With its glitzy show-biz appearance and swanky Knightsbridge location, Harrods is a rather grand affair at the best of times. With its famous façade illuminated with no less than 12,000 lightbulbs, there’s a sense of glamour and splendor all year round. And yet, come Christmas time, it’s an even more magical destination.
One tradition that won’t cost a penny is the viewing of the Harrods Christmas windows. For 2013, it’s all aboard the Harrods Express, as each window is decked out to resemble an old-style locomotive carriage, filled the most luxe and sought-after festive fashion, accessories or homewares. The spectacular display took 50 people 500 hours to build and features a stunning Ralph & Russo gown, dripping in Swarovski crystals and jewels, a snip at £80,000. One to rival a Disney princess. Well, almost.
The Harrods Christmas Grotto is another wonderful festive tradition, but book early as it’s always a sell-out (There is a £10 booking fee for the grotto, but you must be a Harrods Rewards Member to book tickets. Registration is free and gives you access to exclusive offers).
New for Christmas 2013 is the exclusive pop-up Biddibi Bobbidi Boutique, already an established feature at Disneyland Resorts. Billed as “the ultimate immersive storytelling experience”, your child will be whisked away – under the gentle guidance of their own personal fairy godmother-in-training – into a magical world of fairytale heroes and heroines where they will learn the intricacies of life as a princess or a knight.
As we headed to the Fourth Floor, my 8-year-old apprentice knight, Joe, was just a tad apprehensive. “Are you sure this isn’t just for girls?” he asked, suspiciously. Happily, he seemed to like the look of his assigned Fairy Godmother-in-Training (a pretty blonde), as she ushered him through the castle gate to be met by a magical vision of Merlin in the mirror. As Joe was handed his wand, she asked if Joe knew any magic words. He could only summon up some vague Harry Potter spell, but it did the trick as the magic door opened and we stepped into the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Decked out with more than a modicum of pink, the boutique has ‘thrones’ where children are seated as their magical transformation takes place. It’s true that this experience is more focussed towards the princesses, who can have their hair plaited like Rapunzel or tied chicly in a Cinderella chignon, while their nails are painted with sparkles and polish. With an apology for its pinkness, Joe donned the protective cape while his fairygodmother softly brushed his hair (not an act that he will gladly let his mother perform), giving him a hitherto unknown ultra-smooth bouffant style that was fixed in place with liberal dousing of hairspray. A fiery and fearsome red dragon was painted on his face, before the big reveal and his throne was turned round so he could admire his new look in the mirror.
Each child gets to choose an outfit too: for boys, a knight’s hooded top and a sword, while girls get to choose a dress in honour of their favourite Disney princess (judging by our fellow invitees, Rapunzel appears to be the current favourite).
Inspired by the famous “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” scene in the Disney animated classic Cinderella where “you can do magic, believe it or not”, all proceedings are accompanied by a Disney soundtrack, as the fairy godmothers in training (and the occasional mummy) will intermittently burst into song!
After his makeover, it was time to take the oath: for a knight like Joe this meant swearing allegiance and promising to be a noble citizen “good and kind, courageous and loyal” (or something along those lines). By the way he was wielding his sword, he certainly looked ready to challenge any miscreants! And as we left, my newly knighted brave heart had to admit he’d had a very jolly time, even if he did object to my public chirruping chorus of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.