“What do I have to change for?” Hubby asked when we were up in our room.
“Because Winter Wonderland is outdoors. It’s in Hyde Park, behind Apsley House. We have to bundle up.”
“Oh, Jeez, it’s freezing out! And more crowds,” Hubby said as he looked longingly at the darts match (still) playing on the telly.
“At least it’s not raining.”
“Yeah. We’re getting a five minute break on the rain.”
So once again we bundled up – coats, scarves and gloves – and made our way to Piccadilly. Walking briskly towards Apsley House, we soon encountered a crowd on the sidewalk.
“What’s this now?” Hubby asked. “What are they all lining up for?”
“The Hard Rock Cafe. There’s always a line. Do you want to go in?” I asked, knowing how big Hubby is into rock and roll. “They have a Vault, with all kinds of rock memorabilia inside.”
“Are you crazy? I wouldn’t wait on that line, in the cold, to get inside if you told me Pink Floyd was in there. And that would be something, since half of them are dead.”
So we continued on our way until we reached Apsley House, which always looks magnificent when lit at night. And on past it to Hyde Park gate . . . . . .
And the entrance to Winter Wonderland.
“What are we stopping for?” Hubby asked. I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. I was the one who’d explained to Hubby that the entrance to Winter Wonderland was right behind Apsely House. I knew it was right behind Apsley House, but I hadn’t realized that it was right behind Apsley House. As in within spitting distance. A child could have thrown a baseball from Apsley House to the entrance. Hell, even I could have thrown a baseball from Apsley House to the entrance. Surely the first Duke must be turning in his grave. And I daresay the present Duke can’t have been too happy, either.
We were soon forced to move forward towards the entrance by the sheer numbers of the crowd pressing ahead. Before us lay a wall of people, a cacophony of noise and the glare of thousands of neon lights.
“Into the valley of death rode the six hundred.”
“What? I can’t hear you!”
“Hold my hand,” I yelled. “I don’t want us to be separated.” Egad, I’d never find Hubby again in this crowd, and even if I did, he’d be spitting mad.
Although we had just come through the entrance, everyone already inside seemed to be coming at us. Like lemmings, we had to jostle our way in the opposite direction through a wall of humanity. Peripherally, I could make out booths on either side of the crowd, but dashed if I could make out what any of them were selling. If we went on at this pace, we’d never make it to the Big Wheel by 7 p.m., for which time we had tickets. Right, time to take matters into my own two feet. I gripped Hubby’s hand tighter still and forged ahead . . . twelve steps to the left, nine ahead. Eight steps to the right, 17 ahead. Thus, we twisted, turned and wended our way towrads the Big Wheel, which we could see in the distance.
Finally, we made our way, still together, to the Wheel and joined the queue. There were many gondolas on the wheel and so it was soon our turn to ride. Seated inside, we found buttons one could push in order to listen to either a narrative of the upcoming view or Christmas carols. We chose the narrative and soon we were off. Up and up, higher and higher we climbed. Then we stopped so that the next people in line could board. There we hung, in mid air, as it were.
“What’s the matter?” Hubby asked.
“I didn’t realize we’d be this high up.”
“We’re hardly off the ground yet.”
Apsley House looked like a Leggo toy below us. Staring at it, I thought of Wellington and tried to summon up some courage.
“Maybe we should change seats and sit on the other side so we can get a better view of the fair.”
“Alright, alright. I just asked.”
Oddly enough, the higher we climbed, and the less I could see the ground way down below us, the more I began to r
elax. In the distance, one could see the twinkling lights of Mayfair and Knightsbridge. It was a glorious view, a smooth ride and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Before long, it was time to disboard.
“That was great!”
“I’m glad you liked it. It was something different.”
“Did you enjoy it?”Hubby asked.
“Yes, I did. Though I could use a cigarette.”
We found an out of the way, miraculously empty area and lit up.
“Zippo’s Circus. I saw it on our way over here. It’s over in that direction,” I said, pointing.
As we walked off towards the circus tent, it became obvious that, although we could clearly see it, there was no direct route one might take in order to reach the tent. We found it tantalizingly near, but confoundingly difficult to reach as it seemed blocked on all sides by other attractions.
First, we found our way blocked by the Alpen Hotel, a sort of haunted house ride by all appearances.
