The Best of it...

Sarah Best

Aussie mum living in London

We moved half-way around the world with two young kids. Some kind of warped thrill-seeking adventure. We did it to live life and now...  we're loving every moment.

  • Sarah Best

We're dreaming of a white Christmas...

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

This will be our family's first Christmas in the northern hemisphere. And if I'm honest, it will probably be our last (this is a great time of year for us Aussies to go home, catch up with family and friends and get a good strong dose of vitamin D before returning for the rest of the English winter). So if there's one thing any of us really want this year, it's a white Christmas... with real snow falling out of a real sky.

But apparently that's all 'a lot easier said than done'. I don't quite know why this concept took me so long to get my head around because of course, nobody can predict the weather. Nobody can say whether it will snow on a certain day in a certain country - even in the coldest of alpine villages!

That doesn't mean to say you can't increase your chances. We resorted to googling 'top ten European locations for a white Christmas'. And then, chose our preferred destination based on which location appeared in the most lists. And that was it. We wanted a destination that would be easy to get to and not so cold that we wouldn't be able to get out in the snow and enjoy it (i.e. not the Arctic). So we decided on a ski village in Austria. Soeldon is just south of Innsbruck, near the Italian border, with huge prospects of snow, even this early in the season. The plan was to check out the Christmas markets in Innsbruck then head up to the alps for some right proper snow on Christmas Day. But from there, everything kind of snowballed.

We realised pretty quickly that we couldn't possibly go all the way to a ski village in Austria... and not ski.

So we decided to go skiing.

Of course, we're somewhat novices. My kids have never skied and I have tried it once - when I was 15. So we enrolled in lessons. And now we're googling everything from thermals and ski goggles to snowboarding, ski passes and helmets. It's all a different language to me but thank goodness for fabulous friends who are loaning us their kit. Without them our seemingly outrageous quest for a white Christmas really would be bordering on over-the-top. Particularly, if London wakes up to a dusting of the white stuff on Christmas Day and we realise much too late that we needn't have gone anywhere at all.

Let's face it, London 'does Christmas' well. Really well. There's Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park; ice skating at Somerset House & Natural History Museum; pantomimes at local theatres, carols, Christmas lights at Kew Gardens, and an ever-evolving list of European-inspired Christmas markets, complete with mulled wine, bratwurst and gingerbread hearts.

Then there's Santa's Grotto's. We didn't quite make the cut for Harrods' invitation-only event this year but we did book a spot at Fulham Palace... a fabulously magical experience of which there is no comparison back home. This is a place that was home to London's bishops for more than 1300 years - so it's fair to say, it's seen its share of Christmas's. And from the moment you walk into the courtyard, you know you're in for something special. There are no lines or queues; no 'special upgrade' packages to buy and no one's in a rush. Instead, the children knock on a door and are greeted by name as Santa beckons them into a room warmed by a fire and decorated with Christmas trees, presents and the odd mince pie. It's an experience best described as 'the image of Santa you have from your childhood', void of any commercialism. In fact, you don't even have to pay for the memories. Palace volunteers obligingly take family photos on your own camera at no extra cost. The whole vibe feels every bit as magical as visiting Santa should.

If you missed out this year, get on their mailing list - the tickets tend to sell quite quickly. And there's a heap of other Christmas events you can get involved in - from carols in the chapel to wreath-making classes (of which I can highly recommend!) My wreath is now hanging on our door, where it will stay, until we get back from Austria. Come January, I would imagine, it will be unceremoniously dumped alongside our Christmas tree on the footpath outside... only to be covered in snow, right here in London.