Our First Christmas in London
In the past, Ryan and I have always spent the holidays with friends & families back in the SF bay area and Texas (where my family currently lives). This year, since we are in London for a limited time only and my in-laws were visiting shortly after Christmas, we decided to spend it in London, just the two of us. Ryan was initially slightly homesick since everyone around us was going home for Christmas, but I thought it was actually pretty cute and romantic to spend it just the two of us!
Christmas Eve - Fortnum & Mason Afternoon Tea
For Christmas Eve, I made Ryan go to afternoon tea with me! I always wanted to try the afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason, so I made reservations a few weeks before. Fortnum & Mason is a historic & luxury department store near Piccadilly Circus. If you are looking for gifts or souvenirs, this place has amazing teas, cookies, jams, and etc. Also, they do an excellent job decorating for Christmas, so it’s worth a visit!
I love the interior of this place! Simple, classic, elegant, and their signature blue/teal colored cups and teapots!! The color reminds me of tiffany blue, but slightly softer.
We both don’t care for the savory mini sandwiches so we selected the high tea menu, which comes with a small entree instead of the mini sandwiches. I chose fish wrapped in puff pastry and Ryan chose the lobster bisque omelette and both were very yummy!!
After the entrees, we got our pastry selection! They were so cute and the scones were so moist and so good with their own clotted cream and jam! Their lemon curd is especially good so make sure to try that! They let you take home the leftover jam and lemon curd to enjoy at home too :)
Overall, had a great experience and Ryan actually enjoyed it too!! I think that’s a sign that I should take him to more afternoon teas, haha! Even though it looks like everything is in small portions, it’s actually a lot of food so we we were very full! We couldn’t even finish our last cakes so we had them put them in a takeaway box for us.
After pigging out, we walked around Fortnum & Mason to digest. This place is always crowded with shoppers but even more crowded during the holiday season with people trying to buy gifts, so be aware!
They do such a good job with decorations! Every floor was decked out top to bottom. Also, their iconic Christmas ornaments are just the cutest!! They are pretty pricey though for an ornament (~20-25 quid), but they would make great souvenirs or gifts during the holiday time. Also, their teapots and teacups are so special!! Maybe one day, I’ll be able to convince Ryan that we need a Fortnum & Mason tea set at home and get myself a set!
Christmas Day - Christmas Dinner at Maze Grill
For Christmas Day, with just the two of us, we decided it might be more fun to eat out and have a nice date night. Most stores and restaurants are closed during Christmas day so if you plan to go out, make sure you check they are open! We found that Maze Grill, which is one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, has a special Christmas dinner menu so we made reservations a few weeks before Christmas. We’ve always wanted to try Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, so it was a no brainer for us.
We’ve tried a Gordon Ramsey restaurant at the Heathrow airport once, and it was delicious! Not only delicious for airport food standards but just yummy!! So, we had high hopes heading out for dinner!!
It was a 30 minute walk from our home so we decided to take a leisurely walk so we can enjoy the Christmas lights on the streets of central London.
We arrived right on time for our reservation. We were first escorted to the bar area for drinks. The bar was so pretty in pink and purple. There were a lot of people dining here for Christmas dinner, more than we expected! Guess others don’t want to cook for themselves on Christmas day either! haha! I ordered this pretty drink which was sweet, tangy, and perfect for me. Not sure if this is normal, or if they were short staffed that day, but we had to wait at the bar for almost an hour before getting seated at our table for dinner, which was a bit disappointing.
We finally got seated and we were welcomed by some champagne and Christmas crackers! They were quite hard to crack open, but we managed to open them and got our paper crowns, mini gifts (Ryan got a mini pencil and I got some tweezers), and jokes. Fun way to start our Christmas dinner!
The food, we had very high hopes! They were very good, but I wouldn’t say it was one of the best meals of my life. Our favorite was definitely the butternut squash soup (so savory and so creamy) and the crusted fish (crunchy, meaty, well-seasoned!).
We had a great Christmas date night at Maze Grill. The service was excellent too except for the fact that they were very slow and behind. We think they must have been severely short-staffed given that it was Christmas day. Overall though, we had a great time with each other :)
We came home and I baked a batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies. I love how my house smells when baking cookies!! We spent the rest of the Christmas night stuffing our faces with cookies, knitting, and watching my favorite movie, The Holiday!
Boxing Day - Iceskating at the Somerset House
Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, December 26th. It’s called the Boxing Day in the UK because of the huge after-Christmas sales! We did enough damage during Black Friday this year, so instead of going on a shopping spree, we went for a classic London winter activity — Iceskating at the Somerset House.
We bought tickets 1-2 weeks before. When you buy the tickets, you get to choose an hour time slot and you only get to skate during that hour. We thought maybe everyone went shopping, so we were hoping for a quiet experience, but nope… there were A LOT of people!
They did a collaboration with Fortnum & Mason, so the giant Christmas tree was decorated in Fortnum & Mason’s ornaments. There was also a store selling products from Fortnum & Mason indoors as well.
As you can probably tell by my very poor form, we are not great skaters at all. Ryan is a lot better than me, he can at least go around faster though he cannot do any tricks like going backwards. I get really scared so I was going super slow. While I was still on my first lap, Ryan would come back to get me on his 2nd or 3rd lap.
Even though it was crowded and I am very bad at skating, we still had a lot of fun skating around! They play music the whole time too which makes it even more fun!
What a great way to spend our first Christmas week in London! Yes, we definitely missed our families & friends, but we packed our days with classic London winter activities to enjoy our holiday week and it was a great distraction from being homesick. Can’t believe it’s already February of 2019!