London Local Custom Tips by Mariajoy Top 5 Page for this destination
London Local Customs: 700 reviews and 809 photos
The Notting Hill Carnival is an annual street festival (the largest in Europe with over 2million visitors in 2007) which takes place during the last bank holiday weekend in August.
This year was the Bicentenary of the abolition of slavery and as such the carnival was probably even bigger and better than in previous years. It was ABSOLUTELY amazing and I can't really remember having so much fun anywhere else before with friends and total strangers LOL! There is a fabulous party atmosphere during the day starting around 11 but no one really seems to know the itinerary - just go and wait and walk and see what happens - the carnival will turn up when and where you least expect it! (but you will hear it before you see it!) The costumes and dancers and musicians are soooo lively and colourful and friendly -The police are on duty (and on full alert) but still really cool about having a little fun with festival-goers.
On the down side - the streets quickly fill with rubbish - and because people can bring/and or buy their alcohol in bottles, there is a LOT of broken glass around - DON'T wear flipflops!!!!! This is a fun, family event... during the day... but as the evening progresses you should stay aware of the changes in atmosphere. People have been drinking all day and that is when trouble occurs. There are MASSES of police everywhere and this really helps but now and then things can and do get out of hand.
As for transportation - check the Transport for London website for details of how to get there as there are some tube station closures but extra buses are provided to get you to the festival site.
If you are in London at the end of August - this is a definite "DON'T MISS!" :))
Other Contact: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/
The carnival celebrates the abolition of slavery - it's a complete mix of races/ethnicities/colours and a huge cultural celebration for everyone! Bank Holiday Monday is called "Adults Day" and as such it probably is better to bring young children on the Saturday or Sunday - but I did see a few children around on the Monday too.
There are all kinds of West Indian/Jamaican/Caribbean/African food being cooked on the street - and apart from the carnival itself there is also plenty of spontaneous dancing/music/bands/sound systems everywhere.
There are plenty of porta-loos on the streets (but some local residents open their homes for this purpose at a cost of £1-2 as they know there is great need (and a lot of money to be made!!!) - Another reason not to wear flip flops is that as the day wears on some people don't bother with loos at all and just find a grubby street corner somewhere - so watch where you walk!
With two million visitors all packed into one small(ish) area of London - things can get a little crowded - it would be very difficult for anyone with mobility problems to get around - but not entirely impossible... consider your route carefully - there are specially designated "quiet streets" where you can take a breather from the festivities if necessary! (make sure you find a map showing the route the carnival takes - the quiet streets are highlighted!).
Other Contact: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/
The Old Vic
The traditional British Panto - a festive feast of cross-dressing dames, thigh-slapping lady-boys, booing and hissing and a lot of "Its BEHIND you!!!!!" audience participation. Imagine the ex-boxer Frank Bruno as Widow Twankey and little Lulu as Peter Pan - you know the kind of thing!! If you are in London during the Panto season - book a ticket to go and see one and have fun!!!
The Old Vic is currently doing Aladdin, but there will be a performance somewhere near you!! Check your local theatre, it could be Cinderella, Peter Pan, or Jack and the Beanstalk. Whatever the show, you will experience a typically British phenomena with kids and adults thoroughly enjoying the performance on different levels! The inevitable smutty jokes from some old comedian wearing bright red lipstick, a fantastical wig and hideous frock with balloons for boobs go right over the kids heads and have the adults rolling in the aisles. Don't miss it!
Check the website for the history of British Panto.
Designed by one of the worlds foremost architects, Sir Norman Foster, City Hall is home to the London Assembly, the Greater London Authority and Ken Livingstone, Mayor of london. It's situated on Potters Field, just along the South Bank from the Tate Modern and just before Tower Bridge.
Other interesting info:
Tudor Rubbish Dump or "what they found during excavations for the GLA building"
St Paul's and wedding car
Just round the back of Covent Garden is the 17th Century St Paul's Church designed by Inigo Jones. I wasn't able to look inside as there was a wedding ceremony taking place, but the square opposite the church (not the Covent Gdn side) was full of people and pink blossom.
There is so much information on this website, please check it for more history of the church.
Thats BigBen in the background
Each year since 1947 Norway has given a Norwegian Spruce Christmas tree to the UK. There's more info about this on the website. It does look very pretty and will remain in Trafalgar Square until 6th January.
It is possible for visitors to enter the GLA and have a look around and visit the cafe. There is art on display and interactive displays about London.
When you enter there is of course the bag search and airport style security system - I always beep - I don't know why but I do - the GLA was no different to the airport... I beeped but the security officer let me pass without further checks thankfully.
Anyway it is free to get in and of course being the "Palace of PC-ness" - it is fully gluten-free vegetarian-friendly and - oh that's the cafe... it is totally accessible for disabled visitors too.
City Hall is open to the public Mon-Fri 8am to 8pm and some weekends. Check the website for more details.
Harry and his owner
The pigeons in Trafalgar Square have been a problem for many years. London's mayor Ken Livingstone has employed two harrier hawks to scare them away but it hasn't exactly worked because tourists continue to feed them. Other methods of keeping the numbers down are being considered including contraceptives and reduction of nest sites ..but for the moment the harriers are still here - having killed 120 or so pigeons since their introduction to the square.
Many years ago it was possible to buy small pots of seed for a few pence and have the classic photo opportunity posing with a dozen or more birds perched all over one's body - but no more.. the seed-sellers are gone, the hawks are here and the square is considerably cleaner for it. Of course there are a few die hard pigeons still around who don't seem to give a toss about the hawks (they are Cockney pigeons after all :))
This is Harry the Harrier Hawk in the photo - you may actually see him in action in the Square doing only what comes naturally to him and that is killing prey - don't say you weren't warned!
Read the full story on the Guardian website:
Little drummer boys! ;)
Buskers of all descriptions, some good, some not so good, can be found on the streets of London almost everywhere but particularly in central London and particularly when there is some big event on.. like when I found these two musical entrepeneurs on the South Bank.
It was the weekend of the Open House and End of Summer Festival and there was music everywhere. But these two, with their old upturned plastic paint pots... were absolutely bloody incredible... They had cleverly positioned themselves in an underpass (good acoustics!) and their fast and furious rhythmic drum beat was drawing the crowds and they weren't just passing..they were stopping to listen! it was amazing!
My motto for buskers..."If they are good enough to make you stop... throw some change in their pot!!"
Southwark Bridge closed to traffic
The "end of summer" weekend festival on the South Bank and Southwark Bridge is a stupendous affair of colour, music, food and fun. Southwark Bridge is closed to traffic and covered with sand, astro-turf, and sofas..... a little bizarre..... but great fun and a good place to rest weary feet and have a glass (plastic beaker) of cool cider.
This is an event for the whole family and there is something here for everyone but the crowds are huge and the queues for food and drink are long... unavoidable really so be prepared.
The festival is free and full details of what's on can be found at the official website.
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