A Caribbean Girl Rediscovers Her Childhood

Boy Bands.

Although boy bands are making a resurgence thanks to groups like One Direction, The Vamps and Union J (weirdly, all British bands), nothing spells being a 90s baby like knowing the feeling of being in love with a boy band (sometimes the entire band). Yes, we were the age of Boyz II Men, ‘N SYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Blackstreet, 98 Degrees, LFO… and I could continue. Man, I’ve been singing “I’ll Make Love to You” before I realized what making love was. Of all the bands I’ve listed, though, every 90s baby girl (with a 2% margin of error) listened to the Backstreet Boys and ‘N SYNC (sorry 98 Degrees). There were friendships made and broken with the incorrect answer of the question “Which do you like better ‘N SYNC or BSB?”  Of course, this sometimes really boiled down to ‘Are you a Justin Timberlake or a Nick Carter kinda girl?”

I had a preference for the Backstreet Boys. It had nothing to do with musical quality, the rad dance moves that have been left in the 90s, or even the song preference count. My judgment was based on the fact I had a crush on four out of five of the members (Nick, Brian, AJ (was always my favourite) and Kevin) while I was only able to muster two out of five for those ‘N SYNC guys (Justin and JC (who I think was still a better singer than Justin but that’s a rant for another blog).

So, all things considered, while I politely studied for my final exam (having missed their concert at the O2 arena in April), I watched a double decker bus drive by announcing that the Barclaycard British Summertime Festive would feature the Backstreet Boys, I was very excited. For the disclaimer, although I told everyone who would listen to me that I was going to see Backstreet Boys, they were not the headliner of the concert. They were a special guest of McBusted (Okay, at first I was very lost as to who this group was… but now I know it is McFly (I was a fan of McFly) and Busted joining as a  “Supergroup”) and two other bands performed, Scouting for Girls (I never heard of this Indie band before but I’m definitely a fan now – I’m actually listening to them as I write this) and The Vamps (for anyone as into teeny bop pop music as I am, I definitely knew who they were). There was also a dance segment with Diversity (click on the link, they are amazing). What this essentially means is that everything started at 2:45 (and I was early, because… why not?) and the Backstreet Boys didn’t hit the stage until 6:30.

 Before, I get to the rediscovery of my childhood bit, I must talk about how amazingly well Hyde Park was done up for this festival. I’ve not actually been to Hyde Park when something else wasn’t going on. The last time I visited was to attend the Winter Wonderland. Thus, in my head Hyde Park is this lovely, magical place of lights, beer, carnival rides and the erection of lovely building fronts to give it a village-like feel. I might just avoid Hyde Park for the rest of my time here so that that is the feeling which remains. I didn’t take many photos because I actually wanted to see Diversity and arrived very close to the 2:45 start time, but there were many building fronts made to look like the odd pub on the High Street, there were palm trees (the effect of which was great as it was an amazing, sunshiney day (at least it started out that way), a several amusement rides.  I was also impressed by the immense diversity of food stalls, although in retrospect London does street food very well. Though my mouth watered at the thought of paella, burgers, hot dogs, Italian pasta, pizza and jerked food, I restrained myself and grabbed a Heineken from the first “pub” I came across. Heineken is never my first preference for beer but as they were a sponsor of the Festival, they were everywhere. I was very impressed by the plastic bottle (yea, I know… I am very easily impressed).

PlasticT Retain that bottle-in-hand feeling without having to worry about being killed with it. Win / Win.
Plastic! Retain that bottle-in-hand feeling without having to worry about being killed with it. Win / Win.

As it were, as soon as I reached the stage area, I realised very quickly that there would be a major generational thing happening. There were too many fourteen and unders there to even know who the Backstreet Boys were much less come prepared to belt out each song with no regard for possible hoarseness. This is where, I guess, The Vamps came in. There were just as many parents who seemed to want to be anywhere else (one woman sat on the grass the entire time. How she didn’t get kicked in the head, I don’t know.) and many fathers who came just to be the shoulders upon which their daughters sat in order glimpse their favourite band. I wanted to get as close to the stage as possible, so as overwhelmed as I was by the sheer amount of teeny boppers, I silently hoped that they’d all clear out by the time The Vamps were done. It turned out, it was not that easy. I had to push my way through (yes, I’m not proud of it) to get as close as I got. I still didn’t get as close to the stage as I wanted to and my heart broke a bit when three girls standing in front of me didn’t even know one word to ‘I Want It That Way’.

I was worried about having to stand for over four hours before the BSB came on but I mostly had fun waiting.

As I mentioned before, Scouting for Girls were really good and they had great stage presence. Before I knew it I was screaming, “Posh girls got good manners, but they go like the clappers. Because they never got to hang around BOYS AT SCHOOL” with everyone else. To date, I still have no real clue what it means to ‘go like the clappers‘. I must admit, it doesn’t really seem like a good thing.

The Vamps were also okay. They did provide a very good contrast when the Backstreet Boys came on. It showed just how much the boy band scene has changed. I give lots of credit to their lead singer, Brad Simpson – he knew how to work a stage. I was quite impressed when they covered both The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside‘ and Jason Derulo’s ‘Trumpets‘. I hope they fare better than The Wanted.

Despite enjoying the bands’ performances, I found myself constantly checking to see how much time had passed and how much time remained before the band I really came to see graced the stage. I hadn’t been that excited since the last book of the Vampire Academy series was released and I set my alarm to wake up at midnight (when it was meant to be delivered to my Kindle) only to find out that Amazon operated on a different time zone.

Eventually despite the aching legs and back, the pushing, the smokers who seriously figured it was good to light up in such a tight space with no regard for how packed we were and that some people (me) could be asthmatic, the time arrived.

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I’m not ashamed to admit I screamed the way I should scream at horror flicks when they cut quickly from ‘Everybody‘ (the song I thought they would start with) into ‘The Call‘ which holds the title of my favourite BSB song of all time. I swear, the entire cost of the ticket was worth it just for that number. And the trip down memory lane kept coming, ‘Drowning‘, ‘Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely’, ‘I Want it That Way‘, ‘Everybody’ and it goes on. They also did a couple songs from their new album ‘In a World Like This‘ which made me happy. Yes, they are still around.  Even though the day started off with the promise of permanent sunshine it started to rain. It didn’t drizzle lightly or even rain lightly – nope, it poured and it was freezing. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to care. I danced in the rain. I continued singing a long. And, I continued screaming. At the end of their set about an hour and a half later, I was able to say that I now have a crush on all five of those Backstreet Boys (or should I say men?)…  Howie aged so well, I heard lots of whispers that went along the lines of ‘was he an original member?’. At this point I was tired (or so I thought) and decided to not stick around for McBusted but I wanted to hit up the food stalls before I left.

However, as I waited in the line for a burger, I heard something. The words ‘Carnival’ and the strains of proper, proper Caribbean soca. I made the quickest beeline out of the queue and headed to the stage where there were some DJ’s playing Soca and Dancehall music. For another forty five minutes I danced in the rain (including, Palancing [seriously watch the video]). Hell, I almost Palanced my way to an asthma attack. Those forty five minutes hit all the right spots and soothed away the antsy homesickness I’ve begun to feel as of late. There, in the middle of Hyde Park and in the London rain, I danced like Caribbean girl. The kicker of the entire event was when the DJ abruptly playing music and asked the crowd if we believed in love. Before anyone could really answer, the handed the microphone to a man who’d danced with his girlfriend near the front for the entire night. And, yes… he went down on one knee (figured it would be up on Youtube by now and I was right. For anyone wondering, I was behind that big ass speaker :D). She cried and said yes. The entire crowed ‘awwed’. Then, the DJ played Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ while they got to have their ‘first engagement dance’ as the crowd sang along… and it was a large crowd. I shudder to think of how it would feel if she’d said no.

As I ate my lovely, extremely, spicy burger I mused that after all that happened, the day would be pretty hard to top. That was until I walked, in the rain, to my bus stop and saw a rainbow. I love rainbows. They fill me with enchantment and hope. So, I took out my phone and risked taking a picture despite the rain. It was definitely an amazing end to the type of day you wrap up and stuff in your pocket to remember during bad days.

Do you believe in Magick? (and, yes, the K is deliberate).
Do you believe in Magick? (and, yes, the K is deliberate).

Tschuss.

Rilzy

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A Caribbean Girl does… Paris! … alone: Day Three (Pont du L’Archeveche)

The story of how lovers came to place a padlock on bridges before throwing away the key, often into rivers below, is an awfully sad one.

It is said that a young woman and a solider fell in love. They promised themselves to each other and he went off to war. Instead of coming back, he fell in love with another woman and married her. His former lover died of a broken heart. Other lovers from their town started padlocking their and their lover’s name on the bridge our ill-fated lovers used to meet in an attempt to ward off having the same thing happen to them.

