I'm gotiges7 from London. I've been Qyping since 16-06-2008
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Notting Hill, London W11 1BW
When many years ago I would laze around in front of the TV, complaining to everyone that there was never anything to do – The Notting Hill Carnival was probably that something that I was dreaming of. (Picture a nerdy kid on a couch sighing and looking into the ether as a little thought bubble pops up filled with skimpily dressed dancing girls and massive dub blasting sound systems.)
This was my third free North London Summer festival this year, and it was the second year in a row I’d been to the Notting Hill Carnival. For me these events are the best part of the summer and demonstrate the very best qualities of Londoners. I can understand though if, for instance, you lived in the area, hated loud music, were intimidated by drunk people and felt trapped by the crowds, then this might well be the worst part of the summer and an example of everything wrong with life in the capital.
I arrived there on the Monday at about 3 pm at Kensal Rise Station. The train was full of Carnival goers, almost all of whom had got on in Dalstan. (I have a theory that as Notting Hill has gentrified and the Caribbean communities have moved east, this carnival is increasingly a Hackney/Brixton festival that is staged in Notting Hill – might be a controversial idea)
Leaving the train we were greeted by some thumping dance music, the smells and smoke of jerk chicken and no less than 40 police and transport workers. Dogs sniffed everyone and seemed to find everyone of interest. Which meant long body and bag searches. Now I’m not complaining about this though. I continue to be really impressed with the way that London police operate, and particularly at big events which is where I tend to get closer to them. I LIKE the idea that people are searched for weapons. And I think their attitude to drugs is really practical. It seems that large quantities or the higher class drugs will get you in trouble, but they unofficially aren’t bothered about small amounts of pot. The policeman searching a lad in front of me said to a colleague “I found a spliff on this one – what should I do?”
“Take it off him and tell him he’s lucky”
I love this attitude. Actually most of all I love the policeman calling it a “spliff”. Really getting into the spirit of the thing!
The crowds got denser as we approached the carnival area proper, although we were always able to walk at a reasonable pace. We were stopped for a few minutes when we ran into the main procession. The floats were amazing! So much work went into them. Along with the costumes and the dancers and the music. Just brilliant! I hadn’t watched the parade last year but this year we walked for an hour or more against the flow of the floats, drinking wine and taking photos. I sensed no agro at all in the crowd as Japanese and German and all other flavour of tourist posed for photos with the dancers, danced themselves and just soaked it in.
Last year we’d used a map to get around and this year I was a bit disorientated. My favourite part of the carnival is the soundsystems and I was a bit confused as to where they were. We had to double back along the path of the parade to find them and this took quite a while. Along the way police had blocked off different roads to manage numbers and we had that sense of being inescapably stuck in a really large crowd that moved very slowly.
We found the spot we wanted and spent three hours of so dancing and meeting people and generally mixing it with a flowing group of revellers in front of some very large speakers.
Around 7 the music stopped and the thousands of people all wandered off to the transport points or their after parties. I didn’t witness any trouble at all on the way out. We bought some chicken and sat on the canal for an hour or so till the worst of the crowds cleared and then caught a not ridiculously full train back home.
Going on my standard device for measuring crowds at festivals (the queue for the toilets) I thought there were less people this year than last; might have been the sunny weather last year that brought everyone out.
Whilst buying a kebab yesterday I read in one of the tabloids that there had been around 600 or so arrests or incidents at the carnival but that there was not a single stabbing or shooting or other major horrible drama. I think that’s a cause for a huge celebration. All we hear about in the media is how dangerous London is , about how terrible are the gangs and the stabbings and the drugs. But here we have the biggest street party in Europe, filled with all those young people we are told to be scarred of, and there is almost no crime.
Not far from Rseszow lies the Castle of Lancut. (Pronounced wansoot)
The castle was first built between 1629 and 1642 as a defensive fortress. It became one of Polands and perhaps europes most impressive residences with strong links to the Habsburgs and other upper crust families.
