On Saturday the 28th of November, Ellen and Khinjarsi convened at London’s Winter Wonderland and decided to report on it in a similar fashion to their previous Comic Con adventure!
Located within Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland is an amalgamation of a travelling fun fair, a christmas market and Santa’s grotto. With free entry and a host of themed areas, it was painted as the greatest christmas attraction the city had seen, so far!
As we left the tube at Hyde Park Corner, we could tell there was excitement in the air. Dozens of families and couples all poured out of the stairway into the street. We were immediately met by a handful of London’s finest “traffic wombles*” making sure people could cross the street safely, at a marked crossing point, no less.
Needless to say, the excitement was ratcheted up to ten as we walked alongside the most festive of fences; 7 feet of sheet metal, lightly adorned with “stars.”
After passing through security checks and entering the Wonderland, we decided to explore. We didn’t receive a map, due to the fact we missed the single member of staff actually supplying them. Later, that would be resolved… Much to Ellen’s despair.
We were first greeted with a bombardment of sweet-smelling foods, overseen by a gigantic puppet master, of Bavarian origin. We decided this was far too disturbing to investigate and examined a nearby sweet store.
Hoping to see a wide array of traditional sweets, we were soon disappointed to find your standard sweetshop range, racked up in price by 40%.
Ellen : On my way out, I noticed a small bucket of popcorn, no larger than half a loaf of bread, valued at £6. This made eating at the cinema look affordable.
Khin : Honestly, these prices were exorbitant, even by London’s standard.
We exited the shambolic sweet shop and avoided the gaze of the puppet master and wandered through the maze of food stalls and handmade, crafty gifts. We eventually came to a structure which could only be described as “Candy-Bar Roulette;” A twisted game in which you bet on the chance to win gigantic iterations of your favourite chocolate bar, from a limited range of four bars
Ellen : Among the numerous gifts were saw, I took a liking to little wooden pigs, carved straight from their logs. When I first saw the chocolate bar stand stand, I thought the bars were for decorations. I then saw a child struggling to carry a single, 2 kilo bar of TOBLERONE, and realised how wrong I was. Seriously, the child was hunched over from the weight… That, or they had REALLY bad posture.
Khin : From the picture below, you can see that a box of MnMs is, at least, the size of three adult, human heads.
We left the surreal world of giant chocolate and then stumbled on the first, truly festive attraction at Winter Wonderland…
Yes… A haunted house… At a Christmas themed event.
Ellen : I had no words… Then I had a ton of negative ones… Then I went on about it for the rest of the day. This brought on the conception of the whole article. What is a HAUNTED HOUSE FOR HALLOWEEN doing in a “WINTER WONDERLAND?!”
As we continued on our search, Khinjarsi highlighted her interest in buying some Christmas gifts for family members, so we inadvertently headed for the “Angel Market.” As we examined the goods available we came across a number of familiar items, all “hand made.”
Ellen : When I saw those cutesy log-pigs again, I realised I was being deceived about the nature of their creation. It all felt a little less charming and a lot more commercialised than it already was.
Khin : A lot of the goods available felt “copied and pasted” from earlier stands and really broke the illusion created. I did, however, find a charming stand of incense burners styled like small buildings, with the incense escaping through their chimneys.
Unfortunately, we had declined to take out cash, earlier, when we saw the £2.95 transaction fee, attached to it. Now that Khinjarsi had fund a gift she wanted to buy, we were put on a 10 minute timer to find the money and secure the item. We continued our way around the market, looking for convenient cash-machine locations. This was when we stumbled upon the second, truly festive attraction at Winter Wonderland…
Ellen : If I wasn’t done already, I was at this point… Why even bother trying to understand this place… Skeletons playing fiddles, actors threatening people with knives… MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
Khin : Big ones, small ones, chocolate as big as your hea- Oh, sorry… That was earlier.
In our boggled states, we finally found a mobile cash machine parked opposite a number of toilets. Khinjarsi attempted to access the unit a number of times, met with constant failure and rejection. A dishevelled attendant then informed us the unit was under repair and wouldn’t work, so when she was able to retrieve her card, we moved to a new unit. This took far longer than it ever should have.
