Tuesday, November 28, 2006

London - the Ultimate Destination for America's Best Holiday

As I mentioned in my post from last year, we run the best Thanksgiving Soup Kitchen in London. This year we fed thirty-three pilgrims hailing from France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, the UK and all parts of the United States, even Montana! And I’m confident that everyone who celebrated with us this year would agree, London is the ultimate Thanksgiving destination.

For the uninitiated, London might seem like an unlikely place to eat turkey with friends and family but in fact, with roughly 150,000 hungry Americans living in greater London, along with tourists and curious Londoners, it is relatively easy to find an excellent turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Villandry in Marylebone, Christophers in Covent Garden and the Chesterfield Hotel and Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair all had special Thanksgiving menus last week with more informal places like the Arkansas Cafe and Bodeans (with live NFL action for diehards) offering more down home options.

If you were to rent an apartment and prepare your festivities yourself, the best butchers such as Lidgate in Holland Park and Randalls in Fulham can source you a fabulous turkey at even more fabulous prices that puts the American butterball to shame. Just be careful about size, most English ovens are smaller than in the States. Cranberries and sweet potatoes are in the supermarkets and Harvey Nichols has drop dead gorgeous pecan pies. Molly Blooms, also in Fulham, can supply you with a fantastic Thanksgiving-themed table arrangement. This year mine contained Indian corn, peppers, apples, orchids, oranges, nuts, berries and cotton (they know about my penchant for the South). To look at it, you’d think you were Williamsburg.

If you are not yet sold on the idea to come to London for Thanksgiving, here is some more ammunition. Late November is a relatively inexpensive time to fly to London. By contract, moving around the United States over Thanksgiving is congested and expensive. In fact, being at least 5,000 miles away from the 25 million Americans who travel on Thanksgiving Day is a pretty good idea. Also, the day after Thanksgiving is a quite normal shopping day in London. You can have a very pleasant time wandering around the stores which are already beautifully decorated for Christmas and not particularly crowded. Compare that to the riots taking place in malls across America.

In addition, you will receive the warmest welcome from your London hosts. Londoners are rather intrigued with the whole notion of Thanksgiving and they are a bit envious of the fact that Americans take the day off just to ”count their blessings” with family and friends who eat themselves silly and all of this without having to buy any presents. In the run up to Turkey Day, UK papers are filled with articles pointing to the advantages and benefits of our great American holiday. Of course, there is always the story that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the only day a poor Brit with a hyper-active, vacation- hating American boss won’t notice if he is late to work. Well, you can’t win them all. In my experience, just like the original pilgrims, if you invite representatives of the indigenous people to join you, they are always happy to oblige.

And finally, you can achieve the ultimate Thanksgiving experience by paying a visit to the Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe in southeast London from which the original Pilgrim Fathers set sail for Plymouth in 1620. This historic pub is authorised to sell both British and US stamps so come armed with postcards to confuse your family and friends.

After hoisting a pint at the Mayflower, pay a visit to Southwark Cathedral to see the new memorial where Queen Elisabeth recently paid tribute to the Mohegan tribal chieftan, Sachem Mohamet Weyonomon who had travelled to London in 1736 to complain directly to George II about British settlers encroaching on tribal lands. Sadly, Weyonomon died of smallpox before getting to see the King and was buried in an unmarked grave on the banks of the Thames near John Harvard and William Shakespeare. Weyonomon’s letter to George II finally reached the hands of a British monarch on Wednesday, November 22, 2006. Yes, one day before Thanksgiving.

So forget the traffic jams, the football games, the shopping malls and the Butterballs. For free spirits who want to “connect to their inner Thanksgiving”, next year, go back to where it all really started and have the time of your life celebrating America’s greatest holiday - in London.
Photo Credit of Queen and Indian Chief at Southwark Cathedral: AP

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the hint, Kate. We will be coming next year - for sure.
    Gabi & Michel