Ho ho ho and a Merry Christmas to all!
Is there anything more magical than being a kid at Christmas time? Wishing for snow, counting down the days till a jolly old man in a red suit pays a visit down your fireplace, leaving out mince pies and carrots for the reindeer….magiiiiiiic! Today’s theme was set by my good friend Emma Brown (Enmability to her friends), who would like to know of a visit to Old St Nick.
The thing is, every story I can remember involves taking my nephews, rather than going myself. Yet I must have been, at least 10 times! So, rather than telling you a memorable story from a childhood visit, I’m going to tell you about the best Santas Grotto I’ve ever seen.
A few years ago we decided to visit Berkeley Castle, in Gloucestershire, during their Christmas celebrations. In December the castle becomes an even more magical place, their “Castle by Candlelight” event fills the castle with candles (surprisingly), giant festive trees and a choir warming the great hall with carols and hymns. It’s pretty fantastic, if you haven’t been and are close by I encourage you to go!
After you have explored the many rooms, old corridors and ‘secret’ passageways Berkeley has to offer, supped on hot mulled wine and enjoyed some roasted nuts (probably my favourite winter snack!) you are ready for the pièce de résistance…a visit to the big guy himself. I have to say, even I was caught up in the magic of it.
The entrance to Santa’s Grotto is a long narrow white washed corridor, adorned with boughs of green, fairy lights, mistletoe and decorations. Whilst you wait (there’s ALWAYS a queue) you can hear the choir singing. The day we were there everyone was in good spirits and often those waiting would join in with a carol or two, really got us in the festive mood! At the end of the corridor the ceiling and walls widened into a round cavern about 2m square (can something be m sq if it is round?) where sat a jolly little elf who asked for a pound per child who wanted to go in. She was SO cool, honestly until that moment my nephew had been quite skeptical about the whole thing (right on the cusp of the Age of Non Believing) but this elf, with a nod of her head, twinkling eye and few choice words had him enraptured.
In we went….wow.
Blue lights on the white walls gave the room a decidedly ‘North Poleon’ feeling, there was a carpet of snow, merry snowman and a path of fairy lights leading up to the jolliest man who ever lived. You know how sometimes Father Christmas has just obviously had a long day, what with popping back to Lapland to check on the toy making, answering to Mrs Claus about the route he’s planning to take on Christmas Eve and bugging the elves about the price of reindeer food going up again it’s no wonder that at times he can seem a little grumpy, but not this day! This was, hands down, the best mood I have ever seen Chris Cringle in…he was laughing and smiling, telling jokes and offering hugs to mummys and daddy’s as well as boys and girls. We came out of that room feeling warm and merry and bright and 100% glad to all be on the nice list. What a merry day we had!
I’m really intrigued as to whether Katy and Fi remember visits to St Nick (Sion (like Sean) Con in Welsh for those who are wondering!) as children…seems strange I can’t remember a single visit! I remember there being white footprints from the front door to the tree the year it snowed…I remember my father saying everyone will leave milk, so we should leave brandy out for Father Christmas. Haha! I can recall visits from family we hadn’t seen all year, Christmas walks and brandy butter. I remember the biggest present I ever had, from my uncle, and wondering and wondering what it could be for weeks before Christmas…but visits to mini North Poles, not so much! There’s a message in there somewhere. Am very much looking forward to this year now, thanks Enmability! 😀