Best of 2017 — Part II

Top 5 posts

And now for the best of the best . . .

5. Downton Abbey Fans — Who knew that the historical period drama would become such an international hit? Abbey Fans

4. Oldies but Goodies — Five of the oldest places to eat and drink in London that are still worth going to today. but Goodies

3. Christmas Markets — Visit three markets in under two hours without boarding a plane. Markets

2. Iconic London Shops — Founded in 1707, Fortnum & Mason located in Piccadilly is considered to be London's oldest department store. London Shops

1. Kids Week - Kids Go Free — Each year during the month of August, kids 16 and under go free with a full price paid adult ticket (and two additional children can go half price). Week Kids Go Free

That's a wrap for 2017. While Kids Week isn't until August, you don't have to wait until then to enjoy theatre discounts. Watch this space next week . . .

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Best of 2017

Top 10 posts — Part I

What better way to start the New Year than to take a look back at the top 10 posts from 2017. How many have you checked off?

10. London Light Trail — London is truly magical during the holidays — catch some of the best lights and decorations the capital has to offer. Light Trail

9. 10 Bridges of London — Part I — As part of a weekly hiking group, we would take a break from the Surrey hills and hit the bridges of London. Bridges of London

8. Spirit of Christmas Fair — With each passing year, the signs of the holidays seem to arrive earlier and earlier. of Christmas Fair

7. Bonfire Night English Style — Bonfire Night (November 5) commemorates the anniversary of the failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Night English Style

6. Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden — It is hard to put into words just how beautiful this garden in Ockley is. Peschar Sculpture Garden

If you missed these, mark your diary to catch them in 2018. Best of 2017 - Part II will feature the top 5 posts from 2017.

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Honor & Happiness

Go hand in hand

During my parents’ most recent visit to J.C. Dragon Top Elementary School in a remote area of Sichuan Province, China, they were fortunate to participate in some of the preschoolers week-long activities and teachings around moral virtues. Dragon Top was built by my family in 2003 to honor my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. T.C. Chao.

One central theme for the week was 孝, or filial piety. Filial piety means to be good to and to take care of one's parents by showing courtesy, love, respect and support. This includes honoring your family name throughout your parents’ lives as well as your own.

It is hard not to be drawn to the children at Dragon Top. The girl pictured in the middle of the photo seems to have taken the lesson quite enthusiastically! The symbolic gesture of holding two fingers up with the palm outward is a sign of happiness and positivity in Chinese culture.

A portion of the proceeds from the London via Surrey book app goes to support Dragon Top. Thank you readers and subscribers for helping me honor my family and for providing these children with valuable life-long lessons!

Warmest wishes to those you hold dear;
And look forward to returning with posts in the New Year!

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Christmas Markets

3 markets in under 2 hours

With Christmas falling on a Monday this year, everything feels a bit more rushed than usual. Where to find last minute gifts, while steering clear of traditional shops and enjoy a bit of festive fun at the same time:
Start at Waterloo Station and walk 5 minutes to Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre (Until December 30th) — Conveniently located by Waterloo station, 50 wooden chalets dot the river as part of Southbank Centre's Winter Market. In additional to gift vendors, the market features food of all types from traditional bratwurst and mulled wine to fried chicken and vegan street food. There are opportunities to warm up in a Finnish sauna located in Queen Elizabeth Roof Terrace or Jimmy's Winter Lodge located on the riverside.   
Walk 19 minutes to Leicester Square

Leicester Square (Until January 8th) — For the second year, the heart of Leicester Square is transformed to a Christmas market featuring 25 stalls of savory and sweet treats along with a variety of handcrafted and unique gifts.  Take a break from Christmas in Leicester Square shopping to visit the grotto or watch a show in the vintage spiegeltent (Dutch for 'mirror tent').  Produced by Underbelly, there is a wide range of shows to enjoy for all different age groups.  
Walk 20 minutes to Waterloo and take 29 minute Southwest Train to Kingston and walk 5 minutes to Kingston Market

Kingston Market (Until December 31st) — Since the 1200's, Kingston Upon Thames has been home to an Ancient Market. During the holidays, the number of stalls more than doubles to 75. The layout of the market is based on the Berlin Christmas market — the largest in Germany.  The market includes two outdoor bar areas along with German-style street food and cuisine from around the world. New this year is Candy Cane Forest complete with entertainment, rides and other fun for kids.

It is also worth stopping in at the Eden Crafts Marquee located on All Saints Parish Church Green and The Market House located in the middle of the Ancient Market Place.  With so many shopping choices, it is no wonder that Kingston is on track to become the largest towns hosting a Christmas event in the UK.    

The walk at and between markets will keep you warm and justify the mulled wine and other holiday treats you'll encounter along the way!

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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. 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! 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. 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. 2072 468350
The Chapter House, St Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD

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