Ever since the Bluewater shopping centre opened in 1999 in Kent England, I've been going there to shop. Seeing as I was only 8 at the time my parents might have had something to do with it, but needless to say I grew up with this shopping centre. Now, why not just shop in Belgium for all your Christmas shopping I hear you ask? Well, it's not quite the same, we don't have such a huge shopping centre here in Belgium (I'm sure Americans are wondering why I'm making such a big deal about a mall, but imagine not having one...I know, right! Shock Horror). And customer service is near to non-existent here in Belgium. I once had to stand at a till (first one in-line) for twenty minutes being ignored with my goodies in hand at a Lush store (known to have excellent customer service)...as I said, not the same!
Bluewater always goes full-out for Christmas, and the whole centre gets decorated. This year was the first year I personally got to witness the Christmas lights being turned on, I know in 16 years how have I managed to miss that? Well we (my parents and my brother) usually do our week of shopping coincidentally a week before or after they are due to be turned on (second week of November) and hence we always manage to just miss the turning on event. So this was my lucky year and I brought my camera with me (see photos below)!
But what else is on offer at Christmas? For adults and children alike (we all know adults are just big kids really).
Santa's Grotto: which I can confirm was a magical experience albeit a bit scary...it might have been the early 2000s but being scared of Santa is timeless...I mean he's the one who decides if you get presents that year...nerve-racking for any kid!)
An Ice Skating Rink: having only ever been ice skating three time in my life as a fully fledged adult (the rink wasn't a thing in Bluewater when I was a kid) and nearly concussing myself in the process (I know who would have thunk it...ice is one slippy little Son of a Biscuit!) I'm not sure who would want to attempt this dangerous sport. I kid, you will find your butt to be an excellent natural cushioning to anything you might face! It takes some getting used to, but (pun intended) I hear it's incredibly freeing when you get the hang of things (which I have yet to achieve unfortunately). And with lessons on offer, who can deny this magical slippery dance a chance (P.S. kids have much less of a distance to fall, combining this with their fearless attitudes be prepared to be overtaken by mini Speedy Gonzaleses every slide you take).
A Giant Snow Slide: again as this has only appeared at Bluewater in the last five years, I have not had a chance to experience it (or even see it) but what doesn't sound awesome about a Giant Snow Slide!
A Family Photobook offer: so now all your ice skating fails can be forever immortalised in print! Nah…I'm assuming this is for the very important meeting with Santa (I'm sure I have a photo stashed somewhere of my brother and I with Santa in his Grotto dating back to the early 2000s, but just use your imagination for now).
4D Cinema: the film, "Sleigh Ride". This is a 3D film with the added benefit of experiencing snow and wind through your hair as the film progresses (nooo...it's not just held outside!) I'm sure a lot of fun for the kids :)
And of course Light Night which is the turning on of the Christmas Lights in the second week of November (there's always next year…soz) which is a completely free event.
Now for the big kids: shopping!
The Giving Tree: the idea is to give to less fortunate kids this Christmas. You go to the tree in question (near M&S, Upper Mall) you select a girl or boy's name tag which will give you an age, and it's free rein from there. Buy any, appropriate, gift from the Bluewater shopping mall (obv!) and deposit it back unwrapped to the Drop Box by the Giving Tree and voilà, it's that easy to make a little girl or boy, under less fortunate circumstances, smile this Christmas!
Christmas Gift Wrapping Service: if you aren't as nit-picky as me then chances are you don't already have a wrapping paper colour scheme already picked out (I know...total weirdo!), in which case you might need a little extra help; open from the 27th November to 24th of December
There are a lot more Christmassy activities organised by individual shops, so go take a gander via this link to what might take your fancy :)
Maybe it's the time of year (obv!) but you will notice Christmas shops popping up here and there, i.e. glitter tree decoration Heaven! My personal favourites; “Flutterbyes at Christmas” and the “Christmas Magic” shop.
Now for beauty bits and bobs which I know you’re all here for:
But first an announcement has to be made: KIKO has made an appearance at Bluewater…this is not a DRILL, I repeat its is NOT A DRILL!!! Who am I kidding, run girls…RUN!!! No but seriously, I talked to one of the retail assistants whilst paying for my goodies (couldn’t resist: watch out for a post on their Rebel Romance Collection) it’s been there for the last two months. So now you don’t have to trek all the way to London. Kent will do :P
Right beside it: Lush! Because what is Christmas without one of their awesome Christmas box sets (cruel is what it is!), my personal choice; that I hope Santa will give me “The Christmas Bathtime Favourites” solely comprised of Bath Bombs which are my favourite products from Lush.
Although to be honest I’ve only really tried their Bubble Bars and Bath Bombs. I’m still nursing my wound at their decision to discontinue Space Girl, my favourite Bath Bomb (that I could get all year round), now I’ll just have to stick to Cinders come Autumn/Winter (I’ve stocked up…MWA HA HA!!!). I’m hoping the box set will introduce me to a new favourite scent, as that’s after all the job of these tasters :)
Really any beauty obsessed person knows that Boots and Superdrug are a must when going Christmas shopping, or just stocking up on essentials.
Luckily when I went to Boots this November, it coincided perfectly with their bi-annual 3 for 2 on all makeup, God I love their 3 for 2s! Ladies (and gents) this is the time to test out products you might not usually go for at full price or even just the very hyped products you’ve been dying to try.
In my case, this is when I stock up on Revlon, Rimmel and Maybelline products because only certain Di's here in Belgium carry Rimmel (forget Revlon and Maybelline) and it’s never the full line. But it’s not all bad, Di carries: The Balm, Essie, L’Oréal, Orly, Sleek and of course Real Techniques’ brushes (YAY for the pixiwoo sisters Sam and Nic!) amongst other brands I’ve not really heard much about. Anyway back to Boots. They also have an amazing selection of 3 for 2s on gift sets; and this is not just for the beauty lover, you can find amazing gifts for everyone in your family and friends.
P.S. Don’t forget to get yourself a Boots Advantage card, your points accumulate money and before you know it, you’ll have a lovely nest egg to spend (open internationally, the card can also be used on their international website)
Now, I don’t go to Superdrug as often as Boots, but their many collaborations with YouTubers is certainly pulling in the crowd! So if you’re beauty guru obsessed like me, or have a little sister or friend who loves beauty gurus as much as I do, then head to Superdrug before the limited Christmas edition gift sets get sold out. Unfortunately, it was too late for me (even in early November), Zoella’s lip balm duo was nowhere to be seen :/
Topshop beauty is also a must see, when shopping for a beauty obsessed person or yourself; their beauty range is fantastic! I highly recommend their lip velvets which only seem to come out in the Autumn/Winter season (some people like matte velvet lips all year round, you know…Topshop!)
The next one is a bit tricky and has me rather confused. This time last year, the Next at Bluewater was carrying NYX Cosmetics and I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. I finally got to get my hands on their "Butter Glosses" and try them out (quite a bit stickier than most describe, but my tolerance for sticky lipglosses is quite low…I’m a lipstick girl through and through). Having talked to a sales assistant at the time she seemed rather unfazed that they were there, hence I naively thought it would be a permanent fixture. Nope! This year NYX is nowhere to be seen, I guess you’ll just have to stick (get it? sticky lipgloss) to their website :/
All your M.A.C. Cosmetics and Urban Decay needs are of course covered by House of Fraser. But if you’re looking for Too Faced unfortunately you won’t find it in any of the stores mentioned above. They are carried by Debenhams which is in the Intu Lakeside shopping centre (in Essex, half an hour from Bluewater, via the Dartford crossing). Unfortunately, not a big selection but I found the “Shadow Insurance” I was in desperate need of (I may or may not have been still using a very out-of-date one at the time).
Now if shops aren’t quite your thing there are also some stands along the lower mall walkway, including a giant Maybelline stand, also offering 3 for 2.
