I love a great festival. I have been itching to get to the Notting Hill Carnival for years, as it is the largest street festival in Europe. Who doesn’t love a giant party where you can drink and dance on the street? The Notting Hill Carnival puts all other street festivals to shame. The food, the colors, the music. Outside of Rio, Notting Hill is second to none.
The parade is spectacular with thousands of scantily feathered clad women gyrating through the streets in a way that hypnotizes you and makes even the most reserved individual start shaking their hips.
The food is delectable. I don’t know if you have ever had the pleasure of curried goat, but I implore you to try some as soon as possible.
Where it all Began
Notting Hill Carnival traces its roots back to 1964. The festival began to enable the Afro-Caribbean groups of London a time to celebrate their culture and traditions. From it’s humble beginnings as a small festival with only 500 people, the Notting Hill Carnival now draws over 2.5 million people over the annual weekend it is held. I wasn’t sure what 2.5 million people was going to look like, but I will tell you- it is truly incredible.
Trying New Things
I am already a big fan of Caribbean food. While I normally never order meat that includes bones, the food of Jamaica/Dominica/ect… has me ditching my food issues every time. For some reason I can overlook the shards of bones in my food, knowing that the meat surrounding them has fallen off after hours of cooking in exotic spices. The food was one of my top reasons for visiting the Notting Hill Carnival, and along with my usual favorites I was able to sample a lot of new fare.
As I was making my way around the thousands of food stalls, we happened upon Daddy Jay Sorrel. They were selling a Jamaican drink which was a combination of spices like ginger with interesting additions such as hibiscus flower. If you ever have a chance to drink this stuff, I highly recommend it! It is spicy, sweet, and really refreshing. Here is a pic of what I took to be Daddy Jay and his daughter.
Dancing and Drinking
I can’t wait to revisit the festival next year, next time it may be adults only. While it was fun to do the family thing, next year I’d prefer to get a hotel for the night and stay out a bit later. F.Y.I. Apparently there is an unwritten rule at Carnival, if you drink beer- it must be Red Stripe. Seriously, I never seen so much of the Jamaican beer in my life. I am not one to break the rules, so I gladly followed along. Plus, I like Red Stripe.
Notting Hill Carnival Crime
One very strange thing about the Notting Hill Carnival, is that it takes places in Notting Hill. The usually quiet, upscale neighborhood is virtually unrecognisable amongst the crowds. All of the vintage shops and designer boutiques board their windows to protect the glass and merchandise from drunkards, creating streets and streets of blank canvas. I imagine it is the best weekend of the year for graffiti artists.
In the past, there have been riots at Carnival, and it seems that nobody wants to take any chances. Police were everywhere, although the news reported that in correlation to the crowds, the police force was severely understaffed. I never felt unsafe and I think the City of London was doing a great job to ensure the safety of festival goers and participants alike.
Notting Hill Carnival is one of those events that will stay with you your entire life. The energy and noise, the smells and tastes. It was really unlike any festival I had attended before. If you are ever in London during the August bank holiday weekend, make this one a priority!