Khin : If a machine isn’t working, maybe you should put an “out of order” sign on it… Or, y’know, close it off?
Ellen : I have to admit, I felt pretty shady, lingering next to cash machines, while strangers were using them. But I didn’t want to be the person staring at strangers using toilets, either. This was when I discovered a lesser-handed-out map, pinned to a nearby fence.
Things only got worse, from there…
With funds replenished, we skirted the startling area which Ellen had discovered and revisited the Haunted Mansion and managed to get Khinjarsi’s gift before it returned to the storefront.
Now in a state of mild euphoria, feeling the journey hadn’t been a total waste, we decided to sample some of the food. We found a nearby vendor selling Hot Chestnuts. For whatever reason, he decided to grace us with a free bag of them and off we skipped, on our merry way.
Ellen : I immediately made a joke about them exploding, to which Khinjarsi reminded me that they can explode, if left unchecked in heat.
Khin : As it turned out, I seemed to get a constant stream of dodgy-tasting nuts, while Ellie was so unfamiliar with the taste, she ate her few happily.
Underwhelmed our first foray into Wonderland cuisine, Khinjarsi ventured to another food stand, looking for something more substantial, while Ellen wandered off and sniffed candles.
Khin : This scenario may seem familiar, but I shall tell it anyway. I asked for Sweet & Sour sauce on Chips [French Fries for our American audience] and was informed that they had run out of Sweet & Sour sauce. Now, maybe it is just me, but if you have run out of a food type, maybe you should put an “unavailable” sign by it… Or, y’know, not advertise it?!
I resigned myself to a tray Curry Sauce and Chips [French Fries] and paid £5 for my disappointment.
Ellen : Meanwhile, I was totally unaware of the situation as I was sniffing candles. They were very subtly scented, but certainly not unpleasant. I arrived as did the Curry Sauce Chips and proceeded to pinch one or two and discuss the merits of sultanas in curry sauce.
Khin : Yeah, that did go on for a bit… *yawns*
This was when we committed our fatal error. While consuming the Curry Sauce Chips, Ellen lost track of our location and, unknowingly, we walked into the area she had tried to avoid… The third, truly festive nail in Ellen’s Christmas coffin… Pirate Island.
Ellen : I was lost for words when I read the name on the map. To actually see the piracy-themed stalls and attractions left me speechless. Then we proceeded into the mess of Christmas spirits and discovered this…
Ellen : If I hadn’t given up before, this was it.
Khin : With this, we both decided it was time to leave and find something semi-tolerable and festive to do.
On our way out we were assaulted by oncoming hordes who didn’t understand the “stay to the right” etiquette of London and everywhere was playing the same Michael Jackson song, slightly out of sync with the store next to it. It was disorientating to say the least.
Ellen : We barely escaped with our sanity intact and managed to catch a glimpse of the festive wall, on our way back to the station.
In conclusion, we both agree this is the least wondrous of winter lands we have encountered thus far. The saddest thing is that upon reviewing our pictures, the only people that appear to be happy are the ones with drinks in their hands, and there is a VERY high chance those drinks are alcoholic as nearly all the stands offered an alcoholic beverage of sorts. Everyone else looked just as miserable as us, but they were still subjecting themselves to the torture, rather than channeling their misery into a blog post.
Ellen : It was abysmal.
The thing which really got to me was how much whining I had heard from people about Black Friday being a commercial feeding trough, yet wandering around this assortment of commercial deceit and profiteering is okay, because it is only in London? Or maybe it is the guise of the “Winter Wonderland” which makes it okay? Either way, it still sucked.
Khin : For something that was a widely regarded and positively publicised, it was an overwhelming letdown, to say the least.
Upon Completion do not endorse London’s Winter Wonderland experience.
The pictures shown were all taken by Ellen and Khinjarsi and were in no way intended to target anyone depicted. If you see yourself in a picture and wish for it to be removed, please notify us immediately and we will do so.
Last visited on 29/11/15. Not completed, per se, but experienced enough to know we never want to attend again.
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