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Insiders Guide to Festivals in the United Kingdom

If you’re heading to the U.K., check out the lineup of festivals around the British Isles. The country offers numerous festivals for every interest and age. Check out a few of these festivals that often fly beneath the tourist radar.

Soul Circus

The Cotswolds, U.K.

This yoga and wellness festival int he U.K. will leave you feeling healthier and more relaxed than when you arrived. Experienced yoga and wellness instructors offer 20 classes a day in three different “experience tents.” The atmosphere is somewhere in between a DJ yoga rave and a mindful meditation. Spa tents revive both body and spirit. Music plays all day and far into the night by buskers and bands and a DJ late night party in the woods.
Organic food and drinks from home-grown sustainable sources put the “w” in wellness, and guests can attend workshops on healthy cooking. Inspirational talks from life coaches are on the agenda as well as soaking in hot tubs. Many people put up tents or tipis for total immersion. After such a rejuvenating weekend, even traffic can feel tranquil.

Robin Hood Festival

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

Taking places during the first week of August, this annual festival has grown into a pop-up 13th Century village with a square half-mile of woods full of stalls and attractions. Armor-clad knights hold frequent energetic jousts. Vicious fights erupt between Robin Hood and the Sheriff’s men. Children join impromptu, theatrical re-enactments of the Robin Hood story dressed as the mythical hero or Maid Marian in garlands of flowers. Archery lessons, pony rides, and discovery trails are the most popular attractions.
Jugglers, buffoons, and minstrels mingle with the crowds. There are exhibitions of falconry and alchemy. Magicians, storytellers, puppeteers, and musicians weave the wonder of a bygone time in and around the shade of The Major Oak, an 800-year-old tree. This festival celebrates Merrie Olde England without the Medieval scourges of plague and serfdom for a lighthearted immersion into a fanciful storied time.

Hampton Court Palace Festival

London, U.K. 

Big name acts perform at the annual summer music festival on the grounds of Henry VIII’s magnificent Tudor palace and world famous, extensive gardens. The intimate, open-air auditorium seats 3,000. Pre-concert festival picnics are elegant four-course seasonal meals including a cheese course and wine that attendees can enjoy at their leisure on the palace grounds.
You can reserve a gazebo and enjoy the luxury of a lake view and dedicated waitstaff. The exclusive and unforgettable VIP package includes dining in royal splendor inside the castle. Private dining apartments can be arranged. The VIP experience ends with champagne at a post-concert castle gathering that allows an inside look at King Henry’s public and private spaces.

Latitude

Henham Park– Southwold, Suffix

Four days of music, art, theater, and unexpected experiences define this family-friendly festival. Each year in mid-July, people ditch the city to rent tents (some luxury) or pods and enjoy a multi-day get-away in the woods. Special areas and activities are set aside for kids and teens. Sheep are dyed funky colors, and surprising sights abound.
SOLAS is the hearth of Latitude for relaxation, yoga, and eclectic art immersed in a pine forest and serenaded by emerging U.K. and Irish talent from troubadours, ambient electro, folk music, and dark pop. Ambient soundscapes accompany slow-motion visuals. Spa treatments and workshops are set up to enhance wellness and wisdom.
This U.K. festival offers a large variety of entertainment in music arenas, film, theater, and dance arenas, a comedy arena, and more venues scattered around the park. Established talent join emerging performers for an eclectic variety of acts.
You can enjoy a game of croquet or sip Prosecco in a forest bar, swim in the lake and listen to live music all day. Late night dancing in the woods is an ethereal experience. You never know what’s around the corner in The Faraway Forest, but expect theatre performances, interactive art, and a visually stunning walk through a world of woodland imagination.
More than 80 of the U.K.’s finest street food vendors bring a world of tastes to the festival including modern Greek cuisine, wood-fired pizza, Himalayan soul food, Indonesian charcoal barbecue, and Portuguese prego along with the more traditional burgers and wings.
This festival offers maximum fun with minimal festival distress. You won’t get lost, wonder what to do with the kids, or have to leave any night but the last.

