London's Christmas Winter Wonderland

Today we took a wintery trip to London for a taste of the Christmas Celebrations. When we turned on the radio to listen for weather and traffic updates we discovered that most of the South east was covered in another blanket of snow overnight. We took great care on our slipperly local roads and were relieved to find that all the major roads had already been gritted in preparation for today's traffic.

Only ten minutes from home we discovered that the landscape had indeed been sprinkled with fresh snow. QEII park and Butser Hill (which we have visited a few times) was beautifully white. As we got further north the volume of snow became obviously more intense so we decided to stop off at The Devil's Punchbowl, at Hindhead, for a play in the snow. It was quite deep here ... approximately 1/2 a foot and really fluffy. After a few snow ball fights we headed back to the car and finished our trip to Richmond station. Once there, we took advantage of the all-day travel cards offered and borded a train for Waterloo station and then a bus into Hyde Park for their Winter Wonderland.

We had no idea just how big the Winter Wonderland was going to be. Hyde Park takes up 20 acres of land and a large portion of this was dedicated to this amazing Christmas extravaganza. It was like a giant exhibition ground, with fairground rides, amuzements, German-style stalls with gingerbread... and, of course, the massive outdoor ice rink.

The experience of skating outside at Hyde Park is something we will never forget. Apparently our practice at Gosport Ice rink was a very good idea. Matt instantly took to the middle of the rink without holding on. Kerry and Zane only took one go around to give up on trying to go around the more-unexperienced skaters, who were hogging the barrier walls, and take the leap into the main part of the rink....whoo hoo! Even Darian managed to go around withouth the barriers, holding on to Matts hand for support. Matt and Kerry enjoyed a couple of romantic laps holding hands as well... very nice. Darian was feeling a little unwell today (asthma playing havoc) so took lots of rests and, unfortunately, missed out on photo on the ice. Thankfully we managed to get him on the mobile camera later and.... with a little photoshop magic ... we now have a nice family pic to show for our efforts.

Next up we hopped on the large wheel (about the same size as the Southbank Wheel in Qld) for some overhead views of Hyde Park... just lovely. Then, it was off in the bus again to head into London's own Southbank for our planned activities there.... a Sunset Christmas cruise along the Thames and an evening flight on the London Eye.

As we headed inside the boat for the Christmas cruise Matt spotted some missletoe hanging.... and, with a twinkle in his eye, cornered Kerry for a quick smooch... inspiring the couples behind us to stop and do the same thing ... how romantic! The cruise took 40 minutes and was accompanied by a glass of bubbly for everyone (non-alcoholic for the kids, of course). The sun had just gone down for the day so the buildings along the River Thames were now all lit up beautifully. With commentry all the way, from the cruise coordinators, we learned loads of history about London.... loads of fun.

Once we got off the cruise we headed to the queue for the London Eye. Brilliant timing! Every other time we have been past the Eye there has been a massive line up of people waiting. We had only a 5 minute wait and a capsule with only a small group of people in it. London, by night, is just beautiful. We could see all the parliament buildings, The Clock Tower (often incorrectly called Big Ben), The Tower Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral... and just about everything else. It makes the Southbank Wheel in Australia look tiny. It is absolutely massive. Originally called the Millenium Wheel when it was opened in 2000, it was only supposed to be on London's Southbank for 5 years. It is now there until at least 2016 (when it's current contract expires). It takes millions of passengers up in to the sky for London's views every year... so we are sure it will be there for a long time to come. A definate must-do for anyone visiting London.

Finally, in much need of a rest after our crazy schedule, we stopped at a noodle bar next to the London Eye for dinner. We paid very little for an all-you-can-eat Chinese dinner.

Finally, we hopped back on a bus and headed off in search of Hamley's Toy Store again, hoping to see some lovely Christmas displays. We were not dissappointed. Once again, the boys totally loved Hamley's. Darian came to life when he saw all the Christmas Teddy Bears. Before we headed home again we bought ourselves a lovely Hamley's Christmas snow globe.... something to treasure for many years to come!

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