We are all about Traditions, especially at Christmas, each year we have our rituals, Mulled Wine, Meeting Friends for drinks critiquing Christmas Films and going to see the Christmas Lights and this year, we waited until it was really, really cold and icy to go and check out London’s West End Festival Illuminations, here’s what we found…
Our route is much the same every year, we start off at Tottenham Court Road and weave a wandering walk through Soho, Bond St, Leicester Sq and finish around Covent Garden.
We had intended to try out some other displays and special events this year, to break up the ‘Norm’, But Wembley and Crystal Palace’s displays were ticketed at £28-35 per person, so we decided against that! Likewise Kew Gardens looks impressive, but your still have to pay full entry and £20 is too much just to see a few coloured baubles! We even went back to Eltham to attend the Pleasuances Gardens event (yes that is spelt right!) But we soon discovered it’s for Greenwich Residents only, proof of address and ID were required on the gate and the queue was over 90minutes just to get to the entrance and apparently there was no stopping once inside to take photos and another hour queuing for drinks sounds like hell!
So instead this week we found ourselves once more at the top of Oxford St and looking down the usually overcrowded and chaotic shopping mecca of London, we found it surprisingly quiet, clearly the snow had done its duty and stopped the Christmas Shoppers from chancing a trip to the over priced shops. So we headed briefly along the road, before turning off to look for lights in Soho Square, Dean Street etc and we found nothing! Soho’s idea of Christmas cheer is non-existent.
The first signs of a sparkle were in Broadwick Street, with some truly pathetic lamp mounted lights, from what we gathered they were Scooby-do, a broken Penis a Nipple Pasty and a ghost?! Well it’s soho after all!
Finally into Carnaby Street and some actual lights hanging across the famous walkway, but it seems though bright and colourful, these all look pretty familiar to viewers of previous years and that’s because all the decorations are left overs of previous year’s offerings. Kingley Court and the other side roads (Garton & Faubert’s St) offered much the lights as always.
After this we made our way onto Regent’s Street and the golden Angels that are a standard and a good offering, they are pretty, bright and in-keeping with the Regency Buildings. These do not need to be changed as they are like the old family decorations that come out every year and are still shiny and bright!
We weaved around Oxford Circus, caught a glimpse of John Lewis inside and out where they have giant Gummy Bear’s doing weird things on ropes and streamers! And found a true West End Christmas Tradition, a Steel Band, nothing says Christmas like half a dozen Caribbeans playing Holy Night out of tune on old oil drums!
We carried on until the narrow opening of St. Christopher’s Place and what was reported to be a Christmas Marvel, it was in fact a few paper streamers and the same pink lights as always. The light of James St in Next road over were better, bright tree lights pathed the road and the restaurants and made for a pretty view.
Next we found a giant bauble in Portman Sq, so big it was a walkthrough bauble but looked more like a Christmas Pudding! The perfect spot for a Christmas Selfie!
Then it was on to Selfridges to see the famous Window Displays, this year food was on the table and in the window, not the greatest window treatments, but clever all the same.
Then it was time for the timeless elegance of South Molton Street, the pedestrian road, with the exclusive boutiques and tailors is all a blue glow, from angelic arches and strings of deep blue lights, to giant blue trees at either end, making for a picturesque view along its length. At the end we spotted the giant white and gold chandeliers of Bond St, Fenwick’s and the start of the exclusive and more expensive streets of the West End, Some of these went to town on their exterior decor, Chopard’s, Dior, Chanel and Tiffany, made a real effort, whereas Burberry and Ralph Lauren were seriously lacking in their festive cheer.
Around the corner from the Flagship Ralph Lauren Store is Burlington Arcade and when the walk through arcade is just decorated and not under a sponsorship it can be the show stopper, but when under sponsorship, it’s filled with gaudy adverts, this year the film Babylon covered the ceilings and walls in gold and posters to promote the movie and the Arcade was dull and tacky.
So it was a quick traipse through there and out into Piccadilly hoping to see a new front to Fortnum & Masons but sadly no, just the same red illumination and 2022 on the corner, overhead more angelic cherubs spread winds and flew down the wide road and we wandered on through Piccadilly Arcade and Prince’s Arcades, past Piccadilly Circus, China Town and on to Leicester Sq for the market within the square itself, on the look out for a Mulled Wine and we found … nothing, not a drop, there were Churitzo, Gins galore, Hot Toddy’s and cold beers, there were Hot Dogs and Marshmallows, but not a Mull to be found anywhere. So on we went to Covent Garden, where we did find Mulled Wine, but £7.50 for 200ml was a rip off and so we abstained and simply looked up at the same decorations that cover the inside of the arches every year, a few baubles and some giant mistletoe.
The churchyard of St Paul’s was pretty and we guess the church would be too if we were so inclined, we are not, so instead we sauntered up to Neal Street and down to the Seven Dials to finish off our walk and get on a bus and try to get warm.
So there you go, All the West End Lights, which are your favourites, we missed Grosvenor Square Flowers, did we miss any more?
We will be back next week with some more and you don’t want to miss that, so come back and see what goodies we have for you then.