One thing London does not have a shortage of is haunted places. On my sprint through the city, I mapped out a few spooky locations. Due to the pandemic and the hour of my journey, I wasn’t able to venture into any of them, but they still have that sense of something other worldy lurking in the shadows.
In St. Martin’s Lane, it was originally called The New Theater in 1903. The Noel Coward Theater has the distinction of being the home of it’s original manager, Sir Charles Wyndham. Sir Charles managed both the New Theater and the Wyndham Theater, which sits behind it.
If you see a debonair gray haired man walking the hallways or entering the dressing rooms, say hello to Sir Charles.
Towards the end of WWI, a group of friends were enjoying a performance at The London Coliseum. They noticed a friend of theirs walking down the aisle. Strangely, he disappeared into thin air. On his last day before being deployed, this young soldier had seen a production at The Coliseum. Later, the friends were notified that he had been killed in battle. There were sightings of the young soldier for many years after.
For more stories about Haunted London check out this book by my good friend, Rob Gutro.
Travel in the time of Covid has been an adventure in and of itself. Flying over seas in a mostly empty plane and being locked in a hotel room for a 12 day quarantine made it all the more interesting. I was in the UK for work and had planned on staying in London for a few days, but the universe had other plans.
Even though London and the UK were emerging from lockdown, the country wasn’t necessarily open to foreign travelers. I had to cancel my plans and leave as soon as my work was done. Until, the flights home kept getting cancelled. In the end, I had about 4 hours in London the night before my flight.
I mapped out a route from Leicester Square down to St. Paul’s and set out to see as much as I could see.
To celebrate the 350th anniversary of Leicester Square, a series of statues depicting famous movie scenes were in stalled. If you aren’t looking for them, you may actually miss them.
A short distance from Leicester Square is where you can find Cecil Court. This hidden thoroughfare in London is the home to some of the most unique bookstores. Second-Hand books, Antiquarian books, even the residence of an 8 year old Mozart can be found on this narrow street. I didn’t get a chance to explore as most of the shops closed early or had yet to open from the lockdown.
Winter in Europe is a beautiful and magical time of the year. A dusting of snow covers the narrow streets as people scurry about preparing for the holiday. The city of Hamburg, Germany was one of the most wonderful Yuletide celebrations that I had seen. The city is home to over 30 different Christmas Markets where one can shop for unique gifts, enjoy homemade treats and have a warm mug of Gluhwein in a specially decorated mug. You pay a small deposit that gets returned if you give it back or you can choose to keep it.
The largest of the Christmas Markets is in the City Hall Square. The ornate Rathaus serves as a backdrop for rows and rows of holiday booths and carnival rides for the children.
You can find everything from hand carved Nativities, decorated gingerbread cookies, handmade Kissing Balls and miniature replicas of the city’s famous buildings. The shops are laid out on different “streets”, Handwerskgasse for homemade crafts, Naschgasse for sweets and Spielzeugggasse for children’s toys.
Santa Claus is well represented in Germany at Christmastime. In most of Germany, Der Weinachtsmann is Father Christmas or Santa. He didn’t appear in Germany until the 1800’s but that doesn’t make him less important to the season. The Jolly Old Elf makes an appearance over the heads of the market goers on his reindeer driven sleigh.
There are other Christmas Markets throughout the city and it’s impossible to see them all.
For many years, The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, lit up the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Begun as a gift from Jennings Osborne to his six year old daughter in Little Rock, Arkansas. The display kept growing until neighbors complained of the traffic and inconvenience. By 1993 the display had grown to over three million lights.
Disney Project Director, John Phelan reached out to Osborne’s attorney about bringing his display to Disneyworld. In 1995, the first Osborne Spectacle of Lights adorned the backlot at the then Disney/ MGM Studios. They appeared every holiday until January 2016 when work began on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Henri Landwirth’s “Give Kids The World” features a resort Give Kids The World Village an 89-acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort in Central Florida. Children with critical illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free vacations. Due to changes in the world because of COVID, this year, the village is lit with over a million lights. The product of hard work by all of the Central Florida community, this village takes on a truly sparkling holiday magic.
Night Of A Million Lights will run through Jan 3, 2021. For more information check out their website and order tickets.