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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