Glorious Glastonbury: 2017 Festival Highlights

Yet again, time seems to have gotten away from me and I haven’t forced myself to sit down and write something. Glastonbury, however, was something I knew I had to write about… it was an absolutely magical, life-changing experience. I realise that ‘life-changing’ may sound a tad over-dramatic, but what I mean is that once you’ve experienced the cream of the crop, you can’t go back down. It just won’t feel the same. And Glastonbury really is the cream of the festival crop, the shining beacon of beauty that all other festivals can only dream of coming anywhere close to.

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Unsurprisingly, the food selection was vast; over 300 different vendors were there over the weekend! Despite all this, however, our first meal was a McDonald’s breakfast en-route (classy, I know)… but what else can you do when you’re up at 4am?! We had that giddy excitement mixed with slightly funny stomach feeling you have when catching a really early flight, yet it was definitely worth getting there as early as we did; we were through and pitched up by 11.30am which is pretty good going by Glasto standards! Not to mention by this point the midday 30+ degree heat(wave) was kicking in… no joke for those who had high-piled trolleys and apparently didn’t get the memo about packing light this year. The anticipation though was fantastic, we were buzzing to get stuck in!

Our first venture was to the Silver Hayes area close to where we’d pitched in Pylon Fields, featuring a few smaller tents, a funky little DJ set up, several very well-equipped shops (convenience and camping stores) and of course food. After an initial celebratory glass of prosecco I hunted down my first meal which, if you’ve been to Glasto yourselfFile_001 (22).jpeg you’ll know, had to be halloumi. I’m a big fan, jokingly referring to it as ‘bae’ on many occasions; it’s something I will always order when on a restaurant menu! So the sesame halloumi flatbread with mixed salad and a minted yoghurt dressing from Kebabylon hit the nail right on the head. I’d have visited these guys again but I wanted to try as much of the plethora of options available as possible.

Not everything I tried was amazing; sadly there was a disappointing pasta dinner that did not satisfy my hunger pangs and a garlic bread that was a bit too big to handle as well as a slice of pizza, but overall the quality and diversity of food available was spot on. Other meals included the following:

  • Crispy duck rolls from the Thai house were a dream, perfectly crisped and really succulent duck with a sweet hoisin sauce.
  • I couldn’t have survived the weekend without an ice cream (it’s genuinely one of my top 3 favourite foods) so somewhere along the way I found a homemade honeycomb ice cream that sorted me right out.
  • Cheese was also a lifesaver at Glasto to be honest, obviously in halloumi form as I basically lived on varying takes on a halloumi wrap/flatbread for the majority of my meals, but two other things that really hit the spot were a creamy and well-balanced mac ‘n’ cheese and a banging late-night tuna & cheese toastie. 
  • Pot noodles and porridge pots were Trangia staples back at our tent, we even joked that I should’ve done a detailed comparison of each supermarket’s own brand although this would’ve meant I’d had to try them all and we were very hungry – next time!

Unfortunately, I was so keen to get involved and soak up the atmosphere (and usually so ravenous by the time we got food) that I slacked on my food photos as the weekend went on and so can’t thank the vendors personally, much as I’d love to! Just trust me, you will never be short of options at Glasto no matter what your interests, especially as it’s widely regarded as the most vegan & vegetarian-friendly festival!

One thing that struck me right away was the bright, colourful flags that guide the way File_000 (65).jpegthrough the main footpaths, glorious in the first day sunshine and gently reassuring us that there was a refreshing breeze somewhere, whether we felt it or not. Glastonbury was a feast for the eyes as well as the belly in so many ways, all part of the theme and the vibe of the overall festival as it was made to celebrate the arts, creativity, environmental awareness and all things hippy. I loved it and this vibrancy and positivity is what I believe makes it so special. I’ve never been to a festival that cares so much for the environment it’s in and this was music to my very ears (no pun intended) as someone who cares deeply about protecting and preserving our beautiful planet – but let’s not get into that because I will go on forever… Despite there still being litter about the place, it was only on the last day that I saw anybody (and even then very few) squat down and disobey the ‘don’t pee on the land!’ posters, absolutely unheard of anywhere else! It was very refreshing and something I was more than happy to be a part of and support.