Twelfth Night

Bankside–London, Epiphany

This raucous Twelfth Night Celebration aspires to be biblical but has many pagan, pre-Christian elements. At London’s Bankside near the Globe Theater, the Holly Man, covered in fresh holly, glides along the Thames in a small decorated boat before joining crowds for toasts with mulled wine. Festivities incorporate a re-enactment of the story of St. George and the Dragon. Some revelers are costumed. Two audience members who find a bean in their Twelfth Night cake are crowned King Bean and Queen Pea. Revelers march on to the George Inn on Borough High Street for more dancing, mulled wine, the Kissing Wishing Tree, and storytelling. This coaching inn is one of London’s oldest pubs and can hold a large crowd. The George is famous for being the only galleried coaching inn still standing in London.

The Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss

Padstow, Cornwall

Reputed to be the oldest dance festival in the U.K., the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss (Hobby Horse) sees thousands of people converge upon this small Cornish town, many with hobby horses of all types. The festival, celebrated each May Day, celebrates Celtic horse-worship, a pagan fertility parade. The festival was even used as a warning to would-be invaders of the portside fishing village.
Townsfolk decorate the village in greenery and erect a Maypole. Dance troupes parade down the streets, each led by an ‘Oss, a dancer costumed as a horse. “Oss’s” capture young women and conceal them in black capes, thought to be a pagan fertility rite. Another ‘Oss represents peace, and they duke it out. Traditional music is heard all day. Costumed troupes cavort around town before retiring to their stables — two local pubs — to be joined by townsfolk and visitors for a festive night. Revelers return to the town center to dance around the maypole at midnight.
The U.K. offers a multitude of music festivals all summer, but other seasons are festive as well. Be sure to check out the festivals happening during Christmas and Easter!

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Top 8 Summer Music Festivals in the World

A music festival is a timeless way to see new places, spend time with your favorite people, and hear some great live music. A good festival, of course, is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a chaotic meshing of sounds, socializing, food, unique fashion statements, creative art forms, and merchandise. Ever since Woodstock, music festivals have become a rite of passage for young people and, increasingly, people of all ages. Best of all, there are amazing festivals in all corners of the globe. Let’s look at some of the top summer music festivals in the world.

1. Lollapalooza

Grant Park, Chicago, USA

Right in the heart of downtown, Chicago, Lollapalooza is an amazing festival that’s been running since 1991. It features eight stages and more than 170 bands, covering a wide range of styles. A festival in an urban setting can either be a perk or a drawback, depending on your point of view. On the one hand, you don’t have to drive into the wilderness and set up your campsite. You have all the city amenities within walking distance. Chicago is famous for its great food (especially pizza), bars, museums, and impressive skyline. On the other hand, escaping civilization is one of the features that draws you to festivals, you have plenty of other choices.
In addition to music, Lollapalooza has a mini-festival for kids, an art market, and plenty of merch. You can buy 4-day tickets for the entire festival or single-day tickets. There are also hotel packages. Children under 10 with an adult are admitted free (up to two kids per adult).

2. FYF Fest

Los Angeles, CA, USA

This annual 3-day festival is held at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. FYF Fest has been popular on the West Coast since 2004 and is known for its edgy atmosphere and diverse selection of music, including pop, rock, rap, electronic, hip-hop, and indie. It’s a good festival choice for those with eclectic tastes.

3. Tomorrowland

Boom, Belgium

Tomorrowland is a two-weekend festival that combines electronic music and the arts with a vision for a more peaceful and environmentally sustainable future. This festival began in 2005 and attracts an enthusiastic audience from all over the world. In some ways reminiscent of Burning Man in the U.S., Tomorrowland is full of futuristic visions, art installations, and its own “city,” DreamVille.
There are several options for accommodations, from As with most festivals, there are many tiers for ticket prices, depending on when you buy tickets, what you want to experience, and how long you stay. There are quite a few creative options, at various prices for lodging, including simple tents, tiny home-like structures to luxury “mansions.”

