diamond geezer

 Wednesday, November 25, 2009

With only one month to go until Christmas, the thoughts of many Londoners have already turned to the vexing question of "where can I buy a Bratwurst, some Lebkuchen and a wooden puppet theatre?" Time was when you'd have to travel abroad to a European Christmas market to acquire these seasonal treats. But now they come to us. I've been to three of the capital's faux-German festive fairs to investigate.

Cologne Christmas Market
Cologne Christmas MarketAlong the South Bank, roughly from Coin Street to the Eye, a fresh wooden shanty town has sprung up. Scores of shed-type booths masquerading as chalets, most with fairy lights and plastic evergreens draped across the front, now line the river's edge. Approaching from the east the first hut advertises the sale of "fake snow", which sort of sums the whole thing up. But there was a willing crowd thronging the Cologne Christmas Market at the weekend, not just for the chemical white stuff but also for the wide variety of gifts and food on offer. There's a lot of food. Think of it as Borough Market West, but with substantially less locally-sourced food. Much of this food is meat-based, because stereotypical Germans like meat, and lot of it is sausage. Those aren't extended hot dogs, those are megawurst, and at a price which would look high in euros let alone pounds. Beer is also freely available, carefully branded as "bier" to distinguish it from any import you might be able to buy in a nearby pub. You could, quite frankly, do a lot worse for lunch. A damp November day was far too early in the season for Santa's Secret Village to be doing a roaring trade - no queues of wide-eyed kids yet hoping for a delve in the old man's toysack. And the red-robed carol singers beneath Hungerford Bridge were having to struggle hard to be heard, their fa-la-las drowned by each and every twelve carriage monster passing overhead. But you might well find a stocking filler or two here if you're desperate for gift ideas, and there's plenty of time left before Christmas for a South Bank stroll.

The O2 Christmas Fair
The O2 Christmas FairFor punters at North Greenwich's favourite upturned lid, a stroll along Entertainment Avenue usually ends with nothing. There's a huge void at the far end of the internal walkway, beyond the Michael Jackson exhibition, in the space where the supercasino was meant to go. This Christmas they've finally got round to filling it, and the inspired choice of content is an undercover funfair. With hundreds of thousands of Londoners based nearby, and inclement weather held at bay outside, this would seem an ideal spot for festive merriment. It certainly looks impressive at first glance, especially the green-lit rollercoaster which whips punters almost up to the teflon roof. The fair's official website certainly wants you to come visit, and ideally to shell out for an all-inclusive fair and restaurant package ('only' £150 for a family of 4). The reality, however, isn't yet so worthwhile. I counted only 7 rides within the fairground space, one of which was being shunned by all and sundry, and one of which was a £4-a-time hall of mirrors. There'll be a few more 'Vintage' rides in early December, but I'd still expect visiting families to spend longer in the restaurant than at the fair. As further distraction there's a Traditional German Market outside in Peninsula Square - so 'traditional' that the traders include a Dutch mini-pancake booth and a Charcoal BBQ. Alas, not the most attractive place to be on a wet November afternoon. The poor soul manning the isolated glühwein bar, for example, could do little but stand alone in his illuminated shack waiting for the rain to subside. A Dome-estic Christmas is better than nothing, but could do better.

Winter Wonderland
Winter WonderlandWhen I visited this Hyde Park funfair the first year it opened, I was woefully underimpressed. A handful of booths and fairground rides tacked along a single concrete path - most definitely nothing to write home about. Things have moved on, and this year's Winter Wonderland event is considerably larger. The main entrance from Hyde Park Corner is via a temporary wooden arch, alongside which on Saturday various parties of visitors were busy snapping souvenir photos. Immediately beyond is a carol-singing reindeer, a clear favourite with those passing by, but revealed from behind to be powered by an Einhell KCK 210/8 Kompressor. There are streets of Black Forest-style booths across these 20 acres - a whole Hansel & Gretel forestful - rather like the Cologne Christmas Fair on steroids. Too much food, I'd wager, unless the intention is to ensure that whenever your appetite wavers there's a icing-dusted hot waffle nearby. At one particular multi-storey dining establishment I watched as five red-coated servers stood poised to dish up XXL-Bratwurst, Pommes Frites and Maiskolben, but alas their "please queue here" sign was proving wholly unnecessary. One of London's temporary winter ice rinks is located nextdoor, swirling with talented amateur skaters and a few terrified klutzes hanging on to the perimeter barrier for dear life. And, unlike at the Dome, there are fairground rides a-plenty. Big wheels and funhouses and twirly things and a whopping great Christmas Coaster - which appears to be a normal rollercoaster but with a few silver baubles attached. In a profiteering twist, even the smallest sleigh ride comes with a "souvenir photo" booth so that you can take away a hastily-printed image of your grinning toddler. A cup of "Warming soup" (Heinz tomato) will set you back £3, or £3.50 if you splash out with a bread roll. These are almost Mayfair prices, which is appropriate given that Mayfair is very close by and was itself named after a seasonal showground. The organisers have thought of everything, financially, and signposts will direct you towards the nearest cashpoint should your wallet starts to flag. But I suspect that London's latest funfair is going to prove rather popular this winter, whatever the cost, especially with families, after-hours workmates and bunches of pleasure-seeking teen- and twenty- somethings.

Conclusion: If you want a traditional German Christmas Market, go to Germany. If you want an expensive funfair, a few trinkets and a lot of sausage, stay in town.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards