Category Archives: UK
November is quite possibly the best time to visit the UK. There are plenty of festivals held throughout the UK during this month so if you enjoy embracing different cultures through the medium of festivals, a holiday in the UK next month might just be what is needed to get you through your mundane 9-5, and give you something to look forward to.
November 5th (Bonfire Night)
Bonfire Night marks the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ failed assassination of King James I. Guy Fawkes is known in English literature as a member of the provincial English Catholics who fought the Spaniards in 1605. He was tasked to blow up the House of Lords in Westminster Palace using gunpowder but he was discovered and his plot failed. As such, in his memory, he is remembered today by fireworks displays every year on November 5.
One of the best places to see an innovative firework display is in the old town of Lewes, East Sussex. The fireworks celebration there includes street parties, costume parades, music, and a straw effigy that is burned on the bonfire.
November 11th (Remembrance Day)
Every November 11 in the UK is Remembrance Day that honors the fallen heroes of the armed forces. A lot of non-government organizations support the event. The Royal British Legion charity, for one, sells poppies to raise funds for the families of departed soldiers. Remembrance Day also observes a two-minute silence at 11 AM of November 11th.
November 30th (St. Andrews Day)
St. Andrews Day is in commemoration of Scotland’s patron saint, St. Andrews. There are many fun events during this day such as poetry readings, bagpipe performances, country dancing, and the customary Scottish meals to enjoy.
This is the best day of the month to party with Scottish people while Gaelic folk music is being played. Don’t be shy; participate in dances as there are “dance callers” who are more than happy to teach beginners the required steps.
November 30th (Diwali Festival)
Diwali is the Festival of Lights for the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh communities living in London. The biggest Diwali festival is held at Leicester, which hold awe-inspiring street parties, traditional music, food, dancing, and crafts. At night, different displays of light, lanterns, and fireworks are held.
There are plenty of routes to take in order to reach the UK, and fortunately, the UK’s airports are more than accommodating to their travelers. Those who are living in Asia can find comfort in these airports so don’t worry about the long travel time, as there are now many direct routes available.
Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Heathrow are among the best airports in the UK, so if you’re trying to reach London and have the option to have your layover in any of these airports, do so. Surprisingly, Newcastle is a foodie haven as it has some of the best options for airport dining. Americans who aren’t too adventurous when it comes to food, however, can stick to Burger King and other fast food joints,as there are several located at the airport.
Edinburgh, on the other hand, has some of the best airport hotels according to this list by The Telegraph.
Heathrow is one unique airport as it offers a mixed bag of entertainment for travelers who have to endure a long layover. For one, it has its very own art gallery called T5 Gallery London Heathrow that shows technologically-advanced pieces by contemporary British artists. Heathrow is the busiest airport in the UK and as such, it began to offer a lot more entertainment, tourist services, as well as car parking options for travelers. Parking4Less lists the main services at Heathrow, which will appeal to people that live in London but want to fly to either Newcastle or Edinburgh. Due to cheap domestic flights from the aforementioned airports, it’s sometimes cheaper to park your car and get a domestic flight than it is to buy a train ticket nowadays. Also, many of these airports have on-airport hotels to consider if you have an early or late connecting flight.
Have you been to the UK and if so, enjoyed some of its festivals? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below.
***Guest Post by Jayme Whilst***
I just completed my first trip across four countries in Europe. See, Europe has not been on my radar hence the delay in visiting. A deal came up on WOW airline to Reykjavik, Iceland from Baltimore, Maryland for only USD$156. No way was I going to pass off the deal. Another deal caught my eye – USD$600 roundtrip ticket from London to Tanzania. That’s two Western European countries booked. I figured I might as well add two more.
I arrived at the airport pretty early. They weigh your bags and make you pay for extra pounds/kilos. Boarded the flight from Baltimore airport. Flight was delayed two hours. The airline is real low cost because they don’t even serve you water! You thirsty, you pay 2 Euros for a bottle water. Arrived safely in Iceland and we booked a bus ticket to town. The bus was supposed to drop us off first since our Airbnb place was not too far from the airport. However, they put us on the wrong bus, dropped off everybody at their hotel, take us back to the main bus terminal before putting us on the right bus. Already getting pissed because we had booked an 11am tour of blue lagoon, so with all, we were wasting time.
We drop off at the spot the Airbnb host told us but we didn’t know what directions – all he gave was the address, no detailed directions. We walked in the wrong direction (in the cold with no gloves), asked someone for directions and started back on the right track. Finally we got to the place, dropped our bags and hurried to a nearby hotel where our 11am tour was leaving from. They never came to pick us or we missed them. Either ways, we had to pay for one way transport to the blue lagoon. We get there and they can’t find our reservation. Thankfully, I had an email confirmation showing prove of payment. Clearly, nothing has happened as planned since our arrival in Iceland. We mentioned this to the lagoon attendant and he gave us a free towel rental & free drink voucher (15 Euros value). That put a smile on our angry & frustrated faces.
