Latitude Festival 2010

July 24th, 2010 by matt

The summer music festival is something of a modern British tradition. It’s gotten to the point where, every weekend in June, July and August, there are multiple weekend long festivals to go to. People show up in a field somewhere, put up tents, drink, eat and watch music. They all tend to have a specific demographic they are aiming for and are of a variety of sizes. Last year, we tried out the whole thing with a nice small “boutique” festival called The End of the Road Festival. We had such fun, we wanted to do it again before we left. It’s nice to kind of check out on the world and spend three or four days outside with a shitload of people all (hopefully) having fun. This year, we gave the Latitude Festival a try and we were not disappointed. It’s mostly pop music, mostly in the folk/rock category and is in a beautiful park in Suffolk, about 2 hours from London.


This is the sign for the festival. And yes, those are sheep dyed multicoloured.


This is Mumford and Son playing a late afternoon set on Sunday. The weather was absolutely amazing. The band was very good and the crowd was loving it. Overall, there are over 100 music acts on 4 main stages and a couple of smaller stages so there is plenty to do. If you don’t keep yourself in check, you can feel a little overwhelmed and everyone misses something they wish they’d seen.


Here are a couple of happy concert goers.


Some of the nice bits of this festival are that it’s in a wonderful location (35,000 people and there’s a lake in the middle of it with lounge chairs if you can get them) and the variety of things to do. There is public art scattered all over the venue, tons of music, a good choice of food and drink. It’s also not just about music. They have performances throughout the day and night of poetry and literature readings. They also put on dance performances. This is Sadler’s Wells doing a snipit of Swan Lake. On top of that, the festival ran late into the night. One night, we just sat and soaked in some late night story telling on this lake stage. Another night, we danced in the woods to cheesy 80s music.


On fun thing at a gathering with so many people is to seek out some of the quieter joys that the festival organizers put around the venue. Last year, at End of the Road, we found late night games, like Jenga, something you wouldn’t think of but then you find it and have a nice little moment. One of my favourites at Latitude was finding some of the public art late on Friday night in some of the woods. There was a makeshift shack erected which would enter and then sit in the dark listening to odd noise. In that same area, we found some sort of kids area that, at 2am, was shut. But we wandered over there the next day as things were starting back up and found a small stage, some good coffee and kid friendly activities. It was a nice little intimate moment to enjoy.


So who did we spend our weekend with? Our core crew was Cath, a former coworker of Carolyn’s and our dear friends Dina and Adrian. Among our crew was also Maxine (a colleague of Carolyn’s) and her group of really nice friends. They helped make the festival a really great time. We all slept in this field in our tents with 30,000 other friends 🙂


I feel like we have very few photos of Dina, Adrian, Carolyn and I together. This one is a nice one.

Anyway, the festival was a wonderful time. It’s definitely one of the many things we’re going to miss about the UK. I know the US has things like these, hopefully we can check them out and see how they compare.

Tour de France

July 14th, 2010 by carolyn

For cycling fans July means only one thing each year, the Tour de France.  This year the Tour runs from 3rd July to 25th July and takes the riders from the prologue in Rotterdam through 20 stages to the finish in Paris.


My friend from Boston was due to be in France this summer for a family holiday and she contacted me to find out if there was any chance I would want to meet up with her to do some traveling.  Knowing that she is a huge cycling fan, I wondered whether she was thinking of trying to catch a stage of the Tour.  She jumped at the idea and we planned a long weekend in the Alps to see stage 8 Station des Rousses > Morzine-Avoriaz.

I left London Friday after work and flew from Heathrow to Geneva (1 hour flight) to make it to Switzerland by 10 pm (amazing).  We planned to head up into the mountains on Saturday morning via a shuttle ride to the Morzine-Avoriaz ski areas in France and hoped to camp along the route.  The ride from Geneva to the Alps was beautiful and we saw amazing chalets, cyclists and Tour paraphenalia all along the route.  I particularly enjoyed these cyclists with their baguettes on their backs.


