Friday, December 9, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

The bad thing about winter at this latitude is the fact that it gets dark so early.

The good thing is that Christmas lights are on display from 4:30 in the afternoon.

Last weekend, we decided it was time to brave the holiday shopping madness up in central London. We didn't have much of a plan other than knowing we wanted to test out a new "Mexican" restaurant and get to this place in Hyde Park called the "Winter Wonderland." We didn't know much about either - just that the restaurant was cheap and the wonderland had an ice ring.

Wahaca is apparently owned and operated by a woman that won Masterchef on the BBC. Their blog is here (their website is some crappy Flash animation business that's not worth your time...in fact the blog may not be either). I was tired and hungry by the time we got into the city (early Saturday morning disc golf usually leaves me getting home at 1pm, ready for lunch asap - this was out of the ordinary and I'm a creature of habit). I wasn't sure was positive that any restaurant that called itself a Mexican restaurant here in London would be one I would have to scoff at. This wasn't going to be any different. I had made up my mind. But today was date day where I'm supposed to be sweet and hold hands and not complain. So when we got there and they told us it was going to be a twenty minute wait, I didn't suggest a different restaurant. This is where she wanted to go - this is where we'll go. I picked apart the restaurant, its menu, and its clientele as we waited. I was convinced this would be the worst dining experience of my adult life.

But we were seated on time, and it wasn't long before some food started making its way to our table. Turns out I was just being a bratty, hungry, hypoglycemic little complainer. As soon as I started to eat, everything changed.

The menu has about three different categories of dishes - what we would call appetizers and mains are on there, but there's a middle group as well - something between appetizers and mains. The suggest ordering 2-3 dishes from the middle ground per person. We took them at their word. The dishes came out as they were ready, so there was a steady stream of food coming to our table...

bottom to top: pork tacos (with onion and cilantro and some hot sauce), beans, guac, and kenz's Mexican fondue dish (which had cactus in it)

Get that.

Tostadas: beans, corn, crema, feta, lettuce

Kenz's taquitos
My quesadilla: chorizo and potato

Salted caramel ice cream with a bit of chocolate, cappuccino with a spicy dark chocolate square 
We left feeling rejuvenated - me from the food, Kenz from my sincere apology for being such a petulant little shit on the way there.

For the next two hours, we strolled through the crowded streets shopping for some affordable Christmas gifts. I've never seen so many people roaming the streets in the dark. Everyone was out doing the same thing we were doing and it wasn't that bad, either. We didn't have anywhere we were in a rush to get to - just strolling along, going into whatever store seemed inviting. That's the best way to shop for gifts, in my opinion.

As it turns out, the big shopping street in London - Oxford Street - was shut down for pedestrians:

This went on for almost a mile

Lots of the stores go all out for Xmas decorations

Like these guys on the left. The star above me is one of 50 in the middle of the street.
We finally made it to the Winter Wonderland. Now, what we expected was a prim and proper little holiday destination for city dwellers - some ice rink, overpriced merchandise for sale, maybe a band, etc. What we got was London's version of a state fair!

These pictures won't do the enormity of the "Wonderland" justice. 

Imagine the state fair, only without livestock but with a holiday theme...

We rode that. It went upside down and spun. I was terrified. 

Kenz: "Santa looks like he's farting."
So - yea, a state fair with a holiday theme. But no livestock or vegetables. However, what they lacked in cattle and pumpkins, they made up for in beer and mulled wine. The stalls repeated after about every four - ride/rollercoaster, holiday themed pub, win-a-prize-rigged-game, holiday themed merchandise/food table, repeat. And each of the pubs had their own gimmick.

behind some pub

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Literally. 

Kenz getting festive with some mulled wine. 

Confused?

"Really, David?"

This was the carousel pub. The bar was in the middle and it was spinning. You get the idea. 
We finally made it to the ice rink. 

ZAMBONI

No, we didn't skate. But it was fun to look at. 

The Winter Wonderland Market, where you can get all your holiday themed knick knacks in one spot. 
My favorite of the marketplace stalls - the German meat and cheese makers. I'm not sure they spoke English. 
We went to visit the swans before leaving. Kenz was mesmerized by them! She had never been close to a swan before in her life, and these guys get real close to you. I mean, she stood there for fifteen minutes, just staring at them - not talking to me, not moving, nothing. Just staring at the swans.

Stop looking at me, Swan!

They're the Queen's, right?


One happy swan watcher. She made that scarf, BTW. 
We plan on revisiting Brick Lane tomorrow to do some last minute shopping before we head back across the pond for the holiday.

I assume that those who read this blog care about the London stuff, so I'm not planning on posting while we're in America. We will be back to London on January 9th. Lemme know if you care one way or the other - if I get enough emails telling me/us to update while we're in America, I/we may do so. Whatevs.

Much love to you and your family these next few weeks! Enjoy the company and the giving!

******

P.S. I figured I'd upload a few pictures of disc golf just because...


The regular Saturday morning crew...



18th Hole




Trying to warm my hands. That's Sam, my Hyzer Cup partner. 

Just some dudes throwin' plastic.


*****

And, for those of you who made it THIS far, I give you yet another treat:

Kenz made another pumpkin pie last weekend. It lasted three days, and she said she was pacing herself. I love it. Hilarious. She ate it for breakfast each morning...

video