Sightseeing in Iceland
Blue Lagoon is great because of its color and temperature. We also did the saunas and little pool inside. We stayed about 2.5hours before leaving. Now, people have asked me if the Blue Lagoon is worth it. I don’t have an answer for that. True it is pricey and much overpriced but it can be an experience of a lifetime.
The next two days, we went on three overpriced tours. The experience was amazing but the price drained my wallet. We did the golden circle, south coast, city and sunlight at midnight tour. I wasn’t adventurous with the food as I refused to try shark and whale. I tried the Lamb stew which was delicious. My favorite was the south coast tour mostly because of waterfalls.
Two highlight from my Iceland trip are 1) the sun never setting: I’ve never experienced this before so it was fascinating to look outside just before going to bed at 1am and it’s not dark. 2) My travel buddy: I carefully select who I travel with because I can’t do drama. So many things did not go as planned on this trip and I love how we both handled the situation.
Iceland was the most expensive country I visited in Western Europe. I spent about $160 a day and I was pretty cheap. For example, I got grocery that way I wouldn’t need to eat out for breakfast and some lunch. We also stayed at an Airbnb on the outskirt of town because it was way cheaper.
Next stop was to the city of love. I was fortunate to stay with a friend I met at a hostel in Cartagena, Colombia way back in 2009. I actually liked Paris. The people were kind to me and helped with directions even though I didn’t speak French. I visited Versailles – this palace is impressive! I walked 9 miles exploring the palace and I skipped several places in the palace. Off course, I went to the Eiffel Tower. I took the elevator (too lazy to climb the stairs) to the top of the tower. Amazing view.
My host took me to a lounge in Chateau Eleysee area. The crowd is mostly North African. It was great seeing North Africans jamming to Nigerian music J. I also got to see them dancing to North African (mostly Algerian) music. The girls’ moves are similar to belly dancing and the guys move mostly upper body and hands. A famous Algerian musician performed as well.
I tried going to Louvre museum. First time going, it closed a few minutes before I got there and second time, the line was way tooooo long. Next time, maybe.
I got the chance to hang out with a friend from Guadaloupe. We met at a conference in Costa Rica in 2011 and stayed in contact. She cooked a typical food from Guadaloupe – Colombo chicken. Yummy. I also got to hang out briefly in a couchsurfer friend from Paris that I met in Lagos over two years ago. Had dinner with him and another couchsurfer. I tried goat cheese for the first time and I think I love it. If you know me, you will know I dislike cheese but goat cheese might change that, who knows.
I had just 3 days in Paris, not enough if you ask me. This is one city I’ll definitely revisit with pleasure.
London, I finally made it to London lol. So a lot of Nigerians have been unimpressed with my travels because I had not visited London. London to some Nigerians represent paradise. I call it colonial mentality. Britain colonized Nigeria until Oct 1st, 1960. Pretty recent.
I stayed with a friend. I met this friend in Guatemala in 2008, we met at a park, went for drinks and parted ways without exchanging contact info. Fast forward to 2012 in Lima, Peru at an event celebrating Afro-Peruvian heritage at the National museum, we meet again J. Small world. This time, we stayed in touch and voila, she hosts me in London.
We went to a film screening – interesting film and conversation. I tried a typical food – the Sunday Roast. Yummy. Forget fish & chips, Sunday Roast is dope. I met up with three other friends. Two of which I met for the first time. We belong to the same travel group. The third, I met in Lagos where we worked on a summer camp project together.
I was a touristJ. I went to London bridge (I had to) – growing up, the song -London bridge is falling down- was a staple lol. Went to Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Big Ben and some more. Given that I had just 4 days in London, I did a lot of sightseeing.
London is expensive!
My last city in Western Europe. Happens to be my favorite city thus far on the European travel. I stayed in great hostel on O’Conell street – close to everything you need in the city center. I stayed in their 6 bed female dorm for 19 Euros. This included breakfast which was quite good – yogurt, boiled eggs, bread, cereal, fruits and juice.
I did the hop on hop off city tour bus from where I explored the Guinness Store house, Kilmainham Goal jail house and others sites. The view on the 7th floor of the Guinness storehouse is amazing. I enjoyed the Kilmainham Goal jail house the best. I love Ireland’s history so for me, it was informative. I also did the tour of Glendalough and Powerscourt Gardens. I enjoyed Glendalough best, the small lake is amazing, sad I wan’t able to see the bigger lake. The tour did not give sufficient time in my opinion.
I met up with a friend that I met while traveling in Quito, Ecuador in 2011. He showed me around Dublin every day after work. I would be coming back to Ireland for sure. But this time around, I want to visit Belfast and other cities. Although I had a sh**y experience with the Irish immigration officer, I’m glad I didn’t let that affect my experience in the city.
This trip was an introduction to Europe for me. I reconnect with amazing folks I met while traveling in Latin America (my favorite region thus far J). See, traveling open doors