A CITY’S FESTIVE TRANSFORMATION

I’ve been wary of anything that describes itself as a Winter Wonderland after my first foray to such a themed event over ten years ago. Then my family and I ended up wandering around a few sad small shacks of glitter in a mud pit of fields!

When friends suggested I join them at the Winter Wonderland in Nottingham recently I hesitated, and said I’d think about it. In other words I needed to check it out online first!

Yeah! No mud or fields in sight! Rather the website promised a glittering array of lights, bars, and over 70 stalls! The largest such event in the Midlands.

On the day of our arrival, we headed to centre of town and just as dusk fell around four I was struck first by the colourful Christmas tree lights.

As we approached the main square the cacophony of voices hit us, one moment the quiet city centre streets, then magically transported to a fairy-tale Christmas market. The crowd was deep and slow-moving, not that I minded in the least as I spun around, scanning the festivities.

There was a large ice-rink, a helter-skelter, carousel and toboggan ride! Plus much more! Food stalls served dishes from across Europe and of course, there were the bars galore, including an ice-bar!

Photo from https://www.visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk/

The market stalls offered a variety of goods including jewellery, ornaments, art and fashion. As it was a cold night I bought myself a hat. The first bobble hat I’ve had since a child and it felt snug and warm on my head! My friends laughed at my acquisition – good-naturedly, I hope!

Although we were sorely tempted by the drinks on offer we had another destination in mind, ‘The Alchemist’ cocktail bar. How could we resist their tantalising sales pitch:

“We’re masters in the dark arts of molecular mixology and demons in the kitchen. Our mixologists create every cocktail with an obsessive eye for detail, presented in vessels orchestrated to add a devilish dash of theatre, they bedazzle, bewitch and set the scene for everything we do.”

I was enraptured by the artistry of the staff, magicians of wondrous concoction, mine a smoking mixture which could not be rested on the table until the vapours subsided. Only then was I allowed to pour it into the specially prepared glass! I had a SMOKEY NUMBER 2 which consisted of a heady selection of ‘Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum, Winter Sugars, Apple, Smoke, Cinnamon. Hard To Put Down’. I can asssure you I only had the one drink, here I’m holding my friend’s flask as well.

I loved every wicked and fiery sip! Let’s just say there wasn’t a second one!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating this Thursday! Happy First Advent to those who mark the day on Sunday. Above all else wishing everyone a joyful and peaceful time before Christmas!

Note: Unless stated all photos are ©Annika Perry.

104 thoughts on “A CITY’S FESTIVE TRANSFORMATION

  1. merrildsmith says:

    How beautiful–and what fun! I think I’d have to try that Alchemist bar, too. 🙂
    We will probably go to the Christmas Village in Philadelphia soon–but a daytime trip with maybe some mulled wine.

  2. Mabel Kwong says:

    The Winter Wonderland in Nottingham sounds like it made up for your first event of the like ten years ago. From your photos, it looked like such bright glittery affair. The carousal looks absolutely gleaming. The bobble hat sounds so cute and maybe you will wear it on Christmas morning. The Smokey Number 2 sounded like quite the concoction and I am guessing, a drink bursting with all kinds of flavours 😛 That last shot is a beautiful blue hour shot 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mabel, it’s lovely to hear from you and your comment feels like a whole conversation! Just wonderful. 😀 I love the sound of a a ‘blue hour shot’ and see what you mean. Oddly enough, I thought the sky black at the time, but it was just dusk and it is a haunting image! Oh yes, that drink was bursting with flavour and the first sip was a huge energy boost straight to my brain but just the perfect finale after wandering outside in the cold. haha! You’re not wrong about the bobble hat, I seem to wear it all the time, even in the car whilst it’s warming up and the bobble brushes against the roof of the car madly! The carousal must be the most glittery one ever, it nearly hurt my eyes but was so tantalising – I wanted an excuse to go on it! Yep, an amazing winter wonderland outing and it’s (nearly) eradicated the memory of our first visit to the one in a muddy field!

