Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Notting Hill Carnival 2011

Over one million people will visit my old neighbourhood this weekend, to participate in Europe's largest street festival, Notting Hill Carnival.  

The festival started in 1964 and has taken place every year, on the August "bank holiday" weekend (which simply means, a long weekend and yes, the banks close), the last long weekend of the summer.  Schools start back up again after the bank holiday, much like in Canada and the USA after Labour Day. It's a Caribbean celebration, but people of all backgrounds attend the events throughout Notting Hill.

Here are a few tips to enjoy Notting Hill Carnival for the first-timer:
  • Bring Water.  Lots of water.  I've seen my neighbours in London selling water out of their kitchen sinks during Carnival!  Be prepared, and make sure you hydrate.
  • Know where the toilets are.  This is important at any festival, but imagine... 1 million people.  Not enough toilets.  Yeah.  Know where they are, and hold that bladder.
  • Sunscreen! I know, I know - London is more often grey than not, but spend a full day at carnival and you'll come home burnt if you don't wear sunscreen. I sound like your mother now, don't I?
  • Bring cash.  Very few people carry cash these days, but the carnival is a good example of when you should.  The food stalls are incredible and you want to be quick. In and out!  So bring cash, get your grub and go.
  • Make sure you know how to get there & how to get home.  Buses are the easiest way to get around Notting Hill during carnival, and the night buses run all night so you should be able to get home no matter where you live.  See here for more details on transportation during Notting Hill Carnival.
  • Watch those pockets!  Sadly, pickpockets have a field day at the carnival, so be smart and hide your valuables on your person and spread them out.  For example, I was pickpocketed on my right hand side but not my left, and was ridiculously excited when I realized that I was smart when dressing and had divided my money into the 2 pockets.  So, although I lost some, I didn't lose it all.  This would be one of those times when you're smart to have a travel pouch under your jeans.  Geeky? Yes.  Smart? Yes. 
  • Layers!  I know you want to wear that sexy little number and shake your booty, but bring some layers for when the sun goes down.  You don't have to dress any differently than you normally would by the way.  Of course, it's a great opportunity to dress colourfully, with heaps of feathers & sequins, but hey, jeans & a t-shirt are just fine at Carnival too.  
Teachers, you'll be starting school the next week so my best advice is to go, have fun & celebrate the end of summer in style. Be safe about it, but have fun.  You deserve it!

Resources for Teaching in London

Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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