Christmas in England

Old Nov 16th, 2004, 05:30 PM
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Christmas in England

Hey!

My family and I (ma, pa, two teens, and a 10-year-old) will be in England from Dec 22 thru Jan 3, and are comtemplating a place to be over the Christmas weekend. Unfortunately, the notion of "Christmas in England" seemed a lot more exciting at the time we bought the airfare. From what I've read, mostly everything will be shut down, and if that's true, I guess we'd better be somewhere "accommodating" for the weekend. I don't relish the idea of watching the tv all day, so I need to pick an appropriate spot. I'm leaning towards London, since we can always just walk around, but I'd rather save that for when there's more life around. Any help or ideas would be surely apprciated. Thanks!
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Old Nov 16th, 2004, 06:36 PM
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Actually - if you have the budget for it I would get out of London over the Christmas Holiday.

many (Most actually) country hotels and inns offer special Christmas breaks. Mostly they are 2 1/2 or 3 day all inclusive events with meals, carols, etc.

To find some just do a google search for things like "Christmas special break England" or "Country Hotel Christmas special" or similar. You and the kids might enjoy getting outside the city for a couple of days.

These events are generally priced at a premium, but since they are at all sorts of hotels they are at a wide range of prices. But there usually are discounts for children.

If you don't go out of town for the Xmas weekend you can always have christmas lunch at your hotel and do a LOT of walking since the public transport will be down.
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Old Nov 16th, 2004, 08:52 PM
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I agree with Janis. London will be the most depressing place in Britain on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. There will be no public transport on Dec 25th and very limited on the 26th, and so the place will be deserted.
Do get out of the city, but book early for an alternative. Hotels fill up quickly for Christmas breaks - especially for Christmas lunch. Remember also that the UK shuts down for Dec 25th and 26th - and that because these are on a weekend, the 27th and 28th will be public holidays. Most of the country will take advantage of the 4 day break.
As for where - well, everywhere will be the same on Dec 25th. Your best bet is to go somewhere where you can do some walks such as the Cotswolds. It's probably better to keep south, although the weather can be just as bad, it's rare to have a white Christmas (just the rain and wind!!).
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 02:44 AM
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You can buy Time Out for London while still in the States. You can buy it online via http://www.timeout.com/products/lm.html/, but I think the actual hard copy magazine is more convenient: you can buy it via http://www.timeout.com/offers/subsemail/?ci=WEB3/. Paris is rather closed at Christmas, though not so dead as London. So in Paris I used Google for cycle hire, found three firms in the city centre, and e mailed to book a bicycle with a credit card. If ma and pa can cycle then I suggest you improve London by hiring a bike for a week on 22 December. The city looks up if you can go anywhere any time, through streets with very little traffic, to the glories of pantomime, to obscure cellar shows and music, to the Hindu quarters of Neasden and the Bengali quarter of Brick Lane, and to little known museums and galleries, often something of a discovery. At your arrival airport a newsagent will sell you for 4 pounds 40 the little spiral-bound A-Z map and guide to London, with regular opening times of almost all museums and galleries (though you use Time Out to learn what closes when for Christmas). For example, Dickens House is often open on Christmas Day, and at St Pauls they sing carols beside the crib a couple of afternoons after Christmas.

You must be visible in the murk so you should pay to be sure that the hire firm gives you two back lights per bike and sticks reflective strips where they will do most good, namely on the back mudguard, on your gloves, and on your outermost jacket. Also, pedestrians are not expecting you, so you may want to buy better bells than they supply as routine: take a look at chalice bells and at rotatory bells. (In fact, nobody expects you, and bored policemen in Westminster and Whitehall are glad to stop and chat). You should tell the firm where you will be staying, and learn when they are open to mend punctures (nowadays very rare) and to take their bikes back.

Your hands get cold, so you need leather gloves: woollen gloves let the air through. You also need woollen scarves. But you probably need no overcoat, as the gentle exercise of pushing keeps you warm overall. For distances, but not on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, you can take bikes free on the District, Circle, and Metropolitan lines, and above ground on the main lines
Charing Cross, Waterloo East, London Bridge, Greenwich
also Kings Cross Thameslink, Farringdon, Blackfriars, London Bridge
and Waterloo to Windsor and to Hampton Court

Please write if I can help further, for example with notes of places to visit in the suburbs. Welcome to London.

