London Light Trail

5 Stops in 45 Minutes

London is truly magical during the holidays — catch some of the best lights and decorations the capital has to offer in less than an hour:

Bond Street — Bond Street is known for its luxury shopping and is considered one of the most expensive streets in London. Chanel, Dior, Hermès and Louis Vuitton are just a few of the exclusive shops that line the street. It is no wonder that the area truly sparkles.
Walk 22 minutes to Carnaby Street

Carnaby Street — Popularized in the 1960s, Carnaby Street continues to be known for its fashion-forward concept and independent shops. Not surprisingly, the themed light display is creative and non-traditional. This year's theme, Carnival, is as colorful as the history of the street itself.
Walk 4 minutes to Regent Street

Regent Street — Often referred to as the mile of style, Regent Street features 75 flagship stores from around the world. The tradition of Christmas lights dates back to 1882. This is the second year the Spirit of Christmas theme of 300,000 LED lights has been on display.
Walk 7 minutes to St James Market

St James's Market — St James's Market is an up and coming shopping destination featuring concept restaurants and stores. Conveniently located in West End, it is tastefully lit up along Jermyn Street.
Walk 13 minutes to Covent Garden



Covent Garden — Popular with tourists, Covent Garden's piazza is again decorated in a mistletoe theme this year. There is also an enormous Christmas tree and a lit reindeer in a sleigh. It is hard not to get into the holiday spirit here.


While the route itself will take you 45 minutes to walk, it doesn't take into account all the photo ops along the way!

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Oldies but goodies

Five of the oldest places to eat and drink in London that are still worth going to today:

Beigal BakeOn Brick Lane there are two bagel shops near to each other. They both serve made-to-order salt beef sandwiches on fresh baked 30 pence bagels. We tried Beigal Bake, London’s oldest bagel shop. Like many of the locals, we’ve been going ever since.
+44 2077 290616
159 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB

Borough MarketDating back to the 10th century, Borough Market boasts the oldest fruit and vegetable market.  Today, it is one of the best known markets in the country with over 100 quality food stalls. The full market is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm (there is a limited market on Mondays and Tuesdays) and on Saturdays beginning at 8 am. The best time to visit is at lunch to sample products from traders.
www.boroughmarket.org.uk+44 2074 071002
8 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TL


Gordon's Wine BarGordon's Wine Bar is the oldest wine bar in London (and possibly the world) where Rudyard Kipling once lived.  The bar has managed to maintain its original decor over the years, including an an underground wine cellar lit by candles and an outside terrace.  They feature a well-priced, award-winning wine list and their food includes a selection of over 20 cheeses.  They operate on a no reservation policy — so get there early or get a party of 8-10 together to book 'The Cage'.  As the winner of the 2017 Best Bar of the Year Award, they are obviously doing something right!
www.gordonswinebar.com+44 20793 01408
47 Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NE


RulesLocated in the proximity of Covent Garden, Rules is one of London's oldest and most famous restaurants.  The restaurant is known for its traditional British menu (specializing in game, oysters, pies and puddings) and impeccable service.  Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Clark Gable, Laurence Olivier and HG Wells are just some of the famous actors and authors who dined at Rules and have their portraits displayed on the walls.  
www.rules.co.uk+44 2074 071002 
159 Brick Ln, London E1 6SB

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese — Considered one of London's oldest pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was popular among the literary set.  Dickens, Doyle, Tennyson and Twain were among the authors who frequented the pub.  The series of small, cozy rooms are steeped in history and full of atmosphere.  It is definitely worth a a stop for a pint and a bite to eat.
+44 2073 536170
145 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2BU


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Thanksgiving Day

Celebrate in and around St Paul's

St Paul's Cathedral is one of London's most famous landmarks. The Grade 1 listed building sits on the highest point of the City of London and the dome of the Cathedral is one of the highest in the world.