4. Hideout

Zrce Beach, Croatia

Hideout is a good choice if you want to get an early start to celebrating the summer. Set in a remote and pristine location on the Adriatic Sea with a view of mountains, this festival is famous for its boat rides, beach parties, and a wide selection of electronic music. As the name suggests, Hideout is a place where you can escape the everyday rut and experience an idyllic world for a few days.
This is also a great festival for adventurous travelers who enjoy water sports such as jet skiing, boating, and quad biking. Festival goers have a chance to island hop and explore beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park.

5. Electric Zoo

 New York City, USA

Electric Zoo is an end-of-summer Labor Day festival held at Randall’s Island Park, a 480-acre urban park on the border of Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx. Established in 2009, Electric Zoo has been held all over the world. The original location, however, is New York. The 2018 theme is The 6th Boro, which reveals the ambitious attempt to make the festival a permanent part of the New York City (which has five official boroughs or counties) cultural scene.
Their past lineup included DJ Snake, Above & Beyond, Galantis, and Sasha & John Digweed. Check the website for early bird tickets.

6. Wireless Festival

London, UK

If you want to visit London this summer, you may want to schedule your trip to coincide with this festival, held at Finsbury Park. Now in its 13th year, Wireless has become one of the most popular music festivals in the UK. Since Wireless is an urban festival, you have to find your own accommodations. London, however, is an easy city to navigate. If you don’t want to spring for a costly hotel, there are plenty of hostels and reasonable Airbnb options.

7. Arise

 Loveland, Colorado, USA

The Arise Music Festival, approaching its 6th year, is a diverse event held at Sunset Ranch, a 350-acre organic farm in a scenic valley. In addition to music, Arise gives participants the chance to explore a variety of classes, workshops, and art installations. Many attendees are active in political and environmental causes. One of the requirements is that you “leave no trace” –i.e. clean up and leave the grounds as you found them.
Tickets for the 3-day festival include camping. Car camping is another option. There are also camping upgrades available if you want additional amenities.

8. Montreux Jazz Festival

Montreux, Switzerland

The Montreux Jazz Festival, founded in 1967, is one of the most glamorous and popular jazz festivals in the world. The program typically includes rock, soul, and blues musicians as well as jazz greats. On the scenic shores of Lake Geneva, the setting is perfect for relaxation and boat rides as well as great music, parties, and socializing.
Montreux has a variety of venues to enjoy music and special events, such as the Auditorium Stravinski, known for its outstanding acoustics and the Montreux Jazz Club, where you can enjoy intimate performances by contemporary artists. Visit the website to find out program details. Past participants have included B.B. King, David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, and scores of other household names as well as new performers.
You can buy an all-music pass or attend one of the festival’s many free events such as jam sessions, concerts, and film screenings.

Music Festivals Make the Summer More Fun

A music festival can be the highlight of summer vacation. If it’s close to home, it can make for an awesome road trip. The above are some of the most exciting summer festivals in the world. Some festivals don’t announce their lineups until fairly late in the season. However, keep in mind that tickets often sell out fast. So, if you want to attend one of these festivals, it’s best to buy your tickets early!
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How to Eat Well in the United Kingdom

Feast Through the United Kingdom

The fact is that it’s quite possible to eat well in the United Kingdom. You just need to know where to go and what to look for. Here are some suggestions:

Go Indian

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Beef Tiki Masala

It’s been said that you can get better Indian food in London than you can in Delhi. Of course, you’re most likely to hear that from Indian restaurants in London. The truth is, though, that Britain imported a lot of people from the Indian subcontinent in the 1950s – and a disproportionate number of them started restaurants. As long as you can handle spice, you can find good to great Indian food almost anywhere, including small towns in North Wales and the Midlands. Mediocre Indian restaurants just don’t survive very long. Just remember – Vindaloo is not for the faint-hearted. Try Maharaja, near Kensington Park.

