Friday, 5 December 2014

4 Santas and a Christmas 2014

So Christmas hasn't happened in our house yet as we have been too busy visiting the main man Mr Claus himself, again and again and again. The post says "4" as there is one last Santa yet to come in about 10 days.

So here I will tell you the high and lowlights of each and every one.

First up, in chronological order, is the luxury Santa, which of course, in true 5 star style has to be seen at Harrods. The corridor you wander through, to get to knock on Santa's door, is extremely North Pole like:
Aaron and 2 of his cousins were very taken with it. I however, was missing last year. I am not saying the library was better, but the staff were. I "think" and it's purely speculation, that last year the staff were actors. They got in character and stayed in character. It showed. It was infectious. There was a passport and each "character" you met stamped it. They were all wonderful. The best of course being Mrs Christmas. The team this year, would chat amongst themselves, whenever not dealing directly with a child, and it showed. Don't get me wrong, the kids did not at all notice but I did and it made me a little sad. I hate when teams do it in retail and in a Santa setting it is even worse.

Actually I have just remembered there is a bit where you get to throw snowballs through holes in snowmen. Aaron and his cousins LOVED this and I think we had two fabulous staff members (elves?) helping us. That was definitely a highlight, but I'd nearly forgotten it. Spend a few minutes there, it is GREAT - don't think I got a photo though as I was too busy watching how WELL Aaron was doing!

Just reviewed my pics having already published this post, and I did capture the snowballs, just that it was on VIDEO rather than pictures. Just QUICKLY uploaded it to You Tube look:

I do love how the team take a photo for you, with your own camera, on Santa's Sleigh. At least this meant I only spent 29 pounds (gulps) on Santa photos and did not have to buy these too:
This particular scene was incredibly beautiful:
But what really took my breath away was this clock. It gave me a lump in my throat.
Upon exiting the "grotto" you find yourself in a very busy Disney department, and it doesn't mean you are in Toy Kingdom (Harrods' toy department) - no you are on the 4th floor and toy kingdom is on the 3rd floor as Santa went to great lengths to explain to me *le sigh*.

It is "such" a Disney Department that you can't help but notice The Disney CafĂ© By Harrods you walk passed to get to Santa's Grotto. I think there is some sort of deal where you go there and see Santa as a combined thing, but I did the normal ten pounds deal like last year, that you only get if you have a Harrods Rewards Card. Santa appointments sold out back in September. I was incredibly lucky to secure one. Twitter helped.

So yeah you are spat out into a Disney Department and the two highlights of that are (1) the mirror, which you wave wands at, and it interacts with you (DO NOT MISS IT) and (2) the tree with Disney ornaments on (see below) which are exactly 10 pounds, so you can spend the 10 pounds cashback that goes on your Harrods Rewards Card when you book Santa (which effectively refunds in "goods", what you paid to book him).
Above you can see the cute drawstring bag that each child who visits Santa gets. They're not great quality but adorable nonetheless.

You get a HUGE chocolate coin each (well the children do but Aaron didn't like the taste of it - and he ADORES chocolate - so let me eat his). Stupid me, before I hoovered it up I did not take a photo. But it is very large, very gold and very souvenir like. Each child also gets a small book each, which again, I haven't photographed, and we haven't looked at since. Very unlike last year where I took a snap of each and every thing we got. As you can see by Aaron, they each get a silly cardboard hat to wear. As you can also see, none of the older children wear them. Aaron wore his throughout though, so perfect for a 4 year old but not so much for a 6 year old. As you can also see in the pic above, the staff wore a pinny, which no doubt was meant to make them look as if they worked in Santa's worskhop. They're inspired in that they're in Harrods' colours, so seeing them can't fail but remind you as to where you are, BUT they are NOT at all festive, so if someone said that in a meeting, maybe back in July, then hey, I hear ya! I agree with ya! 2015 speak louder ha ha!

I haven't really spoken yet about the man himself, and that is because doing so makes me sad. He was so patient, and SO great. He spent a long time with us. You can see from the photos, that he even suggested Aaron move, as he was on the end on his own (his smiles in the photos show he didn't mind that though). He was great BUT he spoiled it at the very end.

You see, on the back of the door, to enter his Grotto, there are coat hooks. As we got down our many bags, coats and what not, at the END of our visit, he said THREE TIMES that we should not forget to visit Toy Kingdom, on the third floor, on our way out. Now this on its own might not sound very bad (although it IS) but this is added to the fact, that when he asked each child what they wanted, when Aaron said "a robot" he'd said "we have lots of them on the 3rd floor" followed by something about Mum having a look with a glance over at me. I pretended not to hear it, and hoped/prayed that Aaron wouldn't expect his Santa's gift on 27th November right there and then, bought by yours truly.

Anyway, coming out in the Disney section and playing with that interactive mirror for about 30 minutes took Aaron's mind off it, but I was left with a very heavy heart that Santa had turned into a SALESMAN. You see I go there for the magic tooooooooooooo. I spent about 6 hours on my Harrods' Santa post last year. I think I even did it on the same day, such was my excitement. The delay this year is because of that heaviness he left me with. PLUS he said it to the wrong people, as the reason Aaron wanted to go, is because he adores Toy Kingdom. Santa was singing to the choir. We did NOT need to be told to go there. In fact I have been telling everyone who wants to listen (looks at The Boy and Me) that they should GO to THE TOY KINGDOM instead of Hamleys as Hamleys is MURDER at this time of year. Good news though: Laura from Mummy's Zone saw Santa same day as me, an hour later (me 16:30 and her 17:30) and Santa had had his medication by then was no longer a Salesman. She loved him and had a positive experience. So clearly, people had watched footfall, and saw people getting in the lift and going home, and perhaps had radioed Santa, and asked him to give everyone a nudge in the right direction. Clearly it didn't sit well in his script and an hour later (or earlier) he'd stopped doing it. I am writing all of this, so that they ensure he continues to stop doing it. It's not right AND, my memory like an elephant boy, said to me the NEXT day, "Mummy you never bought me a robot in Toy Kingdom even though Santa told you to", to which I said "silly Santa, he knows he's bringing it down the chimney for it to be under the tree on Christmas Day".

Laura Mummy's Zone's Harrods' Santa's Grotto review is here and clearly shows what a lovely visit they have. I bumped into them both before and after and they clearly loved the experience.

Yes, it might mean it wasn't bought in Harrods, but hey Harrods, don't use Santa as the fall guy. He was doing very well up until that point and was terribly attentive and lovely. He did tell us that his assistant was there to take photos, and was therefore "more important than an elf" which also didn't sit well with me BUT it fitted with his script, when he asked her "what are the noisy elves up to?" when we could hear real giddiness in the corridor.

On to the photos. As you exit Santa's grotto you are given a wristband and you take it to the till to get photos.

I DO NOT LIKE the packages that are on offer this year AT ALL, and much prefer the deal I got last year. The frames are the same exquisite design, but instead of the BEAUTIFUL red velvet, they are merely blue cardboard, which the cashier tried to convince me was slightly velvety till I told him to get real. I spent 29 pounds on the photos, and I will be very honest: I resented it a little. I spent 28 pounds on photos last year, and my 2013 Harrods Santa's Grotto review had five thousand views. I thought they might thank me by making the photos complimentary this year, but no such luck :-( I got 3 photos and luckily they were allowed to be different, which can't be said of all the packages. They should take a leaf out of Westfield Stratford's book, as I prefer their photo offers. Yes, we went to that Santa too, the next day in fact, and I will review that here too, but perhaps not tonight, as I need to sleep.

These are our Harrods' Santa photos:


The one far left was taken last, when Santa lovingly suggested that Aaron move and sit with the rest of us. But he was loving the experience so much that he was smiling in the other photos too!

What you SHOULD go to on the 3rd floor, to Toy Kingdom for, is this photo booth which is entirely free. The lady who runs it is incredible and even gave us THREE copies of the photos so that the cousins could have one each. That made us OVER THE MOON.
I will be back to write about more Santas in the coming days :-)

Santa Number 2 - Westfield Stratford City

This was our Santa experience at Westfield Stratford City, only the VERY NEXT DAY (28th November).  Watch the video below to the end to see which we preferred ;-)

Westfield Stratford City is extremely festive and we loved our time there despite it being Black Friday on the day of our visit:
I adored the Grotto, in a purpose built building just outside the Great Eastern Market on the Lower Ground Floor. Start to finish I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Very special experience that lasts 40-50 minutes. I love the photo packages too. We bought a Christmas bauble with our Santa pic inside - beautiful.
A photo posted by Liska (@newmumonline) on




Next up we saw Santa number 3 at Bristol Zoo at Night

Santa was fab, but what blows you away is all of the animals done in lights. Really truly magical:
Aaron loved his visit with +Bristol Zoo Gardens 's Santa and told him that his favourite book is Dog on Stilts and that he would like Santa to bring him a ROBOT for Christmas. He even showed Santa how the robot should walk:

It is very festive in there, the Elf is lovely, all gifts are age appropriate and individually wrapped. The area you wait in to see Santa, is all beautifully decorated and all by Zoo volunteers, who also spent TWO WEEKS wrapping all of Santa's gifts.

The Elf asks you your child's age and name, and writes it on a gift tag, which she places on the appropriate gift she has chosen. She passes it to Santa, as you go behind the curtain to meet him. Aaron wasn't watching during this whole process.... but when we got to the bus stop he was able to tell me in great detail, how the Elf was great, as she had chosen his gift, labelled it, and passed it to Santa. He even imitated her, and did it in even more of a dramatic secretive way, than the discreet way she had done. SUCH a comedian. But he LOVED her, for giving Santa a FIRE ENGINE, which he has played with constantly since. It was great actually as we have a few Elves. Two from the Tiger shop and two from Card Factory, so her working in that way, was able to add to my stories about Elves to Aaron. Santa can't do it all by himself can he! No! Love Elves (just not the expensive Elf on the Shelf one!).

Children can meet Santa in his Bristol Zoo enchanted Santa's Grotto, which is open every weekend from 29th November until Christmas, from 11am – 3.30pm and includes a gift from Santa.

Sustainable, locally-sourced Christmas trees are now on sale in the Zoo’s West car park, on College Road until Christmas eve, subject to availability.

The magic really begins when Santa’s reindeer fly in from Monday 1st December. 

Guests will be able to get up-close to and feed four of Rudolph’s friends:
  • Rudolfina
  • Snowflake
  • Twinkle and 
  • Dewdrop

everyday until 5th January from 10am to 3pm (excluding Christmas Day when the Zoo is closed).

The Zoo is also offering three magical evenings of festive frolics at its Enchanted Christmas events from
 18th - 20th December
Plus a special members’ only evening on:
Wednesday 17th  December.

Gates open at 4.30pm and the event finishes at 8pm every evening.
Guests will be able to sing along with the choirs both on stage and around the site and marvel at the magical light show, Christmas stilt walkers and entertainers. A compere will also be on stage to play some festive games.  
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the Zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

Disclosure: we were guests of Westfield Stratford and Bristol Zoo, but I was a normal paying customer at Harrods.

6 comments:

  1. What a shame about the sales tactics and the not so in character 'elves'! I've not thought of taking missy to Harrods, though I do plan on going to Westfield Stratford, so I can't wait to hear your review. Love the gorgeous photos and hw happy Aaron and his cousins all look x

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    1. Oh yes they were all very happy. Editing my Santa Stratford video right now :-) xx

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    2. +Tinuke I don't know if you have seen my video of Santa at Westfield Stratford yet? xx

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  2. I presume it was down to space that Santa isn't on the toy kingdom floor. It would have annoyed me being told where to go. Most people don't go to see Santa to go shopping afterwards - especially not in November, as you say you go for the magic and tradition.

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    1. I think Emma that they have dedicated the 4th floor to Santa & Disney. You come out of Santa right into a busy Disney Floor and there is some sort of Disney Tea you can have in the cafe. I think it's all a partnership thing. It wasn't so much like that last year. It's cool. I am a retailer by trade. They just need to keep the magic alive. Like you say Santa is not meant to "tell you where to go" ha ha. You pass several people on the way out who could have the job of doing that. He was WONDERFUL apart from that. x

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