Loving Notting Hill Carnival!

I go to carnival every year and still love it just as much – the music, the parade with mad costumes, the food, the noise, the people watching, the colours, did I say the noise?  Some residents of Notting Hill head for the country while others, like myself, make the most of one of the world’s best street carnivals coming to their doorstep. 

Firstly the history bit:  the roots of the Notting Hill carnival are way back in the Caribbean in the 19th century, particularly in Trinidad, when freed slaves wanted to celebrate the end of of slavery and these traditions are carried forward into what we see now. Our carnival dates from the late 1950s/early 1960s when it started as a celebration of Afro-Caribbean cultures and traditions at a particularly difficult time for race relations. We have 2 women to thank for this amazing event – Claudia Jones and Rhaune Laslett. These days over 1.5 million people come to have a great time, watch the parade, enjoy the sound systems, eat the Caribbean food (mostly jerk chicken, goat curry, rice and peas and my favourite – ackee and salt fish), have a few drinks and dance!

The weather was great for both days and day one, which is the kids day was full of fun and families trying to navigate the crowds with double buggies – rather them than me!  I’ve picked a selection of day one photos for you to enjoy:

Waiting for the parade to start
Anyone can join it!

Great viewing spot
These kids were having such fun
Colours and feathers – and a head in the background
How heavy do you think this is?
Classic London routemaster bus getting in on the act
Cooking up a smokey BBQ
Even Dr Who dropped in with some famous enemies

This group weren’t even in the parade, just turned up anyway

I said it gets busy….

There really is only one beer at carnival

Unusual window display in this butchers shop on Portobello

Beautifully made statue of The Pan Man

It can get very tiring

Great costume

A mime troop decide to  join in
Thumbs up from one of the parade floats

The happy face of carnival

 I was hoping to bring you some brilliant photos from day two of carnival and had a whole set in the camera but unfortunately I was the victim of a very sly pick pocket so the camera has gone! It’s the first time in 11 years of going to carnival that this has happened to me so however careful you think you are it can still happen and you need to be on your look out. Thankfully I have a spare camera so I’ll still be out and about taking photos of London for you.

Bye for now
Sue 
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon  

London’s Olympic sized hangover!

We are having a summer like no other, as the Mayor of London’s slogan tells us on billboards, leaflets and even T-shirts, but it’s not over yet. We are just taking a breather at the moment and recovering from our Olympic hangover!

London 2012, it certainly is…..

That Olympic sized hangover is pretty big and hard to shift after the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics-  it’s a bit like we have been mixing our drinks at a very long party. It was such fun to be in London for both major events with so much going on around the major set pieces thanks to the London2012 Festival and everyone else jumping on the bandwagon to lay on great side events. 

Here are just 5 of the great things I’ve enjoyed since the Jubilee kicked off on June 2nd which are unique to this summer.  It was hard to pick just 5 and they are in no order: 

  1. The Jubilee River Pageant from Tower of London 
  2.  Olympic Opening Ceremony – I got to go to the rehearsal which was amazing
  3.  BT River of Music with Jools Holland, Beverley Knight and the Saxophone Massive
  4. The flags of the world in Regent Street
  5.  Urban Classics combo of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and urban artists including Fazer from N’Dubz


 

River pageant
Opening Ceremony

Jools Holland’s big band

Welcoming the world on Regents Street

Fazer and BBC Symphpny Orchestra

The day after the Olympic Games closing ceremony I had so many people ask me: ‘what am I going to do now the Olympics are over, isn’t it going to be really dull?’  There were no more gold medal highs, no more strange sports to watch and become instant armchair experts on and no feel good buzz around London. We were missing our fix so what to do? Taking a deep breath we had to look ahead and see what was that appearing in the viewfinder – the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s biggest street party.  That’ll do the job so I’m getting myself ready – Jamaican t-shirt and breads, loud whistles, cans of Red Stripe and a gang of mates to come along and enjoy the fun.

Lifting our heads to the week beyond Carnival, the Paralympics are coming and we’ll be jumping back on the roller coaster of sport and hopefully cheering Team GB to lots of gold medals.

There is always something great happening in London and I’ll make sure I bring the highlights in this blog.