      I hope all is well with you, Mabel and you are having a good start to the month! xx

      • Mabel Kwong says:

        The blue hour shot was really spectacular. A deep blue sky is so lovely to look at 🙂 That drink sounded like a strong shot 😛 Hope that bobble hat has many wears to come. Maybe your favourite hat for the holiday season here from now on 🙂

  3. Behind the Story says:

    Oh, Annika! What a bright and cheery introduction to the Christmas season! I loved the carousel and the ice rink. And to top it off, you had “smokey number two” to warm your insides. It sounds delicious.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Nicki, it was the perfect festive day, indeed! The carousel was incredibly vibrant in sight and sound … like a magnet pulling us towards it but didn’t quite have the time (or excuse of little ones) to go on. Oh yes, the smokey drink definitely warmed me up – I barely noticed the cold on the way back! Thank you so much for your lovely comment and wishing you a great start to December! 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jina, I did wonder if some fantasy writers gave a helping hand to that description… it was so good, I agree! 😀 A most wonderful outing and I enjoyed every minute! Hope you’re doing okay!

  4. Jacquie Biggar says:

    The handmade Christmas balls look so whimsical and wonderful that the bottle of Coke seems thrust there from some kind of time warp, lol.
    Glad you had a fun time, did you try the outdoor skating?

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, are you sure you’re not a spy?! 😀😀 I had to go searching for the bottle of Coke! Yep, definitely a time warp in this idyllic photo reminiscent of a bygone era! Oh, I value my fingers too much for ice-skating … ever since a friend told me the story of someone they knew who lost their fingers as they fell over on the ice I’ve been over-cautious! The helter-skelter did tempt me though … 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, it was great to visit this transformed town, which I must admit does not always glitter! I did notice the past tense as you describe your urban areas and how great they used to look … that’s a real pity! Here in the U.K. many rundown areas in some towns have been regenerated, for instance the canal district in Leeds which was formerly connected heavily to industry is now a swish place for eateries and entertainment.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Ahh.. Natalie, it was truly magical and a day filled with joy! 😀 Not only was the town transformed but I felt totally transported to another ‘world’! It’s a delight to share here … and show how some Winter Wonderlands are just that – full of wonder! 😀 Wishing you a lovely start to the week! xx

  5. maryannniemczura says:

    Nothing says it better than festive, colorful lights on trees. The ice skating rink adds to the enjoyment. Loved your photo with the drinks. Great post. As I gazed at your image, I saw my hairdo and glasses when I wear them. Beautiful, simply beautiful. When I lived and taught in Germany, the Christmas markets were fun too. Did you have the Glühwein? The Germans used white lights instead of the colored ones. We have both! Thank you for the delightful post!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mary Ann, I agree, Christmas lights never fail to lift the spirits and put one in a festive mood and the abundance here was glorious! In England there is a lot of coloured lights on trees, indoors and out but in Sweden mostly the white lights. We mix them too though! Oh, the Glühwein stalls were so tempting and we nearly stopped but luckily not! Then I wouldn’t have been able to taste the delicious cocktails

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comment and hope you’re having a great start to December. When does your concert season begin? I imagine you are very busy with rehearsals at the moment.

      • maryannniemczura says:

        Annika, thank you as always for your insightful comment. I love both the white lights and colored and the simple straw ornaments.
        True, regarding music rehearsals for our December 14 concert. Music fills our hearts and minds. Refresh my memory with that song in Swedish you posted on your blog during Advent. I love the melody and had tried to sing in Swedish. Have a good rest of the week. We had a major snow storm which closed area schools today. 🙂

  6. inese says:

    So fun, Annika! Glad this was a real Wonderland. We have a very modest festival, but it is all we have, so why not to enjoy it 🙂 You look great with those two flasks in your hands 😉 Haha, I know, I know 🙂 Happy December, the Month of Christmas!

    • Annika Perry says:

      😀😀Honest, only one flask was mine! 😀 It was a magical and surprisingly wonderful winter wonderland, and I think as my expectations were still low it affected me even more! Have a brilliant time at your local events and wishing you a lovely start to December! It is special with the lights appearing and people in positive spirits! 😀

  7. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    Annika! I totally understand your hesitation, winter wonderland has become so cliché. But look at how your experience turned out to be; a positive and cheery one! Your huge smile holding those rum concoctions says it all. 😀 I must say I love winter in Europe, and these magically transported to a fairy-tale Christmas markets are a joy. A brilliant meet-up place with friends more than buying gifts. Happy wicked and fiery sips, that’s the season’s spirit! ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Khaya, your comment has me giggling and I feel you would happily have tried one of the wicked and fiery cocktails! 😀 It was the perfect finish to a magical day. November here has been so grim weather-wise it’s been an effort to be upbeat so this day out was the perfect tonic … and ever since I’m in full Christmas mode – just need some snow! How wonderful that you love winter in Europe. Do you have snow in Finland? I can take cold, crips and sunny days – the rain and grey have me dreaming of visiting sunnier climes, however!😀

      Wishing you a fabulous start to December, my friend! ❤️

      • Khaya Ronkainen says:

        Oh yes, we have dollops of snow already. It’s already starting to feel like Christmas, even though holidays haven’t started yet.