The practice is now a wide spread one. Lovers have been known to place padlocks on bridges in Italy, Germany, France and probably a bunch of other places I could find if I were not too lazy to research. In fact, it has become so popular that a section of another bridge in Paris, (Pont des Arts) collapsed under the weight of the locks recently (and by recently I mean, less than two weeks ago). I’m sure this calls for a practical discussion as to whether this practice should be allowed to continue but this particular blog post isn’t meant to be a practical one.

Lovers' Locks bridge with Notre Dame in the background.
Lovers’ Locks bridge with Notre Dame in the background.

 

This was less than an eighth of the locks.
This was less than an eighth of the locks.

Paris is known for its romance and padlocking your love seems to be another one of those boxes to check off. Romantic lunch or dinner cruise along the Seine (check), kissing atop, or under, or beside, or in the general vicinity of the Eiffel Tower (check), padlock one’s love to the Archbishop’s Bridge and throw the key into the Seine never to be recovered (double check).

I happened upon the bridge (after seeing if from my Seine cruise) quite accidentally when I was finished viewing Notre Dame. I couldn’t resist the urge to spend some time (turned out to be an hour) looking at the locks up close. Let’s face it, this is a potential goldmine for a romance writer… or really, any romantic at heart. There is something immensely touching (in my view anyway) about the symbolism (depressing history and all) and I found it hard not to root for the couples. I also couldn’t help but wonder about the couples whose padlocks seemed to be there for a while – rusted and faded. Were they still going strong like the padlocks? Or, did they find that no matter how far to the bottom of the Seine their key sunk – symbolism isn’t enough to keep love going. Looking at the rusty and faded padlocks, I saw another strand of symbolism or maybe, rather, a teachable moment. These padlocks are out in the open, exposed to the elements: rain, snow, wind, dust and sunshine. They are also exposed to the hands of thousands of people who, as  did, held them, twisted and pulled at them in order to get a better view (I saw one man trying to OPEN one). These locks have withstood other couples placing their locks beside them, above them and sometimes on them so as to make space for their own. But they survived. They were scratched up, rusty and faded but still there … still holding on. Love too is meant to battle through meddling people and weather the tough times. At the end of it, it might not be sparkly or as smooth as it was  during the first months but it will survive, still be kicking and that’s what really matters.

Granted, with the rate of divorces and breakups, it is entirely plausible (and that is my way of saying it is a fact without coming across like an asshole) that many of the thousands of couples that have placed locks on the bridge have gone their separate ways. I am also willing to bet that there are some people with several padlocks on the bridge. However, that doesn’t take away from the poignancy of the symbolism.

I spent a good chunk of time looking through the locks. It is these sort of simple activities that can hold my interests for hours on end. I maintain it is the writer in me – for as I went through each lock I tried to think up faces to put to the names – stories to put to their love.

There were three locks that made almost cry although I must admit that almost making me cry isn’t exactly the hardest feat in the world.

The first had nothing to do with romance but seemed to be a tribute to a person who had died four years ago from her family members. It was such a sweet, enduring gesture of love that simultaneously proved that romantic love does not sit atop the love totem but all types of love are precious.

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The second, almost tear jerker, was witnessing a newlywed couple locking their own padlock. It was hard not getting swept up in the love, happiness and laughter between them or the tears that the new wife couldn’t hold back when the deed was done. I’m sure quite a few people place these padlocks blithely as it is the en vogue thing to do when in Paris. However, this couple didn’t do it blithely and it made me smile and tear up at the same time.

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Finally, the lock that packed the biggest punch: a simple lock with no initials attached but engraved with the words, ‘One Day’. And, somehow that was the most poignant and touching of them all. I stood there and tried to imagine the feelings coursing through the person who placed that padlock. Was (s)he optimistic or was this a last ditch effort with defeat weighing heavily on their shoulders? There is a story somewhere in that one lock and I’m going to spend a couple weeks finding it.

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People didn’t confine themselves to locks either. There were various carvings into the bridge itself and writings on the pavement.

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"Love you to till the moon and back."
“Love you to till the moon and back.”

Instead of attempting to find any more monuments, being dead tired at that time, I wandered across to a small park near Notre Dame and the bridge where I watched yet another couple take wedding photos. I think I might have photo-bombed about four bridal parties in my three days in Paris. No wonder when you search for ‘city of love’ in Google, it’s Paris that pops up.

I ended my last day in Paris with a quick bite at Subway. I know, not very creative but I’ve not had Subway for about two years (honestly, not sure how I pulled that off).