In addition to daily services, St. Paul's hosts special services throughout the year. The annual Thanksgiving Day Service will take place November 23rd beginning at 11 am. The service is free and no tickets are needed.

St Paul's connection to Americans dates back to 1903 when JP Morgan donated funding to provide electricity in the Cathedral. When the American Memorial Chapel within the Cathedral was damaged following World War II, the British people raised funds to have it replaced and it was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958.

The Cathedral will open for sightseeing beginning at 1 pm following the service. Introductory 15-20 minute talks on the history and architecture of the Cathedral and guided 90-minute tours (Typically 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 2 pm daily, including areas not usually open to visitors) can be booked at the guiding desk. Both are included at no extra cost of your admission.

While at St Paul's, there are two picturesque views from and of St Paul's Cathedral worth taking in. Climb 528 steps up to the Golden Gallery of the Cathedral for breathtaking panoramic views Shakespeare Globe, Tate Modern and the Thames.

Also, close by you can take lift* to the terrace of One New Change, a retail and restaurant building. Here you have a chance to enjoy a stunning unobstructed view of St. Paul's Cathedral from 6 am - midnight at no charge.
www.stpauls.co.uk+44 2072 468350
The Chapter House, St Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD


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Countdown to Christmas

Creative Calendars for less than £20

Gone are the days of advent calendars filled only with pieces of chocolate.  While extravagant ones fill the shelves of high-end stores, there are ones that are equally fun and frivolous for a lot less:

BeanBoozled (£15) — BeanBoozled popular Russian Roulette candy game has been made into a Naughty or Nice? calendar.  The advent calendar features 24 packages of randomly mixed jelly bean flavors.  The tasty (and not so tasty) combinations, include: buttered popcorn / rotten egg, caramel corn / moldy cheese, chocolate pudding / canned dog food and tutti fruitti / stinky socks to name a few.  Only for those that are up for a dare!
www.jellybelly.co.uk

Kellogg's (£4) — Kellogg's has released the UK's first breakfast calendar.  The limited edition Variety Advent Calendar features '24 bowls til' Christmas' and is only sold in Tesco stores.  The pack includes classics like Coco Pops, Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies and more.  Considering my parents wouldn't buy us sugary cereals growing up — I have a feeling I am more excited by this one than my kids are.

Mad Beauty (£19.99) — There are 24 mini beauty gifts in all.  The set includes one compact, eye liner and lip liner, two blushers, eye shadows and lipsticks along with five lip glosses.  It even has numerous applicators, brushes, decals and more — everything you need to fill up a makeup bag.  
www.madbeauty.com

Wax Lyrical (£19.99) — Wax Lyrical's Night Before Christmas Calendar features 24 tea lights and tea light holder.  Their popular holiday fragrances Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh, Toasted Cinnamon and Vanilla and Cranberry are included.  With combined burn time of 150 hours, this set will last throughout the holiday season. 

Last, but not least is the world's first Cheese Advent Calendar (£8) featuring 24 individually wrapped cheeses and sold by ASDA.  Flavors include Applewood, Jarlsberg, Mature Cheddar, Red Leicester and Wensleydale varieties.  So far I haven't had luck getting my hands on one let me know if you do!

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Remembrance Sunday

Poignant Poppies

Remembrance Sunday (November 12) is held on the second Sunday in November and honors members of the armed forces. The official national ceremony takes place at Whitehall in London. The ceremony includes two-minutes of silence at 11 am, representing the eleventh hour in which World War I came to end. 

Traditionally, the Queen lays the first poppy wreath. However, this year Prince Charles will perform this duty, while Her Majesty and Prince Phillip watch from a balcony. Other members of the Royal Family, key political leaders and representatives from the armed forces will also lay wreaths.

Nearly a century later, the red poppy remains a popular symbol of remembrance. During World War I, red poppies grew and flourished throughout the war-torn countryside. The flowers were featured in the famous 1915 poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ written by a Canadian Doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae after losing a friend in battle.


