Christmas Eve has arrived. Kenny and I celebrated Christmas Eve between Harrods and Hyde Park.
We set off in the morning to find an oft-advertised “Winter Wonderland.” We couldn’t find the Winter Wonderland on any map online but had heard it was near Harrods. I was eager to show Kenny Harrods. From my memory, Harrods was a place with delicious spicy ginger beer and a sundae bar. You read that right– a bar with endless sundae toppings. We pushed past people on the sidewalk– mentally willing them to walk on the proper side of the street– a classic case of Americans being in a country that drives on the reverse sides of the road.
When we finally arrived at Harrods, we walked into the women’s accessories section and were bathed in $100 perfume and instant regret. The traffic in Harrods was just as dense as it was on the sidewalks outside and I was working off of a six-year-old memory to find the ginger beer. We aimlessly pushed through crowds in the purses, bracelets, cheeses, meats, chocolates, and coffee sections until we found the roomful of cafes. The lines for service were unlike anything we ever saw, so we made our way to the jewelry section of the store.
There comes a time for every woman when she realizes she is not, and never will be, a princess. In that moment she realizes that yellow diamonds and deep blue sapphires in ornate settings are not designed for her and will never grace her neck. That moment came for me, shockingly, in front of the Harry Winston store in the jewelry department of Harrods on Christmas Eve. I don’t know if you could conceptualize a more inappropriate time to feel as greedy as I did, but there was the feeling putting weights in my shoes. In a somber mood, I trudged up and through the rest of the department store. We perused the Rolexes, fur coats, and landed where we were happiest: in the candy and stuffed animals section. Kenny found a stuffed panda that was easily his size.
Kenny with the panda bear in Harrods.
I followed a vague memory from my earlier London trip to that aforementioned sundae bar. And for me, you may recall, ice cream remains a food group despite my lactose intolerance. So Kenny and I navigated our way through $20,000 home decor items and the tchotchke shop to find the ice cream. Once we arrived, I was very confident that I hadn’t been to this ice cream bar, and I must have misremembered, because there is no world in which my mom would have let us have a 5-scoop sundae at thirty British pounds. There was no world in which we were going to pay 45 U.S. dollars for ice cream. Our commitment to the mission was weak.
Hungry and getting hungrier, we forewent the ice cream and ventured out to a neighboring street to find any place that would be open for lunch. This is the first time but not the last I’ll say: Google Maps failed us. Our first choice for lunch was closed, and our second had been converted into a waxing salon, despite Google Maps encouraging us that it was a pub. We wandered around until we found an Italian restaurant and could rest up. We ordered “The American”– a pepperoni pizza– and regrouped.
When we finally set off again with garlic knots and pepperoni in our bellies, we decided to finally find the Winter Wonderland we had set out to find earlier in the morning.
The actual carnival at Hyde Park was fabulous. Spanning several acres across the park, the roller coasters and pretzel stands were staples to the park for two months out of each year. Luckily for us, the park was open on the holiday (and FREE) and we waited patiently to enter the park. We made a B-line for the Bavarian-themed portion of the festivities, where Kenny got a rum and Coke and I got a warm cinnamon pretzel the size of my face. We meandered around the park some more until dark when we walked all the way back to the Windermere. We collapsed back at the hotel, with only an hour before dinner began.
We hung out at the hotel, switching between Judge Judy and Gogglebox (a fine British tv program that should definitely be picked up in the States.) We got a late dinner at a local pub that was surprisingly open on the holiday. We got late desserts and Nespresso at the Windermere in an attempt to stay awake for church and chatted with the hotel staff who served as our pseudo-guides for what to do and avoid in London.
My relationship with church can best be described as frigid, which is warmer than Ken’s relationship with it. But in my home growing up, church on Christmas Eve was tradition, so I found an Anglican church in Pimlico. And dragged Kenny to it at 11 pm. We’d never been to an Anglican service before, and the research I put into finding out if we could even attend as non-members was extensive. The church was very kind to welcome us, though it wasn’t long before we realized we were actually aliens visiting a different planet instead of foreigners visiting a different denomination. First of all, the ninety-minute service was an exercise in not burning our hands in Christmas candle wax. There are a lot of call and response portions of an Anglican service, and thank goodness they were written down. But I got lost in the chants and incantations many times and murmured “hippopotamus” under my breath until I found where we were in the service. When the service ended, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and raced back to the Windermere to change into pajamas.
We collapsed (yet again) at the end of a marathon day that didn’t conclude until 1 am, ready as ever to sleep in on Christmas morning.