This is a good point to ask if it is a thing in France to have to pay to use the restroom in a restaurant where you have bought something. I mean, I understand that this Subway was primely located for tourists to wander in and use the restroom and back out. The Costa coffee shop near my flat in London has a similar problem so it basically requires a code to enter the restroom which can only be found on a receipt – fancy huh? But, this Parisian subway restaurant required a small donation of .50 Euros.  I sat with a retired couple from Texas (I think) who were just as shocked as I was. Several things like… health and safety kept running through my mind (and, yes I guess I have been in the UK too long). To make what could be a very long story short, I eventually found an English speaking worker and casually threw around the words legally, law, health and safety, paying customers. She rewarded me with a coin which allowed me to access the restroom without paying the money. I didn’t actually need to restroom so I handed it over to the woman I sat with. I promptly had to leave the restaurant as she, thereafter, kept telling people who were about to pay to get into the bathroom that all they had to do was ask the cashier and they’d get a token. I did not want to be held accountable for any anarchy that might have resulted.

Five hours after the subway incident, I found myself flagging down a 214 outside St Pancras International still on that high you only get after a good break but at the same time happy to be back at my [temporary] home.

But before I go… let me leave you with my favourite lock of them all.

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It says, “Neil + Jenny 2014. 10 years together and we are falling in love again.” Because, at the end of the day… that’s what love is all about.

Tschuss,

Rilzy

A Caribbean Girl does… Paris! … alone: Day One

Last weekend I visited Paris (read: Paree)! 🙂

Let’s admit it. We’ve all had dreams of sailing along the Seine, stealing kisses atop the Eiffel Tower (okay, this might just be me… and it might or might not be on my bucket list) or getting cultured at the Louvre Museum.

I still remember Humphrey Bogart’s whisper to his soon to be departed lover in Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.” I remember it so well that I’d planned to hug my friend tightly at the end of our three day trip and say these words as seriously as I could, despite knowing that we’d dissolve into fits of laughter.

Well, then, life happened. Circumstances beyond our control resulted in me standing in the Eurostar line at St Pancras International headed to City of Lights alone, and with two of everything. Was I nervous? Nope, not at all. I hope you haven’t seen through that bald faced lie. Considering how directionally challenged I am and how much French I don’t speak, I was worried that this trip was a disaster waiting to happen. It didn’t help that there were rumours flying around internet chat boards that the French were notoriously unhelpful and rude to tourists. Despite this, and my mother’s increasing reservations about me going off into the big bad world alone, I clutched at my overnight bag with Drake lamenting about never being satisfied in my ear as I waited to pick up my tickets.

I ended up in conversation with the young woman standing next to me as we waited in the line. She was escaping London for the day to tour Paris with the company through which my friend had booked the weekend escape. Taking a group tour seemed like an infinitely smarter way to travel to an unknown country, even to someone as fond of their own company as I am. I made a mental check to consider this for the next solo trip I intended to take.

One brief hold up at immigration later courtesy of the immigration officer not understanding why I’d show up without a visa in my passport (Antiguans and Barbudans do not need one for the Schengen countries), I found myself sitting in the train with the empty seat, meant to be my friend’s, next to me. It was bittersweet but I was terribly excited. I’ve been knocking off those Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen destination movies one country at a time! 🙂

And we're off.
And we’re off.

Less than two and a half hours and one breakfast sandwich not worth the cost later, we arrived at Gare du Nord. During the trip I’d made a rough sketch of how I planned to tackle my three days. I planned to get a unlimited three day Metro pass to help me shuffle around and then to go wherever the wind took me. I won’t lie, I was a bit anxious about my decision to tackle the Paris Metro system unaided. Feel free to refer to my insane talent of getting lost (above), even in countries where I speak the language!  Nevertheless, once I make up my mind about something I’m pretty stubborn even if I end up regretting it in the end. So after taking my bags to the hotel and having them set aside as it wasn’t check in time yet, I headed back to Gare du Nord to purchase my Metro pass. Here, I committed my first rookie, shame-on-my-legal-education mistake and didn’t collect a receipt. Because what could go wrong, right? Five paragraphs down if you wish to skip to that. But in the mean time, lovely and blissfully unaware of the chaos to follow, I had Paris in the palm of my hand and I just needed to decide where I wanted to go. It was an easy decision for me. The Eiffel Tour.

Where I was trying to get!
Get here or die trying!

The choice was easy to make. Getting there, not so much. I hopped on the wrong train (predictable, although I was sure I had it figured out) but a really nice young woman helped me to find the right train even though it took her out of her way. I was meant to take the B (blue line) and then the C (yellow line). Once on the C train I was able to take in the differences between the Paris system and the London underground. Paris seemed a bit more reminiscent of the New York Subway. Well, until the train pulled up. The trains reminded me of London double-decker buses [the train version], though admittedly a lot less swanky (and that says something). I sat in the upper section and was also very surprised to see that they housed a restroom. I couldn’t imagine it being very clean but I can’t say for sure as I didn’t check. However, like every true cell-phone-razzi, I took a photo.

In case you cannot ignore the call of nature.
In case you cannot ignore the call of nature.

In about fifteen minutes we arrived at Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel and excitement bubbled inside me though I tried to be nonchalant about it. I took the steps two at a time until I was above ground. After a little bit of a walk, I saw it. It’s weird seeing  something in the flesh (or, in this case, the metal) after seeing so many images of it for years.  After a couple seconds of gazing, the first pit fall of solo travelling became clear. Who was going to take the photos? This was the era of the selfie but selfies were not going to cut it with the Eiffel tower. I tried several times to make sure that the perfect selfie wasn’t attainable and once I was certain that it was not, I did the only thing a tourist intent on proper documentation could do. I started asking people to take photos of me. I found a few persons alone and we were able to make photo swaps. Mission accomplished!

 

My first glimpse.
My first glimpse.
Selfie fail. :)
Selfie fail. 🙂
Rescued by the Italian tourists!
Rescued by the Italian tourists!

After wandering around for a bit, I bought myself a coconut sorbet, sat and ate it while gazing off at the tower and the tons and tons of tourists wandering around in the distance. There was also a toddler having a birthday party in the small park nearby, three friends sitting next to me trying to take a “three-fie” and a couple doing extensive dental work off to the right. All in all, I decided that the Eiffel Tower was a good first choice to delve into Paris although I didn’t actually climb the tower. My justification is that when I do climb the Eiffel tower, I will have that kiss which may or may not be on my bucket list! If I were to be very honest, I would admit that I was lazy and too impatient to wait in the line for the elevator. However, let’s stick with the romantic option.

Taking in my surroundings.
Taking in my surroundings.

When I got my fill of the Eiffel Tower, I spent several hours just milling around directionless (which is my best part about travelling – well so as long as you can eventually find your way back). I poked into grocers, coffee shops and restaurants. Here, far away from the hordes of tourists I was able to explore in more detail the rhythm of Paris. I liked what I saw.

I love churches.
I love churches.

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Fell in love with the architecture.
Fell in love with the architecture.

Having walked until my feet were sore, I made my way back to the tube station. And that, my friends, is where the trouble started. My metro pass wouldn’t work. Later I was told that I put it next to my phone and that affected it. This is something I wouldn’t have thought about because, let’s face it, you can put your Oyster card anywhere. Hell, my Oyster card lives with my phone. I fought the increasing annoyance (read: panic) when the machine refused to read my card and decided to look for the station worker who had to be present to explain my quandary. I realised quite swiftly that I wasn’t in London anymore. Not only was there no worker milling around the turnstile to help with situations just like this one – all the ticket offices were closed. It was about three-o-clock on a Saturday, I was very confused. So, I had a non-working pass and no way to buy a ticket. I did the only thing a girl in my position could do… I jumped the turnstile (sorry mummy) and was promptly caught by security. He spoke little English. I spoke no French. However, between us I managed to explain what happened and he assured me that once I got to Gare du Nord, I could find an open ticket office and they would fix it. Except, they didn’t. Well… the surly, bald, goblin-like ticket officer refused to even speak English to me although it was very apparent that he could speak English. This was not just noticed by me but the helpful French woman who tried to get him to see reason. In that instance, the indignation weighed so heavy on my soul I had one of two options. I was either going to scream at him or cry. I chose the tears. They were dignified tears I might add. But they were enough to get the attention of other persons in the line, a couple American tourists and a security guard who (quite annoyed at the ticketing officer) took it on himself to ensure that my metro pass was replaced. Thank you kind security guard. They say all is well that ends well but I was still an annoyed mess as I made my way to the hotel. I retrieved my bag and started to check in when I was told there were no reservations in my name or my friend’s. It took ten minutes of me learning the lengths of my patience before another worker pointed out to the the woman attempting to check me in that I was meant to be at another hotel further up the road. This was not purely a result of me being dumb – the hotel was switched by the company (which I knew full well they could do). Thus, the hotel on my itinerary was not the same one I was directed to in my welcome letter (yes, I know another shame-on-my-legal-education mistake). I awaited another twist in my very own Comedy of Errors as I made my way to the new hotel but there was none (in fact, I think it might have been a better hotel).

In less than fifteen minutes I was sprawled out in my comfy hotel room watching Pride and Prejudice (the BBC mini-series – my favourite!) in French and understanding every single thing that was taking place because I’ve watched the mini-series and read the books so many times.

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The French didn't phase me!
Why, hello Mr. Darcy. Or should I say Bonjour Monsieur?

Somewhere in the middle of it, knackered, I fell asleep thinking that despite the eventful start that it might be an amazing weekend after all. And, it was.

Tschuss,

Rilzy

 

(Blast from the Past) A Caribbean Girl does Oktoberfest

I was setting out my too hard to achieve blog plan for the summer when I stumbled across this post  I apparently wrote in November and forgot to put up. Ditzy Rilzy. I thought about chucking it but decided to post it anyway. It would be a good way to ease my way back into ‘blogging’ opposed to just putting up my fiction. This is especially true because I promised to entertain you guys with at least one post per week about my life in London. Yet, as time went on London became ‘normal’ and I continued being lazy and my ‘Adventures of a Caribbean Girl in London’ category has barely been used! That. Is. About. To. Change! Below is an account of Oktoberfest which sounds like if it happened yesterday but was in fact, eight months ago!

Tschuss,

Rilzy

****

You might be thinking, “Are you really going to begin your tales of London life with a German festival?” And, to answer you in my best Phineas and Ferb voice, “Yes. Yes I am.” Then, you might be thinking “Isn’t it a bit late to blog about Oktoberfest?” Well, yes… it is. And, to be honest most of these will be late. [And oh how right I was 🙂]

Although many interesting things have happened and are still happening, I don’t think any of them are worthy of the first installment of my “A Caribbean Girl does…”.

Why?

Well, none of them entailed me drinking over three litres of German beer, standing on a table and singing ‘The Bohemian Rhapsody‘ at the top of my lungs.

For those who aren’t aware – Oktoberfest is the world’s largest annual fair. It is held in Munich, Germany although it now has offshoots world over. You can trust me on this… I got my information from Wikipedia. :). Oktoberfest is known for its beer and actually only beers conforming to a special standard are allowed to be served.  I was skeptical as I’ve only just started drinking beer a year ago and it is usually hard to get me to shift from my Corona or Red Stripe. But, alas quite a few of my course mates were headed and I made a pact with my best friend that I would shrug off my usually isolationist tendencies and actually make friends. So with peer pressure a chord around my neck – I decided to attend.[I must add that I mostly broke this promise. I am an introvert through and through, more increasingly socially anxious in large groups and I have way too many hobbies that require me to be alone. I’ve come to accept this].

I felt bad about succumbing to best friend pressure but who said peer pressure was always a bad thing?

We were able to book a special online which included a 1.5 litre cup of beer upon entry and went as a massive group of around thirty (or more), I think.  Even before we entered the huge tent pitched  at Kennington Park we saw persons hanging around in their lederhosen costumes. I experienced clothing envy even though at this time I was freezing and wouldn’t have been able to carry one off at any rate.

Photo Credit: www.bostoncostumes.com
Photo Credit: http://www.bostoncostumes.com
Oktoberfest! Just in case y'know you stumbled across the tent unwittingly.
Oktoberfest! Just in case y’know you stumbled across the tent unwittingly.

Once we got through the queue and were seated on the very long park benches inside the tent, the girls all decked out in their beer maid costumes brought us each our litre and a half of German beer. I was impressed. It was perfectly chilled and oh so yum. It was good enough that when I ordered my WeissWurst (veal and pork back bacon sausage), I ordered another litre and a half of beer (sorry mummy).

Weisswurst and Bier! :)
Weisswurst and Bier! 🙂

I wish I could say that the best part of the festival was the beer and the surprisingly good sausage once I got the hang of peeling it. But, it wasn’t. There was an amazing live band singing an array of German songs and 80’s and 90’s music. Now, anyone who knows me knows how I feel abut 80s music. It wasn’t long before I abandoned my coursemates and with beer in hand made my way to the dancing sessions where I could Twist and Shout to my heart’s content. I managed to dance with a guy in a Vikings hat, who possessed not an iota of a sense of rhythm, until he spilled half his beer on me. After that I retreated to my coursemates who’d, by then, made their way to the dance floor. Together we learned the dance to apparently what was the most popular Oktoberfest song of the past decade. I can’t tell you a word of it since: ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch but the dance went vaguely something like: flying arms, fist-pump, swim, jump… and I forget the rest.

