London news was an eye-opener this week as UK police called on retailers to curtail Black Friday shopping advertising due to US style shopping violence spreading to the UK. The story I heard on TV news in London is Black Friday started in 2010 when Amazon heavily advertised shopping discounts.
One UK store chain manager commented that the crush of shoppers on Friday was unanticipated and they are still learning how to manage the crowds since this is only their second year of Black Friday sales.
UK infected by our Black Friday shopping export
In London, Christmas shopping looked fast and heavy on Black Friday as Kelley and I walked Oxford Street at night looking for Paddington Bear sculptures at retail store locations like John Lewis and Selfridges.
The crowds on the streets are not seen in these photos since I snapped the images after 10pm and Selfridges had already closed. These sidewalks were difficult to walk on at 8pm Black Friday when there were thousands of people shopping.
The light displays were beautiful to see at the large department stores.
There must have been a lot of body heat at street level since we were not cold, yet snowflakes were softly falling from the sky.
London was a shopping winter wonderland, even away from the ‘Winter Wonderland’ spectacle of Hyde Park.
Paddington Bear Trails are a brilliant London tourism marketing campaign. I doubt I would have visited the Oxford Street retail district and seen Selfridges, if not for seeking out the Paddington Bear sculpture inspired by Kate Moss.
There is no way an observant person in London could have spent the last week in the city and remained unaware of Paddington Bear with the movie release hype for this week’s UK premier of Paddington on Friday, November 28. Every day there was a story in a major news outlet.
I learned from the magazine Time Out London that writer Michael Bond was inspired to write Paddington after buying a teddy bear “in Selfridges for his wife on Christmas Eve, 1956. The bear was alone on a shelf. ‘I couldn’t leave him there on his own over Christmas,’ Bond later told an interviewer. The next year, he sat down in front of his typewriter and wrote the story in ten days.”
All Paddington and Black Friday aside, Kelley and I are not shoppers. Even as a young teenager I disliked Christmas consumerism and asked my parents to donate the money for my gifts to charities. They didn’t. I continue to receive gifts each year I appreciate and feel like shit each year when I do not reciprocate with gifts to others.
There is a bookshop near the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street, where we stayed the last two nights of our trip in London. I adore bookstores. My family vacationed in London in 1974, staying about 30 miles north of the city at a campground in our camper trailer tent. Every day we rode the train for an hour each way into central London, and while my parents and younger sister went sightseeing around London, I spent days traveling across the city by Underground seeking out used book retail stores in search of Dostoevsky’s Diary of a Writer, to no avail. One time in the 1980s, I came across the Dostoyevsky book and I didn’t even buy it.
I reminisced this past week, while drinking pints in a London pub, how I toured London in 1974, as a 14 year old, seeing parts of the city solely due to locations of booksellers. Then in 1989, with the London Pub Guide in hand, Kelley and I saw parts of London solely due to interesting sounding pubs we sought out. Now, in 2014, I saw parts of London that we visited solely due to seeking out Paddington Bear sculptures. Travel with a specific interest takes a tourist to places that might never be seen if not for a specific purpose.
My hunt for Dostoyevsky’s Diary of a Writer gave purpose and meaning to my teenage adventure around London in 1974.
In 2014, I can find and buy Dostoevsky’s book instantly on Amazon.com.
Where is the travel explorer adventure in that kind of acquisition?
Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street London.
Support your radical bookshop. Make it a #RedFriday.
Has your passion guided your vacation travels to see places beyond the typical tourist sights?
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
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