Pasties, No, Not That Kind

In the US, the word “pasty” often means something associated with strip clubs. In the UK, it always means a fold over pie. Pasties became popular during the mining era (hence “Cornish” pasties, because of the amount of mining there). A “Cornish” pasty is specifically a pasty filled with beef, potato, swede, and onion. As they have Protected Geographical Indication, they can only be called that if made in Cornwall. Stores outside Cornwall get around it by calling them “traditional” pasties, and everyone knows what they mean. You can also get pasties full of chicken and bacon, ham and cheese, you name it. Pasties are often still good cold and make a tasty picnic lunch. Get your pasties at a traditional pastry shop. The Proper Pasty Company sells some of the best in a variety of locations, or ask a local where to go.

Chinatown

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Chinatown London

If you’re in London, then London’s Chinatown, while quite a bit smaller than New York’s or San Francisco’s is worth a visit (especially if you’re taking in a show in the West End, as they’re right next to each other). It’s more like San Francisco both in feel and in the kind of food than New York. British Chinese food, dominated by Hong Kong cuisine, is not quite the same as American Chinese. Don’t expect to be able to get General Tso’s, but do expect to get excellent sweet and sour. Seafood lovers will be particularly satisfied. But look for an established joint such as Joy King Lau, serving Cantonese food on three stories.

Fish and Chips

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Fish and Chips

It’s a British staple to the point of being a stereotype, but good fish and chips (hard, although no longer quite impossible, to find in the United States) is something every visitor should try at least once. Fish and chips is fast food, and best eaten out of paper on the street. Sadly, it’s no longer legal to wrap it in newspaper, although some chip shops will put a sheet of newsprint around it outside the food safe paper just for old times sake. Yes, vinegar is a condiment here. You can get fish and chips in restaurants, but if you happen to be in Haxby, York, you can visit this year’s National Fish & Chip Award winner, Miller’s Fish and Chips. Yes, that is how seriously British people take fish and chips!

Pie Day

If you’re in Britain on 3.14, or even on any other date, you can seldom go wrong with savory pies. The most common are steak and kidney, steak and ale or chicken and mushroom, but cold pork pie is a picnic favorite and many pubs now sell pies with some very interesting fillings such as smoked cheddar, coronation chicken, leek and cheese, etc. Cottage pie, in which the upper crust is replaced with mashed potato, is another pub favorite (note that it is only shepherd’s pie is made with lamb). The best pies are often found at specialized pie houses such as Battersea Pie Station in London, but almost any pub will sell you a decent pie. “Fast food” pies are a good alternative at chip shops if you have somebody who utterly hates fish.

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

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Yorkshire Pudding

British people use the word “pudding” in three different senses that sometimes have to be worked out from context. “Black” pudding is blood sausage. “Pudding” on its own often means any kind of dessert. “Yorkshire pudding” is a kind of dumpling that is traditionally served as a side with roast beef and filled with gravy. A variant is the “giant Yorkshire pudding” where the entire entree is put inside the pudding. This is another good thing to order in a classic English pub, if you can find it – not as many places have it on the menu anymore, and it is often only on Sundays, but I was recently able to find beef inside a Yorkshire pudding at The Parsonage near Wigan – so look for a Hungry Horse pub.

Treacle Pud

For dessert? Go for “treacle pud.” It’s sponge cake made with light molasses and served with a thin custard (trust us on the custard, it’s better than it sounds). It’s on the heavy side, so make sure you save room. Equally delicious is “toffee pud” or the disturbingly-named “spotted dick.” The spots are raisins and “dick” in this context is slang for “dough.” For the very best, you’ll need to go to a place called Upton upon Severn, where you’ll find The Pudding Shop’s cafe – but be careful, they sell them to go.