I’d basically given up on the night getting any better when the live band started playing Oasis and then all games were off. It was lucky that the band hadn’t the presence of mind to ask for people up on stage. If they had done that, I can assure you, everyone would’ve been left with bleeding ears from my singing. It’s a dangerous weapon, this voice of mine.

When we left two hours later, I was bone tired but there was one constant thought streaming through my mind, “If Oktoberfest was such fun in London, how much better would it be in Germany?”

I’ve made it my mission to find out!

 

Tschuss,

Rilzy

Christmas in London

I haven’t blogged in a while but this time I was off doing amazing things. I decided three weeks ago to throw myself into Contemporary Romance (even if I am an unlikely romance writer) and to start testing the limits of just how prolific I can be. So far I have one and a half 30 000 word novellas under my belt! I will speak about that in later blog posts but this one is all about Christmas!

I know I’m a day late but Merry Christmas. I hope that your day was filled with love, laughter, happiness and a food coma!

This year I decided to spend Christmas in London because the Caribbean being a winter haven worked against me spectacularly. Do you fancy spending Christmas beachside with a cocktail? Yeah? Well so do many people and as such the airfare home was sky high so I opted for a low key Christmas here. I second-guessed my decision several time because this made my second year spending Christmas away from home. Eventually, I decided to pull up my big girl panties and have some faith that it would be an amazing Christmas nonetheless.

It didn’t take too long to get excited. London does the lead up to Christmas very well. From the sparkling lights, festive flavours at all the Coffee Shops (most notably Starbucks), the way even restaurants seemed to take jazzing up for Christmas seriously, ice-staking, mulled wine, minced pies and Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, I was completely engrossed in the Christmas atmosphere in a way I’ve not been since I was a child.

Many things stood out over this Christmas but I’ll share two. I visited friends in Birmingham for some family time just before Christmas and as soon as I was off the bus my friend handed me a violin and told me I was playing in a Christmas concert. I was petrified. I hadn’t played the violin in years and was sure I’d suck at it. I didn’t. I still remember where to put my fingers guys! Somewhere between playing Sleigh Bells and listening to the packed crowd sing Twelve Days of Christmas and Hark the Herald Angels, I decided that this might be an amazing Christmas after all.

When I awoke on Christmas morning I watched through my window (all Huck from Scandal-like) the family across the street opening gifts and exchanging hugs and for the first time I felt wistful. I wanted that. And, it was going to be the second year I wouldn’t go through this time old Christmas ritual. It was then I also thanked heavens that I’d abandoned my stay at home with a book and wine plan for spending Christmas.

A couple of days ago my friend’s family suggested that I had Christmas lunch with them. I accepted although I was quite nervous. You see, I’d only met his family once before but it was nearly three years ago and I was his girlfriend then. I remembered them being the sweetest people but the butterflies that ran rampant in the pit of my stomach seemed to be hyped up on LSD. To say my being nervous was a complete waste of time is an understatement.  His parents greeted me with a hug and then in one of those perfect moments in life, I quickly found myself in a recreated version of that scene I watched from my bedroom early that morning. I got to sit and watch nervously as my gifts were opened hoping they were liked and then I got to open the ones they got for me. And, I think that it was that moment which was the best Christmas gift ever. I was just a girl they’d met once before whom they owed nothing. Yet, in the hours that followed they embraced me like family and I was able to experience my three of my four Christmas wishes: love, laughter and happiness. I escaped the food coma because we had a walk around afterwards. Something the instructor at my gym will be pleased to hear tomorrow.

My final verdict? Christmas in London was pretty damn spectacular. I’m happy I stayed.

Here are some random photos!

Christmas Jumper check!
Christmas Jumper check!
Ice Skating was a disaster but oh so fun!
Ice Skating was a disaster but oh so fun!
Tasting and looking like Christmas at Starbucks! Gingerbread Latter for the win!
Tasting and looking like Christmas at Starbucks! Gingerbread Latter for the win!
My favourite restaurant taking Christmas decorations seriously!
My favourite restaurant taking Christmas decorations seriously!
Any excuse to post photos of sushi!
Any excuse to post photos of sushi!
The wheel at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland.
The wheel at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.
My kind of carousel - it doubled as a bar! Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland.
My kind of carousel – it doubled as a bar! Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.
Mulled Wine and Minced Pie!
Mulled Wine and Minced Pie!
Getting reacquainted with the violin.
Getting reacquainted with the violin.
Light's in the Bull Ring - Birmingham
Lights in the Bull Ring – Birmingham
Kensington Palace (the walkaround after Christmas Lunch)
Kensington Palace (the walkaround after Christmas Lunch)
Prince Albert Hall.
Prince Albert Hall.
Distraught wife's memorial to Prince Albert (apparently she only wore black after his death).
Distraught wife’s memorial to Prince Albert (apparently she only wore black after his death).
Possibly my favourite gift in quite a while. It is so up my alley.
Possibly my favourite gift in quite a while. It is so up my alley.