The Potocki family, it’s final dynastic owners, engaged the elite crafts people of europe to continue renevations, including indoor heating and plumbing, up until they fled in 1944.
After housing German troups, the building was handed over as a museum to the Polish people and has been maintained as such ever since, with most of its treasures intact, including a stagering array of paintings and artifacts.
I was blown away by this place. It had a similar wow factor to visiting the Al Hambra in Spain. Castle Lancut though has an entirely lived in feel to it. Conferences and banquets still take place in the main dining hall. Classical music was being practiced for a concert that evening in the music room. All the furniture is intact as though it was only abandend yesterday.
It’s two big to describe in detail but I’ll give three highlights. One was the private indoor theatre. Apparantly unique in Poland (Did the guide say europe?) A fully decked out theatre that still had the sets in place from its last production. There is even an orchastra pit. (How rich can people be??)
The biggest collection of private carriages in the world. In itself a bit boring - but they are overlooked by the stuffed heads of every wild animal you could think of from africa. Including a Girraffe. (What else do you give the person who has everything?)
Thirdly the strory of the kidnapped child..you’ll have to visit to find out about that one.
Tours can be organised in various languages and like everything else in Poland they are priced very reasonably.
The grounds are also spectacular and a picnic would be a great idea.
Ul. Kosciuszki 9, 35 - 100 Rzeszów
Ultra modern club. Someone has spent a lot of money building this place and the punters are loving it.
It’s a big underground space just next to the square in Rzeszow. Inside brand new minimalist modern furniture sits within a medievil seeming bricked cellar with an impressive domed roof. There are several different rooms with tables for dining and relaxing and a substantial dance floor. A large glassed wall section at the rear displays a neon lit half sized bowling alley.
Drinks seem cheap by English standards and the menu ventures beyond standard pub snacks into the restaurant realm.
There was an entrance fee of about 2 pounds and quite a que to get in that began from around 11 pm.
The expansiveness and attention to detail in the design of this place says an enormous amount about the current prosperity of Rzeszow generally. Cash and confidence abound.
There is not a tourist in site in this place, or in the whole town. Which contrasts magnificantly with backpacker land Krakow - only 150 kms to the west.
ul.Hetmańska 69, Rzeszów
I remember watching the lead up to England playing Poland in the world cup in 2006. Every news station outlet in London from the BBC to the News of the World was screaming biased editorials like “Extra police are will be on notice for the Polish fans” and “All is quiet at the moment but there is a real fear of the violence that is to be expected from the Polish fans” and “The Polish fans have a reputation as the most violent in Europe.”
Obviously they aren’t quotes, my memory is not that good. I remember it very clearly though because I’d never met a Polish person at the time and I was a little anxious about the anticipated atrocities. What a fizzer! In the event everyone was well behaved. Had I been Polish I would felt more than a little agrieved.
Stal Rzeszow is one of the proudest Polish football clubs, and also has a very successful speedway team. Rzeszow, the town where it is located, is arguably the most Polish city in Poland. I went along to a speedway event here really excited about experiencing the heartland of Polish football nationalism. (albeit in the off season)
Tickets for the speedway are 28 szloty full price, which is about 7 pound. A lot of money for the local wage earners.
It was the end of the season and the club was already facing relegation so there was a bit of a dead rubber atmosphere. Still there was a substantial crowd, of probably two thousand, in a well worn stadium of six thousand capacity. Apparantly most of these come as much for the love of the football team of the same name as for the speedway. They get a chance to sing and wave their flags in the off season.
Speedway, for the uninitiated, is a team sport. four riders race against each other at the same time - two from each team. The first placed rider gets three points with the last placed getting zero. Scores are tallied and one team wins the night.
Generally I’m no fan of motorsport but this was quick, thrilling, noisy, competative, and there was beer and sausages everywhere.
