As I said in my last post, I wasn’t going home for Christmas, so I went to London instead! Remember last year, when I was supposed to go home but then at the very last second I couldn’t because I was super sick. So instead, I used the money I would have spent at home and – once I was better – went to London for a weekend to stay in a hotel and see a show? And I got a great deal at Hotel Russell for a teeny, tiny room in a super swanky hotel for a non-super swanky price? I got the same deal again, but this time instead of just 2 nights, I got it for 4 and it turned out to be an even better deal. Seriously guys, if you’re traveling over the holidays, and you’re by yourself (so you don’t mind a petit room) look into Hotel Russell, cause they have some sweet deals on tiny rooms.
Anyway, I went to London for four nights, arriving early afternoon on Monday the 22nd and leaving at noon on Friday the 26th. This meant I would be in London for actual Christmas. Now, before you ask: yes I know all about the fantastic Christmas lights that adorn the entire city at this time of year; yes I spent many an evening wandering the streets to see them; yes I took photos of these lights; no the photos don’t look as good as the actual lights did in person; no I’m not going to post any pictures of Christmas lights for this exact reason. Sorry. If you’re really curious, google it.
Now that that’s settled, what did I actually do for the week? Well, of course, I went to see a play but I’ll talk about that in my next post. It deserves its own entry. But on Tuesday, my first full day in London, I went on a hunt. I’m sure I’ve lamented before about how there’s always something to do in London. This holiday season was no exception. You see, there’s a new Paddington Bear movie coming out this week and so, in order to promote the movie, and help a children’s charity, the Paddington Trail was created. 50 Paddington statues were designed by a variety of celebrities such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Emma Watson, Kate Moss, Stephen Frye etc. and displayed all over the city. For the entire month you can do the Paddington Trail Hunt for charity and find all the bears. Then, at the end of December, the bears will be taken down and auctioned off, with all the money going to the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).
Naturally, I partook. I could have printed out a map of all the bears but that’s for amateurs. Instead, I wrote out – in words – how to get from one bear to the next, like a human GPS. I was hoping my typed directions would work because I actually had no map at all. Then, I accidentally forgot to print them out before school ended (I have no printer at home) so I spent a Saturday writing all the directions out by hand. I paused for a moment and wondered if I was putting too much effort into this childish hunt but was swiftly reassured by Kali, who pointed out – what else did I have to do with my time? True.
So, written directions in hand, I set out. I spent several hours (5) walking and tubing around London to find as many bears as I could of the 50. But I purposely saved the ones near my hotel and the Tourist Loop for Christmas Day because they were within walking distance of the hotel and there would be no public transit of any kind on Christmas, so I would need something to entertain me.
I’ll tell you now, I didn’t find all of them. There were some, like the one at Heathrow, that were too far flung and I really just didn’t want to go all the way out and back. And then there was the bear at Hamley’s. I tried twice to find this guy. In case you don’t know, Hamley’s is a large toy store on Regent Street, off of Oxford Street – arguably London’s busiest shopping street. I figured if I rocked up to Hamley’s right when it opened it would be fine. I could pop in, snap a photo and leave before the two-days-before-Christmas-crowds appeared. Wrong. There was a barricade blocking off part of the road so that the crowd of people waiting outside for Hamley’s to open, which had spilled off the sidewalk and into the road, were not mowed down by passing cars. Plus, there were people outside dressed as elves, dancing and ringing bells. No thank you. I quite literally turned tail and ran. I tried the next day to just zip in for a second on my way to the theatre but a toy store on Christmas Eve is the stuff of nightmares. Never have I regretted a life choice so swiftly and so completely. From the moment I stepped in I started fighting my way out. I never did find that Hamley’s bear.
But I did find all the bears I wanted to, including Sherlock Bear, Paddington Lloyd Webbear and Shakesbear. I won’t post all the photos here because there were too many but here are a few:
And I did do my part for charity too, stopping by Selfridge’s to purchase a special edition miniature glass Paddington, and donating.
After getting back to the hotel and having a nap, I headed out again into the evening to meet my university friend, Spencer, who had recently moved to London, for dinner (I mean I met him for dinner, not that he moved to London just for dinner). Which was a great way to finish the night.
We’re going on a bear hunt!
We’re gonna catch a big one!
I’m not afraid
– We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen)