Sunday 1 December 2013

Our visit to the Pokémon Event and London Zoo Santa's Grotto 2013 Review!

Post includes: London Zoo Santa's Grotto 2013 review.

Aaron and I went to a Pokémon event yesterday. The video games are for age 7+ so the main reason we went was for the free admission to the zoo which was included.  

How surprised was I when

and specifically Pikachu actually became THE highlight of our day!

The PR ladies were like Aunties to Aaron and he loved the attention he was getting, and he hasn't stopped cuddling Pikachu since he left there even falling asleep cuddling him in bed last night.  Yes a teddy was in our goodie bag!
It was wonderful to meet Gemma and Afra at the event and later on at the zoo bumped into the lovely Anna, and we were helped to the bus stop at the end of the day by an incredibly kind Not a Notting Hill Mum.

When we left the Huxley Building to go to the zoo itself, we went through the tunnel featured below.  We spent a disproportionate amount of time in outdoor play areas, as these seemed to be what we stumbled on first. Luckily we also saw the Penguin Beach which stopped me in my tracks as it was so picturesque.
How very appropriate that I got a picture of a camel with the hump before my camera's battery died as I have had the hump ever since.  What a poor show... Details down below!

London Zoo - Santa's Grotto 2013 review. 
We were having SUCH a good time, and the zoo pathways were so fabulous for Aaron to speed along on his bike, with lots of them being on inclines.  WHY did I decide we needed to do Santa?  It wasn't Aaron's idea!!!  BUT we passed a Santa's Elf and there was a little queue and I got intrigued.  I got Aaron to go to the gift shop so we could buy a £10 ticket to see Santa at 14:30 - at 14:00 there were still tickets available for 14:00 but I opted for 14:30 so that Aaron could enjoy the shop first.  I allowed him 20 minutes in the fab gift shop which he loved and then asked him to head off to Santa, with the promise we'd go to the gift shop again later.

Looking back, the fact that there were lots of tickets available, same day, even in 1 minute's time, should have spoke volumes to me.  Do you ever go into an empty restaurant for example?

We got in the Grotto *short* queue, which was headed up by a female Elf who checked our ticket.  You then queue on a dedicated pathway, bordered by rope, which takes you to a little wooden house that Santa is in.  I could not take pictures of the whole setting as my battery my this point had 100% died.

We went into Santa, and it was the Harry Potter equivalent of meeting a Dementor.  He sucked ALL of the joy right from my heart.  As we walked in, he asked Aaron his name and age.  It wouldn't have taken much for an elf to have asked these, and have prepped Santa in advance as we queued.  It would have added some warmth and a much needed personal touch.

Once we were sat down, he asked Aaron what he wanted for Christmas.  Aaron said a Jake [lego] Boat.  (He's wanted this everyday since seeing it on display on 17th August and hasn't at all wavered).  By this point, Santa had passed him a wrapped gift and indicated to Aaron that he had a gift in his hand.  Aaron said "what about my Jake Boat?" and Santa said "I'll see what I can do!" when he saw Aaron's disappointed face he said "well I have 100s of 1,000s of children to deliver to so they can't all get what they want, but like I say I'll do my best and see what I can do".  While this is going on, you are very conscious that you need to smile for the camera as there is a male elf nearby who is taking photos that you know you can buy afterwards.  I knew I wanted these (1) because my camera battery was dead and (2) for the blog.

I would like it if Santa said ho ho ho and acted jovial.  I would like it if he said that Aaron would get what he asked for if he was good (at least then he'd know not to be naughty between now and 25th December)  but no such luck. This Santa seemed bored out of his head.  Sometimes it is a curse that I can pick up on "energy" as his was dreary, uninspired and 100% lacking in enthusiasm, as was I when I left his company!

We then left the Santa wooden shed to queue at another - the one printing the photos (for a fee).  Ironically I thought getting festive photos would cheer me up - ho ho ho indeed :-( #not

We queued there for nearly 30 minutes and it felt the whole time like we were in the North Pole itself (the wind blowing at me/us was so cold).  Trying to keep Aaron in that queue took every ounce of imagination I had, and when I ran out I gave him my phone to watch (you tube videos).  We were in the queue so long, I then had another dead battery.  In the end he was SO COLD that I let him stand into the shed itself, where there was no Christmas music or anything to yet you in the yuletide mood!

When we got to the top of the queue, the lady flicked through our 5 photos.  She said one photo was £8 or 3 for £15.  Always one to grab a bargain I opted for 3 for £15.  I couldn't remember them all, to be able to pick 3 and discount 2 but she kept flicking.  I asked her to go back to the screen where I could see all 5 (instead of one at a time) but she point blank refused (yet she later did just that, but only so as to delete the 2 SHE had discounted so that when she viewed them again, only 3 would come up, for me to confirm).  SHE said THESE are perfect as (1) in this one he is looking at Santa (2) in this one he is looking at the gift and (3) this is a group photo.  At this point I was frozen and my fingers were numb.  The man behind me in the queue was playing with Aaron so that I could pay, so that he could pay... he'd taken pity on me.  The member of the staff could have been working in any supermarket, there was nothing festive about her attitude.  I then typed in my pin number on a "calculator" type thing, which did not inspire confidence, so I asked for a receipt.  She said "we don't have a printer".  Her tone was as if to say "this is a shed what do you expect".  I said to her you "are not allowed to legally charge a credit card without providing a receipt".  She looked SO NONPLUSSED the man behind me, again took pity on me and said to her "it's true!"  She simply said "I will tell my Manager".  I felt so mistreated and as unfestive as it gets when I walked away from there.  The photos were meant to end the bad Santa experience on a high and the photos were as bad or worse than Santa himself.  It really was like the whole thing was one big practical joke!

We were both freezing and hungry so despite it being nearly 3 o'clock and the zoo closing at 4 o'clock there was no way we could go and see the many animals we had yet to see (without first warming up and filling up) so we headed for the zoo restaurant adjacent to the gift shop, a short walk from Santa. It looked so very classy what could possibly go wrong!

Got to the fish and chips and asked the lady "is there any left? Are you still serving?" I asked her 3 times, made eye-contact every time and she looked at me blankly so I assumed she didn't speak English.  I later heard her speak English PERFECTLY.  Someone came out with 3 large pieces of battered fish, so I secured one and chips and quickly asked for carrots before as they took them away.

We went to pay and there were 2 tills.  We got to the front of the queue at our till. I had my card in my hand and was just about to pay - incredibly grateful Aaron was by my side and not running around, when unbeknownst to me, the other till had decided to abruptly close WITHOUT serving her last customer.  Next I know the posh family next to me are leaning across me to pay my cashier.  I didn't know who to be angrier at.  The lady (Marta) who closed without serving them, who was still standing there emptying her till oblivious to the stress she'd caused OR the family who should have let me go first seeing I was with a young child and food that was going cold OR the cashier, who should have shown more loyalty to me, his customer.  I mumbled a few complaints and the answer kept being "we close at 3"  to which the posh family man kept saying "where does it say that?".  Everytime he asked that there was either no answer or one of "everyone knows that!"  Anyhow he eventually asked to see a Manager and I said "when you find one I want to speak to them next". Posh man's card got declined twice.  I SHOULD have been happy but I was too angry to even register the fact till hours after.  There was someone near by sweeping and I asked him who the Manager was and he pointed to MY cashier.  I was devastated.  How could a Manager have handled this situation so badly (I haven't said/nor remembered all the words that were exchanged). The Manager decked my shock so followed me to my table and offered me a free cake. I said "I am a blogger and will be including this in my review" to which he replied "I don't think that will be necessary, enjoy your cake and leave it to one side".  I might have done but the patronising tone in which he said it, did nothing to lift my spirits.  In fact we sat there for 30 minutes and it took me that time to stop shaking.

We left there at 15:45 and made a mad dash to the Aquarium so we could end the day on a high.  No photos as my camera had died like I explained above.

But suffice to say Aaron loved the aquarium.

We bought a gift for Daddy in the gift shop on the way out but Aaron still cried as he didn't want to leave the zoo and kept saying "I'm going to miss this place!"

Yes, an event might mean you get free access to the zoo but here's what I spent none of it (apart from the gift) a pleasure:
  1. Santa £10
  2. Santa photos £15
  3. Lunch in restaurant £13
  4. Gift £3.
  5. £9 travelcard to get there!
  6. TOTAL £50 - not a cheap day out by any stretch of the imagination!
At a time when money is incredibly tight I feel incredibly stupid.  Our experience at Santa in Harrods made me want to do it again (despite Aaron not asking to!) but now my motto is "when you've tried the best do not try the rest!" 

I will now include the Santa pics so you can decide if they are as bad as I THINK THEY ARE.

Bored Santa
As you can see the card the photos are in have no mention of London Zoo.  The event company who are laying on Santa clearly didn't bother with that.  Santa has his eyes closed in one photo.  At least he made no effort to hide how bored he was!  Look at the group photo, nothing sparkly about it.  A tree that's not lit and dullard velvet curtains behind us.

I read the reviews online once home and it is all about Mother Xmas (nobody mentioned her) and reindeers (did not see them) and a free mince pie (the lady we bought the ticket off did say we could get this from the Gingerbread House which we didn't get chance to do).  Totally gutted, the money would have been better in my pocket!!! I hope yours stays there too!


  1. Good job we never went in for the Santa then! What a shame it was so disappointing! Atleast the animals and the Pokemon were good! :D

    1. Thanks for popping over Anna and was lovely to see you there. Anyone reading this, her review of the zoo is lovely x

  2. Ohh dear, sorry the zoo santa experience was not good, what a shame. Aaron looks very happy in the pics though, hope it was a good day in general. Mich x

  3. The zoo looks wonderful but Santa's grotto what a disappointment. I'm quite pleased with my fairy lit Christmas tree train tunnel now, my presents may not be up to much but at least they are free - OK with the holiday!

    1. Oh it really is. Silly me for attempting Santa. Bet yours will be phenomenal x

  4. wow' The zoo looks wonderful but Santa's grotto what a disappointment. this Christmas you want
    room share


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