When our good friend, Carolyn, invited us on a Christmas adventure in London it was met with mixed feelings of hesitation and pure excitement. How could we leave our family that we’ve spent every single Christmas with?! But how could we pass up such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?! Well, after consulting with our mom/therapist, the decision became clear and seemed somewhat silly that it was ever a toss-up to begin with… DON’T WORRY. We went! From the decision day to the actual day that we got the hell outta Dodge, we had eight months of giddy group texts and research we conducted to be sure we visited all of the finest institutions London has to offer.
We found too many bloggers who helped us create a list of must-sees that was longer than my childhood list of must-haves to Santa. It was a blessing and a curse. I think April would agree, the most helpful person was Kate, from www.thelostlondoner.com. From her list of recommendations, April then put her planning and graphics skills to use and made a customized map for each day so we would be sure not to waste any minute wondering, “what should we do now?”
As with anyone’s personal account of a trip, nobody truly wants to hear every “bloody” detail, so I will give you my top five favorite memories:
Our brother, Sam, gave us tickets to the Arsenal vs. Queens Park Rangers game for a Christmas gift. We expected a rowdy, lively time as that’s what we were told it would be by friends who actually watch football here in the States. One thing that is underestimated in American culture is our level of rowdiness and excitement, which became even more obvious at this football match. While it was definitely the most rambunctious we had ever seen the Brits, it measured equally to a Dodgers game here at home in Los Angeles. In other words, it wasn’t shocking. However, to see the enthralled fans and hear the chants of their teams was the most fun experience and I’m positive all three of us will forever remember the man who gave the most purposeful bras d’honneur to Queens Park Rangers.
One of the most festive activities we went to was Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” on stage at Middle Temple Hall. The building itself was worth the visit, with the Gothic architecture and larger than life sized portraits of royals hanging in the halls, but the play made it a really special evening. Temple Church was built in the late 12th-century and the spot where Shakespeare first debuted “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”! Being in a building so old and beautiful, watching such a classic tale was like a dream of something I imagined and wanted so desperately to happen while on our Christmas adventure… and there we were!
I keep writing these memories, having already given credit to the Lost Londoner blog, but a lot of my memories or things I’ve already written about were made in part by April and Carolyn’s genius planning and discovering.
London Walks offers so many walks that we should have done them all while we were there and we would have lost weight rather than gained. But really, who wants to be learning history when you can be eating an epic scone? We did two guided walks and loved them both equally. The first we did on Christmas Day was all about Charles Dickens and his living places, working places, party places… just kidding. Later in the trip, we went on a Jack the Ripper walking tour at night where we saw houses where his victims dwelled, places they were murdered and the old streets that he haunted. It was eerie and at points gruesome, but we got the most delish Indian food in Soho after and all was well again.
Christmas day was the most memorable day there and perhaps my most memorable Christmas (sorry, fam). We started it off at the really, insanely, extremely long (but between my marathon dozes, who really knows how long) Christmas morning service at Westminster Abbey. It was too cold to wear anything as classy as I should have, but just being inside made me feel like Your Highness. Pictures weren’t allowed and they definitely made that clear, all up in our grill, but the cherub noises the little boy’s choir are capable of making and the all-gold-errthang interior will be imprinted in my mind forever. It was the most appropriate Christmas morning followed by opening little presents from Mama and Papa Dunlap outside the church with the joyous bells ringing in the background! Definitely a picture perfect moment, but you need to hear the bells, so let’s say a video perfect moment:
The city is virtually empty on Christmas day so we took full advantage and rented bikes that evening. We rode them across the Thames, to Shakespeare’s Globe, to Regent’s Park seeing little vignettes of family’s Christmases glowing through the windows all along the way (it’s not creepy to spy if you’re a tourist). The smell of roasted chestnuts from the vendors on the Thames was something from a dream. I didn’t have enough control over the bike as it was, let alone to eat chestnuts simultaneously, so a dream it remains! After a brisk and romantic bike ride through the city, we ended our evening with another Indian meal. It was one of the only restaurants open, however, we would have eaten there even if we had an invite for a proper meal at the Queen’s palace.
I told you I would pick my top five to try to keep it short… If you’re still here, I’m sorry, but believe it or not, this is just the surface details of our adventure! Just walking around the city everyday was magical. The pictures I took on my phone and in my mind will always be an inspiration to me. We were sure happy to see our family again when we got home and America just has that spark that maybe you don’t realize until you travel abroad. However, London will hold such special memories for me with two of my fave people during my fave season! A happy, happy Christmas!