London – Once Upon a Christmas

London may have its days of being too gloomy and too cold but when the festive season rolls in – the city begins to sparkle with magical Christmas lights and decorations and tantalise with the smell of cinnamon, freshly baked cookies, popcorn and ginger bread, making it truly magical.

So my first time to the Square Mile was last Christmas and here are my best things to-do list.

 

Winter Wonderland:
Leave your everyday life behind and allow yourself to enjoy a dazzling array of activities and entertainment at Winter Wonderland. Rollercoasters and fairground rides will keep thrill seekers happy, a 60-metre observation wheel that offers stunning views of the city’s skyline, a huge Christmas market, and don’t miss the Magical Ice Kingdom, an amazing space filled with magnificent snow and ice sculptures. Circus lovers can enjoy their time at Zippos Circus and Cirque Berserk.

Winter Wonderland also offers a selection of themed bars with real fire pits, except for the Ice Bar where even the glasses you drink from are made of ice.
Bonus Tip: Book your online tickets ahead for the main attractions, and keep them printed with you.

 

Ice Skating:
Whether you dance on ice like Christopher Dean or scramble around like Bambi, the outdoor ice rinks are some of the most magical locations you’ll see all season. A trip to an ice rink is a must-do for the views alone, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and Natural History Museum Ice Rink are my favorite ice-skating rinks to twirl around in.

 

A day at Covent Garden:
A beautiful Piazza set in London’s West End, here visitors and Londoners can enjoy its many attractions like London Transport Museum, the Royal Opera House and a lot of gift and food markets. During Christmas, a huge Christmas tree glows with lights on the west side of the square, and a rather magnificent silver reindeer stands majestically on a pile of gifts on the east side. The Lego Santa Express train has pulled into the northeast corner of the piazza, so make sure to pay that a visit. It’s made of 500,000 Lego bricks and even has sound, lights and smoke coming from its funnel. And don’t miss eating at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant there.

 

Christmas Dance Performance:

One of the best ways to feel festive is by seeing some particularly twinkly toes taking to the London stage. Dance shows like ‘Nutcracker’ and ‘Swan Lake’ seem to be synonymous with Christmas, so book tickets in advance to a show that is sure to get you into the yuletide spirit. I attended The Nutcracker ballet at the Royal Opera House, it was a truly enriching cultural experience, the set design was especially magnificent and the bar service was remarkable.

 

Street Christmas Lights :

See London at its most bling, be dazzled by the twinkling Christmas lights, including the famous displays on Oxford Street and Regent Street. Explore the glittering shopping streets of Carnaby and Seven Dials, and amble around the giant illuminated Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.

 

Christmas Shopping at Harrods :

Harrods celebrate Christmas inside and out, the upmarket department store deck their window displays for the festive season. You’ll see the windows are based on the scenes from the theatre, complete with the best lighting, mannequin figures dressed by famous designers, the popular mice (Peter Pumpernickel) and many more visual and sound effects that bring Christmas to life.

From the luxuriant food hall to the floors full of the finest jewelries, Harrods does sell everything you need to celebrate the jolliest season.

If you missed the shopping before Christmas, it’s ok as you can get the best prices on Boxing Day, just be at the store doors by 9:00 am as it will be very crowded. Also, don’t forget London’s tax haven culture, you can redeem the tax at the airport so it’s better if you arrive a couple of hours before your departure.

 

Tea Time at Fortnum & Mason:
Afternoon tea is quintessentially English, the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is famed as one of the best afternoon tea places in London. It was opened by Her Majesty The Queen, it’s on the fourth floor and according to their website – ‘has since become a stylish destination for the most traditional of afternoon teas’.

Fortnum & Mason have been serving tea with their iconic trademark aqua color tableware since 2012. You can choose your tea from a selection of 30 tea blends that comes with cakes and pâtisserie, scrumptious scones and delicate finger sandwiches, and you also have the option to select your personalized Champagne.

You can’t leave this amazing place without doing some extra shopping, from hand-crafted enamel ornaments to Christmas crackers, their offering of luxury goodies and yuletide gifts will add a festive touch to your experience.

