Sunday, 26 August 2012

LONDON: Dancing To A Brazilian Beat At Notting Hill Carnival

London has so much entertainment to offer and Notting Hill Carnival is another example of how cultural this city is. With the next Olympics taking place in Brazil, this year’s carnival was to be very special.

I went there the first time, not knowing what to expect. I knew that it wouldn't be as exciting as the big carnival in Rio, but it was not far off.

The parade went through the chic streets of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Big colourful coaches with entertaining dancers and loud music came through the streets and excited the crowd. Each coach was different and transmitted a different atmosphere to the crowd. For a moment, it really felt like you were somewhere else, in a different country.

It was nice to see the joyful people, dancing to the rhythm. Some sound boxes were even as high as the houses and whenever you passed them, you could feel every single beat in your body.

Some spots were so busy that you could not even move. The whole parade was so popular that it was difficult to move or arrange meeting points with friends. What you could also do was buy fresh coconuts, cut them and drink the juice.

The street food was good which is why huge queues built up in front of the kiosks and, all in all, I would say that it is well worth visiting the musical parade.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

LONDON: Discovering The English Coast In Bournemouth

You would not expect London to have beautiful beaches, but I found out that the island actually has some fantastic ones!

I went to Brighton once which was great with the young and trendy crowd and many gay visitors, but I very much liked Bournemouth, which is unfortunately a little bit further away from London, but easy to reach by train. It took us about 2 hours to get there and it is definitely worth it. The beach is sandy and the sea water cold as hell! This might be the only negative thing, that the sea water anywhere in England is very, very cold and it needs a lot of courage to get in.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

LONDON: Goodbye London 2012

On the last day of the Olympics, I went to Holland Heineken House to see the venue and find out if there will be any special events taking place. Unfortunately the whole team seemed to be exhausted from 3 weeks of hard partying, which is probably why they favoured a relaxing Sunday, just offering the closing ceremony in the Great Hall.

The closing ceremony was compared to the opening one very different and focused more on British music and British celebrities. The Spice Girls, One Direction, Jessie J, Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz, Ed Sheeran and George Michael were just a few of the names who took to the stage and impressed the audience with their talents. Great Britain has produced some of the best pop songs over the years and this was the moment to show it to the world and be proud for it.

The three-hour concert was cheesy enough with all the colours and different musical genres. Of course, the athletes could not be absent from the stage. Every single athlete came on waving their national flag, proud of what they had achieved in the past few days. It must have been such a brilliant feeling staying there and being applauded by so many people. They have been training hard for this moment and now they are standing there where they always wanted to be.

Unfortunately the Olympics are at an end. Tomorrow everything will be back to the way it was before. I mean London will never have a lack of tourists, but, still, the Olympics have been a remarkable event in the city and no one will ever forget it. As Seb Coe from the organizing committee said very correctly: “When our time came, Britain, we did it right.” Team GB achieved so many medals (29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze) and came in third place overall! Congratulations Team GB, you did really well!

Monday, 6 August 2012

VALENCIA: The Spirit Of Valencia

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, besides Barcelona and Madrid. I’ve been to both and decided to go on a relaxing holiday in Oliva, which is not far from Valencia.

When I landed in Valencia, I had about half a day to walk along the streets and admire the old monuments and the beautiful corners of the city, such as Valencia Cathedral, the Torres de Serranos, The North station (EstaciĆ³ del Nord), El Micalet, Plaza del Mercado and the narrow street in the Old Quarter.

La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias which includes four buildings, L'Hemisferic (a Laserium), Planetarium, the IMAX, a 3D-cinema, the Science Museum and the L' Oceanographic, which is Europe’s largest aquarium and the Opera, Palau de les Arts, is a huge place of pure art and worth visiting.

This place is beautiful and I was really impressed by the size of the buildings. It appears like the city spent all of their money on these 4 buildings. Next I headed to Oliva which is a really quiet place and is close to the beach. A lot of people rent a summer house which is just a few minutes' walk away from the beach. We always went to Denia for dinner as it is well known for its seafood restaurants.

Of course we could not miss out on tapas which we had once at taska eulalia and it was very delicious, except that shortly before the tapas had been served, a huge bug fell on my plate and almost killed my appetite. The castle in Denia is also worth a visit as is climbing up the Montgo mountain. Afterwards, I decided to go for some fun on a jetski. The waves were huge and so it was double the fun!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

LONDON: Watching The Events In Hyde Park

As I did not buy any tickets for the Olympic Stadium, I decided to go to Hyde Park to watch the bigger events such as the 100m final with Usain Bolt and the heptathlon with one of the faces of the Olympics, Jessica Ennis. The entrance was free and three big screens showed the different sports events. A lot of people had their flags with them and were really into Olympic fever. When Jessica Ennis started her run, everyone was so excited and at the same time nervous, because everyone expected her to win it. The most breathtaking moment was when she accelerated at the end of the race, passing all her competitors, leaving them well behind. People started cheering, applauding and even shouting.

When she finally won the race, fireworks were shown on the main screen and everyone seemed so relieved and happy. Everyone was looking at each other, feeling proud to be British and getting another medal for Team GB. The same feeling of goosebumps came when Mo Farah was running. An incredible amount of people came to watch his last run. At his final round everyone was so nervous and cheering, that as soon as he reached the final line, everyone jumped and hugged each other.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

LONDON: Gossip And Olympic Bloopers

Especially for the two-week-long event, an Olympic lane was set up for the exclusive use of designated cars and buses. Although some drivers were not aware of who could actually use these lanes, and some of the lanes stopped rapidly in crossings.
Prices in restaurants and hotels went recognisably up. Some Londoners flew abroad to avoid the forecasted traffic on the tube and in and around the city.

I went to Soho on a Sunday and was surprised by the silence in the centre. It was quieter than usual and the waiter said that less customers had come into his restaurant since the Olympics started. Even the hotel branches were complaining. Rooms which had been offered for an average of £210 had been cut in price to £160, although that is still an increase of 75 per cent compared to last year’s rates.
The media exaggerated, mentioning it so often that people were talking about the upcoming traffic problems and citizens tried to find other ways of travelling.

The queue at the UK border at Heathrow was always a nightmare and waiting times too long. This had changed with additional personnel at the counters.
Some celebrities flew anyway into London such as Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who decided to dock at Canary Wharf with his “tiny” boat named Octopus. One of the richest men in the country, the Russian owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich, came one day later with his one-billion dollar yacht.

There was some fury when the media reported that a lot of corporate seats were left empty although there were no more tickets available. This made some people angry as they registered for tickets, but could not get any. Organisers then decided to put them on sale again and made people check the site every evening.
London’s mayor Boris Johnson is always worth a laugh. During an event, celebrating Team GB’s first gold medal and the opening of the zip-wire at Hackney’s Victoria Park, he wanted to try it out, came nice and smoothly down the rope and all seemed to work fine, except the end of his destination when he finally got stuck. He looked like a huge, helpless baby. He is a kind of cartoon figure, is never too serious, always has some jokes and is famous for his ‘wild’ hair look. Many Brits like him as he is different to other mayors and tries to show foreigners why Brits are well known for their sense of humour.
Volunteers were stationed everywhere, in the city and at train stations, handing out maps and helping out visitors with any questions. I found them very helpful and they also seemed very motivated.