Cheese

To finish up, it’s worth talking a bit about cheese. It can seem that every single little town in England has its own cheese. If you want to try actual cheddar, not the stuff generically called cheddar, look for West Country Farmhouse Cheddar and get the extra sharp. But it’s also worth trying a few more. Stilton, which comes in white or blue, is worth sneaking a bit of. Cheshire and Wensleydale are delicious crumbling white cheeses which are hard to get in the United States. If you really want to be adventurous, try Stinking Bishop. Which lives up to its name.
So, a few things to try to help you realize that Britain isn’t the hideous “food desert” a lot of people claim. Just a few caveats, though:

  • In a “restaurant,” things work the same as they do in restaurants everywhere. If you are eating in a pub, however, then you are expected to seat yourself. You should then send somebody to the bar to order drinks and food (two people if it’s a large party, as they’ll be bringing the drinks back). Make a note of the number on your table so the waiter knows where to bring the food.
  • Britain is an optional-tipping society. Tipping is not required, but it is appreciated. 10-15% is customary in restaurants, but it is completely acceptable to stiff the waiter if service is poor. Larger groups may be charged an automatic tip. Generally, you don’t tip in pubs and some bartenders will actually take it as an insult.
  • Marmite is every bit as vile as you have heard. Other foods that can be acquired tastes include rollmops (pickled herrings) and, of course, haggis.

Enjoy your trip…and appreciate the fact that you really can get food that is not completely bland and over-cooked.
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How to Make the Most of Your London Trip

Thanks to its iconic buildings and impressive combination of different cultures, London remains a must-see for anyone hoping to explore the greatest modern-day metropolises in the world. With so many highlights to cover and never enough time, however, figuring out what to see and how to get around beforehand is crucial to fully enjoy a city that has as much to offer as anywhere in Europe. Tilting back and forth between celebrating tradition and pushing forward into the future, London is also much more than just a staging point for a European or English adventure. Consider these tips when figuring out your plan for maximizing the potential of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to London.

Getting Around London

There’s a reason why the Romans chose to set up a foothold in present-day London nearly 2,000 years ago. A natural port connected to the North Sea as well as the heartland of England thanks to the Thames, London has grown into a modern-day masterpiece that is as eclectic in its food and culture as it is with its visual design. With the importance of the Thames being so central to London, leaving the city without taking a ferry or river cruise would also border on malpractice, as traveling by river is both scenic and practical.
For those who want to delve into a traditional experience, you can enjoy English cakes and teas (or champagne) as you make your way along the east-west river, where you can get excellent views of city staples like the London Eye, Palace of Westminster (also known as Houses of Parliament), the Tower Bridge, and plenty of other icons as well. While a variety of cruises are available to get a visitor acclimated to the city, getting around with the Thames Clippers can save you considerable time while bringing you right to the heart of the city. Many locals also commute on the Clippers, although you’re always likely to see quite a few out-of-towners looking to soak up an organic London experience.
The Clippers also easily connect you to a variety of different Tube stations, which are either right by a pier (e.g. Embankment) or just a short walk inland (e.g. St. James’s Park, Waterloo). By mastering the Clippers and the Tube, you’ll find that London has earned its reputation for being one of the easiest cities in the world to get around, and the modes of transportation can even be fun in their own right.

The Must-Sees

Though you could easily spend a summer in London without getting to everything, there are a few areas that are absolute must-sees for any visitor. To experience a little local flavor, places like Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden are flooded with homemade arts/crafts, talented street performers, and unique shops, which makes them natural gathering points of central London. This area, loosely called the West End, is also where you can find all kinds of world-class theatrical productions to go with a staggering variety of different restaurants, from English staples to renowned restaurants featuring food from just about anywhere in the world.
Not only could you easily spend an entire afternoon soaking up with the West End atmosphere but you will also be extremely close to many of the city’s other highlights. A well-known rule for exploring London is that you typically pay for admission to the churches and get to enjoy the museums for free. For anyone who loves digging into the past, Westminster Abbey and the British Museum–both easily walkable from Covent or Piccadilly–tend to live up to expectations thanks to their incredible collections of artifacts from both English and world history. Also nearby is the National Gallery, another renowned museum where you can find famous artworks dating back to the 13th century.
Of course, few visitors make it to central London without shooting over to Buckingham Palace, which sits a short walk west of Westminster or south from Piccadilly Circus. The changing of the guard ceremony is a popular event for visitors, but merely wandering around inspecting the neighboring areas can be a terrific experience. Green Park, Hyde Park, and St. James’s Park offer rolling green spaces somewhat akin to Central Park in New York City, making them ideal spots for a picnic lunch or just for catching your breath before plunging back into the busy city epicenter. If you keep pushing west from Buckingham, Kensington Gardens is a gorgeous area that feels airlifted from the 17th century, with perfectly manicured hedges, explosions of colorful flowers, and tranquil ponds that sit just a stone’s throw from the residence of Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
Other ways to get acquainted with the city include taking a spin in the 443-foot London Eye, one of the biggest Ferris wheels in the world, or taking an elevator ride up to the top of The Shard, which towers a thousand feet above the ground and is located just south of London Bridge. Anyone interested in medieval England also needs to find their way into the Tower of London, an 11th century castle built by William the Conqueror that currently houses the Crown Jewels. The Tower of London is one of four different UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the city limits along with the Palace of Westminster (which includes Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church), architectural wonder Maritime Greenwich, and the stunning Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Beyond the City’s Main Icons

It’s true that London has quite a few worthwhile landmarks to peruse, but that’s really just a launching point to experiencing what life in London is really like. One of the best areas to stay or visit is Canary Wharf, a bustling business center that is perfect for waterside walks, shopping, grabbing a meal at one of the many great restaurants near the Thames, or just inspecting London’s amazing cityscape. Although it can be packed during festivals or special events, it also can be very tranquil on weekends or business holidays, making it one of the most unique places in the city. It’s also well-known for its modern architecture and vast public artworks, which gives it a little extra flavor in addition to the more buttoned-up atmosphere you might expect from a business-heavy area. From Canary Wharf, you’re also an easy ferry or Tube ride to the other highlights of London.
After a day of hopping around the city, one of the best ways to enjoy the city is actually to get high above it at a place like the Sky Garden. Right near St. Paul’s Cathedral and London Bridge, Sky Garden is a place for cocktails or dinner as you look out over the city lights. Although it’s also available to walk-ins, it’s best to get a reservation to avoid a long wait or getting turned away, and travelers are typically dazzled by the scenery coupled with the great pubs and restaurants.
To continue the local experience, borough-hopping is also a great way to get away from the more tourist-heavy areas of the city. In Camden, you can see a little bit of London’s underground hipster scene to go with all kinds of international restaurants, comedy houses, and popular dance clubs. Meanwhile, Hampstead is a terrific little village within the city that is famous for its list of artists and writers, and you can even take a dip in one of the bathing ponds in the summer. Other popular boroughs worth considering include Notting Hill, where you can find plenty of quaint cafes and boutiques, as well as the historic district of Greenwich to see the rows of centuries-old buildings that give the neighborhood its fame.
Visitors also might want to check out one of the many markets scattered throughout London, starting with the extensive open-air Borough Market in Southwark. Borough Market is known for its spread of street vendors showing off organic local produce and English delicacies that make it the perfect pit stop for lunch. For vintage shoppers, both Alfie’s Antique Market and Brick Lane show off an impressive slate of items from different eras and are especially known for their unique collections of second-hand clothes and furniture.

Choose Your Own Adventure

There are plenty of great cities and towns that don’t really require much of a plan, places where wandering is the key to the best possible experience. Although spontaneity and self-discovery are always important for a traveler, London just isn’t that type of city to tackle without at least a loose game-plan thanks to a nearly overwhelming collection of things to do. The good news is that transportation is very user-friendly for outsiders and it’s easy to find some local flavor hidden right around the corner from the city’s most popular landmarks. If you find the right balance between experiencing the famous mainstays of the city and exploring local life, it usually isn’t very hard at all to fall in love with London. Whether you come for the history, the architecture, the world-class entertainment, or a little bit of everything, London is a true international marvel that continues to live up to its billing.