Sunday, December 4th 2016
The day started, as usual on Sundays, with breakfast, followed by the weekly shopping. Accordingly, we stopped off at the Millennium Cafe in Chapel Market where they do a choice of vegetarian breakfasts as well as the usual cafe dishes. Then we trundled the shopping trolley round to Sainsbury’s. The trick is to get there for when they open the doors at about 10:45am. The check-outs don’t open until 11am so there are relatively few customers in the store at this time, making it easier to move around.
Returning home, we put away our purchases and then settled down for a rest. It was a dull day, not at all inviting for outdoor activities, so we put off our eventual outing till ‘later’. By the time ‘later’ came around, it was already dark. Now, what can you do on a cold day, in the dark?
Well, what Tigger can do is go and photograph the Christmas lights in town! Our first port of call, though, was to a certain establishment in Piccadilly whose name is intimately associated with chocolate and other sweet goodies.
I speak of Kahve Dünyasi, a Turkish establishment specializing in coffee, chocolate, ice cream, pastries and snacks, sold over the counter or to be consumed on the premises. The place was quite busy when we arrived but we spent only a few seconds at the ‘Wait here to be seated’ notice before being shown to a table. They serve so many varieties of coffee (Turkish coffee being a speciality of the house, of course) that they make Starbuck’s look rank amateurs in comparison. I chose a hot chocolate (of which there are three varieties) while Tigger tackled an ice cream dish called Madame Chocolate.
Hot chocolate is oddly comforting on a cold day but it is full of sugar. That served a purpose here, though, because I think the sugar hit carried me through the rest of the outing. Tigger took off to photograph the lights while I tagged along and took a few photos here and there. Our first stop was the famous Piccadilly department store, Fortnum & Mason. Each Christmas, the store creates a set of window displays that have proved to be an attraction in their own right. In fact, there were so many people lingering and taking photos in front of the windows that it was hard to get any pictures at all. Here are three of those that I managed to obtain:
After F&M, we cut through to Jermyn Street, which runs parallel to Piccadilly to the south of it. Here we find what you might call the second-tier retail businesses, some with famous names, and establishments such a private clubs.
One such is Tramp, whose doorways was luminously decorated for Christmas. (In case you are wondering, no, I have never gone beyond the door, nor am I likely ever to do so.)
In the Regency period, shopping arcades were much in favour with well-to-do shoppers and the fashion continued into the Victorian era and even into the 20th century. Piccadilly has no less than three arcades. In order of age, these are the Burlington Arcade (opened 1819), the Piccadilly Arcade (1909) and Princes Arcade (1933). (See Four arcades and some portraits).
Princes Arcade runs between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street. Their Web site tells us that ‘Princes Arcade forms part of Princes House which was originally built to house the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1883. The Arcade itself was opened in 1933.’ Despite its relatively young age, it impresses with an air of quiet elegance quite in keeping with an earlier period.
Jermyn Street was aglow with Christmas lights and the chosen theme this year was angels.
We progressed through to a shopping street that is perhaps even more famous in its own way than Oxford Street or Piccadilly, that is, Regent Street. It was very busy with both vehicles and pedestrians, as is only to be expected at this time of year.
Here too the theme of the lights is angels, whether planned or serendipitously, I don’t know. The design is similar to, but different from, that in Jermyn Street. Here we are looking south-ish from a point near Carlton Street.
I was happy now for us to call it a night and to climb aboard a bus for home where we sorted out our photos and – yes, you’ve guessed it! – made tea!