HOME IS WHERE THE RED BUSES ARE

The Big Smoke has been my home away from home since the age of 15. A city I was always in love with from a distance but only became a second home in the second half of my teens. I traveled there at least once a month until I was 18 which is quite a lot of trips when you’re only 15, still at school/college with only an 8 hour weekend contract to fund your trips. I adored the city and my life at the time pretty much revolved around my trips there, going to the theatre and seeing friends I’d made. That’s why at the age of 18, the university I chose was right outside of London, only 20 minutes on the mainline to the city centre. I have had many crazy adventures in my country’s capital, oh the stories I could tell but maybe another time. This year until last week, I had only been to London twice and both were work related. Once for my assessment day and one for my flight to training. I saw one of my friends but didn’t get to see any of my beloved city. My mum has always wanted to check out Winter Wonderland and with Christmas approaching, I thought there was no better time to treat her with a trip.

After a stressful morning trying to get the train station on time followed by a three and a half hour journey with overpriced toasties and an incredibly nosey neighbour, we arrived in Kings Cross just before 1pm. Dropping our bags at the hotel around the corner, we jumped on the tube and headed for a little wander around Covent Garden. Over the years, Covent Garden has slightly lost its charm for me. It used to be full of busy markets and cute, unique little shops. Now, the markets are full of tack and the shops are all overpriced designers. It’s perfect to splurge on Kurt Geiger shoes, have a Mac makeover or visit the Apple store but it’s not the Covent Garden I know and love. Yet, I still find myself in Covent Garden. Despite everything, it still has a certain charm. The buskers are still around providing entertainment and the area’s photogenic qualities have not been masked by commercialism. If it is your first time in London definitely worth a visit, I’m not saying it isn’t worth it. However, my own visits are now filled with nostalgia of how it used to be.

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A stroll down the Strand and across the road from Trafalgar Square we picked up our afternoon tea bus tour with BB Bakery which was totally cute and will have its own little blog post later in the week.

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After the tour, we hopped back on the tube and headed over to Winter Wonderland. I think my first visit was when I was either 15 or 16 and while I haven’t visited every single year, I have returned on quite a few occasions  and every time it is bigger and better than before. This year, Winter Wonderland is huge! Winter Wonderland is an event in Hyde Park, London which takes place every year from late November until just after New Year. It is the ultimate Christmas event and the perfect place to get a dose of festive spirit. Food, drink, gift stalls, ice skating, rides, ferris wheel and the recent addition of The Magical Ice Kingdom.  This year also saw the addition of the Bavarian Village selling beer, mulled wine  and various sausages set up like a Christmas market with a rather creepy, incredibly tall character watching over. This year I didn’t pull my skates on or spend an extortiante amount of money on a ride. Just a cute little stroll checking out Angels Market and soaking up the festive atmosphere but it was still incredibly Christmassy. It just makes you smile. London is best to visit over Christmas because it is just so happy and magical.

That evening was my first dose of theatre in over 9 months, unheard of for me. Mamma Mia the movie is a firm favourite of mine and my mum’s so over the years I have continuously put off seeing it with the intention of one day seeing it with her. So that is exactly what we did and boy was it worth the wait. There is something so special about a live performance. It’s not something I can explain but I adore the theatre. It was so nice to be back. The show was amazing, incredibly choreographed, hilarious and filled with angelic vocals. The addition of two of my favourite West End actresses and total babes definitely added to it. Dianne Pilkington who plays Donna and whose past credits include Wicked and Les Mis, was out of this world. Vocal perfection and her portrayal of the character was not the image of Donna I have in my head but she has made the role her own and was outstanding. Mazz Murray, best known for her role as Killer Queen in We Will Rock You was out of this world. I didn’t expect any less but the Tanya she delivered was spot on. Funny, charming and my God what a voice!!

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We ended the night with a McDonald’s in bed. Classy! The second my head hit the pillow, I was out and had a marvellous sleep. The second day, we headed over to Oxford Street, spending the entire day there doing what we do best… shopping! A mile of all the stores, Oxford Street is THE place to shop. Made even better at Christmas with the scatter of Christmassy lights and Selfridges window display (usually… this year I didn’t get it, not the slightest bit Christmassy and quite honestly naff). We spent hours in Primark Tottenham Court Road, had a cheeky Nando’s and dipped in and out of shops.

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Eventually it was time to leave so we hopped on the bus to head back to Kings Cross. The bus got stuck in traffic and we still had to pick the bag up from the hotel. Time was ticking, we were already catching the last train home and I started to panic. Dragging us off the bus, I caught a cab, something I never do in London, realising I had no money on me and the driver didn’t accept card. More panic set in but the cab driver was amazing. Took a magical short cut, pulled up at a cash point and dropped us off at the hotel. We grabbed the bag and ran across the road to the station with 10 minutes to spare to walk down the platform. Phew!

An amazing, mother – daughter trip with a stressful end but a fantastic time. Stay tuned for the BB Bakery bus post and I’m sure there will be many, MANY more London adventures to share in the future!

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