        Thank you, my friend. And do keep your December filled with goodness and laughter. ❤

        • Annika Perry says:

          Khaya, you could send a little of the snow to us in England … although the country would gring to a halt! Enjoy the sublime beauty of the first snow, the stillness it brings.

          Thank you, my December is off to an amazing start with the launch of my children’s book today! I’ve been on a high of joy all day … so exciting!

          Wishing you joy and fun this month! hugs xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Andrea, I love the alliteration in your comment here – and the cocktail was so ‘devilishly delicious’. My friends thought I was kidding when the first sip when straight to my head – but then teased my ‘soft’ nature! Luckily I got used to it and happily finished the rest! Wishing you a lovely start to December and hope there are some festive events near you, Andrea! 😀

  8. restlessjo says:

    Was there a 6ft tall lady with marmalade coloured hair in the crowd? 🙂 🙂 My daughter will have been there a time or two. And I’ve joined that throng a couple of times myself. Wishing you and yours a wonderful festive season, Annika!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jo, now you mention it … nope, I didn’t see such a stunning lady! Alas! I’ll be sure to be up there next year so I’ll look out for her! 😀The throng was so wonderfully festive it was infectious – ever since my return I’ve been in full Christmas mode!

  9. Lori says:

    Annika, that sounds like such a fun time. I wish I could’ve join you. That drink sounded yummy. I love those kinds of festivals. So glad you could get out to enjoy it.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Lori, wouldn’t that be great – to meet up at a location such as this!😀 Happy you could join along on this post … now I’ve been this once I look forward to many more such festivals! Wishing you a magical weekend!

  10. roughwighting says:

    I would have been skeptical also, Annika. Any event/fair/festival/shopping mal that includes the word “C R O W D” has be scrambling in the corner of my home with a good book. But. From these photos I’d say that I’d gather courage to charge through this festival’s crowd to see the lights and definitely, to try one of those magical drinks. 🙂
    And, in fact, you’ve convinced me to attend a nearby town’s “holiday lighting” and Santa parade on Sunday. I don’t think it will be as fancy as yours here, but I do know there’s a colonial inn with a great bar in the center of town with holiday-themed drinks. ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Pam, I’m happy my post has inspired you try the holiday lightening in your town – and any outing that finishes with a special drink is a win! Have a brilliant time … and do pop by and let me know how it went (and what your drink was called!)

      Although this was crowded, it added to the atmosphere and it was easy to see the stalls selling items (although there were huge queues for the food stalls!)

      Wishing you a magical weekend, my friend! ❤️

  11. delphini510 says:

    Annika, this is just glorious, just the right thing to make people smile and happy on a
    cold and grey ( almost ) winter day. Your picture give me a feel of a fairytale town and
    that is a proud thing to do by the people of Nottingham.

    Your photos are great and glitters and shimmers with lights and reflections. Thank you.
    Now, to the the pretty girl with two ‘Smokey no 2’ in her hands. I would like to try one of those but bet you downed them both during the cause of the evening. 😊 .

    Thanks for this uplifting post.

    Miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Haha! 😀 Miriam, I only downed the one “Smokey no. 2” – honest! 😀 And it took some time!

      It was a fairytale evening, the lights, sights and sounds a treat to a weary soul … so glad to spread a bit of this joy in this post to you. The grey and dismal grey has been emotionally exhausting – this Winter Wonderland lifted the spirits so! Now I’m in full Christmas mode!

      Wishing you a very special First Advent tomorrow! xx

  12. navasolanature says:

    Looks wonderful. We have the Christmas market in Manchester which used to be called the German market with lots of European stalls and food and hot totties. Back now too so warm hats needed and thanks for reminder, first day of advent.

    • Annika Perry says:

      The market in Manchester sounds just as wonderful and hot totties is the perfect drink for outside this time of year. 😀 It is interesting how these events have renamed themselves recenty!

      Today was the first time I’ve worn my hat again – I love the sunny crisp cold!

