Christmas - The Country Living Christmas Fair v The Spirit of Christmas

November 24, 2014

Welcome to the start of the Christmas takeover! A couple of weeks featuring Christmas traditions with photos from the past couple of years. There will be a real mixture with posts full of decorations, baking, festive days out, nights away and some of my friends and family. These posts are essentially what Christmas means to me. I hope you'll enjoy and start feeling super festive, the countdown is on...  You'll find the number of days to go and a daily Christmas video at the bottom of each post <3 

First up: Have you been to the Country Living Christmas fair or the Spirit of Christmas? For the past four years now my Mum and I have been to one of them, usually with my two Auntie's. We've done the Country Living for three and the Spirit just once but I love them both. We didn't go this year for various reasons, I don't think you need to go every year as it can be a bit samey but we'll probably go again next year. So which one would I recommend?

You'll find a lot of the same sellers at both shows, everything from food, christmas decorations and a huge range of gifts for all ages and all interests. There are pretty jewellery stalls, I've bought pearls before, even things like Fitflops. I've bought a lot of my decorations there over the past few years, things like garlands, little tea lights, reindeers and I have a bit of an addiction to these mercury crackly silver baubles. The food is always amazing too, cheeses, cakes and lots of festive decorations. I've bought edible glitter there in the past. The fairs are definitely aimed at women {middle aged and middle class to be precise} so you might spot an occasional man but it's definitely something to go with your Mum or friend rather than your husband. And what man actually likes shopping anyway?!

I subscribe to Country Living Magazine, as does my Auntie who is a long term CL reader and you can get discounts in the magazine to buy tickets. At face value £15 is fairly pricey just to get you through the door before you've even bought anything. Then you've got train fare, parking and lunch. It's a good day out but I'd rather spend more money on things at the show so it's worth getting half price tickets. For CL as I said get the magazine and sometimes there are online offers. If you buy your tickets in advance online you get a discount too.  Likewise for the Spirit of Christmas, I ordered those online in advance with a deal. We always go on the first or second day where sellers are most well stocked, they sell out surprisingly quickly.

You won't go wrong with either fair, there are pro's and con's to both. The Country Living is always in the Design Centre in Islington which, for the size of the show, is fairly small so everything is quite close together. There are three floors. It's always super popular and as such be prepared for crowds. There is an Ask restaurant right next door if you want lunch, we never go to the restaurants within the show as the queues are so long and it's overpriced. You're on Upper Street so there are so many other choices for lunch too, Byron burger is just across the road, a Pizza Express, numerous burrito places, even a Five Guys and Ottolenghi is a bit further up the road. So lots of choice. And slightly better sellers than the Spirit but crowded. Very crowded. The photo above was taken at opening time and it got progressively busier as the day went on. There is parking right next door -  I think it's about £20 for a day, depending where you're coming from and how many of you are going will depend on the best value transport for you. We have driven every year as parking is cheaper than four train tickets and it's heaven to slump into a car with your bags into a boot when you're walked and shopped out compared to hauling your bags on a train all the way home.

The Spirit of Christmas, on the other hand, is hosted at Olympia in Kensington, a large venue that feels so much less crowded than the Country Living. It was a lot quieter than the CL has ever been and while it had a lot of sellers including an upstairs and I found some lovely stalls, there weren't quite as many that I loved as much as the CL. But it was a much nicer, less stressful experience. My Mum and I got the train from Watford direct to Olympia and the exhibition is literally across the road. There is a Pizza Express right next door which we went to for lunch and a sit down for a while to recharge for more shopping. You can't go to these shows and not spend a lot of money. And you'll be super tired when you're done but it's worth it for a lovely day out and to get in the festive mood.

My Mum's top tip is to take an old lady style shopping trolley with you. It saved our arms and we filled it up with our purchases and took turns dragging it around! Don't knock it until you've tried lugging a load of shopping around all day...

The shows are always the first and second week of November giving you a chance to get organised for Christmas early. I think I'll go back again next year to the Country Living Fair. I might alternate them from now on. Tickets will come out next Summer for both. Either are worth a visit if you want more stalls I'd go for the Country Living but for a nicer experience go for the Spirit. If you work during the week they have an evening entry at a reduced price and weekends.

Have you been? What did you think?

R <3 xx

{30 days to go, Christmas video of the day: Holidays are coming.}

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