As for fashion:
New Look is my beacon of light when it comes to shoes (I swear I can hear a chorus of angels singing each time I walk into their shoe section). I first discovered their excellence in that domain when I was looking for the perfect shoes for my prom dress (sparkly gunmetal grey if interested for my "Ball du Bac" as we called it) which I bought before I even found my dress in Oriental Pearl (also in Bluewater). Needless to say I wandered in New Look and my shoe addiction has only grown ever since. This year I bought a lovely pair of glittery gold heels for the festive season…gorgeous!
For accessories who else to turn to but Accessorize! I really have to commend their effort on their Christmas window displays, they always do an excellent job. For that glittery accent to your outfit, Accessorize is your best bet. Jewellery, clutches and shoes, oh my!!!
Dorothy Perkins have a very feminine aesthetic which I love. I stocked up on lace tops (all discounted…score!), because they are my way of living vicariously on the set of Reign (awesome TV Show, the dresses are to die for; the designs are a perfect blend of the historical with a twist of modern silhouettes and patterns…truly stunning!)
As someone who tends to stick to the shops I know and love (anyone else guilty of that? leave it in the comments), it’s rare that I step out of my comfort zone to explore new shops. Here in Belgium we have a small shopping centre in Louvain-La-Neuve called the “Esplanade” where I have what I call my “triangle of doom”: C&A, H&M and Zara.
But last year; I took one small step for woman and one giant leap for shoppingkind and I discovered “Apricot”. Have you ever walked into a store and seen yourself wearing every single piece of clothing? Well, that’s what happened to me, if you’d like a better idea of my style then head over to their site, because Apricot is basically me in a store :P Plus they are reasonably priced, cheaper than Topshop, I’d say around the New Look mark.
Finally, my last clothing destination is Marks and Spencer. I don’t really like Topshop for clothes because I can never seem to find anything that flatters my pear-shape body plus "daz essspensive!" to quote KathleenLights. As for H&M, I can find them easily in Belgium.
After a quick look at the M&S shoes (I’d say my shoe collection is comprised of 40% M&S, 40% New Look and 20% miscellaneous) I go for the clothes, sometimes I find a lot of things I like, other times; nada de nada! This time I found this gorgeous faux-suede plum/burgundy biker jacket and an adorably cute pink jumper with polar bears on it, can’t wait for those as Christmas pressies!
Homeware and miscellaneous:
John Lewis and M&S are the go-to for most people, I think, when it comes to homeware and I can’t disagree. Furthermore, JL had a small selection of Delia Smith’s Silverwood baking utensils as suggested by her book, (seen in the previous post) I personally went for 2 muffin tins, as I can’t seem to find consistent sizing across brands (some look like fairy cake sizes others like mini pies; but all described as muffin tins?).
Also, if you’re looking for gluten-free food then JL’s Waitrose on the Basement floor has an excellent, albeit small, selection of goodies and M&S has all your Christmas cake and mince pies needs covered (or mice pies as I recently texted my mum, I know sounds squeaky)! Christmas decorations are definitely a must in both shops too.
Waterstones, what else? I always love the atmosphere of bookshops, so calm and relaxing. I still miss the huge Borders located by the Lakeside shopping centre all those years ago. Anyway, Waterstones is great because this time of year they offer special collectors' editions, as well as quirky Christmas gifts or even relaxing adult colouring books; the choice is yours!
So there you have it; Bluewater’s Christmas schedule and guide to Christmas shopping for any newbie that might not know English shops, or those simply interested in a new perspective :)
Let me finish this post with the magical lights of Bluewater...
What are your favourite shops to shop in at Christmas time? I’m interested, even if you don’t live in the UK.
Have any of you experienced the New York Fifth Avenue Christmas window displays? I know that’s on my bucket list.
Who turns on the lights in your town or village?
Now I’m off to prepare my Christmas decorations extravaganza as my brother (or as I like to call him – the Grinch) banned me from decorating anything until the 1st… and guess what today is…MWA HA HA or should I say HO HO HO! :D