The Ways of Displays at Christmas

This is the time of year when curmudgeons like me moan about how things aren’t like they use to be – how Christmas was less commercial and things were simpler when we were young.   I found myself thinking that in November while regarding the Christmas lights on Regent Street.  As well as celebrating Christmastide – sort of – they also rang bells for a soon to be released animated movie based on my beloved Mr Peabody, but let’s not go there.  A walk past the windows at Selfridge’s would lead one to think that Christmas was about high-end perfumes and designer dish towels.  And Harrod’s?  Well what can be said about that parody of a once great emporium that is now the Disneyland of department stores.  Though we didn’t get a chance to stroll down Piccadilly I understand from a video (click here) that Fortnum and Mason eschewed last year’s highly commercial salute to a theatrical chain’s Panto mixed in with their fine food stuffs to once again display a little nostalgic animation in their windows.  Mind you their fine products are still very much on display but its things like Christmas pud, crackers and the like.

By the time we reached London we were pretty much pictured out; however here’s a shot of
Regent Street during the day light hours.  I must admit I was a bit bemused by this year’s
lights?  Mr Peabody and Sherman – well now there’s a Christmas theme I never thought of.

Now Madrid is, or at least was, a different story.  The light displays there are created by well-known designers and reflect all sorts of styles and creativity.  Unfortunately we were only there for a few hours to change trains during daylight hours but did get a chance to get downtown.  And I hate to say it but LNB and myself both gave into the crass commercialism that appeared to represent Christmas at  El Cortes Inglés in Madrid.  After a wonderful lunch at De Maria we strolled over to the main store at Puerta del Sol and stopped off at their Christmas shop – hoping to, despite a vow of abstinence, find a Christmas ornament that cried “Spain”.  Well we found lots that smirked “China” but nothing that you couldn’t find most other places.

Sadly there was nothing at El Cortes Inglés that couldn’t be found at any department story anywhere in the world. We had been hoping to find something that would remind us of our times in Spain but …….

By the time we hit the third floor of their six story Christmas store we were right smack in the middle of commercial Christmas with a capital C.  So if you can’t fight ’em!

Laurent seems to have this, dare I say “unhealthy”, obsession with mice.  And keep in mind this is
the man who will not take me to Disney World. But he’ll cavort with El Ratón Mickey in Madrid.
Even Sidd bought into the commercialism – these straight gnomes!  And Cinderella was just his sort of girl – plastic!
Apparently Sulley (James P. Sullivan) got over his fear of the toxic touch of humans
or it may have just been Sidd’s calming presence.

Sorry but Spidey was getting just a little too up-close and personal! 

And of course being selective in applying my curmudginliness I am truly delighted by the wonderful display that graces Henri Bendel‘s window in their New York flagship store.  Okay Al Hirschfeld may not have much to do with Christmas but his marvelous creations are cause for some sort of seasonal celebration.  Someone over at a Broadway musical group I belong to (You belong to a Broadway Musical group, says incredulous reader?  Quelle surprise!) discovered that the brilliant caricaturist is lining Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein at his worktable. 

A click on the poster heralding the Hirschfeld Spectacular will take you to  detailed photographs of the window and the iconic drawings that have been brought to, if not life, life size for the holidays.  And the store is decorated with Hirschfeld’s – the originals as well as 3D reproductions.  And yes “Nina” is hidden in full view!

Okay maybe this old curmudgeon isn’t entirely against commercialism – I noticed a bit of store promotion in quite a few photos of the old Eaton’s windows that I loved so much.  And I guess that’s the whole point of window displays – to get you in and to get you to buy.  But I do wish London would rethink those lights!  Mr Peabody and Sherman??? And not even the real thing just some cheap Dreamworks imitation!  What sort of Christmas celebration is that?

December  29 – 2003: The last known speaker of Akkala Sami dies, rendering the language extinct.

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Madrid Nights – Palacio in the Rain

Though the Christmas the lights give Madrid an added glow, it is a city known for the illumination of its streets and buildings. I’ve heard but can’t confirm that it was one of the first, if not the first, European city to light its public buildings at night.

The area around Palacio Real was particularly beautiful even in the rain which fell off and on during a late evening stroll through the area. The lighting here is not the festive creations of Via Gran or Puerta del Sol but has a more romantic – dare I say almost Goyaesque quality – particularly with scuttling clouds and a damp mist.

The Plaza de Oriente is a wide promenade that joins the Teatro Real to the Palazzo Reale grounds. Pride of place in the Plaza is given to Carlos III, who was responsible for much of the remodelling that turned the palace into its present state.

Unusual for the capital of a Catholic country Madrid had no cathedral until construction was begun in 1879 on the Almundena. The cathedral was not completed until 1993 and though the exterior is in harmony with the palace across from it the interior is eclectic and extremely modern. Frankly I found it more imposing at night than during the day.

The largest palace in Europe, the Palacio Real is an impressive structure but it is not difficult to see why the King and his family have chosen to live in a smaller Palace. It may just be the romantic in me but I find that top photo has that brooding quality that I associate with Spanish history.

12 gennaio – Sant’Etelredo di Rievaulx

Madrid Nights – Christmas Lights II

Though all of the centre of the city was ablaze with lights two areas were particularly beautiful – to my eye at least.

After a duck out of the rain into the marvelous art nouveau El Pabellón de el Espejo and a much needed aperitvo we head out along the side streets off Paseo de Recoletos which led us to the edges of the Chueca area. We followed a broad ribbon of lavender lights that led us into Plaza de Chueca.

Those rainbow colours – and the artistic arrangement – should have told us we were heading straight – you should excuse the expression – for the Plazza del Chueca.

The most elegant light display was the forest of winter trees on the stretch of Calle Alcala from the Plaza de la cibeles to the Puerta Alcala. The tree patterns changed depending on where you were standing and the depth of the vista. It was a truly magical creation of light and dimension.

06 gennaio – Epifania

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Madrid Nights – Christmas Lights – I

At the best of times I’m sure that the centre of Madrid at night is a fascinating sight but over the Christmas season the imaginative use of lights gives it an added magic. And its not just the main avenues and well known boulevards; back ways and side streets are strung with lights to celebrate the holidays.

Plaza de la red de San Luis had this modern skyscraper of lights as its centre piece and Gran Via was strung with matching festoons. It gave the appearance of a modern city receding into the night.

Whereas Passo del Prado was all multi coloured wreaths suspended in the darkness. And the pedestrian boulevard that runs down the centre dotted with trees of lights.

And a small side street was a bit more traditional with candles and holly.

Plaza de La Cibeles was very modern with abstract patterns surrounding the fountain and a forest of suspended light icicles heading down Paseo de Recoletos.

Around our hotel at Plaza de San Martin, on the Arenal and Alcala Christmas balls and abstract clouds led down to the gigantic tree at Puerta del Sol.

05 gennaio – San Giovanni Nepomuceno

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