Most years, since my two children were born, we turned our backs on Greek Christmas and headed “Home” to
My daughter, Nais, pleaded with me to write a post about these happy times, little did she know how her request, would evoke such an unexpected rush of nostalgia.
Planning for this exciting yearly occurrence began in late November, with the purchasing of plane tickets and checking that passports were all in order.
|Flying home for Christmas|
Suitcases were pulled from their hiding place, I had the most practical set, three, quite large ones, that nestled one inside the other, like Russian dolls.
Only two were used on the trip out, the smallest, and the medium, which was then placed inside the empty large one, this was to be filled with their Christmas stash on the return journey.
I can’t ever remember not paying excess baggage on the flight back to
Always excess baggage!
MGG (My Greek God) took us to
airport, it was not often he accompanied us, business would not permit it, on a
few occasions, MGG did join us at a later date.
As their were no direct flights from Athens to Leeds, this meant taking two planes, either Athens-Heathrow- Leeds, or Athens- Amsterdam- Leeds, we usually chose the latter.
On arrival, Grandpa would be waiting for us, and after the asphyxiating hugs and kisses, and the
“Oh how you’ve grown”
exclamations, first stop was the fish and chip shop, I love fish and chips!
|Harry Ramsdens Fish & Chips|
White Cross, Guiseley, Yorkshire.
Once the best fish & chips in the world,
sadly, not anymore.
We devoured rather a lot of fish and chips over Christmas; I had to have my fill, to keep me going until the next Christmas.
My children became quite partial to them; especially the “Jumbo” sausages in batter, but mushy peas were a no no!
I do hope this is not what immediately comes to mind when they think about England.
I would go as far to say; they are the only thing I miss, here in Greece.
|Calverley Fish & Chips|
Our local "Chippy"
I spent much time and money in there!
Worth every minute, and every penny.
On saying that though, I was invariably overcome with emotion, when descending over the snowy fields and dry stone walls, which surround Leeds and
whose bright lights were winking in the distance. Bradford Airport
There are lots of sheep in Yorkshire.
Farmers have been known to wrap them in blue plastic, not only to keep them warm,
but to make finding them in a snow drift easier!
This to me, this is a sheep, a proper sheep,
not the scrawny Greek variety.
|Just another ordinary day in Yorkshire|
I do have a chuckle to myself, when, on seeing sheep walking along the roads in Greece,
"Only in Greece do you see that"
They've obviously never been to Yorkshire.
I'm home; this is
Yorkshire, and as the saying goes;
“You can take the lass out of Yorkshire, but you can never take
out of the lass”
Home Sweet Home
As a rule, we stayed with my sister, as she has two children, only slightly younger than mine, Sophie and Matthew, luckily they all got on like a house on fire, as you can imagine, it was pretty hectic.
Yiannis and Nais were now in “English mode”, I loved to hear Sophie, who took them under her wing, explain English words, and excitedly announce to them, what was on our Christmas agenda.
The first day was given over to Christmas shopping, the children’s presents that is, Ian, my brother-in-law, would take all four children out for the day, allowing my sister Gillian and I to get this job done, and out of the way.
|County Arcade Leeds|
Leeds has some wonderful architecture, and a plethora of arcades,
absolutely beautiful arcades
|The Corn Exchange Leeds|
I just adore this trendy, bustling market, filled to the brim with
unique shops and stalls.
One of Leeds icons
|The Victoria Quarter. Leeds|
My favourite part of Leeds City Center, amazing atmosphere,
amazing stone facades
Ian’s favourite place to take them, seemed to be some small farm, open to the public, which permitted children to pet the animals, afterwards, he would feed them; burgers or fish and chips was the usual, wasn’t he good?
We visited Haworth, no more than a few miles away from our
country, no Christmas was complete without this day out, and we visited every
|The Apothecary Tea Rooms. Haworth.|
It must be an old photo, notice the " Non smoking sign?
It goes without saying today, well, at least in England, Greece is another story!
No wonder the famous Bronte sisters churned out such amazing books, they were surrounded with inspiration.
