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winter wonderland

Lifestyle, London

Feeling Festive In London

December 15, 2014

It’s that time of year again when your favourite holiday tunes play non-stop, you eat far too many canapés at Christmas parties and suddenly find yourself panic buying, waiting in long lines at the post office and wrapping endless gifts late into the night before Santa arrives – sound familiar? The run up to Christmas can be hectic and sometimes it all gets a little overwhelming, even for Santa’s most efficient elf! Before you grumble bah humbug, just remember all the fun and festive things that only happen at this time of year, especially in London. It really is the most magical time of year, and here is why:

Sloegasms

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I always get overly excited about my first Sloegasm of the season – a fierce and festive combination of sloe gin and champagne. This tipple is sure to warm the cockles on cold and dark winter days. Catch up with your friends and family as you toast to the New Year ahead in style. You can find a step by step Sloegasm recipe here – chin chin!

Holiday Nibbles 

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There’s something about December that just makes you want to eat copious amounts! Decorating (and devouring) Christmas cookies, chocolate yule logs and gingerbread houses can bring out the festive spirit in anyone. All diets are on hold until the New Year and calories don’t count at this time of year. It’s Christmas time, so grab some chestnuts and a mince pie with brandy butter and eat up – the saying ‘eat, drink and be merry’ has never been more true!

*my top recipe for mince pies and sloe gin here *

Winter Wonderland 

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If you haven’t braved the rides at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland before, then the time to go is now! I’m still recovering from a trip on the The Power Tower and The Blizzard after my visit two years ago, but I loyally return every year for a warm overpriced cider, the Christmas markets and the hilarious party-filled chalets in the Bavarian Village. I honestly have to pinch myself to remember I am in the middle of London when I’m at this winter playground in the centre of Hyde Park. Act fast, as Winter Wonderland is only here until early January.

Get Your Skates On! 

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When I was a little girl living in New York, I went ice-skating at Rockefeller Centre religiously every Christmas. Skating in the centre of a bustling city with twinkling lights, the smells of hot chocolate and Christmas music will get anyone into the festive spirit – even Ebenezer Scrooge! The most jolly ice skating rinks in London have to be either Somerset House or the Natural History Museum. I recently went skating with a few girlfriends and miraculously none of us returned home with any injuries. Book a skating slot early to avoid disappointment and wear thick socks to protect your dainty toes!

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 An on rink mid-action ice skating selfie with lovely Megan – be impressed, very very impressed!

 Festive DIY

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I’m always so impressed and somewhat amazed when I receive home-made Christmas cards. One of my friends even makes her own customised seasonal wrapping paper using stamps- I take my hat off to her! Yes, some people actually make the time to do these types of DIY projects in the run up to the holidays, to make the rest of us feel less productive of course. Last year I made my first ever Christmas floral centrepiece at the lovely Covent Garden Academy of Flowers, which offers classes for those of us (like me) who are less talented in the flower arranging department. Earlier this month I went to Petersham Nurseries with all my work colleagues to make wreaths, which is highly recommended if you haven’t been before.

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I never thought I would say this (especially as I have a mild allergy to pine!), but there is something really fun and special about making a seasonal creation from scratch at this time of year, especially with friends. I look at my wreath each day with pride and fond memories, and I genuinely feel that much more in the holiday spirit when my apartment smells of fresh eucalyptus and cinnamon. Who knows, maybe next year I will bite the bullet and make Mrs Claus proud by creating my own Christmas stationary and decorating my house in picture-perfect fashion like this (a girl can dream right?!):

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So even if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and feel like you’re hanging on by a thread right now, remember to take a break from the chaos and treat yourself to some festive fun. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a sloegasm filled Happy New Year – cheers to 2015!

