Christmas in London ????????

Old Sep 24th, 2004, 09:43 PM
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Christmas in London ????????

Have spent untold hours on these boards, but still have several questions. Will be in UK from Dec 19-31 with wife and 25 and 21 year old sons. Want to see London and drive rental car to Windsor, Bath, Oxford, York, etc on way to Edinburg and return. Questions:
1. Most posts re hotel locations reference distance from Tube. Rick Steves said with 4 people it is more comvenient and cheaper to take cab rather tube. Is this true?
2. I plan on getting 2 hotel rooms thru Priceline. Like Mayfair and Kensington areas. Want to be see shops decorated for holidays, do pub scene as well as wife wants to shop in small boutiques rather than large dept stores. If we do take cabs (and not have to worry about Tube or trains), would Mayfair or Kensington (or another area) be best bet for rooms on Priceline?
3.We want to take in a midnight mass on Christmas eve. Should we rent car and go North on arrival (and more than likely spend Christmas o/s London) or go into city first and end the trip with ride to Edinburg? Should we be in London or in anither locale for Christmas eve/day?

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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 10:31 PM
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Christmas in London (or anywhere in the UK for that matter) sounds fabulous! We were in London for only a few days in the summertime and never took the tube - we cabbed (with our teenaged daughter) walked and took buses around the city. I took a lot of Rick Steves advice when planning, so you can't go wrong with his suggestion re cabbing - especially in the wintertime.
We booked our hotel in London through discountcityhotels.com and found a great deal at the Harrington Hall Hotel in South Kensington area - quite close to Harrods.
With respect to your question 3, I think attending midnight mass either in London or a small country church would be awesome - so definitely a personal choice. We rented a car while we were in England, but not in London.
Wish I could be more helpful. Enjoy planning and have a wonderful time.

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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 11:36 PM
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1. Taxi/public transport. Who's this Rick Steeves bloke? Is he some smartass you've met in a pub or somewhere? He's obviously not spent much time here, and obviously doesn't understand how to get round a real city.

Yes, if four of you stay together ALL the time, each 4x£2 tube fare might, sometimes be more than the £5-£6 taxi fare you'd get for the kind of journey you ought to be walking anyway.

Now there's a whole industry on these boards associated with whther you can save 5p by buying Version a of the various passes London Transport offers or Version b. Without going into that (Einstein gave up on the issue, BTW), most versions cost you a bit under £5 per adult per day. Or £20 per group of 4. That's roughly 2 cab journeys in central London. And if you're only getting into a cab twice a day, you're wasting your holiday here.

Making the most of the world's greatest city means walking, getting the tube three or four times a day and getting a bus a couple of times. And you do all those things all day, even when it's raining (try finding a free taxi on a wet Friday night), and the four of you aren't Siamese quads. You simply aren't going to do everything together, whatever you think right now. And two separate cab journeys (cos dad's lag is worse than everyone else's, so he'll meet you at 1030, for example) will cost as much as a whole day's passes for the four.

2. Midnight Mass. First do you really mean Midnight Mass? If so, be aware that most Catholic churches in England have their main Christmas Eve Mass early in the evening, mostly in unpleasant, half-empty Victorian churches or more recent cheapjack buildings, and there are few Orthodox churches. The few beautiful Catholic and Orthodox churches with Mass at Midnight are surprisingly heavily concentrated in London, and very sparse outside.
But if you mean "atmospheric Christian service around midnight", then of course most Anglican churches have this (generally with far better choirs than the older versions of Christianity can offer), including virtually all the 8000 working medieval Anglican churches. There's a medieval Anglican church in almost every country village, and a choice in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Norwich:unlike the Catholics, the Anglicans mostly haven't moved their main service to early evening. The Times of Dec 19 should carry a good summary of services in the main London churches and in the cathedrals outside London.

