Yes really. Not shopping – a day out at the Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush. We spent most of Sunday there – having fun. I am not the type of woman who loves to shop, so for me “day out” and “shopping centre” would normally be a contradiction in terms. However, I was asked whether I would like to spend a day there, eating, being entertained and of course shopping with £150 to play with. I looked over my shoulder to see what the catch was. After all I may not be a shopaholic, but Christmas presents have to be bought – and actually I do like to buy presents for people. So I spend a few seconds mulling it over – and agreed.
Amongst the entertainment on offer over Christmas is the ice rink and a visit to Santa’s grotto. We went to the ice rink last year and I was totally enamoured with the penguins and seals you can hire to help little ones skate, so I needed no persuasion to include this as part of our day. It’s £13 for adults and £8 for children - the penguins and seals are another £5. The prices at the pop-up ice rinks at Winter Wonderland, Tower of London, and the Natural History Museum are all much the same. But I liked the fact it’s indoors at the Westfield. OK less romantic than gazing at the stars – but also fewer twigs and leaves on the ice. OK you are right. There are none at all. I did actually skate a bit as a child and had the odd lesson – I could even skate backwards a short distance – but I have totally lost whatever skills I once had. However, with the children supported by a plastic penguin and the emotional and physical support of a good friend, I was free to skate with no hangers on ie without being pulled over and after 20 minutes or so I began to reallly enjoy it. Even my very nervous 9 year old said she wanted to go again as we came off the ice. And my seven year old son was delighted he had skated a bit without the penguin. So a success all round. Definitely to be recommended and you can book online.
Very thirsty by now, we went to a yoghurt/smoothie bar nearby called SNOG – can that be right? This was actually a fab idea of my friend’s – she is far more health conscious than me . I would have gone for a coffee and a pastry, but having a snog was great. You choose a flavour of yoghurt – plain, mango, chocolate ( oh dear!) etc then choose three fruits or toppings that are blended into it. Both kids had a mango base – my son had a traditional strawberry, raspberry, blackberry mix. My daughter mixed raspberries with oreos. Surprisinly both were equally good – and large – and filling.
I left the family snacking, while I went to collect my gift card which had my spending money on it. It’s a clever idea for a present as you can then use it in almost all the stores rather than just one. It’s a more discreet way of handing a relative or friend a wad of cash! Ideal as a gift for an office colleague.
My money had been gifted by the nice lady in the Westfield PR office and after deductions for skating for five people and Santa’s grotto I was left with £86. I’d already been online to check which shops I wanted to visit so I didn’t meander round, overwhelmed by choice. My first stop was Wolford – I love their tights and they really do last for years – but couldn’t spot the dark brown that I needed and needed to get back for my Snog and collect the kids. Gap as I knew they had a sale and I wanted some fleecy trousers for the kids – I was lucky and got three pairs – only £9 each with the reduction. I bought myself a couple of jumpers which was not on my list. I was nervous about whether the card would work, but it all went very smoothly. Just had to sign the till receipt.
I liked the fact they had some live performers there this weekend- and they were NOT playing Christmas songs - unless they were so obscure I didn’t recognise them! It made a lovely change as Christmas jingles have been out there everywhere I go – even on a colleague’s computer screensave- since mid November!
Next I popped in the White Company and snapped a couple of things on my phone I would like my mum to buy me for Christmas – these wine glasses and a cute mocha coloured nightie. No damage to my gift card, but very useful.
Spotted a lovely fake red leather rocker in Dwell, which we might go back for as my daughter made it her own while we were there. And I noticed they had a lot of fun clocks and cushions that would make nice presents though I didn’t buy this time.
Then to Anthropologie. Their clothes are quite wacky – I was nearly tempted by a pale dusty pink lace skirt covered in transparent sequins – a lot nicer than I have made it sound. But I was distracted by the lovely ceramics and pottery they have. I came away with two plates – can’t say more as my kids read this! It’s a pop up shop and the gift card didn’t work there, but that was no problem as I didn’t expect to only spend other people’s money with so much temptation on offer!
Now I was near House of Fraser – I knew I was out of Clinique Face wash – bought two tubes and got three free gifts – I know not exactly Christmas presents, but I am a sucker for free gifts – it’s my kind of addiction.
At 3pm and two hours of shopping in, it was definitely time for food. We wanted something light and my daughter’s friend wanted to go to The Real Greek for some mezes. It was perfect for what we needed. The kids each had a portion of some chicken wings, kefte and meatballs. I had chicken rolled in bacon which was delicious and my health conscious mate insisted on additional crudites with particularly fabulous hummus. Our waiter Francisco was so charming, I decided on the spot that it was high time we took a holiday in Greece - I will probably discover he is Spanish, but no matter. It was a great choice for a quick lunch break and handily placed to visit Santa’s grotto afterwards
At £4 a head the grotto is pretty good value – the gifts you get are worth more than this. There’s also a short 3D movie which the children star in – I can’t say more as it would spoil the surprise and you get another short video via email – ours arrived today- which is great fun. The money is made on the photos of your children with Santa at the end, I suspect, as you aren’t allowed to take photos yourself so the liklihood is you will want a souvenir. You can get prints, keyrings snowglobes and Christmas baubles all featuring your beloved children’s faces - but there is no pressure to buy copies at all. And we bought a USB stick so that we can make multiple copies or turn the into any kind of gift we like!
Did I get all my Christmas shopping done? No but I didn’t plan to or need to. And can you have a day out at a shopping centre where the shopping does not dominate and the kids winging is therefore kept to a minimum. To my surprise, yes you can.
Footnote – we couldn’t possibly visit all the shops at the Westfield in a day and chose those that appealed to us personally or places we stumbled upon, but if you want to know more about what’s there, opening times – or book skating or santa sessions here’s the website