Can't you just picture a brooding Heathcliff skulking around up here?
Here in Haworth is the
railway station, made famous in the film “The railway Children” starring Jenny
Agutter. Worth Valley
|Haworth at Christmas.|
To give my sister a rest, I would take Yiannis and Nais into
This trip had to be taken by bus, and we just had had to sit upstairs, the excitement!
We don’t have double-decker buses in
Yiannis And Nais were in their element on the top deck of a bus.
They'd never seen anything like it!
On alighting from the bus, first stop was Lewis’s department store, after inspecting the amazing window display, best bar none in
made our way to the third floor, toys!
|Lewis's Christmas window display|
The third floor at Lewis's department store.
A veritable children’s paradise.
I don’t know how many hours we must have spent there over the years.
Lewis's toy department
Of course, we had to visit Santa in his grotto; my heart would sink when I spied the length of the queue.
|Yiannis met Santa, and so did Nais!|
Remember this Yiannis?
I think we may still have it.
I'm sure I could find it if I looked hard enough.
Then it was off to the top floor of Lewis's for lunch, it was Christmas, self-service was a novelty for Yiannis and Nais, they were allowed to choose what they wanted.
I must say, sometimes there were some rather strange food combinations on their trays!
We spent the rest of the day combing the city shops and returned home, weighed down with shopping bags, again on the top of a double-decker bus, tired, cold and glad to be home, a stiff drink for me and fun and games upstairs for Yiannis and Nais, overjoyed to be back with their cousins.
One more traditional Christmas expedition was to
Roundhay Park, taking in
and Tropical World. Canal Gardens
|Roundhay Park Leeds|
John Atkinson Grimshaw
Nais, you loved Meerkats and saw your first one here at Tropical World, before Aleksandr Orlov, was ever made famous through the comparethemarket.com adverts on television.
Roundhay Park Leeds
This place was so humid, it played absolute havoc with your hair!
Then there was Harrogate, why did we seem to choose the coldest day to visit there, or is it perpetually bitterly cold in
Never mind, we warmed ourselves with the mandatory scrumptious tea at Betty’s Tea Rooms.
|Christmas lights on The Stray, Harrogate.|
Every year the same, never boring, a joy to see.
|Betty's famous Tea Rooms, Harrogate.|
We went the rounds of friends and relations, we took time to see the many wonders of Yorkshire, and we consumed enough food to feed an army, all this on the run up to the highlight of our trip, Christmas Eve.
The Minister in the background
|York in winter|
You would truly be hard put, to find a more magical place.
The atmosphere throughout Christmas Eve was electric, the children hyper.
Good old Ian would take the children out somewhere or other and Gillian and I would knuckle down to Christmas Day preparations, unfailingly not going to plan, due to much Christmas spirit.
Bathed and decked out in Christmas pyjamas, the four children took their places on the sofa, Gillian in the middle, the book “The night before Christmas” open on her lap.
|The Night Before Christmas|
A yard stick of how much Christmas spirit had been consumed by Gillian!
If Gillian managed to pronounce all the names of Santa’s eight reindeer correctly, we knew she’d taken it easy with the Christmas booze!
With pillow cases clutched tightly in their little hands, they climbed the stairs to bed, sleep did not come easily, and numerous times they needed to be threatened with;
“Santa won’t bring your presents until you’re asleep”
At last; all through the house, nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.
|Waiting for Santa|
Trying to be as silent as possible, gaily wrapped presents were stuffed into pillow cases, at the foot of beds, to be discovered later, to screeches of delight;
“He’s been, he’s been”
This was invariably at the godforsaken hour of five or six in the morning.
Christmas Day passed in a blur, of booze, wrapping paper, endless Christmas goodies, people coming, people going, the occasional harsh word, and the ubiquitous Christmas snore.
What made Christmas Day special were the children.
The glee on their faces, the wonder in their eyes.
They believed, they still believed in Santa.
After that, Christmas is never the same again.
Read about Christmas in Leeds, 70's style, HERE