London

A London Winter Wonderland

December 10, 2012
There’s a lot for Londoners to be excited about at the moment. Not only is A Royal Baby on the way, but Winter Wonderland is back in full force in Hyde Park! 
It really is the most magical time of the year when Winter Wonderland comes back to town. Suddenly, Hyde Park is transformed into a massive playground for both adults and children, where rollercoasters, Christmas markets, festive games, and mulled wine-filled chalets light up the winter days and nights. 
My Californian gal pal THT was in town last weekend, and it only seemed right to take her to Winter Wonderland with fellow Californian turned Londoner, Britty. We bundled up on a chilly Sunday afternoon and braved the crowds – a warm cider at the Bavarian village was definitely welcome!
Rides aside, the Bavarian Village is my favourite spot in Winter Wonderland. You will feel like you’re après ski in Val d’Isère after a few sips of mulled wine at this big chalet with  its outdoor benches and bars. We loved watching the DJ spinning tracks to an energetic outdoor nightclub, especially when Gangnam Style came on and the crowds started to   rock out to PSY’s famous dance moves. Talk about great people watching!
The weekends are family-heavy and there is a good chance your Ugg boots will be run over by a stroller if you are not careful. I would therefore recommend going to Winter Wonderland in the evening during the week if possible, but beware, as you will be sharing the park with corporate parties, romantic loved-up couples, and mid-week lash artists. 
If shooting hoops or water pistols is your thing, in the hope of winning a large stuffed reindeer or a Santa Claus, then there are games a plenty to keep you busy.

I however, would rather spend my Winter Wonderland tickets soaring on the rides or skating on the ice rink, if it isn’t too busy.


If you are a fellow thrill-seeker, there are so many rides and rollercoasters to choose from you can easily lose focus.
Here are my top picks:

The Winter Wonderland Star Flyer:
From afar, this ride looks pleasant enough for your grandmother to try. Although the Star Flyer appears calm and orderly, you would be amazed how fast you actually whirl-round once 60 metres in the air wearing just a seatbelt. 

Prepare yourself for some amazing 360 degree views of London – and remember to wear a scarf because it is cold up there! 

The Power Tower
It is best not to eat anything before a ride on the Power Tower, as your stomach will flip flop repeatedly as you are dropped from mid-air. Ladies, I would recommend avoiding wearing a skirt without tights on this ride, unless you want to give the park an eyeful.
This ride is worth waiting in the line, which moves pretty fast. I nervously strapped myself in for an adrenaline shot to my system,  while THT wisely sat this one out. 

The Blizzard
We were surprised to find that the line to ride The Blizzard was pretty short. After 90 seconds of being flipped upside down repeatedly as we swung around the blizzard mid-air, it became very apparent why most people are sensible enough to give this ride a miss. The Blizzard is hands down the most terrifying ride in Winter Wonderland. If you don’t know where it is in the park, just listen for the loud screams!

Rodeo Reindeer
Although I didn’t go on the Rodeo Reindeer, which is adjacent to The Blizzard, I have ridden the classic electronic bucking bull in a bar once or twice before. This ride is very similar and equally as entertaining to watch, especially when nicely dressed girls get flung off at full speed!

After waiting in line for the rides and walking around Winter Wonderland’s Christmas markets we got peckish and decided to try a fresh chocolate sprinkled pretzel. Obviously dieting takes a back seat during the holidays!

If you have a sweet tooth, there are amazing Christmas cookie stands as well as cotton candy (called ‘candy floss’ in the UK) to get you on an energised sugar-high! 

For those who prefer savoury foods, the options of freshly grilled bratwurst are endless. I recommend the chilli bratwurst to warm the cockles.  

Whether you are searching for festive reasons not to be stressed in the chaotic run-up to Christmas, or just need to get away from it all while kicking and screaming upside down, Winter Wonderland is a must-visit. Open daily from 10am – 10pm (except on Christmas Day) until 6th January 2013, Winter Wonderland is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Although I prefer hot Summer days over bundling up in the Winter cold, I do love London during this time of year. In particular, Sloane Square or Oxford Circus are so gorgeously lit that you cannot help but get into the Christmas spirit.


Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays.
xoxo, 
Blondon