Crisp air, jingle bells, Santa caps, Christmas carols, and the heady spell of the markets across Europe — it’s like entering a fairy tale. And there’s always a mistletoed and tinselled castle in each city, which makes Christmas in the UK starrier. It’s quaint, but more than anything, it creeps into your heart, warming you with merrymaking, and the spirit of the season.
The merrymaking starts with the wondrous Edinburgh Christmas Market that takes place in the city centre, a nice brisk walk down the glitzy Royal Mile, towards the lights, bells and sleighing right at the centre of the gorgeous city. We stopped to get toasty with some mulled wine, standing in line to sip the spiced wonder as we warmed our hands from the biting cold. Families gathered to buy some baubles, chocolates, marzipan, toffees, pretzels, candied baked wonders and so much more. Stop at one of the many glass ornament stalls that sell the most exquisite figurines, all dressed in silver, gold or tinsel.
We moved on to the East Princes St Garden. The most memorable and adrenaline rushing experience were the rides at the adventure park. A spindly giant wheel went up and away, and we suddenly found ourselves right on top, gazing at the spectacular sight of lights and white strappings below. We screamed, yelped in fear and delight, and needed more mulled wine to quieten our crazily beating hearts. Next, we headed to the stalls for some X’massy food, and gobbled away on spuds, that this part of the world is famous for — gooey with cheese, jalapenos, olives, and delicious, taking the ordinary potato to decadent land. We had some golden fried Scotch eggs too. Yum! The ice rink near by and the carol singing troupes are a must, the first for a literal “bottoms-up” and the other for the Xmas spirit to sink in.
The historic walled city of York is a delight on any day, but during Christmas, the merriment takes such wonderful heights. The old town’s cobbled streets, all dressed up in mistletoe, bells and wreaths, is breathtaking. We paused at the Snowman at the York Barbican. We didn’t have time but you must peek into the York Early Music Christmas Festival, as the sound of harps and notes is reverberant. The St Nicholas Fair, with its stallholders, wooden cribs, unique gift stalls, and local wines and cheeses is a must do. We went back with goodies for our own Christmas tree.
From Shambles Market where one can revel in the Christmas goodies on display, to the walk into the castle, that’s dressed up for Santa, it’s like stepping back to another era — a Victorian one. We spotted an old timer selling roasted chestnuts in the biting cold in his noisy red wagon, and proceeded to buy a portion. But despite the welcoming nutty aroma, the roasty and toasty feeling plummeted at their “not so yum” taste. The whole drama around it was heartwarming though. Walking past stalls, buy Santa caps, small home-knitted X’mas tree hangings, angels, and more. Stop at the gingerbread house, the Santa sleigh, tinkles of carols accompanying, till you reach Betty’s Tea Place for a tea party just like the queen likes it. Ours was less fancier, standing in a mile-long line, to have those cucumber sandwiches, pies, macaroons and quiches, sipping on tea!
Get to the Victoria Garden, lit up in streams of lights. We walked to the city centre, brr-ing in the cold, as the mood, music and mulled wine did its trick. There are stalls here too, that have glass baubles in vivid colours to buy. Walking past the quaint wooden chalet stalls and alpine log cabins, you can spend hours window-shopping, biting into sausages, pretzels covered with sugar drizzle, and checking out a cute Carousel that has tots on a yelping high!
There are various smaller markets that one can prance into, and you’ll have to drag yourself away from the festivity. The Leeds Castle is a must, and it usually hosts its market on the Cedar Lawn overlooking the Castle. Meet Mr Reindeer and get yourself all those Christmas presents for the tree back home… and it’s a merry Christmas already!