We got dropped off at the very top of the mountain in Avoriaz and site of the finish line for stage 8.  As we drove up the mountain where the cyclists would be riding on Sunday, some big black clouds rolled in.  We passed caravans and tents all along the road and rain started pouring down.  Fortunately, we took shelter in the visitor centre (decorated like the maillot à pois rouges the polka dot jersey for the King of the Mountains) and figured out our plan.


When there was a break in the clouds we popped across the street for some wine and olives to watch the end of stage 7, Tournus -> Station des Rousses.  Once the rain stopped we walked back down the cycle route, past the finish line and staked out a spot to pitch our tent for the weekend.  We had a lovely picnic dinner (the first of many) of cheese, bread and wine.  We were about 2 km from the finish line.

Needless to say, camping on the side of one of largest cycling events in the world is quite an experience.  All night long there were vehicles traveling up to the finish honking horns and people up to all hours celebrating.  We woke up on Sunday eagerly awaiting the arrival of the cyclists.  We walked back up to town to get some more food for the day and had a breakfast of crepes!  Miraculously, overnight the barriers, advertisements, finish line and road markers had been set-up.  That explained all the noise on the road keeping us awake.  It was amazing to see how much goes into the logistics of the Tour and how many vehicles are necessary – lots and lots of petrol being used for a cycle race.


Sunday was very very hot and sunny so we found a shady spot for another picnic and waited for the riders.  They were expected at the finish about 5:30 pm.  We met other cycling fans from all over the world while we waited – England, France, America, New Zealand, Holland, Germany and many more.  We also were visited by French cows with very melodious bells around their necks.
picnic1.jpg  cows.jpg
About an hour ahead of the cyclists, the caravan comes through.  The caravan is essentially a parade of many of the advertisers involved with the tour coming through and tossing out a bunch of free stuff to the fans on the side of the rode.  It was a very bizarre experience but I ended up with a polka dot hat so was happy.

caravan.JPG caravan2.jpg

Finally, the riders started to make there way past us on the mountain.  Although they were tackling a significant climb and were only kilometers away from the finish, I was still amazed by how quickly they went past.  Just as I was figuring out who was going by they were gone.  The first group came through including eventual stage winner Andy Schleck.  As we watched more and more cyclists go by the big news was where was Lance Armstrong?  And we still hadn’t seen the yellow jersey wearer or the polka dot jersey wearer.  It turned out Lance had had a very rough day including 2 falls.
cyclists.jpg cyclists2.jpg

I was surprised to see how spread out the groups were and who was in each group.  After the main groups went by we walked back up to the finish area to get some dinner and see if we could see any of the cyclist up close.  Amazingly, many of them started cycling back down the hill to Morzine before all the others had even finished the climb.  We made it up to the finish area and they were pretty much already starting to take it down in preparation for moving on to the next stage.  As we made our way around the back of all the set-up we literaly ran into Phil Ligget and Bob Roll.  They are television announcers for cycling and the Tour and my friend was literally star struck to have the chance to meet them.  She has some photos of us with them so maybe I will add those later.  As we made our way around all the semis and cables we saw a small group gathering and were told some of the winners were just finishing up interviews.  We saw Cadel Evans ride off in the yellow jersey and Andy Schleck meeting with the media.  Little did we know that Evans had suffered an elbow injury meaning trouble in the next stage.

After such a long day you would think we would be heading straight off to bed but now.  But no, 11 July was the World Cup Final so after a picnic dinner of takeaway pizza we headed back down the mountain as the sun set.  Near our campsite a small chalet had set-up televisions in a tent on the side of the road and we were able to watch Espana finally become campeaones – World Cup Champions!  It was great to be apart of an international crowd watching the match even if it was a rough and tumble final.

sunset.jpg  worldcup.JPG

Monday was a rest day for the Tour so we had a leisurely morning packing up the campsite.  We headed back down the mountain via ski lift and cable car into the town of Morzine.  Apparently Annecy, France including Morzine/Avorinaz area are bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

chairlift.jpg  morzine.jpg

I spent the day wandering around town watching all the cyclists and cycling fans.  It was super hot and my pack full of tent and sleeping bags was weighing me down but I saw some Quick Step cyclists and a former top tier cyclist.  The Tour would be leaving from Morzine on Tuesday but unfortunately, I had to head back to Geneva on Monday night to get back to London and work for Tuesday.  All in all, it was an amazing weekend in a beautiful setting that I will never forget.  I have always enjoyed the Tour de France but I think I may be a convert to a true fan now.  I will be watching over the next few weeks to see how these amazing athletes finish out the route.

