England / Europe / London / My Travels / Others / United Kingdom

Revisiting England: My First English Christmas!

“I’m happy quite a lot of the time. I’ve done far more than I ever thought I would have,
so I’d be very hard-pressed to walk around miserable.”
– Robert Smith (lead member of The Cure from Blackpool)

London, England | December 2017

My husband and I planned to have our Christmas holiday in 2017 in the UK for the first time since we got married. It will be a special trip not just because it’s Christmas but because it’s his mum’s 70th birthday and his nan’s 99thbirthday at Blackpool! (It’s also his brother’s birthday, btw). I am equally excited because I’ve been celebrating my Christmases in the last 6 years here in Dubai and I want to feel the “real” Christmas vibe once again!

Unfortunately, my husband’s work schedule got in the way and he can only leave from work from 21st of December only. So rather than waiting for him to arrive, I decided to visit first my favorite city, London for few days to meet some friends and his dad & stepmum (who is very timely in their London’s house too), then attend the 70th birthday party of his mum at Stroud, and then to have another week sidetrip to Dublin with my sister-in-law. I couldn’t get more excited for this “busy” but fun-filled trip!

Click this for my DUBLIN sidetrip.

Christmassy London at Regent Street

 

LONDON

As I always mention, London is by far my favorite city in all the cities I’ve been to. So it is a MUST for me to visit London every time we visit England even just for a day or two. This visit however was extra special, because apart from seeing the Christmas vibe in this city, IT SNOWED!!! It rarely snows in south part of England, so I was very happy that I got the chance to see England in snow!

Click this for my very first visit in LONDON.

Snowy London!

I didn’t know that my dad-in-law and stepmum-in-law will be in (Berkhampstead) London too during my visit (they stay in south of France usually) and I have already arranged to stay at my friend’s place so I told them that I will just stay at their place when I’m back in London after my mum-in-law’s birthday party in Stroud. I didn’t need to meet all of them but as someone who is used to being with her parents every Christmas, I just want to do it for myself also because I missed doing it.

So I stayed for 2 days first with my friends, Eliza & Craig, at Hither Green then we watched The Book of Mormons the next day at West End. We meet up some of our friends when we were all used to be in Singapore, we meet up with Kat and Jon (and his lovely gf) in a pub around London downtown.

 

I was happy that it snowed BUT I suffered from all the traffic and train delays just because England is not used to having snow, so when it snows, the whole country collapses, lol! Kidding! So the 2-hour train ride to Stroud became an all-day ordeal for me. On my way back from Stroud was still the same even after all the snow have melted already, not sure this time what was the reason if not the snow!

When I went back to London, I stayed at my dad-in-law & stepmum-in-law’s place in Berkhampstead. I stayed for 2 more days before flying out to Dublin. It’s my first time in Berkhampstead and I love this little posh village already.

I did not plan anything as knowing my stepmum-in-law, she would have plan everything out already as I only have 2 days anyway, hehe. It was her birthday too, btw! We did a little Christmas shopping together and had a sumptuous Sicilian dinner to cap off my quick visit to them. I hope when I visit them back, it will be with Laurie and hopefully longer.

 

After my Dublin trip, I have another 2 more nights in London before my husband arrives. On my first night, I stayed at my friend Zoe’s hotel because very timely she was in town too! We went to visit Hampstead because my friend Kat recommended me to go to this place if I want to see some Christmas markets and more Christmas light.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any or I guess Zoe and I were too late, so we just ended up dining only at a pub called William IV Pub which is a very interesting old pub. So after dinner, we just decided to visit Covent Garden and it did not disappoint our goals to see Christmas markets and Christmas lights, lol!

 

On my second night, I stayed at my friend Mike’s house in Ascot with his beautiful family. I was supposed to stay in downtown hostel but when Mike told me he will drop me at Heathrow because they are very close there, I didn’t hesitate to say yes to his very tempting invitation, haha! (I was going to Heathrow to meet my husband so we can drive together to Stroud).

Mike is a friend I met during my Antarctica trip that year, who I admire because he only have 7 countries left to visit at that time, perhaps now he had completed it already!

Mike’s daughter’s Advent Boxes

Anyway, Ascot is another posh village, so posh that it is actually where the Ascot Racecourse is, one of UK’s leading racecourse being associated with the Royal Family because it is very close to the Windsor Castle.

We didn’t see any horse race but Mike took me to Windsor before dropping me to Heathrow, to do my last minute gift shopping and we had a little walk around this posh town and the castle. Well, this is where Her Majesty Queen lives so it must be very posh, haha!

Windsor Castle in Christmas

The Long Walk (I was just too early for the Royal Wedding parade, haha!)

 

STROUD, GLOUCESTERSHIRE (Cotswold)

This is my husband’s hometown and it’s not my first time to come here and explore the area. For this trip, we didn’t really plan anything because we knew we would be going to Blackpool to spend Christmas at his nan’s.

I was supposed to attend my mum-in-law’s 70th birthday party but because it snowed the night before her party, it’s a shame she had to cancel her party. In as much as I was happy to see England in snow, I felt bad for mum that she had to cancel her party just because the venue of her party will be up in the hill and it will be difficult for her friends to drive. Like I mentioned, England is not used to snow…

My mum-in-law’s house in snow! | Amberley, Stroud

 

Well, we just celebrated it at her house over simple dinner and prosecos, and more prosecos! The next day we went to stroll around Nailsworth and had some little shopping and dinner.

