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The Biggest Toy Shop in Europe

Shoshana R. Meiri

You’re standing on a wide, noisy, main road. Towering red buses rumble past, through streams of honking traffic. In front of you, is a glass-fronted store, decked in scarlet and gold. Two red flags flutter on each side of a grand entrance. You step in through the doors, and stare around you in spellbound wonder. You see an enormous red-and-gold room, with golden stars dangling from the ceiling, and crowds of children staring wide-eyed at shelf after shelf of ... TOYS. Welcome to Hamleys of London/

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Welcome In!

It’s Chol HaMoed Pesach, and we’ve come as a family; it’s a favorite trip of ours. This year, as Hamleys celebrates its 250th birthday, we see red and gold birthday greetings throughout the store. Grand banners swing above with “250th Birthday” in gold letters on a red background, and in the front window, a huge gold birthday drum slowly rotates.


Ground Floor

At the entrance to the store, an aeroplane zips around us in a circle and lands neatly in the outstretched hand of the Hamleys demonstrator. He throws it again and it loops around him in a perfect oval.

The ground floor, traditionally the home of soft toys — including the famous Steiff bear, with the button in its ear — houses a dizzying variety of stuffed animals. You can stroke fluffy teddies in different colors — cream, brown, silver, beige; watch penguins waddle and bunnies hop; and wiggle your hand into a multi-colored parakeet puppet. Two huge cream bears with the Hamleys signature embroidered on their paws sit cozily together in a bandstand, under a large sign: Regents Bear Park.

Also on the ground floor is Marvin’s Magic. “Come closer,” says the magician, beckoning invitingly. In his open palm, he shows us a small gold tube topped by a gold ring. “Look inside,” he says, deftly slipping the ring off the tube. “What do we have?” A silver stack of ten-pence pieces gleams. In one swift movement, the magician flips the tube over, slips the ring back on and taps it against his cloth-covered stand. “And ... with a sprinkling of magic ...” he says, sliding the ring off again with a flourish, “look — no money!” And would you believe it — the money has vanished!

He leans forward to a watching adult. “I think it’s in here,” he says cheerfully — and plucks a coin from the man’s collar. The audience oohs and aahs.

The magician holds out a black tin box. “That trick, and lots of others, are all in here,” he says, tapping the top. “You’ll find the instructions inside.” 


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