Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New York at Christmas

We love reading good travel blogs and we particularly enjoy dipping into National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel where we were recently introduced to Frances Coke Page and her website Christmastime in New York City.

After a few minutes on the site, we were poised to reroute our flights and head for the Big Apple: the Bronx Messiah, a Brooklyn Nutcracker, the Charlie Brown Christmas at BB King Blues Club and Grill and best of all, the annual reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” in the Clement Clarke Moore Park, which is where Clement Clarke Moore wrote his famous poem.

Frances Coke Page, we’re homesick for New York City at Christmas and it’s all your fault.

Photo Credit: Kruhme's photo stream on Flickr

Friday, December 05, 2008

London Restaurant Offers

We’ve written a lot about the ridiculous expense of eating out in London. In May 2006, we whinged about the cost of a hamburger. In December 2007, we wrote about a five star London hotel that wanted to charge us £3,000 for Christmas lunch.

Christmas 2008 is a whole other story and London is filled with deals that attempt to lure us back through the restaurant door. Here are some of the best we’ve found:

Marsala Zone – As every Londoner knows, these restaurants offer stylish, delicious and inexpensive Indian food that is a great deal at any time. From now until December 9, Marsala Zone has a 2 for 1 offer that is terrific. Just download the voucher here, fill it out and take it along to the restaurant. A recent dinner for two set us back only £13. Branches in Soho, Covent Garden, Earls Court, Islington and Camden.

Babylon at the Roof Gardens – A breathtaking setting, 100 feet above Kensington High Street in a acre and a half roof garden with real flamingos! From now until December 23, you can have a two course lunch for £17.50 or three courses for £19.15. We took an American friend there yesterday. The atmosphere was glam, the food was delicious, service was excellent and the price was right.

Tamarind – This one star Indian in Mayfair has a 2 for 1 offer on its Sunday lunch tasting menu that means you are spending £13.50 per person to eat at one of London’s top restaurants. They also have a £28 per person offer for dinner which includes a bottle of wine.

And if that doesn’t wow you, how about a three course lunch at the Ritz for £35 or a pre-theatre menu for £43.

Monday, December 01, 2008

London at Christmas

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”
Dr. Seuss

What’s the best thing to do in London at Christmas? That’s a tough question since there are so many wonderful Christmas-related events: the Carol services (we’re off to one tonight), the ice skating, the pantomimes. Despite the stiff competition, if we had to choose one single thing to do in London at Christmas time, it would be to pay a visit to the Christmas exhibition at the Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road in Shoreditch.

Every year for the past 19 years, this magical small museum of English interiors decorates its 12 period rooms in the festive style of the season, providing a wealth of information about the development of English Christmas customs. It’s a great way to learn about Christmas traditions and we never fail to come home without some new decorating ideas. But the thing we really love about the Geffrye at Christmas is how it makes us feel.

We always find it strangely calming, and at the same time inspiring, to observe these past celebrations. We’re transported back in time, theirs and ours, and instead of thinking about what we have to do to get ready for Christmas, we think about England’s Christmas memories and our own.

It’s a rich experience but, as is the case throughout the year, admission to the museum is free and we always think how nice it is, particularly at Christmas, to have a warm hearted and authentic experience without having to open one's wallet. The Geffrye does have a good small gift shop with tasteful decorations and books about Christmas, if you do want to spend some money.

If you are hungry and want a warm hearted and authentic dining experience that also won’t cost an arm and a leg, head out the door of the Geffrye, turn left and walk for a couple of minutes along Kingsland Road to the Mien Tay Vietnamese restaurant. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside you’ll find some of the best tasting food, nicest people and cheapest prices in all of London. For example, an enormous pho (a rice noodle soup with beef that is a complete meal), one of the best we’ve had in a long time, was a reasonable £5.50.

We were there recently following a visit to the Christmas exhibition with old friends from out-of-town. We were all completely taken by the charming staff and delicious, beautifully presented food. Being interested in food, we asked many questions and were rewarded with a master class in Vietnamese ingredients and techniques. At the end of our meal, we were presented with a special cake wishing us luck, happiness and prosperity forever.

Oddly enough, that cake pretty much captured our seasonal visit to the Geffrye Museum. It’s not often that we return from a Christmas event feeling lucky to be alive, happy to be together and prosperous in our relationships but such was the case this year and that is why the Christmas exhibition at the Geffrye museum will always be at the very top of our Christmas "must see" list.

The Geffrye Museum
Kingland Road
London E2 8EA
Tel 0207 739 9893

Open Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Sundays and Bank Holiday 12 – 5 pm
Admission Free

The exhibition Christmas Past runs from Tuesday, November 25 through Sunday, January 4th.

Mien Tay Vietnamese Cuisine
122 Kingsland Road
London E2 8DP
Tel: 0207 729 3074