Click the following for my previous visits in GLOUCESTERSHIRE (Cotswold):
1. Gloucestershire – Cotswold: A Breakaway…

2. Revisiting Gloucestershire – Cotswold: The Beauty Of Life

 

DORSET

Whilst I was still in Stroud, a friend of mine, Leo, who lives in Swindon (and works in Cheltenham) picked me up at Stroud to catch up with me since our Antarctica trip, he was also one of those I met during that trip.

I thought we were just driving around nearby towns, but he is too adventurous that he took me to Dorset and we did a little hike to Lulworth Cove and the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Durdle Door & White Nothe Circular Walk.

Leo took me here because he said this is the only part of England that was not affected by the snow. I didn’t mind the snow actually, but I was glad he took me here because it was beautiful that I forgot we are still in England! I love the Durdle Door beach it looks like the Azure Window of Malta! I never thought I’ll find blue ocean in England, I was very impressed!

The Durdle Door Beach

We did a little hike which I was not prepared because I thought we are just going to the pub, lol! But no regrets as the amazing view was so breathtaking!  Plus, Leo takes really good pictures of me, haha!

Breathtaking view after the unexpected tiring hike!

On our way back we stopped by quickly to West Bay and then ended our fun-filled roadtrip with a big buffet at Bristol.

The West Bay

 

BLACKPOOL, LANCASHIRE

And lastly, the main purpose of this whole Christmas trip plan in UK, was to celebrate it with my husband’s 99-year old nan in Blackpool where she lives. This will be the first time in many years that their whole family was complete to visit nan on her birthday and celebrate Christmas too.

This is my 2nd time in Blackpool already, the first time was in February 2015 and that visit was also just for me to meet my husband’s nan for the first time. As I said last time, I will say it again that nan is adorable. At her age, she’s full of joy and that her sense of humour cracks me up everytime and I STILL can’t cope up with her drinking until now, lol!

Click this to see the blog I dedicated for her, the first time I met her in 2015 when we did a sidetrip in LIVERPOOL.

Nan’s cute house in Blackpool

 

Blackpool is England’s number one or “used to be No.1” holiday resort. It is popular because of the Pleasure Beach and the amusement parks, casinos, nightclubs, and bars around it. It is that popular that they say it wasn’t damaged too much during WW2 because Hitler planned to have this place as his resort after his invasion.

Over the years, it declined its popularity amongst visitors because travelling has become more accessible and cheaper to go somewhere else, much warmer, much nicer. Today it is more of a hen/stag party destination or a place of nostalgia for the much older visitors.

 

We stayed at Lytham St.Annes, which is a charming seaside resort town just few minutes drive from Blackpool. But we drove around Blackpool every time we visit nan at her house and we even visited the beach even it was VERY WINDY!

Apart from it was winter, I don’t really find the place appealing. Coming from someone from Philippines with beautiful beaches, it’s not how I picture a beach holiday should be. I feel like it’s a place from post-apocalyptic movies, sorry! However, this was not our reason why we were all there, it’s because of nan who chose to live there during the time of its glorious days.

A very windy beach!

 

Anyway, I am thankful to my husband and his whole family for making me experience a typical English Christmas. Apart from the traditional sumptuous Christmas Roast Dinner, I also get to know the Naughty Elf, lol! I also love the Christmas jumper tradition, although we had our look-alike pyjamas instead :P

In Philippines, the eve is more important that the Christmas day itself, we wait until 12 midnight before we eat our Christmas dinner. So it really felt odd for me when we just ate our dinner at the pub during the Christmas eve and we went off to bed early. I am also used to opening gifts after Chrsitmas eve dinner, whereas they open their gifts the day after Christmas which they called Boxing Day.

Toys for boys!

 

We were supposed to stay for 4 days in Blackpool, but my husband and I decided to go back to Stroud a day earlier because we were supposed to meet one of his friends in Bristol. But his friend cancelled last minute so instead of staying in Stroud we decided to just drive to Wales, because his family is still in Blackpool anyway.

The next morning when we were about to head off to Wales, it snowed again!!! Woohoo!!!! My husband was very happy too because he has never had snow back home for a long time already, the snow when I first arrived had melted already when he arrived after 2 weeks, so he was also delighted to see the snow that morning! I think we have been living in Dubai for too long now, lol!

Click this to see our roadtrip to WALES.

The snow the morning we head off to Wales | Amberley Hill

Now I can say our Christmas holiday is finally complete! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – I’ve seen lots of Christmas lights, I’ve been to lots of Christmas markets, I’ve heard lots of Christmas songs, we had Christmas with his family for the first time, we had some snow, and I had experienced my very first typical English Christmas!

As I write this blog, I realised it must have been tiring for others to read that I have been running around from one place to another and non-stop meeting friends and family. But actually this is the usual ME every Christmas, hectic but very much happy being it and I quite miss that feeling already. So even if my husband can’t join earlier, or even if I got caught up with train delays or even if sometimes I felt awkward – I’m happy quite a lot of the time. I’ve done far more than I ever thought I would have, so I’d be very hard-pressed to walk around miserable.

My rainbow connection, be the pot of gold yourself :)

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One thought on “Revisiting England: My First English Christmas!

  1. Pingback: Yucatan, Mexico: Rainbows After The Rain | heart & sole

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