Bye for now
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

Notting Hill Carnival 2011 – what a blast!

Notting Hill Carnival is two days of madness around the streets of this lovely part of London. You’ll find: hundreds of thousands of people; amazing costumes in the parade; incredibly loud sound stages; lots of dancing; a fair amount of drinking (!); quite a lot of police; great Caribbean food; stalls; something for young and old; and,  a huge amount of fun!
Enjoy the photos and look out for yours truly with a festive face painting!

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk

Notting Hill caaarnivaaaal!

The last weekend in August must be kept clear in many of our diaries for just one thing – the Notting Hill carnival. Europe’s biggest street festival (well Rio is bigger) comes to town and brings in over a million party goers to my neighbourhood. There’s a huge parade winding its way through a 3 and half mile route which takes hours as they dance their hearts out. There are loads of trucks with deafening music systems or steel pan bands followed by dancers, many in huge and elaborate costumes, others in very little! The parade is only part of the fun as the other streets are full of food stall, clothes and Caribbean stuff, and the loudest of loud sound stages with a whole range of musical styles but all with massive speakers. Caribbean food has to be eaten – jerk chicken, goat curry and saltfish with ackee are the key dishes, accompanied by plantain, rice and peas. It was the 47th carnival but only my 7th! Here are a bunch of photos which give you a better idea of it all than words can.

One completely contrasting event in last week’s diary to tell you about was an evening for Historic Royal Palace members at the Banqueting House. In this amazing venue with its masterpiece of a Rubens ceiling, we were entertained by Nell Gwynn telling of her royal escapades. After a little wine we had a go at 17th century dancing and managed as a set of 8 people to go through a whole rotation of a dance – very proud! This historic place saw the beheading of Charles 1st which was a seismic moment in British history but it’s all very lovely now.
It will be a quieter week next week but still plenty to tell you about so see you soon.
Bye for now,
Sue

Happy 2010 – here’s to the new decade

So, that was 2009 but before we let it go, have a look at my list of my 2009 favourites if you scroll down you can see what they were. It was a fun year but it went in a flash and I guess 2010 will speed by too so let’s see just how much we can cram in. You can see how I do by following my blog and hopefully the blog will give you an insight into life in London and what a good time you could be having if you were to visit us here.

As for the closing days of 2009, I spent these in Iceland which was even colder than London but not by much! We had a great time and saw some wonderful sights including the huge Gullfoss waterfall which was almost frozen over and so was I after staying on the viewing platform rather too long taking photos. We bathed in the Blue Lagoon which is a very large outdoor heated thermal pool and was a wonderful experience if a little weird as it was about -5 degrees outside making the dash back inside a major challenge. Although I did hire a robe to save my body freezing as I hurried back to warmth, they were not hiring out flip flops and my feet were so cold that I’m warning everyone to take some! But worth it….

We saw super heated water and steam shoot up into the sky at the original geysir (at Geysir of course!) which gave it’s name to all big spouts across the world. Then we stood in their rift valley where the American and European tectonic plates meet and are pulling apart with nature’s scary force – a treat to see for all geographers.

We ate lots of fish, tasted the lobster which was really langoustine, the hearty soups and had very few vegetables but fruit at breakfast helped balance this a little! Our hotel was trendy and warm but in a sign of their troubled times we only had 3 TV channels as the provider had gone bust. Icelanders seem resigned to the fact that they lived above their means and the crash must be lived through.

The days were short as the sun only rose at 10.50 giving the days an odd pattern but some wonderful light made up for this especially in the views across the harbour to the nearby mountains, a view which was amazing from their modern cathedral which looks like the space shuttle.

Here are a few photos to enjoy in the warmth of your own home…


So, now I’m back in London gearing up for 2010. But first a quick look back at 2009 with my list of some favourites:

Favourite event: Notting Hill carnival and 4th Plinth event in Leicester Square
Favourite restaurant: Wolseley in Picadilly
Favourite show: Matthew Bourne’s ballet of Dorian Gray at Sadlers Wells
Favourite bar: The Oak, Notting Hill
Favourite theatre: Inherit the Wind starring Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic
Favourite thing to do in London: take a Thames Clipper up the Thames on a clear day seeing Tower of London, Tate Modern, Globe Theatre, Houses Parliament, London Eye – can’ t beat that!

