In this week's post, Genevieve gets into the holiday spirit and shows us London's yuletide joy and Christmas trees! Check out what it's like in the city during this season, how the markets are decked out, and why having a community in London makes this all so much special.
As winter closes around London, the sun seems to disappear for days at a time. The buildings are cloaked in clouds and fog, and a light misting rain constantly settles on my cheeks and eyelashes. Sunset officially begins before I leave my internship or class for the day. These last weeks, I have found myself walking down the streets in the dark more than in the daylight. All of these things, from the rain to the short days are characteristic of the winter season. It’s actually one of the reasons that I chose to study abroad in the fall and not the spring. I love the beginning of winter and all that the changing season means. Since it's officially December, I can be frank: it’s Christmas season!
My internship's Christmas tree is even equipped with little white squirrels underneath it.
Christmas in a different country, away from family can often be difficult to handle. This can be compounded by the almost constant dark that London experiences and truly does affect some. This city does not have the bright blue winter skies of South Carolina that I am used to, but they make up for their lack of light in different ways. This is the glory of living in a huge commercial center: all the businesses and even the city government is monopolizing on the season to boost business and tourism. So, how do they compensate for the darkness and the gray? Lights! Every building and commercial area is decked out in lights, holiday markets, Christmas songs, and colorful baubles. With all of the variety that the city offers, I can easily get overwhelmed with the number of places on my to-go list in the last week and a half that I have here.
CAPA's tree makes the London center even more homey.
Even though it is the second to last week of the program, everything is still exceedingly busy here. It’s my last week at my internship and all of the classes are trying to fit in final projects by next week. I only have afternoons here and there to finish up my explorations before we leave. Thankfully, I don’t even need to leave my internship or classes before I start to get in the Christmas spirit. My internship boasts a real Christmas tree and fake snow, whereas CAPA has decorated a cute little fake one to help us feel more Christmas-ey. After I get off of my internship, I am desperately in need of a pick-me-up before I go on a Christmas adventure.
My dream job: chopping chocolate at Dark Sugars.
The obvious Christmas mood booster: hot chocolate. The best place for hot chocolate in London is on Brick Lane, called Dark Sugars. Dark Sugars’ hot chocolates are a bit on the pricier side, but they are so worth it. Each drink is topped with chocolate shaved in front of you from a chocolate brick. I went with their Pitch Black, which is dark chocolate melted with a little bit of hot water and then topped with dark chocolate shavings. It is not a hot chocolate for the weak, and it was just what I needed before I continue on my search for the Christmas mood.
The inner court at Covent boasts a sweet cider stall.
The rest of the daylight for my Christmas afternoon is spent at Covent Garden. Easily my favorite spot in London, the covered market knows how to make the most of seasonal decorations. With each season, they change their flower arrangements. This has symbolic meaning as Covent Gardens used to be the flower market. For Christmas, they are decked out in reds, greens, and silver. They even have a mammoth REAL Christmas Tree out front, which they light every year in November.
Apple Market is great for some Christmas shopping.
The inside of the market is covered in lights, mistletoe, and disco balls, which are simply gorgeous, day or night. Covent Garden does an amazing job of lightening the mood of busy and worry that accompanies final week and the end of the CAPA program. It is also one of the spots in London that I go to when I am feeling lonely or homesick. The bright lights, carefree spirit, and live music help to make me forget that I am far from family around the holidays and reminds me how thankful I am to be right where I am.
The flowers change with the seasons at Covent Garden.
The last piece of my day that really brings me into the Christmas spirit is the Ladies’ Christmas Night that the church I have been attending this semester put on. I went with some fellow students that I met at the church. It was wonderful to gather with women from all different generations and participate in some of the traditional Christmas activities with them. I learned to make some mocktails, decorate gingerbread cookies, and make a wreath centerpiece.
Christmas trees are hidden throughout the city- this one's at Lincoln Inn.
The atmosphere of love and excitement that filled the church hall was such a blessing. I had the fun community of people my age as well as the dimension that other generations bring to conversation. My church in London has provided me with some of the best community and comfort as I navigated the joys and hardships of this semester. I am so thankful to have a community of Londoners in London.
My beautiful chocolate, cream, and coffee mocktail.
More than the lights and commercial beauty of Christmas in London, it was this church community that really brought the element of love and peace that has characterized my memories of this season, regardless of how close or far I am from home.
Genevieve Rice is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An English Literature major at Anderson University, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
Genevieve's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.