At the other end of the campsite the colour and craziness continued with The Park area and the Glastonbury sign, as well as a great, tall rainbow viewing tower that looked out over the whole site which was pretty cool. The mysterious hidden/secret ‘rabbit hole’ bar based on Alice in Wonderland, however, unfortunately remained a secret from us this time. Down the road a little was the Tipi Village leading into the Healing Fields and this was one of my favourite areas, all kinds of amazing-looking vegetarian & vegan food about the place (including a halloumi curry that I’m still dreaming about, wishing I’d tried), an actual explosion of colour and wavy patterns and some really comfy looking chill-out tents – this is where to go if you’re looking for yoga, massages or holistic therapies. We were even lucky enough to witness a Hand-Fasting ceremony, the celtic marriage tradition involving promises (like vows), sweeping away your old lives with a broom and bringing in the new one with cake & ale. It was super cute!

 

One of the best parts about Glastonbury was that things kept popping up all over the place, a random acoustic open mic here, a spontaneous circus show there, a popular band doing a surprise set somewhere else (I’m gutted we missed Elbow). There literally was something for everyone, so much to see and do and occupy your time with you’dFile_004 (16) never get chance to experience everything in one go – and I suppose that’s what keeps people coming back year-on-year. Even the kids section of the campsite looked like a whale of a time for young ones, but after all this excitement it was time for some more food, this time a chocolate and banana crepe – deeeelish. I also had a cheeky Grazing Shed over the weekend, would’ve been rude not to! It was great having this little home away from home and if you’ve not tried them in Cardiff yet I definitely recommend – currently renowned as the best burger joint in the city.

 

By the final day, I was dying for some mash & gravy but was gutted to discover that the well renowned Square Pie who’d I’d been eyeing up all week keep potato skins in their mash potato, something I have the weirdest and sometimes super inconvenient allergy to. Fortunately, there was a sausage & mash place nearby that provided me with the vegetarian sausages, mash and gravy I so needed. They were okay, mash holds a particularly special place in my heart as the first food I ever started experimenting with ingredient-wise and being honest, I’ll always prefer my own homemade version. But like I said, it was the end of the weekend and I really needed this hearty meal! It did the job well enough, still would’ve preferred a pie though.

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Foo Fighters on Pyramid Stage (photo credit: Niamh Flynn)

Musical highlight for me was easily Foo Fighters, closely followed by Biffy Clyro (in the sunset, amazing) and Royal Blood. The teenage emo kid in me was loving life. Haim and Sundara Karma were also really good as they were on at a time of day that means you know the people who turn up are genuine fans and there’s a very nice feeling about that, makes for a great atmosphere. I’d go as far as to say though that Foos was one of the best experiences of my life so far; they’re a band that have been around and in my life a long time with so many memories, so many songs that speak to you and just generally have a great time, I enjoyed every second! And Dave Grohl surely has to be one of the most bad-ass daddies in rock ‘n’ roll… Foos, Queens of the Stone Age, Tenacious D AND Nirvana?!

We couldn’t have gone without seeing ‘the big spider thing’, Arcadia, which breathed out fire everywhere and was pretty cool. After a while though the spider bits got a bit samey and we didn’t fancy waiting long enough for them to pick someone out of the crowd at long last, so we grabbed a pizza slice on the way and head home. Block9, the Unfair Ground and Shangri-La were also good fun, prime people-watching material let me tell you. Jazzy decorations and bright flashing lights with house DJs, even a built in waterfall that was pretty sweet – there was never a dull moment to be had anywhere in Glastonbury! Although the utterly bizarre design of the Unfair Ground was something I would only recommend experiencing in a sober to merry state…

File_000 (62)The point is, Glastonbury was brilliant. A truly unique experience (I’m still finding glitter dotted about the place), one that I’ll never forget and would love to go back to some day. Great music, great food, so many opportunities and experiences to be had I would highly recommend to anyone to register for tickets – or failing that, volunteer with one of the many charities that help out there! Oxfam and WaterAid had several volunteers all across the site, it’s a great way to enjoy the festival for free by working a few hours a day/a few shifts.
Top 3 highlights: Foo Fighters, glitter, halloumi. My Glasto in a nutshell.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Edinburgh Adventures pt.1 – Castle, Kismot & Countryside

I’ve been back over a month now and I still can’t stop thinking about this beautiful, magical place. And by magical I mean literally because Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter himself, something my other half was ridiculously excited about… But let’s start at the beginning.

Whilst our early morning flight might have at first seemed like a bit of an inconvenience, it did, however, mean that we were leaving Bristol airport as the sun began to rise. It was absolutely beautiful – talk about early morning views!

