Monday, 23 December 2013

Walking in a Winter (Winchester) Wonderland

Last Sunday I went to Winchester Christmas Market on the spur of the moment. Having been for the last two years, I was determined not to miss out on it this year, and so when the opportunity arose I grabbed it with both mitten-clad hands and jumped.  Visiting the market just over a week before Christmas was sure to make me feel even more festive than I already did!

Winchester is a true beauty spot nestled in Hampshire, full of traditional houses, grand architecture, high-end shops and delicious restaurants. If you love to shop in all the best stores (think The White Company, Debenhams, Russell and Bromley and Whittards) then it really is a dream come true, especially around this time of year when you have gifts to buy! It was a treat to visit Winchester when I was a student as it was slightly more expensive than my student residence, but now that I am working I can enjoy what the city has to offer even more – and maybe buy myself a few goodies along the way.

On that note, one of my favourite shops is in Winchester. The Hambledon is a gorgeous building crammed with high-end gems; fragrant candles, beautiful and individual kitchenware and quirky gifts can be found scattered around this store. It’s always very welcoming and I often find myself strolling through the rooms lusting after everything!

The beautiful Christmas selection at the Hambledon this year!

Another of my favourite shops is Montezumas. Montezumas make the most delicious chocolate – I am a HUGE fan of their giant milk chocolate buttons, but they also have some very niche flavours. You can buy their chocolate in some department stores but this is the first place I’ve found a whole shop dedicated to their delights, so whenever I go to Winchester I make a beeline for the shop!

Anyway, let’s get back to the real reason I’m writing this!

The day started off incredibly wet and windy. Unfortunately I didn’t notice this until I was halfway to the railway station.  Before I had even arrived my hair was plastered to my head – I had not thought to take an umbrella – but my brand new New Look boots were keeping my feet lovely and dry! This weather was not to dull our Christmas spirit.

This year (probably due to the rain) there was no queue, and we got into the market very quickly. Like every year, there was mulled wine, stolen and bratwurst for sale as well as plenty of locally-made goodies like candles, decorations and jewellery. I had to stop myself from buying all of the food available! But as you can imagine, the smell was intoxicatingly sweet.

After walking around to see what was on offer, we treated ourselves to spicy potato wedges, German smoked sausage and French mulled wine with cherry and ginger. The mulled wine was delicious and I could have drunk more than one cup! However, I’m not a huge fan of the sausage – next time I think I’ll stick with the wedges alone! We also treated ourselves to some hot fudge brownies and cream which were a little disappointing - if you do go, be sure to opt for the hot chocolate instead! After all this I felt very full though and ready for a proper shop.

Presents were bought from the cute little huts in the Cathedral grounds (jams, cured meats and candles abound) and free samples were devoured with vigour – there were some incredible homemade curry sauces that I wish I had bought!  After traipsing around the market and cathedral grounds so many times, we decided the weather had got the better of us and headed back to the train station to go home for a hot shower and delicious home-made curry (unfortunately not with one of the sauces we sampled, but still very good!)

On our way back to the station we were treated first to the seasonal sounds of a choir in the Cathedral entrance, and I enjoyed a few carols for a couple of minutes – I couldn’t wait to go home and sing carols in my own local church! Then, a few moments later, we found ourselves watching a fantastic brass band playing upbeat Christmas songs! They were fantastic! It was a real joy to see people getting into the spirit of things, raising money and enjoying the company of others.

I had a lovely day in Winchester ad despite the rain, felt very festive. If you haven’t gone this year, make sure you go in 2014 – next time, I’ll be ice skating!


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