2012 has been quite a year for London, with the world watching to see if the city could cope with hosting the Olympics and Paralympics. To many people’s surprise it passed that test, albeit at cost of £8.921 Billion that the rest of the country can ill afford.
But London enters the festive season adorned in lights as ever, which is the part of Christmas the capital does best in my view. If you want 300 authentic European and UK craft market stalls then the best UK city to visit is Manchester, with its magical Christmas markets which dominate the entire city centre. Frommer places Manchester’s festive markets in the top 10 in the world.
When you have had an eyeful of that, turn into neighbouring Regent Street: always a little more sophisticated and celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with a sign for each day. Each of these has elaborate tree branches which also cleverly look like reindeer antlers spreading out from within. The curve of this Regency boulevard always looks grand, and even more so at this time of year.
Just off of Regent Street is the narrow hotspot of the Swinging Sixties era, Carnaby Street. This year, remarkably, it is still hanging onto its 1960’s heyday by dedicating its Yuletide decorations to the Rolling Stones. Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood are themselves celebrating a 50th anniversary this month. The Carnaby Street decorations are big, brash and verging on tacky but somehow seem appropriate.
I’ve never thought the Rolling Stones’ music was anything out of the ordinary but must admit I was pleasantly surprised by a chat I had with Bill Wyman when he was still the Stones’ bassist. Affable and happy to give feedback on a demo tape I handed him, his retort when I told him that our band couldn’t read music was “Don’t worry, neither can we!”
A bus ride or 20 minute walk will get you to Covent Garden which this Christmas is seemingly home to the biggest baubles in the land, along with a Christmas tree made of beer barrels and a giant Lego advent calendar. A more regular red and silver bedecked Christmas tree brings a sense of normality. It’s the only time of the year when the legendary street entertainers here are not the centre of attention.
Weaving away from the always crowded Covent Garden and onto the Aldwych we pass a traditional looking European Café which goes by the name of The Delauney. This is a rather regal establishment where you can catch up with your social media over afternoon tea.
After tea it is just a short stroll around the corner to the grounds of Somerset House, which is a wonderfully grand setting for the ice rink which appears at this time of year. Season’s Greetings everyone!