[email protected]
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 04:38 AM
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I will be entertaining my mother for the first Christmas at our "new" home in Maidenhead (actually a Victorian listed cottage but it's new to us)--we plan to do a nice tea at the Lanesborough, take in the Christmas decorations, attend a play, etc.
Question: are there good performances of the Nutracker in London during December? Nice staging, etc.? Matinee shows?
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 04:52 AM
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I offer no useful advice or suggestions, and you are right that thanks to Dickens Xmas in London does sound nice; the reality is a bit sort of the myth. However, many complain that London is too busy etc just imagine the difference walking round a deserted London. I did this last year and it is quiet spooky, your mind is telling you it shouldn?t be this quiet. You can imagine some sort of doomsday scenario and you are the only survivor ....ummm possibly not the best advice for a family at Xmas. Or you could just leave the City for the county.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 07:11 AM
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bgrant:

Don't dismiss London at Christmas that quickly. It's true that virtually all well-known sites are closed (though churches aren't, in the morning), but London itself never closes.

Any decent walk through London (and only Paris and Rome are in the same league as places to walk through) is just as good (though different) when the place is deserted as when it's its usual manic self. Buy something like Andrew Donaldson's "Secret London" (there are a dozen or so similar books in any decent London bookshop) - and you will be able to look at things infinitely better when you're not pissing off a cabbie or impatient forex dealer by standing still. Or, as Ben says, hire bikes.

I'd take issue with Ben about hiring bikes for the whole week: it takes a very high order of courage, aggression or foolhardiness to cycle through London most of the time. But Christmas Day is bliss.

You'll probably find it difficult to get the Christmas/New Year Time Out before leaving home (I think it's due out here on Dec 22). But it lists virtually everything - including grocery stores - that's open over Christmas, and is essential for survival. By all means get an earlier copy before travelling: but the Christmas edition is indispensable.

The real point about London isn't the big must-sees, like the Tower. It's the traces everywhere, from the letter boxes to the coal holes, of two millennia of constant human struggle and resourcefulness. Only when the place is deserted is it really possible to appreciate all this: if you ever get the chance again, walking or biking through the town at 4 am in midsummer offers something similar - but by 5, it's back to being a madhouse.

Spending Christmas in the country is likely to be just as dull - but you won't have the opportunity of seeing London as few people ever see it.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 07:40 AM
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I couldn't agree more, flanner.

You'll find plenty to do in London that doesn't involve museums or TV. Get a book on walks and make the most of no crowds, it's seriously quite wonderful! If you've been to London before you'll know how hideously busy it is here. You will find places open, as flanner says, refer to Time Out when you get here.

Book yourself a wonderful lunch - all the hotels will have set menus that will take half a day to eat (a fair few pubs will open at lunchtime as well); go to a service at one of the cathedrals or very old churches (even if you're not religious it's quite a nice way to see the cathedral/church); and take a walk on the river or all the other places that you want to see.

By Boxing Day London will be getting back to normal and you'll yearn for Christmas Day tranquility again!
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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I lived at one time 30 minutes from London. flanneruk and Tallulah made excellent points. If you are looking for a festive bustling holiday scene, you won't find it over Christmas in London. But, there are other things to see, do and experience. If you were travelling alone, I'd say - stay away. This is a time when people close up shop and retreat to family, hearth, home,or vacation. But, you are bringing your Christmas cheer with you....your family. That is entirely different, and so you may find London to be magical. I see it as more a matter of fitting your expectations to the reality of what you'll find so as not to be disappointed. Have a grand time!
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 12:50 PM
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I wrote you a long response early this morning with links and urls galore and it all got "eaten" so here's a shortened version that I'll try again.

