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kathie2 Oct 24th, 2009 05:40 AM

New Years in London
My daughter, a colleague, and I will be in London for the holiday season : My daughter and I will be staying in South Kensington in a flat on Gloucester Road, arriving on the 24th. My work buddy will arrive on the 27th and will be near Russell Square. We are looking for something fun and reasonable to do on Christmas and on New Years. My daughter and I will be going to the Carols at Royal Albert Hall on the 24th, and then just staying in or walking about on Christmas Day -- and I know that little or nothing will be opened -- and that's OK. But what to do about food? We were thinking about just grabbing something at Sainsbury or Tesco (both are fairly close to our flat) or perhaps a Christmas Lunch somewhere. Any suggestions? For New Years, we want
to do something more festive -- but I hear (and read) that the fireworks at Trafalgar Square are beautiful -- but best seen from a private venue. Gordon's Wine bar was suggested, as were Waxy O'COnner in COvent Garden... also The Roof Gardens... any comments on these places? Someone also recommended a cruise. Would we be able to just do the cruise and bring our own picnic? We don't need sequins, a fancy dinner and a loud DJ -- just a decent place to sit and watch the fireworks -- maybe share a bottle or wine and some nice snacks. Any suggestions you may offer would be most appreciated. Thanks in advance. And our budget is a reasonable one -- we don't need to do anything "dirt cheap' -- but neither do I want to spend 200 GBP per person for dinner and fireworks. thanks!

Gordon_R Oct 24th, 2009 09:15 AM

I think you're in for a few culture shocks. You're right that virtually everything shuts down for Christmas - but this inclues the supermarkets you mentioned as well, so you'd have to buy something before closing on Christmas Eve (if there's anything left after the hordes of shopper have descended). If you're in a flat, at least you have some cooking facilities as your disposal, so there's no reason why you couldn't buy something and cook it yourself. Going out for a Christmas Lunch is not something that can be done casually: the relatively few restaurants that are open are reservation only and prices are normally 3-4 times the normal rate.

New Year's Eve is a different story - the city centre streets are crammed all night with inebriated kids drinking industrial quantities of cheap booze. THe "action" revolves around Trafalgar Square, but this is NOT a place I'd recommend visitors to go to. On several occasions, there have been crowd injuries and violent behavior, so much so that a small army of police officers is required - it's just not a nice experience at all.

The fireworks you've heard about are actually along the River Thames and are viewed from various vantage points along the riverside and tall buildings. It's still crowded but slightly less intimidating than the Trafalgar Square mob scene. No offence, but I honestly could not imagine another event anywhere on the planet less suitable for a "picnic" - it will be standing room only, and most likely cold and wet. You mention the river cruise boats - many of these are hired out for private parties and if there are any boats taking public bookings I can imagine the prices are eye-wateringly high. England just doesn't do a good "overseas visitor-friendly" Christmas or New Year I'm afraid.

alihutch Oct 24th, 2009 09:27 AM

If you want to eat out on Christmas Day, then you really need to get it booked now...and I'm afraid it will probably be quite expensive.....

janisj Oct 24th, 2009 09:27 AM

"<i>what to do about food?</i>" Unfortunately you arrive on the 24th so you have to hurry -- but get to the shops as soon as you check into your flat and buy groceries. You'll do best to just fix Christmas dinner/lunch for yourselves. Any nearby restaurant/hotels offering Christmas lunches will be charging a small (or large) fortune.

New Years Eve will be a problem. Commercial parties at hotels, restaurants or other venues will be hugely expensive. I can't imagine any of the boats doing a low cost cruise - probably from a minimum £100 per person for a low ball cruise up to £300 or more for the nicer ones. How much do you want to spend?

Except for a pricey dinner cruise, you don't want to be near the river really. The Fireworks are good -- but the crowds are enormous, mostly of the youngish drunk variety. And crowd control is an issue - things get so tube stations in the area have to be closed.

If it was me - unless I could spend a LOT of money, I'd book a nice dinner early in the evening and then watch the fireworks on the telly in the flat. Or I guess you could go up to Primrose Hill or somewhere like that and look at the city/fireworks from up there. But it would likely be bloody cold.

alanRow Oct 24th, 2009 09:28 AM

The other thing to point out is that on Christmas Day there's virtually no public transport and taxis are few and far apart - and will be charging much more.

So you need to organise food as soon as you arrive (if not before). Hopefully you'll be arriving in the morning so you can get to the shops before everything closes at around 5:00pm. Note that the British assume that because the shops will be closed for a day that it's a good idea to get a month's worth of food in "just in case", so shelves will be stripped bare by 3:00pm limiting your choice to dry pasta and frozen pizza

alihutch Oct 24th, 2009 09:28 AM

janisj Oct 24th, 2009 09:31 AM

I didn't see Gordon_R's post (started mine but then went searching for Thames boat possibilities.)

Mainly, the thing is -- you'll do better to create your own festivities really . . . .

kathie2 Oct 24th, 2009 09:58 AM

Thank you for your responses... I know that a winter "picnic" is sort of an oxymoronic phrase -- I was just being hopeful. We will probably just find a nice neighborhood pub, settle in, and watch what we can on the TV. Many thanks for your suggestions.

Thankfully we have a wonderful host at our flat who will stock us with the essentials... and we arrive at 9:30 AM -- so I think we will make it to a grocer. Otherwise -- it's an adventure! Part of the joy of travel is being flexible... hopefully we will just "roll with" whatever comes, keep smiling, and enjoy our favorite city. We've never been to London in winter -- only in Spring and Summer -- so this will be a very new experience. Wish us luck!

janisj Oct 24th, 2009 10:06 AM

"<i> We will probably just find a nice neighborhood pub, settle in, and watch what we can on the TV. </i>"

Don't get your heart set on that -- at all . . .

Nice neighborhood pubs will have private, pre-booked parties (and may already be sold out). Unfortunately, New Years Eve is not a night you can wing it in London.

kathie2 Oct 24th, 2009 10:10 AM

I hope that I have better luck than that!! I have a good friend who is a tour guide -- he has recommended a few places, and I have been in touch with them already. We do have some options, and I will pay in advance to secure our spots.... I was just looking for some more ideas. We'll be fine; I just like to go with my eyes wide open! :) Thanks again.. and cheers!

kathie2 Nov 21st, 2009 03:35 AM

Have booked a restaurant near our flat for Christmas Dinner... now working on New Years... again -- many thanks for your assistance.
Any thoughts about Saharaween or Souk Medina?
We love Moroccan food.... and my daughter -- a college student, has developed an affinity for hukkah (sp?) pipes (not even sure that is the correct term), and both of these have a lounge for a post dinner smoke. I thought it might be an "interesting" experience... :)

enchantedacres Dec 22nd, 2009 01:15 PM

I spent NYE alone in London 2 years ago. So as not to have to hang out alone, I took the London Walks Pub Crawl tour. I recommend this as it took us to 4 pubs and we learned some history on the way. I watched the fireworks on TV in my hotel room which turned out to be a good idea- several folks in my hotel had a difficult time walking back to Bloomsbury because of the crowds. I ate big pub lunch that day and had a sandwich in Pret before the walking tour. No problems and was a fun day.

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