Santa’s Grotto at Westfield

There are some things you remember very vividly from your childhood…some memories you’ll never forget. For me, one of the things I loved about Christmas was visiting Santa. Sitting on his lap while he asked me what I want for Christmas and then taking a picture. Its a nice memory and the picture is one that stays with you for life. Just ask these guys…http://www.viralnova.com/santa-photos/

So obviously I wanted the same for S. We were in Hong Kong for his first Christmas last year and unfortunately we didn’t get to see Santa or get a picture with him and so I put that behind me and decided I’d start the tradition from year 2…as many people told me, he won’t remember it anyway (although that’s besides the point). This year we’re in London for Christmas and it’s such a different feeling. Everyone is in such good spirits, most of the malls have Santa’s grotto set up, the Harrods grotto sold out in an hour!! After much contemplation about which one to take him to, I decided to book Westfield, Shepards Bush. Their décor is amazing and it’s Westfield, I have high expectations of them.

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I was thoroughly disappointed! Now perhaps if S was older then some parts of this experience wouldn’t have been so bad but overall, it doesn’t matter what age he is, there was definitely room for improvement! We were booked for 4:40pm so we got there at 4:30pm and they asked us to come back in 10 minutes. We went back 10 minutes later and gave our names and tickets. We were then placed in a queue for another 15 minutes (have you tried standing in a queue with a boisterous toddler?) Finally we were allowed inside. It was a dark room with a screen at the front and they showed a 3D video of some of Santa’s elves getting presents ready for Christmas. This is the part that an older child may like but a tired toddler in a dim room, a recipe for disaster.

After about 10 gruelling minutes, the video ended and we were led to a door to wait to go in to see Santa. Thankfully we were at the front of the queue and so the first to go in. Now as we walked down the corridor, I was remembering what the experience was like when I was a child. You step into Santa’s “home”, there’s a sofa you can sit on (or you sit on Santa’s lap), there’s a beautiful backdrop and a cute little elf who takes a beautiful picture which you’re happy to buy outside (even though it’s over priced). But back to Westfield…we walked into Santa’s “room” and we were greeted by a slim Santa (really?!) and a cute elf. S was not impressed and Santa didn’t do a great job of trying to make things better. After a minute of Santa saying some really awkward things, the elf asked us to stand for a picture. There was nowhere to sit and we had to stand awkwardly beside him while the elf jangled some bells to get our attention to face the camera. Santa put both his hands up like he was a guru blessing us (no smile!) and within 10 seconds we were ushered out.

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Suffice to say, both pictures she took were not worth it. This is where my problem comes in. I get that they are busy, they have timings to keep and I understand that S wasn’t in the best mood BUT is it not the Elf’s job to make sure it’s a nice picture that we would want to buy? If I’m paying for each person, I expect to come out of there with a picture I can keep. So although I left there feeling disappointed, I am not giving up. We will get that picture with Santa this year!

Does anyone else feel like the magic of Christmas is being taken advantage of? What happened to the days when Santa was a jolly old man who would engage the child with a smile on his face. Instead we had an awkward Santa who didn’t even look like he wanted to be there. Bah Humbug!!

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