Found a really great Santa’s grotto just on the edges of Notting Hill inside the Whiteleys shopping centre in Queensway. OK it’s W2 not W11, but it’s very close and well worth the journey. The grotto, run by the National Literacy Trust, is inside a massive Christmas trees, elves greet you and amuse your children while you wait in the queue – about 10 minutes for us today at about 4.30pm – which I didn’t think too bad. The fee is a reasonable £2 a child, but the experience is worth way more than that.
Father Christmas actually spends time talking to the children, asking their names, what they want for Christmas and then shows them some lovely books, which are not wrapped so they can choose what they want. He was incredibly patient when my horrors didn’t immediately like what was on show and wanted the teddy which was a prop under the Christmas tree. And mine were secretly very pleased when they finally chose a Jacqueline Wilson about a dinosaur and a hardback copy of Zog by the Gruffalo team (I checked the cover – they cost £10.99 so it’s a brilliant gift for the entrance fee).
Santa talked about how the last time he saw them they were asleep ( last Christmas Eve) – and the reason he waits til children are asleep – because otherwise they would be chatting so much there wouldn’t be time for him to get round the world. Even when the meddling kids asked annoying questions about why the fire in the fireplace isn’t real he had an answer – because it’s too hot in here but when it gets cold he has a lovely fire burning there.
He also looks like a real Santa – my children know that they aren’t all real as the real Santa doesn’t have time but that sometimes the real Santa will pop along and hand out some gifts – so you just never know. The organisers will take photos of course – which I normally avoid as a rip off – but these are only £4 and as the money goes to the Literacy Trust and the photos were not bad I bought one this time – a second copy is cheaper at £2.
The whole Santa’s grotto thing can be such a demoralising experience and the gifts so outrageously priced, I really wanted to let you know about this one which I actually found quite uplifting – although I’m sure on Saturday when it will be much busier his chats will probably a little shorter!
The opening hours are 12 until 6.30pm each day with a break between 2.30 and 3pm when Santa is away feeding his reindeer. Enjoy!