The fans - as far as I could tell - were really well behaved. Stal Rseszow lost and the other team cheered loudly, which seemed to be excepted. Fans were seperated though - like in English football. The Rzseszow fans cheered the other teams riders at the end of the night for great peformances, especially the champion Hans Anderson.
This was only a snapshot into Polish football culture, but I would certainly be prepared to go to one of their football games. Amazingly I saw not one but three teenage boys wearing white England team football shirts.
I really don’t think the Polish football fan is the monster the English media told me they were.
As a qualifying aside - On a trip to Gdansk two weeks ago our train overtook a “special football train”. These are trains just for football fans on the way to matches. It was easily recognisable as such. They were stopped just outside a station - every window and every door was crammed with singing sunburnt men waving cans and flags. They seemed to be happily singing together with no audience except some sheep and passing cars and us as we sped past.
The Library of Tibetan Works And Archives (LTWA) in Dharamsala is apparantly one of the most significant respositories of Tibetan manuscripts and artifacts anywhere in the world. Built under the direction of the current Dalai Lama in 1971, it houses “more than 80,000 manuscripts, books and documents, hundreds of thangkas, statues and other artefacts, 6,000 photographs, and other materials.”
It is also a center for learning and study of Tibetan culture and Religion.
To get here you head down the road from the more touristy area of Mcloed Ganj, where you will most likey be staying. Just follow any one of the many monks who will be ambling down the hill.
The Library is set amongst a whole villiage of monastaries, and seems to be a real focul point for the community.
Twice or three times a day there are letures given here by different Lama in the teachings of the Buddah. Everyone is welcome and its free and you don’t have to book. I attended twice a day for about a month. The lessons start and finish with chanting - their is an English version “song book” and the lessons were translated from Tibetan by a middle aged English woman.
Probably a third of those attending were westerners, while the rest were Tibetans, or other monks.
Donations can be made to the centre, and their is a suggested amount (which isnt very much) for attending the courses long term. Another good way to support the community is by volunteering to teach English. I taught three classes a day, one individually to a monk, one to a packed class of refugees and another to a group of more advanced monks.
Both attending these classes and teaching the locals English was a brilliant way to make friends and become a part of the local community.
Putuoshan is an island off the coast of Shanghai. You can reach it by an overnight ferry or you can catch the train down south a bit and then a speed boat, which only takes about 5 hrs all up.
The island is like one big and beautiful manicured garden filled with ponds, temples and statues. This is a living Buddhist community and tourists would be evenly matched by the number of Buddhist monks and other Buddhists paying respect in the temples.
The temples themselves along with the giant Buddhist statues are really inspiring. This is a little picture of what I imagine China was like centuries ago. It’s a mountainous place with lots of little trails and steps, very like the scenes in every Kung Fu movie where the pupil is learning their trade from the master.
I didn’t book a hotel before hand and had no trouble finding a place. Like everwhere else I like to avoid tours and I wouldn’t worry about organising anything before arriving. (Of course I don’t know what its like at different times of year and I have throughout my carrer as a tourist slept on the odd beach)
The natural beauty of Putuoshan is such a relief after Shanghai, paricularly the yellow sandy beaches. And the food, oh my god that incredible seafood; well yeh it’s really good! Such a cliche that, for instance, the Indian food we get here is nothing like the food in India etc. But the Chinese we get here is closer to McDonalds than the stuff they serve up in China. Imagine a little pet shop out the front of every restaurant you go to. You can’t speak to the people, because NO ONE in China speaks English, so you just point at the animal you want and half an hour later it turns up on your table cooked the chefs favourite way.
In Putuoshan the restaurants are filled with aquariams. A lot of the fish or water bugs in there I could only recognise again by their taste. I love this kind of eating except that it is really hard to ever have the same dish twice.