Then by a German Christmas village, where the crowds continued to thwart our every step forward. Finally, I found a ticket booth and asked the attendant how in the world one was actually supposed reach Zippo’s Circus.
“Oh, well, the best way to go is right up this lane here till you get to your first right turning. Then you’ll take that straight until you see the Bavarian Village. You have to go right through it and out the back. When you get out into the gardens behind, make a right and follow that lane right around to the right and then you’ll see it.”
“Well?” Hubby asked when I returned to his side.
“It’s right down here!” I said brightly. It was the first right turn she’d said, wasn’t it?
We made it to the Bavarian Village, which was chockablock with people, and finally out the back, up the lane and to Zippo’s Cirque Berserk.
Here’s a publicity still from Zippos, which will you give you some idea the flavour of the night.
Zippo’s is made up of a small, but amazingly talented, troupe of performers. All of the acts were tied together by a sort of Tim Burton/Grimm’s Fairy Tale-esque narrative. The forces of evil, nightmares and I don’t know what else all played a part. The woman who did the narrative had a heavy eastern European accent, so most of what she said was lost, but no matter, the show itself more than made up for it.
There was an awe inspiring aerialist, a couple who walked and rode bicycles on a tight rope and a group of tumblers and acrobats called the Zulu Warrior Troupe. You can watch a previous performance of theirs here
, which will give you a sample of their talents.
“Great! I had no idea it would be this great. It’s all fabulous.”
The highlight of the show was the Motorcycle Globe of Death, which stars Brazil’s Lucius Troupe. First, a single motorcyclist enters the globe and rides around the interior at breakneck speeds. Then another cyclist enters and the two of them drive like demons inside the globe. Then, a woman entered the globe and they sped around her dancing form. Then, she left and a third cyclist entered the globe . . . . .
“No freaking way,” said Hubby, who actually rides motorcycles. “That’s nuts.”
Way. Round and round they went and I have to say that it stopped being fun for me. No kidding. My heart was in my throat, my rounded eyes were glued to the globe and I really just wanted them to stop before they killed themselves. I couldn’t see this ending well. The air became thick with exhaust fumes, their engines raced and revved as they continued to accelerate, but otherwise the entire tent was silent, all of us watching with jaws hanging open.
Words really cannot do justice to the performance, so I’ve included a YouTube clip of the act – you can watch it here.
And here’s a longer version
. I will tell you that everyone survived the performance, even the audience members.
After the show, Hubby and I found a nearby, and blessedly empty, sausage stall with a beer stand not five feet away from it. There is a God! We chowed down, drank beer and had a really good time.
“So, what’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” Hubby eventually asked.
“Apsley House!” I waited for a joyous response from Hubby. It never came. “Followed by your three hour rock and roll tour.”
“It’s not my rock and roll tour.”
“Well, it certainly isn’t mine. I booked it for you. Then we have the theatre tomorrow night.”
Eventually, we began to make our way out of the fair.
“Which way do we go?”
“Dashed if I know. I’m all turned around. I have no idea where in the Park we are any longer.” We walked aimlessly for a bit and then I saw a security guard up ahead.
“Can you tell me where the nearest exit is?” I asked. He raised his right arm to shoulder height and pointed in response. I followed his finger and there was a deserted lane leading down to what appeared to be a well travelled thoroughfare.
“Thanks.” We exited the Park and stood on the sidewalk.
“Where are we?”
“Give me a minute.”
“Are we lost?”
No! You can’t get lost coming out of Hyde Park. I just don’t know which gate this is.” I looked to my right . . . . Knightsbridge. I think. I looked across the road. Hhhhmmmm . . . . I do believe that if we were to cross right here and continue on we’d soon be at the Grenadier Pub. Just to make sure, I looked to the left and confirmed that I’d gotten my bearings right.
“This way.” I said to Hubby as I began to walk.
“Do you know where we are now?”
“Yes. And you know where we are, too.”
“Yup. St. George’s Hospital is just up here on the right.”
“Should we get a cab? Look, there’s a free cab!”
“We don’t need a cab! Come on, a few more steps and you’ll see where we are.”
And there, like a beacon in the night, glowed Apsley House.
Day Four Coming Soon!