Favourite event: being on Centre Court Wimbledon for the first ever match under the roof

Favourite exhibition: Maharjas at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Favourite film; Slumdog Millionaire

Here’s to a wonderful 2010 for all of you!
Bye for now,

Even more madness – Notting Hill carnival!

The bank holiday weekend in England always feels like the end of summer and it certainly goes out with a huge loud bang in Notting Hill when the carnival swings into town. We are lucky enough to have 2 days of the world’s second largest street party – I think Rio still beats us! The build up feels weird as they start boarding up shops and restaurants the days before and some locals rush away, especially if they are on the parade route. And the anticipation builds, especially for those in the parade who have spent all year making huge and elaborate costumes.

On the mornings of the event, all starts quietly and then the noise starts to crank up as the parade winds itself around the long route and the sound systems keep moving the volume button to the right. If you want to see the extraordinary bright colours of the parade costumes, smell the wonder of jerk chicken and feel your sternum pulsate to the rhythms, then this is the place for you! Several of my neighbours can’t get far enough away as the hundreds of thousands of visitors make it a bit of crush at times but I love it. I really enjoy showing friends around which they appreciate as we pass endless lost people turning maps every which way to find out where on earth they are. The police patiently give directions and brace themselves for the later stages of the event when they have to try and get everyone on their way home after a few beers (the carnival goers that is not the police!).

The next day it’s like nothing has happened as the amazing clear up puts us all back to normal and I spend the next day sorting through my photos to keep the few great ones and lose the rather blurry dozens and wonder if my neighbourhood is the same place that hosted the carnival madness.

Not much time in between for restaurants, bars or art etc but local eateries I’ve frequently this week were: Toms Deli for brunch in their lovely outdoor garden (a rare treat as they normally have a huge queue), and another return to Aphrodite for a pre-carnival fortifier.

One more thing to let you know about was the One Magic Summer event in Trafalgar Square, brought to us by the Mayor’s Office (Boris Johnson). Rows of deck chairs in the middle of the square had been set out for anyone to sit in for free and chill out for a few minutes or even hours with entertainment laid on. It was a lovely day when I went down and the whole idea really brought smiles to a lot of people’s faces, always a delight to see in a big busy city.

Bye for now.

Sue

Fringe madness….

Spent a busy busy weekend outside London at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, an annual treat for me and I was joined by two American friends having their first Fringe experience. They were amazed by it and want to make it their annual treat too! We were lucky with the weather which was mostly dry and even sunny at times so we got to see the city at its best.

We managed 8 shows, a mix of comedy x3, theatre x2 and dance and I squeezed a visit to the Book Festival before they arrived with a friend who lives in Edinburgh. They have about 4 or 5 different festivals all on at the same time so everywhere you turn there is a venue with something interesting showing. The famous Royal Mile running from the castle to Holyrood Palace is full of players persuading you to see their show with flyers and mini performances. It really is a case of so much to see, so little time…….

Back in London we had a visit to Greenwich for the day to see the sights there. The day kicked off with a boat trip from Embankment in the centre out to Greenwich on the super fast Thames Clipper. We wandered around Greenwich,past the Market square through the Royal College and its wonderful baroque Painted Hall to the National Maritime Museum. Lots to see here including Nelson’s jacket – the one he was wearing when he took the fatal shot. And yes, there is the bullet hole. On a more modern note, you can drive the simulator and park your ocean liner in Sydney Harbour but take your turn with all the kids!

After lunch at the famous Trafalgar Tavern we walked up to the Observatory to stand on the Meridian at 0.00.00 longitude and take in the spectacular views over London. The film show at the Planetarium was wonderful if a little sleep inducing so we briskly walked back to the river and took the little known pedestrian tunnel under the Thames. Important not to think about the water above you……. A glass of Pimms at Plateau in Canary Wharf topped off a highly recommended day out. Greenwich is not far but feels out of town and we don’t go there often enough.

Excitement builds as it’s the Notting Hill carnival this weekend and a huge party will be going on all around me. Can’t wait!

Bye for now.
Sue