The difference between Putuoshan and the rest of China is brought into stark juxtoposition when you round the final bend at the north of the island and are brought face to face with one of China’s lagest navel bases. Super techno machines like destroyers and submarines and aircraft carriers sit only a mile away from Buddhist statues. Signs all over the place warn you that your camera will be taken and possibly even worse things will happen if you photograph it.
Really gets you thinking. The Buddah and the missile. Like the art of kung fu vs the Chinese army. I’d back Bruce Lee..
The Peoples Square 201, sur la Place People's square, Shanghai
This museum is the antidote to futuristic Shanghai. It was what I craved after days of shoping and partying and gauking, like a hopeless character in a computer game with only chinese instructions.
The building is moderninst and well designed. It wouldn’t be out of place in a European city, yet it’s curves speak subtly of Asian history as it provides a strong central structure to the tranquil Peoples Park. Wikipedia has just informed me that “the new museum building is designed in the shape of an ancient, bronze, tripod cooking vessel called a ding.”
The inside of the structure is as interesting as the outside. Criss crossing esclators run on either side of a central high ceilinged space that allows for ample natural light.
There are five floors and I never felt that I was crowded as I wandered between them. I think that was largly due to the well thought out design - with multiple pathways up and down levels and in and out of rooms.
There are so many great displays that it’s hard to describe them. My favourite would be the Ming furniture. There are re-creations of entire rooms from the Ming period. Bedrooms complete with beds and chairs and chests of draws and cabinets. All simple yet beautiful and very functional carved wooden pieces with facinating joinery.
I also really like the Chinese Minorites display. Obviously the issue of Chinese minorities is quite political, but at least here there is some record of them. Unfortunately you do get a sense that these are historic or dead cultures, not so much living contributors to a modern China. An amazing thing is how many minority cultures there are. It’s this depth, rich history and cultural complexity that make China one of my favourite countries to visit.
Poseidon Divers, Crazy Camel Camp, PO Box 14, Dahab, South Sina, Cairo, Cairo
I’ve always thought of diving as a bit of a lazy sport. I prefer more active things rather than just floating around looking at fish. Others rave about it though and as we had decided to lay up in Dahab for a few weeks, it presented as a more interesting option than lying on the beach and drinking beer. (still plenty of time for that though.)
We checked out heaps of the local dive centers. Imagine your most enthusiastic Egyptian tout crossed with your over sexed ski instructor and you can understand the kind of poeple that work there.
Poseidon presented as a more relaxed and proffesional alternative. The management were clearly very experienced, and the buisness was well established, but our instructor was taking on a group for the first time. I work as an outdoor instructor myself sometimes and I really didn’t mind at all this guys inexperience. His training was very recent and up to date and his enthusiasm for us to do well and enjoy ourselves would be hard to compete with.
So for four days we had this guy teaching just the two of us. All the diving was shore based to keep costs to an absoloute minimum. It was very cheap - I won’t say how much becuase they wouldn’t like it - but like anything in Egypt - You’ve got to haggle!!
The Red Sea is amazing. I’ve dived or snorkelled all over but I think the fish life here is the best I’ve seen - better than The Great Barrier Reef. (The coral there is much better but..)
The course too was just so much fun. Our isntructor had a great sense of humour - a highlight was playiing Matrix fights under water. You take your flippers off and do Kung fu moves in really slow motion, I promise it’s more fun than it might sound and I’m chuckling about it as I write this.
He was really safe though. At one point my then girlfriend freaked out and he calmly took her back to the surface and kept communicating with me as he took her up.
If you are cotemplating a dive trip to Egypt then I would definately go for Dahab and Poseidon over going to Sharm al Shek and staying in a resort up there. Dahab’s way more fun and much, much cheaper.
Finsbury Park, London
If I new anything about web design and hacking I would attempt to add another couple of stars to this review. Other things I’ve given five stars are no where near as good as the Rise Festival was.
The parks in London make it a city worth living in. They are free and very well kept and I just love them. A place where the alcoholic and the athlete, the child, the gangster and the elderly can all find a bit of room and do their thing.
Summer is welcomed into London with a series of free festivals accross its parks, with perhaps the biggest being the Rise festival. The web site states that well over 100,000 people attended and I can well believe it.
Having said that it felt much more spacious than Clissold parks’ Stokefest a month of so earlier. You could move around at the Rise festival, making it much easier to sample more than one music show - or to go and get beer or food. My favourite barometer for the quality of a festivals organisation is the length of time you have to queue for the toilet. I wasn’t so pedantic as to time it, but I would have to say that the wait was always less than ten minutes. Admirable!! Especially compared to the likes of The Notting Hill Carnival (an important part of the London music scene seems to be the ability to keep drinking and dancing whilst your bladder explodes.)
Now a free concert like this is never going to attract the likes of Radiohead or Fatboy slim so direct comparisons with music between The Rise Festival and say Hyde Park the week earlier are probably unfair. None of these acts, which I list below, had appeared on my Ipod.
Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings
Dub Pistols featuring Terry Hall and Rodney P
Kitty, Daisy and Lewis
Trojan Sound System
But the music I heard, particularly The Aliens and some African dance music on a smaller stage, was excellent stuff.
Add to this quality music the fact that you can carry in your own drinks and food, that I was able to walk to the venue, that there were rides and food and interesting cultural things going on - AND IT WAS FREE! - this was just a spectacular day out.
Another great thing about this festival was the atmosphere and the general crowd behaviour. People were just friendly and happy. I didn’t witness any crowd misbehaviour and I felt that the police were really restrained and respectful in their presence. Unfortunately, I have to delcare that if this event happened in Australia - there would be a lot more drunken idiots. Especially teenagers.
The Rise Festival made the headlines because Boris, our Mayor, removed the specific focus of Anti - Racism, with a little last minute meddling. It was apparantly the biggest Anti Racism festival in europe. He changed it to the Celebrate Diversity festival. Now I don’t disagree with it neccessarily but I don’t see any reason why he would have done that except as a little statement that he can do whatever he wants.
First he gets rid of drinking on public transport, then he starts mucking about with festivals. I bet next he will extend areas on the streets where you can’t drink and then he will ban drinking in parks, and the free festivals and their special nature will go out with.
Londons park festivals, especially The Rise, are wonderful events that bring the community together and reinforce everything that is good about living in the capital.
To be honest, I normally write reviews with the intent of entertaining or inspiring rather than providing actual useful information.
If you have a stop over of any length flying Air Jordan through this aiport though, a little information will be really useful.
The airport itself is neither good nor bad - just another mid size international venue with epensive food but the ability to order it in English.
What is useful to know is that if you have a stop over - then Air Jordan have a FREE hotel to stay in which provides FREE meals and FREE links to the airport.
However NO ONE tells you about it in English. I’m not sure how long your stop has to be but if you call the airline I guess they will tell you. I had a scheduled 6 hr stop on the way back from Thailand to London and I was eligable.
What you need to do is get a transit pass when you exit customs. Then you walk directly out the front of the airport.
The shuttle bus arrives to your right hand side facing away from the entrance. This seems to come when it wants and you will be approached by quite a few taxi drivers wanting to tax you there. The key word is TRANSIT. Just say that to everyone.
The hotel is only about 10 minutes by bus. Once there they give you a hotel room, mine was quite nice, with TV, aircon and private bathroom.
There is also a buffet room which has a huge spread of food, coffe and other drinks. No one will point this out to you at the hotel - so just go in there and start eating with the rest of them!
Be careful - they may or may not give you a wakeup call so get yourself ready to get the bus back. I received a call but my friend didn’t.
I have not doubt that they deliberatly leave westerners here so they will have to pay a huge fee to the taxi drivers to return them for their flights.
An inititaive like this should really get five stars. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where they do it. But it is handled so badly, and so rudely, that I can’t give it more than two.
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