How to Survive Christmas Shopping in London (While Getting Fit Too!)
I’ve got a confession to make – I don’t actually like shopping. Neither in real life nor online, I find shopping a bit tedious and avoid it at all costs, so Christmas shopping is really not my favourite pastime. However what I do like is the anticipation of seeing a loved one’s expression as they unwrap a present and discover a gift they absolutely love. Knowing that I’ve found a really brilliant present is really satisfying, and I do like giving good gifts, so shopping is a necessary evil. One way to take the pain out of trailing around the shops is to know you’re achieving something in the process, something like… slimming down in preparation for the onslaught of Christmas eating indulgence that ensues throughout the whole of December (and lets face it, January too, while we finish off leftovers and hibernate with comfort food during the worst month of the year).
So with that in mind, I eagerly accepted an invitation to find out just how many calories I burn and how many steps I take while doing my Christmas shopping. The verdict: in 3 hours of Christmas shopping around St James and Piccadilly in London, I burned 67 calories and took 3,986 steps. How do I know this? I was armed with a vivofit fitness band that I’ve kindly been given by Currys. It has a motion sensor that detects how many steps you take (and how far you are from hitting your daily goal), how many calories you burn and how many miles you’ve walked, and it shows you this info on a little screen. If you’ve been inactive for too long then a red bar pops up to tell you to get up and get moving! I’ve also synced it to the Garmin Connect iPhone app so it shows me all the data there and links up with MyFitnessPal (for calorie counting) and through that Strava (for tracking runs). It changes your daily goal based on your activity level, so the clever little band learns your activity pattern and continually challenges you accordingly. All in all I rather like it, and it even monitors your sleep too to show you how much you move around in the night, although it’s a little annoying to have a band around my wrist at night too. However, the 67 calories I burned on the walking tour only equate to 3.5 of my delicious (but really small) Dairy Milk advent calendar chocolates, so I’m going to need to get a bit more active if I’m to avoid going up a dress size this Christmas!
So with the vivofit band firmly attached to my wrist, our group set off on a Christmas shopping walking tour with the friendly guides from Best LDN Walks (see here for more info about the tour). Setting off from Green Park, we paid a visited to the Queen’s favourite chocolatier, Charbonnel et Walker on new Bond Street where you’ll find some exquisite but also extraordinarily expensive truffles. Try the violet cremes, which are apparently the Queen’s favourites.
Next up we visited Hatchard’s book shop, the oldest bookshop in the UK, which was opened in 1797 and has two Royal Warrants. They seem to be doing okay despite the Kindle phenomenon, possible because they have so many signed copies and it’s where you should head to catch the very best authors doing signings.
After that we visited James J Fox, a cigar and pipe shop that numbered Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde among its regular customers. Inside the shop a man was buying a box of Romeo y Julietas, of which I actually bought a box when I was in Cuba back in 2007. Not being a smoker, I’ve never touched a single one (not quite sure why I bought them…) and somewhere at home still have that box! Somehow I feel they might have gone off in the last 7 years, but if someone in the know tells me otherwise then I shall start giving them out to the few cigar smokers I know!
Wandering along St James Street, we popped into Berry Brothers and Rudd, a shop much more up my street – a shop selling alcohol. It’s a family-run shop that’s occupied that spot for 315 years and the inside hasn’t changed one bit, with bare wooden floors, great old weighing scales and this fantastic fireplace decorated for Christmas. We sampled the King’s Ginger, a powerful ginger liqueur they created especially for King Edward VII in 1903, which on my poor fragile head (a casualty of too much mulled wine and winter Pimm’s the night before) was a little overwhelming! Head down the side alley to find the secret square behind the shop too…
Lock and Co. Hatters is nearby and is reminiscent of a bygone time when you couldn’t leave home without a hat on. Established in 1676and the oldest hatters in the world, they now sell men’s hats, beautiful fascinators and hat boxes for a whopping £60 alone, and they have some of Lord Nelson’s hats on display.
Onto Jermyn Street, home to Sir Isaac Newton, you’ll find luxury shop after luxury shop and we headed into two: Floris (fragrances and toiletries, where you’ll find perfumes worn by Marilyn Monroe and Sir Ian Fleming) and Paxton & Whitfield’s (a cavern of delectable cheeses). On another note, last Saturday was apparently the SantaCon (a day when lots of people drink in the streets dressed as Father Christmas) so we came also across this army of Santas on Jermyn Street!
It was an interesting historical tour, and I learnt far more than I actually bought. But it was refreshing to see independent shops with heritage and history still going strong in a century where we’re continuously confronted with large chains of shops and international brands that have no story whatsoever. They are the kind of shops I would actually enjoy shopping in, and perhaps this new discovery will change my perspective on shopping? We shall see. It was a lovely way to pick up ideas for presents and it’s certainly something I’d recommend for the keen shopper!
As for the fitness band, although I burned fewer calories that I’d hoped, I think it’s a good way for me to kickstart my inevitable new year’s resolution to get healthy. I am signing myself up for a half-marathon in March 2015 (with the prospect of running a full marathon later in the year) so I will need to get on top of my exercise regime come the 1st January. Alternatively, it would make a pretty good present in itself for a keen exerciser in my family…