This also meant that we arrived in Edinburgh and got to the hotel around 8am, way earlier than the standard 3pm check-in, although once we arrived to drop off our bags the man working on reception was kind enough to check us into our room straight away hassle-free – if we hadn’t have been so tired, dazed and confused we’d have acted as delighted as we were! We chose to stay in The Village which was a convenient 15 minute drive into town, also hosting a spa and very well-equipped gym which suited us perfectly. After a last-minute room upgrade, we also had Sky TV and a king-size bed – perfect! A quick recovery-nap later, we set out to explore the city and headed straight for the top of our list: the castle.

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We were v big fans of the cute theme

Edinburgh Castle is situated right at the top of the Royal Mile, the buzzing main hub of Edinburgh city centre. The architecture of the whole city especially in this area is astounding; everything has original character and you can walk around and perfectlyFile_003 (3) imagine how it all was back in Victorian times, Edinburgh has managed the miracle of modernising and keeping up with the times whilst retaining and glorifying its originality, history and authenticity. On our approach to the castle we stopped by the Luxury Scottish Ice Cream van, this was a real treat.

As we got chatting the vendor proudly told us of how this was a family business for generations, 100% of the ingredients used are sourced locally within Scotland, many of them coming from Edinburgh itself and surrounding areas, even the flavouring used was naturally and locally produced and how this and the process itself was a best-kept family secret which created the rich, creamy texture that made this ice cream so special. And it was rich, creamy and special – we loved it! I’m a big fan of responsibly sourcing local ingredients (and ice cream, of course) and it makes me so happy to see it proudly advertised like this. It really does make a difference in terms of taste, in my opinion.

The castle itself was great fun to explore and has amazing views out over the city. Standing proudly is a huge cannon named ‘Mons Meg’ who has an incredible history having been capable in her hay-day of blasting a whopping 150kg gunstone two whole miles! There’s also all sorts of passages and look-outs as well as live demonstrations of historical practices, yet our visit wouldn’t have been complete without a quick tea & scone stop and a browse through the gins and whiskeys in the castle shop. I came away with small bottles of two types of Edinburgh Gin and a Stag’s Breath honeycomb whiskey, all of which were delicious, as well as a fridge magnet for my mother’s ever-growing collection.

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Next was our dinner stop which I’d chosen based on a recommendation from a friend and which I could not wait for: Kismot.

Despite being a little away from the main city centre, this family-run independent business is an absolute gem and deservingly highly rated on TripAdvisor. It hosts a wide variety of unique dishes such as the protein passanda, the deshi khani, the Kismot killer and the chocolate massallam as well as the exclusive haggis, marshmallow or chocolate naans. There are still plenty of regular Indian and Bangladeshi dishes to choose from but it’s always great to try something different and this was certainly a treat; I choseFile_004 (3) the marshmallow naan and a king prawn chocolate massallam (featured right) aka grated milk chocolate in a tandoori yoghurt and cream sauce. Although this sounds strange, like a bowl of chocolate sauce, it was actually deliciously creamy and rich and the chocolate added texture rather than overpowering with its sweetness. Genuinely an incredible dish, I would 100% recommend.

Also, the marshmallow naan I have been preaching to everyone about since my return as it was absolutely amazing! Again, sounds strange but I loved it, without a doubt File_005 (4)my favourite naan I’ve ever tasted despite its sugary stickyness. The other half chose the exclusive homemade deshi khani (featured left) which comes with its meat on the bone for extra added flavour. All in all, we both had brilliant plates of food and would definitely go back again – although maybe don’t order too much if you go because we struggled to finish and I was very upset that we couldn’t take it home and save for later (due to the obvious lack of microwaves in hotel rooms).

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Next day, full of fuel for the adventure, we decided to take on Arthur’s Seat in the (temporary) glorious sunshine. There are two different routes you can take and being the seasoned, bold adventurers we are we went for the more challenging route up, saving the leisurely stroll for the way back down. The views were incredible, looking out over the city with the castle standing proudly over it, this was a city we had instantly fallen in love with. A bit of a scramble and what felt like several thousand steep steps later, we made it to the top and almost fell back down again – the winds were whipping up a right old frenzy and I clung to the summit for dear life. But, views were totally worth it. 4 kilometers, 6036 steps and just over an hour very well spent and would certainly recommend to anyone visiting Edinburgh.

To be continued in part 2…

 

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx