A salacious night of red lipstick and jazz, furs and garter belts, fedoras and army jackets: we were in London to celebrate the New Year – and it was 1940.
If you’re unsure of where to celebrate New Year’s Eve for the whopping 2015, dance your way back to the 1940’s at the Blitz party in London.
Pin up your hair (gel for the gents) and prepare for a time machine even the Doctor would envy: a World War II bunker situated just off the River Thames, where every year on December 31st, hundreds of people don their grandparent’s clothing and abandon their lives for a party that manages to serve a side of class with its debauchery. We twirl in dresses much too long for American frat parties, and dance to live music most clubs abhor, cocktail in one hand, a WWII soldier’s hand in another. The old air raid shelter hums with life and history, with culture and suspended reality, echoing back to a time impossible to forget.
(Video credit to the Blitz)
If you’re interested in a memorable evening and a little vintage shopping, celebrate the New Year with an Old Year.
You needn’t worry about finding the party either; my friends and I got a little mixed up (is anyone that surprised? Remember my Shakespeare and Co. incident?) and weren’t entirely sure which direction to turn. But almost immediately after exiting the Tube, we spotted men in suits and women in lined stockings. An attractive Australian by the name of Nathan, and his British friends Sean and Christine, along with other nameless faces, joined ranks with our little group (three Canadians, a Londoner, and one American).
Small packs of men and women preparing for another era lit up London’s streets, and we all seemed to follow each other, until finally, the music of the past began to mingle with the present. A cacophony of noise and light guided us towards an entrance lined by World War II soldiers. Once we showed them our tickets (I checked – they’re still available!), we were admitted into the bunker.
And we discovered: The Blitz is madness. Utter chaos. And beautiful. Lofty halls allow for multiple parties to ensue in a collection of rooms, with bars situated at every corner. The bathroom line snakes back towards the nearest bar, and when dancers aren’t dancing, they’re stumbling over broken heels and lost pearls.
But they stumble through, and the madness ensues.
Simply put, the atmosphere is incredible, and so far, it is without a doubt the most spectacular party I’ve ever attended.
(Imperfect photo quality due to an iPhone camera, cocktails, and attractive men in army suits)
But be warned: your re-entry into the 21st century may be remarkably unpleasant, and you may wind up on a broken escalator crying at 3 in the morning.
Allow me to explain.
My friends and I booked a hotel room on December 27th. Honestly, as a traveler, this is mildly embarrassing. It was New Year’s Eve in London. We may as well have been planning on setting up camp on the streets for the night. Fortunately, we did find a place, but we weren’t nearly as close to the party as we would have liked, and we overpaid for a hotel room, as all hostels were booked. We may have slept on luxurious feather pillows, but our bank accounts dwindled alarmingly quickly. And buying all the food we could possibly eat at Marks & Spencer really didn’t help matters.
We also didn’t consider how we’d return home if, for whatever reason, the Tube stopped running.
The Tube stopped running. New Year’s Eve of 2014 was the biggest debacle that ever debacled. Incompetent policemen ushered hundreds upon hundreds of revelers like cattle. We were confused and lost, as the nearest Tube station simply closed down without warning. While London’s public transportation is notorious for shutting down, never had I seen the entire station close.
Unlike Paris, in which you’re never far from at least three metro stops, the Tube stations in London are spaced out throughout the city. When we finally arrived at a working Tube station, my friend and I had adopted some poor guy interested in my friend. As a local Londoner, he had taken it upon himself to help us find our way home, and witnessed my friend’s claustrophobic-induced emotional breakdown in the crowds, and my emotional breakdown on a broken escalator, pearls askew, feet bloody and swollen (this is why people who have surgery on their feet should never wear heels).
When we finally found a working station, the line we needed stopped running.
And, as a last resort, we stupidly attempted to flag a cab. Of course, they had all been pre-booked for the night.
I love you London – but damn you.
When I asked my friend (who stayed in a different hotel) for a reminder of details of the night she said: “All I know is that I wandered London for hours. You wandered London for hours. So much movement was had by all.”
Needless to say, two limping, exhausted girls eventually found their way back to their comfortable, overpriced hotel room, and a mere three hours later, we met our friends for breakfast, relieved to see they survived the night as well.
I’d certainly return to London’s Blitz Party for New Year’s Eve but I would either find a hostel within walking distance, or spend the money on a pre-booked cab ahead of time.
Spin your way right back to the 1940’s – but make the proper 21st century arrangements beforehand.