Christmas in England

January 5, 2016 - Ashtead, Surrey, United Kingdom

The past two weeks have gone by in a whirl of family time, walks, and seasonal activities. As I started to write this entry, I was sitting next to my cousin Dougie after another Monday spent with him and his sister Matilda. Of course that meant the day was exhausting – Dougie's new favorite game is “The Name Game”, where he tries to guess my name (it can go on for ages and guesses have included “Smelly Sock”, “Tumble Dryer” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi”!) – but lots of fun. I really want to enjoy time I can spend with my British family since I have no idea when I will get to see them again. Visits to England are yet another thing that has become more uncertain as I leave home.

I spent Christmas and the two days afterwards with Granny and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins. On Christmas day, we went to Aunt Steph and Uncle Graeme's house, and it was a big family gathering (including Graeme's brother and father as well as all of us). Highlights were perfecting the wedding march using a set of plastic whistles out of Christmas crackers, playing two intense rounds of “Town, County, Country” (an alphabetical knowledge game), and of course opening the mountain of presents. Boxing Day was at Granny's with Uncle Andrew, Aunt Annette, and their daughter Elizabeth, and the next day Steph and Graeme drove up too so everyone was together. Other family activities included children's shows: first we went to a pantomime, based on the story of Dick Whittington, with Dougie at the nearby Leatherhead Theatre. It was hilarious, and I also noticed a lot more innuendo than I had the last time I saw a pantomime (I was about 10)! We also went to dinner and “The Gruffalo” in London as a huge group of all five cousins, parents, and Granny. The show was a bit like a pantomime (very interactive and fun), and dinner at a Mexican restaurant was delicious.

We also went to two other shows in London: the first was “In the Heights” at King's Cross Theatre. I hadn't heard of the musical before but it was absolutely fantastic. It was so full of energy but also made me cry harder than I remember crying at any show, and I gave a well-deserved standing ovation at the end. While we were at the theater, I saw that “The Railway Children” was also playing there. I hadn't known that one of my favorite novels was now a play, and we managed to get tickets for my dad and me (the book had also been a childhood favorite of his). It completely lived up to the great reviews it had received – I especially liked that much of the dialogue was word-for-word from the book, and I don't think they could possibly have done a better job with the adaptation.

Besides our theater adventures, we also went to two movies. The first was “The Lady in the Van” at the Leatherhead Theatre; I'm not sure what I would have thought of the movie at another time, but in my current state of emotional fragility it was a bit too much. I did definitely appreciate Maggie Smith's performance, though, having been a fan since the first few minutes of Harry Potter! The second movie we saw was much more enjoyable for me: “Star Wars Episode VII” with Mom, Dad, Luke, Granny, Annette, and Andrew. We saw it in 3-D after a lovely meal in a nearby restaurant, and although it didn't live up to everybody's expectations I thought it was brilliant. I laughed out loud when there wasn't even a joke more times than I can remember, and having rewatched the original trilogy with Luke and Dad in the week before I appreciated every reference!

We also did some sightseeing in London: Mom and I spent a lovely morning wandering together, walking along the Thames and visiting Borough Market (one of the oldest and largest food markets in London and the location of the Leaky Cauldron in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) for some cheese samples and a delicious pie with mashed potatoes and gravy. We crossed several bridges, found a famous pub by accident, and visited two Christmas markets. (My favorite Christmas market, though, was in Kingston, which we found when we went to our favorite vegetarian restaurant there). Another day, we all visited Covent Garden and explored Apple Market there, which was a cross between an antique sale and a Christmas market. We also went to Leadenhall Market, which was very beautiful and where some of the Diagon Alley scenes were filmed in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” (are you sensing a pattern?!). At King's Cross Station, we found a wonderful historic pub for dinner, and I got a Ravenclaw scarf at the Harry Potter shop near Platform 9 ¾.

Another theme of the two weeks was more walks with Granny, which gave me a chance to work in my new hiking boots. One word to describe all of the walks was definitely “muddy”, but they were fun and beautiful too. It was so nice to be outside and get some exercise together, and enjoy this very British activity.

But all good things must come to an end, and my parents and brother left three days ago to go back to Burlington. I was very sad to see them go. I can't quite figure out whether it was a good thing to see them for these two weeks – it has definitely made me more homesick, but if I hadn't seen them I think I would be missing them even more. Tomorrow I leave for Costa Rica, and I've tried very hard to enjoy my last few days in England and also get myself excited for my next destination. I Skyped my parents for a pep talk this morning since I wasn't feeling very confident, but I'm pretty sure I'll be fine as soon as I'm there. As I mentioned in my last post, I don't know when I will be able to update you next, but I'll try to post when I can.


Leadenhall Market
At the Pub in King's Cross
Apple Market at Covent Garden
King's Cross Station


January 5, 2016
Well done, honey. Sounds as if you experienced absolutely everything an English Christmas had to offer.
January 6, 2016
Was a lovely surprise to see your blog appear in my inbox. Fun times always pass quickly! We won't be able to read another one until we arrive in Cape Town.
Wishing you the best 2016 ever!! xxx
January 6, 2016
It was lovely to see you, we've missed you too! Enjoy your next great adventure my love. As I sit here in eight degree winter weather, I'm so jealous of your next two months in the cloud forest!!!!
January 6, 2016
Sounds like a wonderful Christmas. I guess homesickness just goes with the territory. Burlington hasn't been moved though and will be waiting for you when your wander is over. Enjoy!! It is the opportunity of a lifetime.
January 7, 2016
Ravenclaw, eh? I'm Hufflepuff and would have pegged you as the same. No matter.

Que goces tu viaje tras Latinoamerica tanto como tu tiempo con tu familia! Espero oir todo aqui en el blog para que recuerde aquel dia en el futuro en que pueda seguir en tus pasos visitando la otra mitad del mundo nuevo. :)
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