I'm no expert on the subtleties of Christianity in Scotland, but the Church of Scotland has fewer stunning churches than the Church of England, and its services (and church embellishments) tend to be a lot more spartan. Fine for theological rigour, but maybe not what we all want at Christmas, when a few flowers, a crib, a Christmas tree and a bit of over-the-top liturgy is what most of us want to find in church. If this was your main criterion, I wouldn't spend Christmas in Edinburgh.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 12:55 AM
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As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Steves is the undisputed champion of Bland. I believe his last book was entitled, "Travel for the American Pedestrian."

No offense intended (unless your Rick Steves, I guess!) Its just that this guy seems to skim over the bits of travel that are....ummm....interesting. He's all about saving a buck and seeing the "usual suspects." His guides don't seem to afford the reader the possibility of seeing the real life going on in an incredibly diverse city like London. I think a good travel writer should have a happy medium between the major attractions and some really special things that you'd never know about otherwise.

That being said, I have to say that FLANNERUK has given you some excellent advice here.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 10:17 AM
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breeves, I would spend the first few days in London, then find somewhere outside London for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Taking the Tube, at least once, is part of "doing" London. You just have to do it, and if you've never done it before,it's fun. Having been there last Christmas season with my family of four, taking a cab is also good because you tend to see more of the city above ground than below.

If you are going to go to Edinburgh, try to be there for the 29th and 30th. There is pre-Hogmanay entertainment which is actually much better than the big street party on Hogmanay. Check www.edinburghshogmanay.org for more info. Edinburgh gets very busy at New Year and you will have to book accomodation ahead.

flanneruk is right that you won't all be together all the time. My daughter and I wanted to shop and my sons looked as if we were insane and so they went off by themselves. Your sons may want to do their own thing in the evening too.

Have a really great time.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 11:34 AM
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We spent a few days in London through Dec. 24 a few years ago on our way to Nairobi. My husband and I and our 18 year old son. Taking the tube is fun, fast and easy. You can get passes that make it very economical. We only used a taxi to get us to and from the airport. flanneruk is correct, though, that walking is the best way to see many of the great cities of the world. No better way to experience and absorb the atmosphere and culture. Much better than being schlepped from site to site by taxi.
We also happened upon a service at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve around 7:00 p.m. When the choir started singing, I was certain they were angels! It was magical and a truly serendipitous experience for us.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 12:41 PM
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1. So if you're going someplace all together maybe a cab is the same price or cheaper than the tube, but not necessarily faster. On my last visit, we took a cab to the theater one night b/c I didn't want to go in the tube all dressed up. We wound up walking, no running ! a good part of the way b/c the cab got stuck in traffic. When we got out, it was pouring and you couldn't find a taxi so we again took the tube.

2. Be aware that it may not be so easy to get 2 rooms at the same hotel at that time of year via PL. Either Mayfair or Kensington will work for your purposes. You might want to consider booking a cancellable reservation some place, just in case you're not successful. Please review biddingfortravel or betterbidding carefully. Tell you wife to go to Walton st. for nice boutique shopping and have a meal at the Enterprise.

3. Everything really closes down tight on Christmas Day AND Boxing Day (the day after). I think I'd rather be outside London in a walkable location like Windsor or maybe a Cotswold village or town. Going to a midnight service at an 11th century church in the Cotswolds, lit only by candle light, was a great experience. But others have raved about services in London too.

If you do stay in London, Westminster, St. Paul's or St. Martin's in the Fields for Christmas services would all be good. Visit websites though and check for tickets. I gather from another poster that Evan Evans does day trips on Christmas Day and Boxing day outside London if you're looking for things to do. London is closed. No public transportation on Xmas day either.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 01:22 PM
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Thanks, all!!!!!
I opine that walking will be our primary mode of transportation. Therefore, I would like to stay in close proximity to quaint shops and pubs. Any suggestions?
Flanneruk,even tho I said midnight mass (since we were in St Peters in Rome with the Pope last Christmas eve and we are not Catholics), I certainly meant Anglican.
As between Scotland and England, I just want be in the most festive location during the hiliday season. I just don't know if that is London, one of the other English cities (or even villages) or in Scotland. I am trying to get comments from tourists who have spent Christmas as well as Christmas eve in various locations so I can make an educated decision.
We like to mix with the locals, so that is why I mentioned the pub scene. Local color is more important than getting a meal at the best restaurant in town.
All additional comments and ideas welcome, and again thanks in advance.


