Selfridges Christmas

Christmas lights in London

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year in London, the buzz, the festive events, the mulled wine and carols, but mainly because of the Christmas lights. London is lit up so beautifully that even those of us who have seen many many Christmases are still enchanted by the sights. Each area has its own style from classic to wacky, with Carnaby Street winning the prize for the latter!  Take a stroll with me to enjoy the lights from the warmth of your own home.

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London Christmas, part 3!

The Christmas lights and fun in London are so cheery this year, I’m doing one more blog about them!  If you missed the last 2, just click here and here and you’ll find more lovely pictures.

Winter Wonderland takes over Hyde Park each year bringing us a funfair, stalls selling all kinds of festive food and drink, a Christmas market and, my favourite, the singing moose!  It’s always a chilly eve when we go and mulled wine is essential to enjoy the outing properly. Here are a few photos to give you a feel for the fun and hopefully the moose video will work for you!

The speaking tree which welcomes you!


Sugar anyone?


Classic helter-skelter


A winter zoo


Cheery snowmen


The singing moose and video below!



Father Christmas off on his deliveries


There’s a big skating rink as well

St Pancras station has joined up Christmas and the London Olympics with their golden medal tree: 

London’s South Bank has a Christmas market along the banks of the river Thames with great stalls, food including gingerbread and festive drinks as well as a jolly if slightly tired looking Father Christmas!



I hope you enjoyed seeing London at Christmas time over my last 3 blogs. So, here’s wishing you all a wonderful festive season and I’m sending my very best wishes for 2013!

Bye for now,

A royal palace and a fairy tale hotel

If you hop on a train for a mere 20 minutes you can see a royal palace turned art deco glory and back in London, a wonderful railway hotel has been returned to its former glory and it’s magical (well it was in Harry Potter!)




The royal palace is Eltham Palace which was home to many King Henrys including Henry V111 and his daughter Elizabeth 1st. This magnificent medieval building then fell into disuse and the great hall was used as a barn for animals at one stage! Luckily people saw sense and a renovation project was funded by the government in the early 1900s. Then the Courtauld family bought the site and built a wonderful art deco mansion onto the great hall. No photos are allowed inside the building but trust me the art deco touches are amazing and the whole place takes you back to another era and one that was full of luxury and style. The Courtaulds held grand parties the great medieval hall and when they moved out after the Second World War, the armed forces used the place for a training venue – what a place to be posted! Luckily now it’s back to its art deco best and well worth a visit. There are fabulous grounds too and you can even see the London skyline to prove how near you are!


The photos are: the entrance to the art deco home; the beautiful gardens, the medieval hall; and, the view back to the London skyline.


May saw the opening of the wonderfully refurbished St Pancras hotel, formerly the Midland Hotel which was built in 1870s. It fell into decay and was another fine building almost lost and was nearly demolished but a feisty band of campaigners including Sir John Betjemen fought to keep it safe. It’s been under development for as long as I can remember and we’ve waited in anticipation as first the station opened and now finally the hotel and restaurant. It is a mad gothic masterpiece with all the luxury you’d want from a top hotel. As a Londoner it’s wonderful to see it as a working building again sitting proudly among London’s fine sites. The restaurant does it justice with top chef Marcus Wareing cooking up great British food and there is a bar as well as a foyer lounge where you feel close to the action of the station with the design themes of St Pancras carried through. After lunch (well I had to try it out didn’t it?) I went for a wander around but you can also book guided tours.


Photos are: the magnificent exterior of the hotel (x2); the restaurant entrance; view from the hotel across the station with the Olympic rings and the champagne bar; the amazing interior staircase; and, the Gilbert Scott restaurant.






I also sneaked a few days in France last week but now it’s officially summer in London so I’m looking forward to the coming week.


Bye for now,




Cold and snowy? Head for the Savoy!

