I started at the German Christmas Market on Southbank. Actually I started at London Bridge tube station and chose to walk about two miles along the Thames to the German Christmas Market on Southbank because I didn't think it would be that far. It was a nice morning though, and a nice walk, so I can't really complain. Plus when I finally arrived, I made a beeline for the first "Glühwein" sign I saw. Really must make some of that on Christmas this year. Overall the market was a little bit disappointing... not a lot in the way of German-themed shopping stalls. They didn't even have those giant heart-shaped cookies you wear around your neck, you know the ones... No? Alright, hold on, we'll get to that later.
Since I was just on the other side of the river from Big Ben (and the entrance to the nearest tube station), I decided to meander across Westminster Bridge. It was just a bit sunny, and I suddenly realized I was witnessing a rare phenomenon: the Westminster Bridge Dicks!
Yes, I am twelve. Also HEE! Look at all the dicks!
Close up dicks. This will never not be funny.
That might have been the highlight of my day, I'm not gonnna lie.
Next stop was Hyde Park, where they set up something known as Winter Wonderland each year. I wasn't quite sure what to expect until I walked up to the entrance and saw this guy:
Basically the place was a seething mass of hyperactive children, on-the-edge-of-their-rope parents, and couples holding hands and schmooping at each other. I did my best to ignore the crowds and just take in the insanity around me. The cup of mulled mead (a brand called Viking's Blood, RAR!) really helped.
One thing I found a bit odd was how German the Winter Wonderland was. It turned out to be about 85% more German than the German Christmas Market I'd just left. In fact, they had dozens of those cookie necklace things I was talking about:
It's a thing in Germany. Don't ask.
Another thing that was rather insane was the whole carnival set-up. It was basically like an enormous traveling circus except everything was Christmas themed. And German. They had "Santa's Mirror Maze" and a "Christmas Coaster" and the "Barrel of Laughs" in which you pretended you were Christmas Cider being spun in a cask. Frankly I have no idea what's even going on here:
Except that it's mostly in German.
Oh, and this was also randomly happening:
It was the "Reindeer Flight Ride." I'm not joking.
I pretty much gave up any expectation when I came upon this:
Nothing says Merry Christmas! like a haunted house.
That's actually a Zombie!Santa climbing the tower.
"See you on Christmas, kids! Braaaaaaaaiiiiinsssssss..."
By the time I wound my way through to the end, I was frankly kind of relieved. I'm still not exactly sure what happened inside the gates of Winter Wonderland, but I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to talk about it or remember too much.
I next wandered down to Harrod's Department Store for their supposedly legendary Christmas window displays. I didn't get a chance to take any pictures because the street was rather busy and I didn't want to be one of those douchey types who stops traffic to snap a picture of everything. Also the windows weren't so much Christmas themed as Disney-princess themed, which isn't really my cup of tea, so I just kept wandering until I got back to the tube and headed towards Covent Garden.
This was definitely the most pleasant and Christmas-y part of the trip. It was crowded as well, but there was a bit more breathing room and the Christmas decor was a bit less... er... terrifying, shall we say? Although I did stumble upon this gem: a Christmas tree made of Jack Daniels barrels.
Traditional British decor.
Actually the one thing all the Christmas markets had in common (including Winter Wonderland... ESPECIALLY Winter Wonderland) was that there was plenty of booze to be had. Not just beer and wine either, but hard liquor in shot and bomb form. You have to hand it to the Brits (and possibly Europeans in general), they never lack in the calming restorative nectar department. Bless them.
I meant to also go to Trafalgar Square, but somehow got it mixed up in my head with Tottenham Court Road, and basically when I realized I didn't know which tube station to go to, I decided I was tired enough to head home. So I did.
Here's a bonus picture, actually taken about a month ago when the famous Oxford Street Christmas lights first went up:
(In case you can't make out the picture, it's one elf diving into a jar of Marmite while another barfs into his hat. The caption beneath says "You either love it or hate it." For the record, I'm the barfing elf. Eurgh, Marmite.)
Random observation of the day: The Little Italy bagel sandwich from Bagel Factory is one of the most delicious things on the planet. I got to have one today. Which means no matter how annoyed I got by people bumping into me or how sore my feet became by the time I went home, today was an amazing day. It's the little things that do it sometimes.