Archive | November, 2013

Step Twenty-Seven: Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

30 Nov

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So I’ve been making my way round London’s Christmas markets. Second stop: Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.

Christmas and all things Santa really have exploded in the city’s famous park. The organisers as usual go to town with their decoration, festive music, neon lights and fun fair rides and games. They’ve taken the Christmas theme and stretched it further. This isn’t just your average market serving bratwurst and mulled wine.

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There’s an apres-ski bar booming out cheesy tunes, giant santa and polar bear toys to be won, a packed ice rink with sweeping fairy lights and my personal favourite, a carousel – but not just any carousel, a spinning carousel bar.

There’s also the not so Christmasy but year-round fun on offer, like the bright red helter skelter, stacks of flavoured fudge, fish and chips wrapped in paper and Chinese takeaway, of course.

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The rides are a central attraction so naturally we had to try them. Lily was adamant on the big swing that takes you high up above the park and spins you round and round in a not so enjoyable manner. It doesn’t look scary until you realise just how high you are, and how you’re only strapped in by a mini seat belt and gusts of wind start howling in your face. Not quite so wonderland-esque.

But the rest was.

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The details:

Location: Hyde Park. Tube: Marble Arch.

Opening times: 10am-10pm.

Prices: drinks from £4, food from £4, rides average at £5.

Open until 5th January, except Christmas Day.

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Step Twenty-Six: Southbank Centre Christmas market

29 Nov

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Southbank. One of my favourite parts of London. Not just for the views, the beautiful sunsets, the cultural buzz but also the Christmas market.

When I first started my blog, the aim was to do 52 Steps in 52 weeks. It’s been a year since I wrote about the market for the first time, when I was on Step Seven, and although I’m only half way through my Steps and haven’t exactly reached my target, it means I get to revisit the topic again.

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We pretty much did the same fail-proof routine.

Walk up the market, listen to the buskers, ooh and aah at St Paul’s lit up, get into the festive spirit, warm up with some Bailey’s hot chocolate, walk back down the market, touch all the soft Alpaca jumpers and not buy any because I already have five, watch the chimney cakes being made, drink the first mulled wine of the season, pick and try some cheese, take selfie photos in front of the Eye, watch the carousel swing round and finally, the main reason I go to Christmas markets, stuff my face with German food.

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The details:

Location: Queen’s Walk, Southbank. Tube: Waterloo.

Opening times: Mon-Fri, 11am-10pm, Sat-Sun, 10am-10pm.

Prices: drinks from £3, food from £4.

Open until 24th December.

Step Twenty-Five: Maltby Street food tour

12 Nov

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London’s street food scene is mushrooming, and for the real London foodie in the know, Maltby Street market is a must.

While Borough market has a well-established devoted following, and is famous for certain stalls (the raclette), Matlby in Bermondsey isn’t as well known which makes it even more intriguing.

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In terms of appearance, it isn’t the typical food market. Stall after stall line both sides of the narrow street but some back into old warehouse spaces under arches, making them look even more makeshift and quirky. The planks and old scaffolding behind the stalls look a little unstable, but traders have embraced it all and use them as shelves to prop up bottles and hang sign boards from.

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On the Saturday morning that we went, we had to walk single file at times – it get’s that busy. Some people were already enjoying a tipple from bartenders serving drinks from a dresser, while the other option for diners was to take their food to an eating area in an antiques shop, and sit among old bath tubs and sinks. Trendy, but without the East Landan trendos.

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Food options on offer – smoked salmon, pastrami bagels (ultimate Jewish soul food), hummus and beef stew, fillet steak sandwiches and more, and moving onto the sweet stuff – cookies, waffles, French tarts and the like.

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Apart from the food stalls, some well-established businesses have set up shop permanently in the old warehouses, like Bea’s of Bloomsbury and St John’s Butchers, hinting that Bermondsey is well up and coming in London’s foodie revolution. The eateries were already packed by the time we got there, so I’ll definitely be going back for the half-restaurant, half-warehouse dining experience.

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And after the nibbling and eating, we walked around the antique shops which have the most bizarre finds on offer, including a headstone for Simon Cowell that was taken from the London Dungeon.

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Maltby Street is intriguing, and you wouldn’t know it was there unless you were directed. It’s within walking distance of Borough market, which is where our tour, led by funnywoman and guide Emma Parker of Coutours, started.

We were led round the stalls and given tastings, starting off with our morning bread and moving on to explore the raclette, oysters and more.

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The tour isn’t just a case of dine and dash though. At each stop, Emma imparts her wisdom and shares the “secret history” of London’s street food. Who knew fish and chips were a hybrid creation from Ireland and Portugal, and that oysters were the first, and very cheap, example of street food?

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Tours are available to guests staying at Presidential Apartments, luxury suites in Kensington, with pick-up at the apartments, then heading to Borough and then Maltby.

Tour prices: £28pp for minimum two people, or £75 for a family of two adults and up to three children.

Tour times: 10am-1pm.

Call Emma on 07934781 056 to book your place.

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