Tschuss.

Rilzy

Hey you! Yes you! Get Lost.

I have a love-hate relationship with the bus system in London. It doesn’t burn as deeply as my love-hate relationship with Google Maps but it exists.

The #29 bus runs straight past my student house and drops me right at the gates of my Uni’s main campus. As long as I’m taking the #29 bus, I’m fine. In all fairness, the #29 bus comes very fast. My friend and I joked that if you were to tell your boyfriend that he came as fast as the #29 bus he should be shamed for life. But, perverseness aside, every once in a while I decide to test my luck with another bus. I’ve yet to not regret this. Just last night I took the #134  which I swore would drop me in front of my student house. No such luck. Long story short, I spent fifteen minutes standing outside a fried chicken restaurant while waiting for a bus to take me back in the direction I came from. Then I had to wait for my trusty #29 while chiding myself for not waiting for it in the first place. What should’ve been a ten minute trip home took nearly half of an hour. I declared to my friend promptly that I would never take a bus on my way home or to Uni unless it was #29 and I had all intention to… until this morning.

A man was hit by a truck right in front of the entrance of my student house. I am not sure how bad his injuries were but it took almost an hour for the paramedics to ready him for transport to the hospital and to be honest he got hit pretty damn hard (keep him in your thoughts). Because of this, the police closed down the bus stop I usually use and in walking the other bus stop I missed about three #29s. You’d think that I’d patiently wait for the other one as I’ve already established what happened last night and that the  #29 buses are notorious for being quick. I didn’t. I jumped on the first bus I saw that seemed like it was going in my general direction.
The bus took the route I was accustomed to… for a while. Then, I was dropped in an area I’d never been before but I figured had to be near enough to school. I swallowed my desire to kick myself for not waiting for the good old, reliable #29 bus and decided I would find my way… on my own. I wouldn’t resort to Google Maps (it always ran up my blood pressure anyway) and I wouldn’t waylay the next person who wasn’t busy hustling to get from point A to point B and ask them for directions. I had an hour an a half to burn before my class, I reasoned. So off I set. I hadn’t been walking for more than five minutes when I started seeing things that looked familiar… a street name here, a building there. And, eventually I found myself straight at my faculty. It actually turned out to be a shorter route to my faculty (or seemed to be) than if I had walked from the main campus. There definitely were less people shoving me out the way and bumping into me while glued to their cell phones.

I learned something today.

Sometimes it is okay to stray from comfortable familiarity. In life and writing, as in walking to class, sometimes it is good to get lost. It is only when you are outside your comfort zone you can put to use creative solutions to find yourself. And, then you might realize your comfortable, familiar ways might not have been the best ways after all.

Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net per digitalart
Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net per digitalart
Tschuss,

Rilzy

A Caribbean Girl Does London and iTunes Radio

I made an amazing discovery today. iTunes radio. It streams much like Pandora does. But, unlike Pandora, iTunes radio is available in the Caribbean. Finally!! Previously when I wanted online radio I was pretty much left paying for Sirius XM (which I love by the way) but it’s cool to have a free station that doesn’t pop up with the message: Sorry but this station is not available in your country. The excitement is a bit tempered by the fact I’m moving to London in five hours… so I won’t exactly be benefiting from iTunes radio in the Caribbean. I’m still rocking it for the next five hours though!!

I’ve just created a new blog category called: Adventures of a Caribbean Girl… in London!. A more accurate description would be: A Caribbean Girl Does Law in London but I figure you might be more interested in seeing photos of and reading about London than my LLM. I mean, if I’m wrong correct me I’d be up to blogging about House of Lords decisions all day, every day 😀 so as long as I’m not held liable for you possibly being bored to death.

I’m terribly excited but nervous at the same time. I’ve been in law school for the past five years and so I am accustomed to trying to pack up my life into one or two suitcases and waving ‘see yah later’ to my family every September. But this will be the first time I’ll have to consider pesky things like 5-hour time differences and winter!

All the same, I staring at this blank chapter before me excited to fill it with tales of successes and adventures.

Wish me luck!  And, if you have any time to spare… come along for the ride.

Photo Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net Member Credit: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee
Photo Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Member Credit: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Tschuss

Rilzy