I've been frequenting these boards for 2 years and this question seems to come up in one shape or another each year. From prior years' posts, I know London Walks (www.walks.com) does walks on Xmas day. There are 3 different ones listed for this year at 10, 11 and 2pm. On Boxing day they're also doing 3 other walks, one on theaterland, one on Jane Austen and one on medicine. (They also have "explorer days outside London but none scheduled for the 25 or 26. They do have a Hampton Court special for the 27th when a special Xmas fest starts there, but you could also do that on your own.)

Evan Evans and Astral do day trips outside of London on 25/26 which people have done. The London Eye is open. There was a link on Londontown.com for Christmas Events some of which were on Xmas Day and Boxing Day. There are a few theatrical performances on not to mention I'd imagine the cinema. While a country setting might be more bucolic, I'd fear even less would be open. I have relatives in England and when we're there for Xmas you're lucky to find the local pub open. Unless you do a country break sort of thing as Janis suggests, I'd stay in London and relish the relative peace and quiet.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Well, if you can check into a good hotel in London and have dinner there, then I'd say do London.

I wouldn't want to have to start worrying about trains/cars and getting to some little countryside retreat when you can have the same in London. It will be quiet, but that's a change you should savour as London is always busy.

If you could advise budget, I'd be delighted to suggest some alternatives - I'm in the UK this winter so have plenty of ideas.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 08:44 PM
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Wow, you all have given me a lot to think about. Thanks!

I work for Marriott *duck*, so my "preferred" budget is constrained to wherever I can can get a good deal at one of the UK Marriott's -- flexibility is the key. We are booked at the Marble Arch Marriott from Dec 29 thru the new year, but have yet to land on an exact spot for the days prior to that. From what I've read here so far, I'm liking the idea of my own "private London". I've looked at a couple of country club/resorts outside of London, but I don't shoot golfs, and there doesn't seem to be too much else to do except relax, which currently isn't part of my vocabulary (nor my family's!)

So, I'll definitely find an issue of Time Out, check out walks.com (thanks for your perseverance, mclaurie), and cruise the marriott.com site for a deal.
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Old Nov 17th, 2004, 10:53 PM
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I can't agree with the view that England shuts down for 4 days. This only really applies to manufacturing businesses. Practrically everywhere outside of London is for the 25th and sometimes the 26th, but this is mainly because it's a Sunday. If you like shopping most of the sales start on the 26th. Bear in mind that shops are only allowed to open for 6 hours on a Sunday.
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 12:42 AM
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I do not agree with flanneruk, and do not think I am brave, aggressive, or foolish. Fotrum readers will remember that there are such cyclists, in particular delivery people in shorts, but there are many others.

Ben Haines, London
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 02:35 AM
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Ben:

On the evidence of your posts, no-one could possibly accuse you of foolhardiness or aggression (though that's exactly what most of us would accuse most other London cyclists of).

But you, like most brave people, clearly underestimate your own pluck. Coping with the foolhardiness and aggression of London's other road users, without the protection a car gives you, requires moral fibre of a very high order.

As they say in New Age seminars, acknowlege yourself.
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 03:01 AM
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I'd be TERRIFIED to cycle in London! I congratulate anyone who can do it but me? No way, Jose! Having said that, IF I were to give it a go, it would have to be on a day like Christmas day!
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 03:14 AM
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Assuming that Marriott "duck" is just Marriott, would you consider a few days at a Marriott in France? (Paris or Nice) The Eurostar from London to Paris would be an adventure. Easyjet or similar fly to Nice where there's a Marriott in Cap D'Ail or Monte Carlo. Just a thought.
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 07:45 AM
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Not really on Christmas, but since you are staying til Jan 3, did you know that there's a large New Years Day parade in London? Similar to NYC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 10,000 people marching in the parade, bands from around the world, balloons, floats, etc.
See: http://www.londonparade.co.uk/
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 08:36 AM
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Somebody claimed the London Eye is open at Christmas. The 'Eye', along with nearly everything else, is closed on Christmas Day. As usual, there are hardly any trains on the 25th or 26th, though tubes and buses run in London on the 26th.
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Old Nov 18th, 2004, 09:10 AM
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Thanks for the correction Geoff. This is the page that mislead me, but lists lots of Christmas tours.
http://londontown.com/London/Christmas_Tours/
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