herald

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Amy's Santa verdict

Santa sends dozens of helpers to Dublin and beyond to take toy orders from boys and girls before Christmas. But where is the best grotto in the city? Our intrepid junior reporter, Amy Dunne (7), braved the elements to find out

Santa Claus at Dundrum Town Centre

Our alarm clocks rang at an ungodly hour so that we could be on time for breakfast with Santa at Hamleys. The private Party Room of the famous toy shop is opened up to parents and children from 8am every morning in the run-up to Christmas for a feast of Coco Pops, gingerbread men and orange juice.

The other children were busy designing their letters to Santa with arts and crafts supplies and having their faces painted by Santa's elves.

When it was time to leave, Amy received a goody bag filled with a sticker book, teddy bear, wind-up snowman and candy cane. Afterwards, we visited Santa's Grotto on the Mill Pond at the centre.

The spectacular outdoor building took five weeks to build and is one of the largest grottos in Europe. Some 12,000 children are expected to pass through the bright red doors this year. Santa arrives here at 10am (9am on Saturdays) and is there until 7pm every day until Christmas Eve.

Amy's verdict: 8/10

"My favourite part was the breakfast. He gave me a teddy bear for my little brother, too."

Breakfast with Santa at Hamleys costs €25 and is suitable for children aged two and above. If you would like to book a place, email vforde@hamleys.co.uk or phone 01 292 4901 A visit to Santa's Grotto on the Mill Pond costs €10 and includes a photograph and a gift.

Santa Claus at Arnotts

The longest queue of the day was for the grotto at Arnotts. Designed like a winter wonderland, the snowscape is flanked by white trees wrapped with twinkling lights and houses a menagerie of Arctic animals.

He also told Amy about the new austerity measures in Lapland! "Because of all the things going on all over the world, Mrs Claus won't be able to make as many presents this year," he explained. "So children can only ask for one or two presents, three max."

Amy's verdict: 9/10

"The Santa was very nice and very funny. I liked the polar bears in the grotto."

A visit to Santa's grotto at Arnotts is free. Two 5x7 photographs cost €10.

Santa Claus at the Jervis Shopping Centre

The Jervis Shopping Centre Santa lowered himself 60ft by rope when he arrived at the Jervis Centre last month and, judging by the children's letters on the grotto wall, his exhausting work schedule doesn't stop there.

One letter reads "To Santa, Can I have a Club Penguin Igloo Playset, a Stunt Rider, a stop animation video camera and a pool table, too. From Jake. Please."

Another child has made his work a touch easier by cutting out the pictures of all the Sylvanian Family toys she would like for Christmas from a catalogue (complete with prices) and pasting them to a sheet of copybook paper.

Amy asked Santa to bring her an iPod.

One of the elves told me that a child recently asked Santa to send the snow back to the North Pole because he's sick of it already!

Amy was too shy to sing Santa the songs from the pantomime so, instead, he sang her his entire repertoire of classic Christmas carols.

The grotto was voted the Best in Dublin by the Dublin City BID last year and Amy agreed that it was the grandest grotto we visited on the day.

She was also delighted with her gift, a collection of hair clips and bobbins.

Amy's verdict: 7/10

"I really liked the grotto. But his beard looked fake."

A visit to Santa's Grotto at the Jervis Shopping Centre costs €6 for a gift and €11 for a 6x4 photo and a gift.

Santa Claus at the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre

Amy had lots of questions for the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre Santa and Mr Claus had no shortage of interesting answers.

When Amy asked how he can make so many toys, he explained that he had arrangements with factories all over the world. For instance, if a little boy wants a Man United jersey, his toy factory trade with the factory that makes the jerseys.

She also wanted to know if he still delivers toys to homes that don't have Christmas lights on. "Yes, of course, but I'd feel a bit sorry for them," he answered.

"The most important thing about Christmas is the love your family has for you, Amy," he continued. "Do you know what goodwill means?" he asked. "It means people being nice to one another. Just remember that every smile you make is a step towards Christmas."

Amy hung on his every word. So did I.

She voted him her favourite Santa of the day and her mum, Lorraine, agreed.

"I actually think he's the real Santa," she said. Amy left with a Design Your Own Canvas Belt set and a beaming smile on her face.

Amy's Verdict: 10/10 ("But I'd give him 1,000/10 if I could.")

"He was really kind and friendly and I liked the story he told about where the name Santa Claus comes from."

A visit to Santa's Log Cabin at the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre and a gift costs €7.50.

> Additional reporting by Katie byrne

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