Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Christmas day out in London

The ritual of afternoon tea owes its origins to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. As a young women in the early 1800s she lived during a time when it was common to eat only two main meals a day, with breakfast scheduled early in the morning and dinner occurring late in the evening. Weakened and irritated by hunger pangs each day, she decided to schedule time to take tea and snack each afternoon. This private ceremony was firstly done furtively in her bedroom, but over time well-heeled acquaintances joined her and the practise was perpetuated.  

Now in 2014, we estimate that together Sarah and I have had around ten afternoon teas together, obviously excluding the mid-afternoon snack and cup of tea we have on most days off together. But what has now become known as a traditional afternoon tea tiny sandwiches, scones, cakes and lots of tea, is not only a perfect combination of some of our favourite things, but is also a very special way to while away the afternoon together. And so we find ourselves looking for any occasion to book an afternoon tea, either in our home city or in another beautiful British location.

This weekend we went to London! Being only an hour and fifteen minutes away by train, it is surprisingly easy to get to our capital city, which makes it perfect for a day escape, and also means Lauren doesn't have to drive! We arrived around lunchtime and made our way to Covent Garden. When we first visited London together in 2005, Covent Garden was the first area we saw, so it has lovely memories. Plus, it's so pretty at Christmas time.

Covent Garden, a fruit and vegetable market in origin, is now a very busy and popular area of London full of shops, restaurants and cafes, and possibly most known for it's street performers who attract large crowds, and who seem to differ from day to day. It is very easy to see why it is so popular, it is a beautiful piece of architecture, even more so when decorated for Christmas! After enjoying the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden for a short while we made our way to the hotel in which we had afternoon tea booked, which was only a few minutes walk away. 

The 5* hotel was beautiful and modern, and we could easily have checked ourselves in for the night if it wasn't for the small black bear we'd left at home! The traditional afternoon tea is served up and down the country, in most hotels and restaurants, but more recently a new trend is emerging - afternoon tea with a twist! Christmas afternoon tea is now a very popular festive event, but many hotels also serve fashion themed tea, teas based on history, and teas themed around films. The latter of which this hotel had chosen, and so our tea was themed around one of my favourite films, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!
After gorgeous tiny sandwiches, beautiful miniature tarts and pies, and choosing our Christmas spiced tea, we were then served an amazing selection of deserts -  mulled apple eton mess, mince pie flavoured candy floss, cheesecake in a golden chocolate egg, gingerbread cake pops, chocolate milk, cinnamon brioche and of course, scones with jam and cream!

It was absolutely sensational, and made even more so by the wonderful company. We really are each others best friends, and it's so much fun spending our hard earned money on such wonderful dates. All of a sudden we had lost a couple of hours, and gained a couple of pounds!

We left the hotel back in to the crisp cold air and day had turned to night! Which was perfect timing as we had planned to spend the rest of the day wandering round London to see the Christmas lights.

Covent Garden looking beautiful in the dark

Carnaby Street
Oxford Street
Window displays at Liberty
We walked from Covent Garden, to Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, up Regent Street, Carnaby Street and finally Oxford Street. These are some of the most famous 'Streets" in the world, and it never ceases to amaze us just how busy they are, with crowds and crowds of people walking up and down them every time we go. But hand in hand we were very happy walking along, enjoying the hustle and bustle, and admiring the Christmas lights.

More cake?! Oh, go on then! I have to make it clear that we did not eat these cakes until the following day! In fact we couldn't really eat for about 24 hours after the gorgeous afternoon tea! But once we had reached Oxford Street we went to buy a selection of Christmas cakes from our favourite bakery, Hummingbird. Lauren is a very good and very keen baker, and has had their cookbooks for years, we adapted recipes of theirs when we made our wedding cupcakes, and always make time for a visit when in London.

As the day was drawing to a close and we needed to get our train home, we fought through the crowds on to the very packed tube and headed back to Euston. For some reason we were really early, which is so very unlike us! But it gave us time to see Lauren's parents, who were also in London for the day, for a day of shopping and seeing a show. It was a little random to bump in to them prior to them boarding their train back up north, but lovely to see them for a short while. Once they were on their train we decided to go and see something we have always wanted to see but never got round to…Platform 9 and three quarters at King's Cross station! Only a 10 minute walk from Euston, and past the gorgeous building that houses St. Pancras, we made it in time to take a few pictures, see the Harry Potter themed shop next door, and head back up the road to our train home.

Ten years together and about to enjoy our eleventh Christmas together, and life only seems to get better. We have our fair share of hard times, dark days and impossible situations, but I will forever be grateful to spend such incredible times with my most favourite person. I hope we forever have such fun and happiness together, so full of love and adventure. Eeeek it's 9 days till the fat guy in the red suit comes down the chimney we don't have! So exciting!

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