Wednesday, January 22, 2014

London's Christmas markets galore!

Right before I was leaving for the States I had a jampacked weekend. Thursday was the design Christmas party, Friday the meeting of the worldly ladies, Saturday was Greenwich Christmas market with Churches plus a drink catch up with Salads, and Sunday was Southbank Christmas market with a man I'd met at Internations who I'll simply call Slovenia.

I was to fly out on Tuesday.

And Saturday ended up being more busy than I had even planned.

It started out simply enough - waking up late after the night out with worldly ladies, feeling excellently rested from a quiet amount of booze and a relatively early tuck in (in bed around 11pm, which is great for having gone out that night...this does not include reading time...which likely spiked my bedtime to somewhere well past midnight). Then I met up with Churches at Greenwich - my first Christmas market in London.

Granted no Christmas market would likely match up to those I'd seen in Austria or Germany, but I still love the idea of them and the holiday cheer. Plus I still had some Christmas shopping to do.

It was pretty cold outside that day, but man was the market beautiful:

There was an inside sheltered part, like the above photo, and also an outdoor section, like below:

There is a market that happens here regularly (I'm guessing on the weekends), hence why the shelter existed already. I was happy about this.

The market itself was great - filled with local craftsmen and women selling their homemade wares. I bought several Christmas presents here and was giddy, especially when I reached a man with a used paperback book section.

Lord almighty, never let me near used books. I go insane.

And so I did with this man's selection, since it was more up my alley than previous used book selections I'd seen in London. The deal was 4 for £10. I had no problem fulfilling this deal. Granted I didn't buy the greatest of books when it comes to reputation or writing style, but they were in fact books that I was interested in reading, and I knew I would get my moneys worth (which was close to nothing anyway).

What did I so embarrassingly buy? Well...

...The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. The man had them all, a single copy each, and I took all three. To redeem myself I also picked up a book by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who wrote The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game. Yes, gotta balance that horrible trashy reading with something of merit. Yes, merit.

As I was buying my books the man manning (harhar) the stall asked me where I was from, recognizing from my accent that I wasn't from around there. I politely responded that I was from California but living in London now. He took a look again at my book selections (which he'd put into a nice plastic bag for me), smiled, and wished me enjoyment while reading. Lol! Sigh, of course someone from the US would be reading the Fifty Shades trilogy...oye. -_-

I smiled meekly at him, thanked him, and rushed off to find Churches and tell her about my embarrassing purchases.

After we'd gandered all the merch, we decided it was time to have a bite to eat. Food stalls are also a constant in this market and so we got our pick of the lot - middle eastern food with its lamb toasties, Thai food, Indian food (of course), various sweets dealers, and of course the token African food sellers. I guess someone's gotta cater to the vegetarians other than the Indians.

Churches eventually decided on a Brazilian churro, which unlike its Mexican counter part, has a creamy filling. She had hers half filled with liquidy fudge and soft caramel. Ohhhh boy. I was a little more bland in my selection and ended up getting lentil and onion samosas. They were cheap, vegetarian, and I was just trying to kill my hunger. Did the trick, though not spectacularly. Well, it was hot and cheap, that's all I really asked for.

After this it was determined that I would follow Churches to a dinner invitation she had that night from someone she was interested in getting to know more from her church. Apparently it was to be a Chinese banquet style meal with friends. I was a friend and Chinese, so, the perfect wingwoman. Especially since Churches didn't know anyone else in the group except the man she'd been texting with.

But first, drinks with Salads.

We originally planned to go to Aqua, a bar in the Shard, but after seeing their massive queue (for the bar!...not for the restaurant that is attached and you can make reservations queue for the bar O_O), we decided against it and walked down the street to find something quicker and less pretentious.

After a few stops into local sports bars and vetoing them (we wouldn't be able to hear each other speak), we settled on a nice restaurant bar that had three seats available to the side. Perfect. We each ordered a glass of their mulled wine (something I love about Europe) and settled in for catching up. Salads agreed that I would be the perfect wingwoman for the upcoming dinner.

Soon enough it was time to go and we left Salads to her night at home with wine and movies (sounds wonderful). We met up at Joy King Lau in Chinatown and awaited the rest of the people in the party.

To sum things up shortly, her man of interest was a Malaysian Chinese guy who grew up in Canada. So, sort of the Canadian male version of me. We ended up judging each other on how Chinese the other was. He poopooed my lack of Chinese language skills and I poopooed his not knowing about Chinese funeral rites. A standoff. Needless to say despite these things, I didn't have a favorable impression of him by the end of the night.

The food was lovely though. Unfortunately I have no pictures (I thought it would be horrendously awkward if I started taking pics of the food, considering I'd only met these people minutes before), but one thing I count against this restaurant: it had no Honey Walnut Prawns. What the what!? I told my grandma about this later when I was visiting her and grandfather for Christmas and she said, "What? Is that restaurant Chinese?" She was appalled. I feel justified.

The rest of the food was good - we ordered the Peking duck platter for starters (crispy skin in little steamed buns with hoisin sauce and green onions), eggplant with sweet and spicy sauce, garlic choy, fish with sweet and sour sauce, beef with peppers, and a fish maw soup. Everyone enjoyed everything thoroughly and we were just short of finishing everything.

We went to a bar afterwards for a drink and to ease out the night until we all realized we would be missing the last tube and rushed out the door. Guess London still has its priorities, haha.

And that's how I finished my experience of the Greenwich Christmas market (and more).

The next day I was meeting up with Slovenia for the Southbank Christmas market. I still had some more xmas shopping to do so this was fortuitous.

It became clear after some minutes of talking though, that instead of being able to shop and calmly talk about various things, Slovenia saw this as a date and was insistent that I try these things or look at this. Granted the man is great in a party because he's so social and knows just about everyone (I met him because Iron Man and I were introduced to him and then he quickly introduced us to three more people before disappearing until the end of the night, trying to introduce us to more people), but in larger doses he's just downright overbearing. He's the friend you love having as an acquaintance friend.

Anyway, back to the market - it was just as big as Greenwich and on the waterfront. The weather was terrible that day, being rainy, but we still managed to look at everything. I did get the rest of my xmas shopping done despite his insistent talking. It was a good day, despite my annoyance.

Unfortunately I took no pictures; was too busy being talked at I reckon.

My conclusions: London Christmas markets are lovely, but Austria and Germany still hold the gold star in these areas, from my experience. Well, I'm glad I know now. :)

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