying a wonderful couple of weeks in USA, it’s great to be back in London. I survived a long weekend in New York which was a blur of activity and excitement. We were there for World Cup weekend (doesn’t that seem a long time ago now?) and I can confirm that NYC has footy fever in a big loud way. We crammed in 4 shows, many meals, a walking tour of Harlem and a trip out on the Statten Island ferry and it was hot and sticky especially on the subway where trains have air-con but not the platforms. Then it was off to New Mexico to visit super arty Santa Fe, Native American pueblos in Taos, white sand dunes and massive caves in the south. A few photos at the end for those who like a bit of vicarious travelling.

My first weekend back in London was fun with the English summer continuing to delight us sun lovers. Our restaurant trip was to Vanilla where the food was good (on our usual Toptable special offer) but the place was a little unsure whether to be a bar or a restaurant so fell a bit between the two. Saturday saw a walk through Hyde Park to visit the new pavillion by Jean Nouvel at the Serpentine Gallery. It’s big, red and wonderful – an installation and a cafe all in one! The exhibition of photographs in the gallery by Wolfgang Tillmans was not my thing – he may have a Turner prize but we missed the special-ness of his work.

Saturday evening was spent catching up with friends and having fun in the centre of town from the Old Shades pub off Trafalgar Square, to an outdoor cafe in Covent Garden (complete with busker who sounded amazingly like Cat Stevens as was), to the Rock and Sole Plaice who were out of plaice but the cod was good and finally to Cafe Boheme in Soho – phew! No one told me the tubes finished just after 12.30 as I thought it was later – thanks goodness for buses…

Sunday was a quieter shopping day with a good amount of time in Selfridges,which is very smart and trendy and then on to St Christopher’s Place for coffee out in the sunshine. Jet lag has finally hit or is it just tiredness….

I’m looking forward to a full week back in London and here are a few photos from the USA, including the one from Roswell which I couldn’t resist! They are: New York Statue of Liberty, Pueblo, Taos, Chimayo north New Mexico, White Sands and Roswell’s great advertising…

Bye for now,
Sue

All the week’s a stage

Life goes in cycles I find and I’m in a wonderful theatre cycle at the moment with 3 plays this week and one tonight which will be in next week’s blog. I’ll go through them as they fell during the week so we can have some photos on the way.

Monday was the Tricycle Theatre (cycles eh!) to see Kwame Kwei-Armah’s new play called ‘Seize the Day’ about the possible election of London’s first black mayor. Hopefully that won’t be too long coming.

Mid week I took a trip out to the Olympic site to see how it was coming on and you can see on the left a photo of the stadium which is taking shape now. It’s a huge building project including a new station, Stratford International which has just opened so of course we had to go there and try out the new high speed train to St Pancras. Just about 8 minutes which is great but I wish they’d kept the original name of ‘javelin train’ – much more fun! At St Pancras we loved the ice sculptures of Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower which celebrate the links to Paris via Eurostar, one of my favourite train journeys and one I’ve taken many times.

Wednesday was music night with great performances from Rebecca Poole and the Cazalets (separately) at the Tabernacle. Always good to see live bands. Rebecca has a great jazz voice but was also doing more rocky numbers this week. The after show drinks at Ravenous were fun too, one of those indoors/outdoors late night venues…. Thursday we were back at the theatre to see ‘Sirens’ at the Canal Cage Theatre. This is a small venue with a 3 hander play with musicians which a friend was producing and it was really well done with strong performances and of course great producing!

Friday was fun with a tour around London in a bright red original Mini thanks to Oli and Robert of Small Car Big City. We zipped around the West End in style with a fun commentary as well. Thanks guys and here you are in the photo!
The big one play-wise was ‘Inherit the Wind’ at the Old Vic starring Kevin Spacey which was fabulous. The huge cast, the beautiful set, the brilliant performances and the sharp and witty script. Seats just 5 rows from the stage added to the fun. I’ve had a very Darwin themed 12 months starting with a trip to the Galapagos and since then I’ve been to various exhibitions and now a play about how his theories have stirred up the world.

Last week I promised you photos of Christmassy cheer so here is one of the windows at Selfridges department store who are famous for their beautiful and elaborate windows and have a team working on them all year to prepare for our delight. 2009’s theme is pantomime and here is ‘boo hiss’ with a fabulous pantomime dame.
No time for food and drink this week so back to restaurant and bar reviews next time!
Bye for now,
Sue