London – Part 2: The West End

Now before we go any further, if you are planning a cultural / sightseeing/ shopping trip to a big city, and money is at all limited, the first thing you must do is to pack a picnic.  As I mentioned yesterday, eating at the site of an accepted landmark is reckless and foolhardy.  Their sole purpose is to fleece hapless tourists of their hard earned euros / dollars/ yen and no amount of weeping and cries of “I’m not a Tourist, I’m a Free Man!” will melt their hardened capitalist hearts.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  Backpack, picnic, flask of cocoa; thirty quid more in your pocket to spend on fridge magnets and fudge.  That was Top Tip No. 1

Oxford StreetWe left St Paul’s and headed along the Central Line to Oxford Circus, where we emerged into a throng of more people than I have ever seen in my life, despite being a Londoner by birth.  Apparently, last Saturday is the busiest Saturday of the year.  Top Tip No. 2 – do not visit the West End of London on this day. 

In the past, Selfridges department store has had the most fabulous window displays; marvellous dioramas of fairy tales or children’s stories, or cats or something, all with moving figures and sparkly stuff.  This year there were groovily arranged piles of merchandise with mannequins with Betty Boop style heads on.   Boy the Younger liked it because it was bright and colourful, but Boy the Elder and I felt that we’d walked a sod of a long way to see a Shrine to Mammon.  We wandered around the store for a few minutes but were totally overwhelmed by the people and the stench of perfume nearly set my asthma off.

We went back into Oxford Street and walked slowly along, looking at all the shops and enjoying a variety of people you simply don’t get in Market Harborough.  Remind me another time to talk about hats.  A lot of the shops were having a fun with their displays and there were loads of hospitality girls and demonstrations going on.  Debenhams had a fashion show in their main window which was brilliant, hosted by a really gregarious and attractive person who, whilst showing off some really nice gear, nevertheless had his tongue firmly in his cheek. 

Window display at HamelysWe bought some freshly baked triple chocolate cookies from a tiny shop in an arcade and proceeded with all speed to Regent Street for the Hamleys experience.  The windows there were really lovely; huge bears in clothes doing baking and moving about.  That’s more like it.  There were so many people trying to get in, that there were security staff on every door, stairwell and escalator and they were letting the shoppers in in batches when enough other people had left.

It was completely overwhelming and again, although the boys loved it, there was none of the sense of ‘specialness’ that one used to get in Hamleys, the feeling that you were in a special place full of special toys.  We have a toyshop in Leicester called Dominos which is equally good and considerably cheaper.  I gave the chaps £5 each to spend as they saw fit; BTE bought an Airfix model and BTY found a Lego figure which he adores … which was lucky as there was precious little else they could have afforded.  Top Tip No. 3 – support your local toy shop, if you are still fortunate enough to have such a thing.

Regent Street lights

Home beckoned, and we sauntered down Regent Street, enjoying the ‘Narnia’ themed lights, to Piccadilly Circus.  It was quite touching how excited BTE was to see the huge flashing advertising board on the corner in real life and to see Eros silhouetted against it.  We fought our way onto the tube and settled into the inevitable monologue of BTY reading out every single station name and counting the number of stops left until Hatton Cross.

We arrived back at the Aged Parent’s at about 7 o’clock, to be greeted with steaming plates of sausages and mash, tired but thoroughly excited by our day.  When Granny asked the boys what had been their favourite bit, I was hugely gratified when they answered (with absolutely no prompting from me) that it had been St Paul’s.  With the triple chocolate cookies coming a very close second.

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10 Comments

Filed under Community and shopping, Family and Friends, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Transport

10 responses to “London – Part 2: The West End

  1. Morag

    Top Tip number 4 – always visit London with the Wartime Housewife as a guide!

    Sounds like you had a great time. As you say, though, it’s all about Mammon these days, isn’t it. 😦

  2. Those cookies/biscuits do sound good, they’d probably be high up on my list too.

  3. Such good advice about packing a picnic. London prices are obscene for practically anything, and I feel it very keenly coming from Bangkok.

  4. Sue

    I admire you for ploughing through crowds of Christmas shoppers. I can’t think of anything worse. The crowds in Worcester are enough for me.

    You’re absolutely right about picnics.

  5. Kyla

    Heart warming, so pleased you enjoyed your weekend.

  6. wartimehousewife

    Actually, the other thing I meant to say in the article was how good humoured everyone was. I was genuinely struck by how courteous and friendly the other shoppers were being and there was a lovely atmosphere of people having a good time. Maybe I’m mellowing, but I don’t remember the London streets being like that.

  7. Rabelais

    Loved this Wartime. I’ve been to London on many occasions but never Christmas shopping and it’s sounds great from your post. I imagine myself walking around the set of a Richard Curtis Rom-Com everytime I think of it.

    The picture of Santa is hilarious. I used to be such an old curmudgeon (actually I was a young curmudgeon now I come to think about it) at Christmas. A festival that was both christian and capitalist just made my blood run cold. But since the two wee Rabs came along and I drifted into full time, soul destroying employment, I really enjoy it Christmas now. I just look at it as a great big blow-out in the dead of winter at the end of the year. And I think, I’ve earned it.

    Reading this post is the first time I’ve sensed Christmas this year, and it was lovely. Cheers Wartime.

  8. Bunty

    Sorry … a bit confused … was it the bears in Hamleys window who made the triple chocolate cookies ????

  9. Sister the Second

    I too used to live in London when I was young but I am now a complete country mouse. On the odd occasions that I have t0 go to London, I find it a really harrowing experience and not enjoyable at all. I love the theatre and sometimes go to see a show but I find all the pushing, shoving, selfish crowds unpleasant rather than exciting, which takes the shine off the theatre experience a little.

  10. Ron Combo

    Nest time WH, pop into The French House in Dean Street and neck a Christmas Pudding Vodka. Ah, the true Spirit of Christmas! Lovely post, by the way.

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