 

New Year :

Crowds of thousands line the Thames on December 31 to see the live fireworks show. The NYE firework display is splendid, people are happily waiting for a bright start to the New Year and you will find yourself talking and greeting everyone around you.
The best viewing locations are sectioned off and made only available to those who have tickets. You can select your ideal spot when you buy your ticket.
After the fireworks are done, feel free to continue the rest of your night the way you want, we chose a nice Persian restaurant to dine at, the New Year’s celebratory vibes will continue in the streets until sunrise.

 

 

Attractions you’d be mad to miss:
•    London Eye
•    Buckingham Palace
•    Westminster Abbey
•    Houses of Parliament
•    Big Ben
•    Tower Bridge
•    Hyde park
•    National History Museum

The checklist maybe long but since this post is dedicated to cover London in Christmas maybe you can explore the best that the city has to offer later.

Quick shout-out for the Famous London icons like Red Bus, Telephone Booth, Post Box & black cabs which added extra flavor to my London Christmassy journey.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

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I’m a Sunsetter , what about you ? – Sunset Grill&Bar Istanbul

When you want great cuisine and an even greater experience you head to the Istanbul classic, Sunset Grill & Bar.

I was introduced to this beautiful venue five years ago and since then, Sunset has become my favourite meeting point in Istanbul.

My Pre-dining Rituals:

I enjoy a light cocktail prior to my dinner while waltzing between the indoor and outdoor bar. The outdoor bar has an amazing view of the Bosphorus , and you can’t resist taking pictures from there.

 

The Pleasure of Dining in Sunset:

It is not only the amazing setting – of the majestic views of the Bosphorus strait and the bridges connecting Europe to Asia but also the Art that you can enjoy looking at your limited edition Villeroy & Boch plates designed by the Turkish Artist Mr. Hakan Doğançay’s with his “Ribbons” series of paintings; their tempting menu with a wide blend of cuisine from the Mediterranean, Turkish and with a hint of Asian gastronomy on offer here. I enjoyed an inspired tasting from the renewed menu created by Chef Fabrice Canelle that featured zucchini flowers stuffed with goat cheese and shrimp, salmon and sea bass sashimi with ginger and yuzu soy sauce, burrata and orange salad with orange sauce, and much more. Their knowledgeable Wine Director Mr. Süleyman Şen will offer the best pairing for your plate,and it is wise to take his advice.

 

Party:

After Sunset is the place to be, if you’re looking for a chic and exhilarating night out and they are open all week long.

 

Needless to say the ambience, service, food and artistic decor are simply outstanding. My favourite is the Lighting Piece(Eight Thousand Miles of Home), which is made from silkworm cocoons and was originally designed for the Art and Design Museum in New York but now you can see it adorning the indoor bar.

 

Sunset caters to the right tone and mood whether it be – a business dinner, a romantic meal, lunch with friends or enjoying after sunset with a different DJ every night. And for sure I will be coming back here again and again for not only enjoying a wonderful meal in elegant settings, but because, it is also being a part of its distinctive vista and lifestyle.

Be a SUNSETTER

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Between New York and Paris there’s – Hudson Istanbul

Although Hudson is a new kid on the block, its setting and ambitious menu is seasoned. Combining New York and French brasserie styles and an international menu with a Turkish twist, Hudson is a concept apart from its counterparts. I met their charming Marketing Manager Ms. Gizem Kanbay and successful young chef Mr. Kaan Karagöz, who shared with me how Hudson is constantly evolving, with their take on good food, good music and art combo. I also learnt about their team’s food tasting trips to different places so they are continually emerging in their jobs. On top of that they have new themes every few weeks and are also involved in society development by creating art projects and supporting new artists through their partnership with BubiProje

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From the well-thought out menu I started with the mouthwatering Teriyaki Beef Buns, then a quinoa salad with baked pumpkin and feta cheese, a side dish of salmon rolls and tied it all together with a delicious Turkish dessert called sütlaç. I was left a very happy diner and you can see why Hudson is emerging as a hot spot in the Istanbul restaurant and lounge scene. They are open from morning till midnight so patrons can enjoy coffee, breakfast, brunch or lunch and also dancing to the trendiest DJ beats.

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I had a great time at Hudson. The atmosphere, decoration, food and staff were all fab and I would certainly return here for another experience of their amazing exotic dishes and cocktails. My final piece of advice is to absolutely try it.

Bon apetit!

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