I’ve been wanting to try out the new improved Savoy Hotel since is reopened after a massively expensive and lengthy refurbishment (3 years and £220m!). The hotel was built in 1889 and holds a long list of firsts including first hotel to have electricity in London, to have electric lifts, airconditioning and constant hot water. With much anticipation we booked in for afternoon tea which then turned into evening drinks and I can highly recommend the whole experience. We arrived by taxi down the only road in London where you drive on the right side of the road, thus enabling one to exit one’s taxi directly into the main door. We swept in past the glass fountain into a haven of art deco. Tea was the classic sandwich, cream tea, pastries and cake format, making 4 courses of loveliness washed down with a glass of champagne and the Savoy Afternoon Tea blend. A pianist entertained us from within a massive bird cage (luckily a photo will make more sense of this description) and we supped our tea until the Beaufort Bar opened at 5.30 by which time we were ready for cocktails. The bar is very chic, dark and you’ll be tempted to stay all night! Then the fun was topped off by a spotting of Nicholas Cage – definitely him as I heard him speak.

It’s very cold in London and the whole of the UK at the moment so it’s very tempting to stay in, but we’ve only a few flakes of snow so far so really no excuse for being lazy. I was meeting friends at St Pancras station and took the moment for a few snaps with no people in as they were all hiding inside. St Pancras is still undergoing a massive refurbishment, more lengthy and expensive than even the Savoy and the last part will be the opening of a huge top end hotel next year. However the inside of the station now used for UK train services and Eurostar is working and has the most beautiful blue, really blue, arching frame and is full of light, making you want to start a train adventure right away! 2 statues catch the eye, the enormous kissing couple called Meeting Place and one of John Betjeman, celebrating his role in helping the station escape a planned demolition in the 1960s! Opened in 1868 it was the largest single span building in the world at that time and still looks pretty enormous. The restoration and relocation of the Eurostar terminal from Waterloo to St Pancras has helped bring new life to the Kings Cross area which is really up and coming now. When it’s a bit chilly the St Pancras Grand is worth popping into as it’s a good station brasserie when the weather is far too cold for the wonderful champagne bar, the longest in Europe but without any form of heating!


That’s all for today so bye for now.

Lycra in Paris and a giant cupcake in London!

I took a few days out of London to visit Paris , my second favourite city and one which makes a fabulous side trip from London. We’ve been many times for long weekends or just for a long lunch which is really easy now that the journey time can take as little as 2 hours and 15 minutes. The lycra was in abundance thanks (if that’s the right word!) to the Tour de France racing through Paris for the finale on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday. We had a front perch on the road near Notre Dame to see the cyclists flash past in a 10 second blur of bright colour and wheels. A Brit won the day in Paris but overall scoring meant a Spaniard took the crown in 2009 as there are 2o other hard days’ work to take into account. Great meals, lots of pastis and good doses of culture added to the fun.

Life in London’s been busy and topped by a giant cupcake which was sighted in Covent Garden as a special guest at their regular Thursday real food market. How big you ask, well it was 2 metres by 1.25 metres and was big enough to offer over 2000 people a decent sized slice, brought to them by Culinary Olympic winner Michelle Wibowo. I saw it, it was huge and took forever to cut up.

More cerebral delights were tucked away in the massive Westfield shopping centre in small Getty Images collection of glorious celebrity photographs by Terry O’Neill. From Paul Newman and Lee Marvin’s publicity shots to the casual snap of the Rolling Stones in a BBC canteen, they were arresting photos.

One local monthly event for us Notting Hill-ers is Book Slam which moved venue for July so had to be checked out. Book Slam is a live event and mixes poetry, book reading and music. We dropped into the Tabernacle, the new venue and also home of Notting Hill carnival, to see a performance poet (Luke Wright) and the novelist David Nicholls. We gave the new venue the thumbs up and even bought the book as it was signed and the reading had got us hooked.

I can’t end without a mention of a restaurant or bar and for this blog it’s the Champagne Bar at St Pancras International which makes a fitting start to any Eurostar train trip to Paris. It’s the longest champagne bar in Europe and for those who have to ask the question – there is no clear answer to who holds the world award! From the bar you can enjoy St Pancras which has been renovated to become a wonderful and beautiful station.

londonliving blog will be coming to you on a weekly basis from now on as there is just too much to fit in each fortnight and I’ll be able to do every entry a bit more justice. Hope you’re enjoying it so far.

Bye for now.