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Christmas time, mistletoe, wine and…. flights
Yes at it ticks into the time when it becomes socially acceptable to talk about Christmas, we thought it was time to share what’s happening where on our route map this holiday season. And we’re happy to report every destination we fly to indulges not just a little, but a lot. So, logon to www.Flybe.com, pack your bags (actually, don’t, leave them as empty as possible to fill up with presents), and let us take you to places which deliver a huge amount of festive fun.
While everything on this list is, obviously, worth visiting, this one takes first place by the entire length of Santa’s sleigh. For every year, Bath utterly transforms itself in a bid to out-merry the rest of the country. With more chalets than you could throw a whole wheelbarrow of snowballs at (that’s about 200) packed into the market, not only are you sure to find the perfect present for that special someone, but anything and everything else. Stocking fillers, main gifts, the quaint and quirky will all be packed in. More than 80% of chalets are businesses from the South West – so the more you spend, with them, the more cash goes back into the local economy, making everyone’s Christmas all the better.
You can’t help but get into the Christmas spirit in Jersey. The Christmas light switch on marks the start of La Fête dé Noué when you'll find superb shopping as well as French and 'Genuine Jersey' markets for gifts for everyone plus sample festive treats from street-food stalls.
Then there’s late night shopping (spoiler alert, this happens in Guernsey too, more of which coming up later in this blog), means you can make the most of low-tax prices to find exactly what you want for all the family. The centre of town hosts the Genuine Jersey Christmas Market, and that seal of approval means – you guessed it – you know you’re getting bona fide Jersey produce. Alongside this is a traditional Norman market, in case you fancy something with a little more European flair.
Enough with the shopping and eating – this next one is a feast for the eyes: The Spectacular Christmas Parade. It definitely is a parade. It definitely takes place at Christmas. And it really is spectacular. If you’ve seen the Battle of Flowers (one of Europe’s largest floral carnivals and the biggest event in Jersey’s tourist calendar, so consider this an amuse bouche of what you could witness), imagine the joy of the normal floats, but covered in twinkling lights – and what isn’t improved by a smattering of fairy lights – and with many a seasonal costume just to raise the Christmas spirit cheer even higher, this could very well be the highlight of Jersey’s festive activities.
This paragraph will give you two destinations in one (not literally), think of it as two turtle doves in a Christmas tree. First off, Southampton. Now, while Westquay is a veritable shoppers paradise year round, once it is sprinkled with a bit of Christmas cheer, and perhaps even a light dusting of snow (in no way a guarantee) you’ll find a traditional German market, with individually designed chalets, along with everything from bratwurst, gingerbread hearts and candied fruit. In 40 independent stalls, there are handmade gifts for everyone in the family, and some decorations too. Oh and the highlight is the Flying Santa, which takes to the city centre skies every day – that’s for all the family too.
Here’s your bonus Southampton destination – Winchester. Recognised as one of Europe’s best Christmas markets, it sits neatly between the incredibly picturesque cathedral and has as its centrepiece a real ice rink. To take the chill off the air, choirs regularly perform, and within the chalets you’ll find artisan festive foods along with an extensive range of unique presents which really would look just perfect under your Christmas tree. There’s also a chance to meet Father Christmas, and this year’s pantomime is Peter Pan. To get here from Southampton simply jump on a train – average journey time of 19 minutes and 108 trains every weekday make the journey. You could even wrap some presents on the way back.
Let’s start with the brightness, because the Christmas Lights are simply terrific. Extending the entire length of the high street and bookended a net of thousands of lights at one end, and the Rotary Tree of Joy at the other (which was once the tallest light tree in Europe) you’ll spend the first part of your trip through St Peter Port with your necks arched skyward. But you shouldn’t stop there – especially on late night Thursday shopping evenings, which is when St Peter Port really comes alive. With chestnuts literally roasted on open fires, Young Enterprise groups selling their produces, choirs signing and a traditional Christmas market outside the, errr, usual market building, the island’s capital dials the Christmas o’meter all the way up to 11.
If you don’t fancy the hustle and bustle of Town, Le Friquet Garden Centre hosts the island’s only real ice rink. Or ice rink of any sort, for that matter. And just as a “fun fact”, it takes 75 hours for all the 450 pairs of ice skates to be sharpened before the rink-reopens each year.
By far and away the boldest, biggest and most outlandish (in a good way) celebration of Christmas anywhere on our network takes place in Hyde Park. Land in the heart of the capital at London City Airport and have easy access to the entire city thanks to its fantastic transport connections. The Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is your one-shop-stop for festive fuelled fun. With more than 100 attractions, including the world’s largest portable rollercoaster, and the world’s highest transportable drop-tower, to name but two, they cater for everyone. There’s ice skating, private karaoke booths, a cocktail bar, a Bavarian village, mulled cider, Christmas market stalls, a circus, big fire pit, Santa Land and – izzy, wizzy let’s get busy, a Sooty Christmas show. Oh, and a giant observation wheel plus a bar where it gets to -10C. Which, if London is hit by a particularly cold spell, could actually be a place to go and warm up.
But of course this might not be everyone’s glass of mulled wine, which is why London lays on plenty of other events, including the Southbank Centre Winter Festival. If visiting a Nordic-inspired wonderland was on your Christmas list then this is the place for you. With everything from a Finnish Rooftop Sauna on top of the Queen Elizabeth Roof Terrace (seriously) to an immersive ABBA: Super Troupers exhibition, this really allows you something different from the usual. But it has all that too, from markets to the Hoplocker Bar for craft ale, it promises to be a grand afternoon out.
Then to savour the day, eat at to Jimmy Garcia’s alpine lodge, which overlooks the Thames gives several dinning and drinking options for you to rest your tired feet and restore your body temperature. But while it’s an old-school log cabin, they’ve installed some bang-up-to-date Instagram friendly gigantic snow globes which sit up to 10 people – which would make a terrific Christmas card front cover.
There you have it, five destinations, five different memorable ways to help celebrate Christmas, which one will you choose?
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