      Have a lovely first advent and enjoy being back in the UK. 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      The City of Caves?! That sounds amazing and must admit I haven’t heard of this in Nottingham. Was it as exciting as it sounds? We did see the outside of the castle and I love the cobbled streets around that area. Ahh… thank you for your comment about the photo – it was such a fun time and I felt totally relaxed and in the moment. Not often this happens!😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Clare – it helped with the photos once I realised to put it on ‘night’ setting. The first ones were not great! Oh, I’ve also looked at the Christmas markets in Germany – just don’t fancy the long coach trips there! With ones like this in the UK, I thihk I’ll check these out more often. Do you have visit the local Christmas markets this time of year? They can be interesting and offer a wide variety of goods and food. Wishing you a lovely weekend – cold now but I’m loving the sight of the sun! 😀

      • Clare Pooley says:

        Wasn’t it a glorious day, today?! I don’t often go to markets or fairs because I get a little panicky in crowds though I would like to go to a Scandinavian or German one some day. Everyone says that the one at Bury St Edmunds is good but I’ve missed that again! 😀

  13. D. Wallace Peach says:

    I had to describe The Alchemist and their drinks to my husband. What total fun! I love creativity like that. It doesn’t look like you ended up in muddy fields this time, Annika. Instead, you were transported to a magical winter wonderland. Sounds like fun night. 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Diana, when I read the inventive and creative sales pitch your writing came to mind – are you sure you didn’t lend them a helping hand?! 😀 I doubted it could live up to its promise, but watching the drinks being created was mesmerising … and slightly scary. There were small fires along the counter ever so often! It was a magical night with friends and one that put me into the Christmas spirit! 😀 Hope you had a very special Thanksgiving and wishing you a wonderful weekend! xx

  14. JanBeek says:

    I enjoyed your photos. We visited the Christmas wonderland in central Pittsburgh yesterday. Like you, we loved the lights and decor. It’s a magical time of year!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jan, thank you so much! It can be tricky to take photos at night but once I worked out the settings on my phone they quickly improved! Oh, the Pittsburgh wonderland sounds magical and I imagine it would be quite a bit bigger … occasions like this make December such a special month! We need those lights! Wishing you a lovely start to the month! 😃

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jennie, I was truly astonished … it’s lovely when that happens! It’s been such a dreary dull November that the glittering lights, chatter, music were a joy to experience and share with friends there … and here now!😀 Hope you’re having a magical day with family and friends! xx

  15. Teagan R. Geneviene says:

    This is delightful, Annika. So pretty and festive! I would have been on the hook for The Alchemist’ cocktail bar too. Tee-hee! What a fun pitch. I’m so glad you enjoyed the outing. I liked your definition of “I’ll think about it.” 😀 Hugs.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Teagan, the sales pitch sold it to me too … what creative wicked fun! 😀 Great writing! The Winter Wonderland was just that as I wandered around in wonder and joviality. There have been a couple of occasions when Winter Wonderland events were so appalling they actually made the news and money had to be refunded – hence my initial scepticism. I’ll make sure this will now be a regular yearly visit! hugs xx

  16. Clive says:

    Lovely photos, Annika, and it sounds like you had a great time! I’ve never been a fan of those either, though we did once find a German-themed Weinachtsmarkt in Bath which was really nice, and my daughters enjoyed it too, which was a bonus!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you, Clive – I was pleased the way the photos came out, especially once I discovered the ‘night’ setting! Oh, the Weinhachtsmarkt in Bath must have been idyllic – I loved the town when there last year. It’s a delight to share outings with children – and when all have a good time! 😀

      • Clive says:

        You did well to find that setting! Our trip was lovely, and Bath is a beautiful place. We found the market quite by chance, which made it all the more special.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Anne, it was wonderfully magical and I loved how instantaneous the switch was from grey subdued November evening to this bustling vibrant market! If I lived closer I’d be a regular visitor!

      Ahh … so glad you like the advent wish. Perhaps it’s just something I tend to do! 😀

  17. watchingthedaisies says:

    I am so glad you had such a fun time Annika. It does look magical. The only similar Christmas market I have visited was in Edinburgh a long time ago. We have a lot of small Christmas fairs here in Donegal. I am visiting a lovely local one on Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. x

    • Annika Perry says:

      Brigid, living in the south east of England there seems to a dearth of such Christmas markets … the closest is in London I think, along the Thames! However, there are lots of smaller markets which are fun to visit … enjoy your trip to your local market on Sunday! Have a lovely day! 😀🌺

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