In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly...

His poem inspired American, Monia Michael and French woman, Anna Guérin to make and sell red silk poppies — interestingly they were first sold in the US to support disabled veterans. In 1921, the Royal British Legion held its first ‘Poppy Appeal’ and sold nearly 9 million poppies to support World War I veterans. The following year, The Poppy Factory was established and continues today to employ disabled veterans to produce millions of poppies a year.

The Poppy Factory in Richmond offers free 2-hour tours. The presentation covers the history of 
the factory and includes a visit to the production floor where wreaths for the Royal Family along with millions of other remembrance products are made by hand. You will also have a chance to help the charity make paper poppies — particularly popular this time of year. 
www.poppyfactory.org +44 2089 391837
20 Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 6UR

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Bonfire Night English Style

Festive Fireworks & More 

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot...

Bonfire Night (November 5) commemorates the anniversary of the failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Ironically, Guy Fawkes was not the ringleader of the plot. However, Fawkes was the one found in the cellar of the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder. 

Traditional Bonfire Night food and drink, includes Parkin Cake and Mulled Wine. Parkin is a traditional sticky oat, spiced cake (somewhat of a cross between gingerbread and sticky toffee pudding). With the cooler temperatures, mulled wine is one of my favorite winter warmers. Mulled wine is usually made with red wine that is heated, spiced and sweetened.

Of course, the highlight of the national holiday is fireworks  representing the gunpowder. With Bonfire Night falling on Sunday, there will be fireworks (you have likely heard them already!) leading up to and through the weekend. The biggest fireworks shows in London and Surrey are:

Alexander Palace (London) — The Ally Pally’s Fireworks Festival will take place Friday and Saturday. In addition to fireworks, the festival includes a bonfire, family area, DJ / live music, German bier festival and parade. Advance Tickets: Adult £8, Child £6.
www.fireworks.london+44 2083 652121
Alexander Palace Way, London N22 7AY


Imber Court Sports Ground (East Molesey) — Fireworks Live takes place Sunday and features a fireworks display, bonfire, DJ / life music and fun fair. Bonfire 6:30 pm, Live music 7 pm, Fireworks 7:30 pm.  Advance tickets: Adult £8.50, Child £4.50, Family £20.
www.fireworkslive.co.uk+44 2034 411688
Imber Court, Ember Lane, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 0BT

Even if you don’t have a chance to go to a fireworks show, you can set off your own at home. Unlike the US, which limits fireworks to holidays and rural areas, the UK allows fireworks (including those of the aerial and explosive varieties) year-round and in many parts of the country.

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Spirit of Christmas Fair

800+ independent boutiques under one roof

With each passing year the signs of the holidays seem to arrive earlier and earlier.  The Christmas shops of both Harrods and Liberty opened in early September and it is not uncommon to see Christmas and Halloween decor located within the same aisle.

As a matter of principle (and a bit of denial too), I cannot get on board with the trend of holiday shopping until at least the end of October.  The Spirit of Christmas Fair in London running October 30 through November 5 has figured this out.

While it may not be as charming as fairy-lit, traditional holiday markets and comes with an admission fee, there is something to be said of having over 800 vendors displaying their wares, complimentary masterclasses and interactive workshops and tastings too  all indoors no less!

The Food Hall located upstairs features independent artisans, including Royal Warrant holders and Great Taste award-winners along with exhibitors new to the Spirit of Christmas fair. If you have the time, take a break from festive shopping at a sit-down restaurant Mosimann's, royal caterers and private dining club, or enjoy a glass a champagne at one of the Louis Roederer Champagne Bars.

Book tickets in advance to receive 20% off admission. Also, your November 2 - 5 Spirit of Christmas ticket also gains you entry into the Luxury Travel Fair presented by Condé Nast Traveller.
www.spiritofchristmasfair.co.uk+44 1483 229136
Olympia Grand, Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, London, W14 8UX.

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