10 Christmas gifts they won’t throw away…
by Dinah Hatch (November 2013)
Let’s face it, drawing up a Christmas present list (if you’re organised, at least) of what to buy everyone from great aunt Gertie to your niece’s toddler can be trying at the best of times. After all, there are only so many woollen scarf and hat combos and The Killing box sets you can buy. Instead, try gifting them an experience they’ll remember. Last year I bought my notoriously-difficult-to-buy-for late-teens nephew tickets to a comedy show and my husband’s aunt an annual pass to her local stately home. Both were thrilled – and you know your hard-earned cash wasn’t wasted on something that will sit quietly in the cupboard until the next clear out.
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Shire Hall, High Pavement, Nottingham
If your recipient lives around the East Midlands, this trip to the Sheriff of Nottingham’s quarters – and the city’s old gaolhouse and courthouse - is a hoot of a day out. You’ll travel through 300 years of crime and punishment, led by wonderfully engaging actors who help bring to life the grizzly prison quarters and the awful conditions inmates inhabited. Visitors are all made to take part in court cases too (I took part in the trial of an 18th century arsonist) but the humour is just right – the judge sternly questioned my six-year-old over this half-moon spectacles about whether she had stolen her teddy bear to which she brazenly replied: “It’s a hippo actually” to gales of laughter. The building has also been voted the most haunted in Britain and the ghost tours are a riot.
4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton
This last one, I confess, is a trip I’d happily do, despite actually living in Sussex and having visited it many times. But the story of John Nash’s 19th century seaside masterpiece is just so wonderfully Brighton! What other city can boast a mini Taj Mahal at the bottom of the high street where the bon viveur King George IV (then Prince Regent) would host giant parties and banquets, arrange for vast areas to be decorated in the most lavish and expensive décor (a Chinoiserie dining hall didn’t come cheap) and (allegedly) rush off through underground tunnels to the homes of his mistresses after dark? There are separate audio guides for kids and adults which add more colour to the visit. Pack a picnic and lunch outside on a blanket in the Pavilion Gardens where Brighton life, in all its variety, proves George’s eccentricity has become somewhat thematic.
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