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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 01:28 PM
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"We like to mix with the locals, so that is why I mentioned the pub scene"

That's the working class locals, if you're working class then by all means go ahead, otherwise you might want to seek some more sophisticated company.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 02:16 PM
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"...then by all means, go ahead"

I don't recall permission to patronize a pub being sought. By the way, BEING patronizing...very unsophisticated.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 02:23 PM
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Patronising pubs or patronsing people...

It's just Americans tend to think it's a thing locals do.. only the working classes, try some smart bar for something more chic and equally local.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 03:49 PM
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Your non-suggestion of a smart, chic, local bar for this family has been enlightening. Why not send them to Milk & Honey as well, so they can be discreetly dismissed at the appointed hour.
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Old Sep 25th, 2004, 05:09 PM
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On Christmas day, as well as Boxing day (and this year, it's Sat. and Sun., it's dead as a doornail in London. Also keep in mind that people who work in offices in central London are generally given the week off between Christmas and the New Year, so it stays generally dead until the Harrod's sale right after New Year's Day. If it were me, I'd start off in London, right before Christmas, because it's bright, glittery and hopping, and walking down Regent Street is not to be missed.

Don't forget to buy a few Christmas Crackers!
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Old Sep 26th, 2004, 06:54 AM
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Actually, surfergirl raises a very good issue. Since Christmas and Boxing Day fall on the weekend, does that mean things will be closed for 4 days, Sat - Tues??? I gather for office workers, they'll get the Mon/Tues but will shops and restaurants etc. close Mon & Tues as well as Sat/Sun?
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Old Sep 26th, 2004, 10:27 AM
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No. Most shops and stores will be open from Monday 27th, when the Sales start in earnest. A handful may even start on Boxing Day, observing the Sunday shopping hours (usually 11am-5pm). Most restaurants will be open from 27th, some on 26th, and those that open on Christmas Day usually only take pre-booked parties. But there will always be a good number of eating places open in Soho's Chinatown over Christmas. Banks will be closed from around midday on Christmas Eve and reopen on 29th. ATMs will be useable 24/7, and they will make sure that cash is regularly topped up. You can pay for most things with credit/debit cards.
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Old Sep 26th, 2004, 11:20 AM
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I will be in London on December 26. I was surprised to see there will even be several shows playing on Boxing Day, according to Londontown.com . Where is my best bet for a reasonably priced cafe or restaurant meal in the evening? Will any supermarkets be open in central London, and if so, which ones?
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Old Sep 26th, 2004, 11:26 AM
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Replies have been helpful. Now I plan to hit London for 4 nights, then rent car and drive north to Edinburgh and take in sights up and back, and finally come back into the city for several nights. This way I will experience both pre/post Christmas London, and still see other sites. Question: Any ideas about where I should plan to be on Christmas eve to another view of the Christmas spirit in the UK?
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Old Sep 26th, 2004, 01:54 PM
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Breeves--

1. Lodging--You might check the Scala house. 2 bedroom apts. Usually rent by the week, but will rent for fewer night. THey have a kitchen which means breakfast in your jammies!

2. 12/26--See a show! Theater is great in London.

3. As far as restaurants...we have had great luck following locals into pubs and eateries. Takes some observation--Also, I ask shop keepers/boutique owners/cab drivers/jewelers...gives me a range and when one place is mentioned twice ! BINGO--may have a winner. Have made some mistakes this way, but history favors winners over losers!
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Old Sep 26th, 2004, 03:58 PM
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Thanks fo info re Scala House. Will check into it.
Now need help re Christmas eve festivities in Edingurgh, Bath, York or another location in northern UK. Would love to find church service with singing and pub or restaurant in close proximity where some of the locals may go after service is over. Any suggestions?
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Old Oct 6th, 2004, 06:35 PM
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ttt
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