Long-haul flights and Christmas lights

It’s been a while since my last post, before Christmas actually. A post that was hastily written at the airport before my husband and I boarded a plane for London.

And when your departure point is Auckland, New Zealand it means you’re about to embark on quite a journey. Flying with Thai Airways our flight path was via Bangkok. So we’re talking 12 hours give or take to Bangkok and then another 12 hours to London. It’s a commitment, that’s for sure. But all worth it when you get to the other end. At least, that’s what I try to tell myself as I squirm in my seat trying to get comfortable (a useless endeavour) and trawl through the movies on offer hoping to find something that will slake the boredom.

But it really is worth it when you finally arrive. Even though I spent four years living in London and return regularly, I still, every time, get a thrill when that plane lands at Heathrow. I’m in London! There is something about the city that makes me fall back in love with it each time I visit. For many reasons. Some of my favourite people live there so it’s always a treat to catch up with them. I love the history, the shopping, the energy, its proximity to my beloved Europe. When I’m up in central London I feel like I’m at the centre of everything.

So imagine how that experience is magnified when you visit at Christmastime. My husband is English and it’s been too long since we’ve had a Christmas with his family. I should point out that this has been through his choosing as he much prefers to visit in the summertime. We decided 2017 was the year we would brave an English winter and spend Christmas with our family on the other side of the world. And yes, it literally is the other side of the world from New Zealand.

On the morning we arrived in London it was 1°C. We’d left behind sunshine and soaring summer temperatures in Auckland. But there was no point dwelling on that. We weren’t there for the weather.

My husband’s parents always pick us up from the airport and the first stop is his sister’s house. I don’t know about anyone else but there are only two things I’m interested in after a long-haul flight. A cup of tea and a shower. And it usually happens in that order. Slowly but surely I start to feel human again.

What are your secrets when it comes to long-haul flights? Let me know your little habits and tricks to get through those tedious hours on an aeroplane. If you’re one of those people who fall asleep for most of it then I definitely don’t want to hear from you. I never sleep a wink on planes and am incredibly envious of those who can.

But I suppose I’m lucky in the sense that I have no fear of flying. I love being in the air, in any sized aircraft. And my absolute favourite part is taking off. Especially when it’s a long-haul flight. Is it not the most incredible thing that those massive jumbos get in the air? What a feat of engineering and what a marvellous thing it was for humankind when flight was invented. Imagine the world without it? No, thanks!

So back to the trip. We timed our arrival to be a week or so before Christmas. My husband and I wanted time to shop and buy up large on the gift front. Considering it was almost 10 years since we’d had a Christmas with our London family we wanted to spoil them. Those first two days of shopping – jet lag and all – were so much fun.

But my highlight of the week was a trip into London to meet up with a friend.

My first stop was Selfridge’s. A shopping trip to London is not complete without a wander through this fabulous department store. If you need to do a spot of makeup shopping this is a great place to start. I made straight for the Tom Ford counter – my credit card ready to go.

And it’s not as though you can miss Selfridge’s as you make your way up Oxford Street. Look how beautiful it is at Christmastime.

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By the time I’d finished at Selfridge’s I realised I hadn’t left myself enough time to get to Fortnum & Mason where I was meeting my friend. No matter. Time for my first black cab journey. There is something very reassuring about climbing into a black cab. Your driver will know exactly where to go without having to refer to a map or a SatNav and you can be absolutely assured that he will take the fastest route to get there.

Once again, shopping at Fortnum & Mason – always a delightful experience – is elevated at Christmastime. They have the most divine goodies on offer. My friend and I both grabbed a basket and began the rounds. The first thing to enter my basket was a packet of their signature mince pies. It’s my personal belief that a mince pie is one of the best things about Christmas. This was closely followed by spiced Christmas biscuits, a jar of their signature marmalade and a jar of rum butter – a treat for my husband.

Fortnum & Mason can be found at 181 Piccadilly. Not to be missed.

We then moved on to one of London’s best chocolate shops – Charbonnel et Walker. My friend told me that her mother had been taking her to this chocolate shop since she was a child. It is definitely a worthwhile stop if you’re in the vicinity of Old Bond Street – head for The Royal Arcade and it’s no. 1. You can’t miss it.

Once shopping was done the day only got better. My friend treated me to a late lunch at The Wolseley. If you’re not familiar with this establishment, let me enlighten you. The Wolseley is a cafe/restaurant – although to call it either seems to not do it justice. Very European in style, open all day and into the evening and is a great place to enjoy a meal at any time. They also do a gorgeous afternoon tea (which I returned for later in the holiday – I’ll tell you all about that in a later post).

I had a divine omelette followed by florentines and a pot of the most delicious tea. So delicious my friend and I had to order a second pot each. It was three hours before we made our way out into the early London evening.

The Wolseley can be found at 160 Piccadilly. The closest station is Green Park where my friend and I finally parted. I was headed for the Jubilee Line where I could be whisked up to Bond Street and the Central Line in just one stop. But instead of heading for the Central Line and home I decided to alight at Bond Street. It was dark by that stage and I wanted to see the Christmas lights on Oxford Street. It was a worthwhile detour. I particularly loved the trio of Debenhams, House of Fraser and John Lewis as you make for Oxford Circus. What a spectacle.

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It really is a wonderful place to be at Christmastime.

But the holiday was only just beginning. We weren’t due to fly home until 11th January. Stay tuned for my next post.

 

 

 

 

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