Addendum:  Julia shared our photos with Phil Ligget and Bob Roll so here they are.

philandc.jpg bobandj.jpg

First Last

July 12th, 2010 by carolyn

Two weekends ago was the first of what will likely be many lasts in the upcoming months (and to be fair, there have probably been quite a few lasts already but Matt and I really noticed this one).  On Saturday night, Matt performed Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle in his last concert as a part of the Islington Chorale Society.  The group, based in Islington is a group of about 80 or so people who enjoy signing choral music together.  Matt has been a part of the group for the past year and a half and has performed in several concerts in venues around London.

This past concert was at St. Mark’s in Regents Park.  The chorus was accompanied by soloists, two pianos and a harmonium.  Below is a shot of the entire group during the performance.


Hopefully Matt will find a group to continue singing with back in Chicago =).

Time for Some Big Changes

July 10th, 2010 by matt

Well, we’ve not made mention of it on the blog, so I thought it was time. I started writing here in January 2007, a few months before I moved to London. Now, in the next 2-3 months, our time in London will come to an end. I’m going to transfer back to Chicago, same company, back to the same apartment. And yet, in the last 3+ years, nothing is really the same. It’s been a time of so many change for Carolyn and I, that this is just another one of those. Weddings, deaths, new friends, a million new experiences. But now it’s time to move back. We’ll keep updating here. Originally, it was mostly just for a few people (particularly Carolyn while and I were apart). It’s remained that way, but it’s also become a chance for us to make a semi-permanent (we’ll download all the entries and print them) record of what we’ve done here.

Anyway, that’s some big news! More fun to come. 🙂

Pride 2010

July 7th, 2010 by carolyn

London Pride 2010 – including a parade and rally in Trafalgar Square.


I attended for the first time last year when one of my friends informed me that the best way to celebrate was to join in the parade.  I didn’t quite trust her on that but we went to the start and jumped in.  This year we headed down to march all over again.  Last year we marched with the Amnesty Float and this year we joined the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home float (proudly blasting the Glee soundtrack) on the whole route from Baker Street to Trafalgar Square.

It was crazy to walk straight through Oxford Circus and Picadilly Circus with the road free of cars and hundreds of people lining the streets!

A Wimbledon Adventure

July 5th, 2010 by matt

Shortly after Carolyn made her move over to London, she and Dina had a lovely day out at Wimbledon. I missed out on that (since I had to work for a living *sarcasm*), but it sounded like a fun thing to try out. Finally, this year, we decided to take a World Cup break and get a couple hours of tennis in after work. We showed up at different times and got to experience the joy that is the Queue (yes, a capital Q). When you get on it, they give you a little booklet with all sorts of information about this famous line. Here would be the most orderly line in the world:


We timed this nicely and managed to get through the 1/2 mile long queueueue in about an hour and then we were through the gates and in! Now we only had about two hours for me to soak in everything, so it was a bit rushed, but here we go. First of all, we got on another line to pick up extra tickets to one of the show courts. Courts 5-14 are general seating. Anyone with a ticket to the grounds can try to find a seat to a match and enjoy. Centre Court and courts 1 and 2 (3 and 4 are not in use at the moment) are the show courts and you need to buy a ticket. If you have one of these tickets and leave early, Wimbledon will resell your ticket and give that money to charity. We decided to have a Centre Court experience. We watched Jamie Murray and his 16 year old partner in mixed doubles lose to some people we’d never heard of:


Oddly enough, we should have paid more attention to their female opponent, Vera Zvonareva. As it were, she made it to the finals in both the Women’s single and doubles (!!). She didn’t win, but it was an impressive run and we saw a little piece of it.

In case you don’t believe I was there, he I be in one of the most famous stadiums in the world:


Wimbledon is built in a hilly, leafy section of London (it doesn’t feel like you’re in London at all). The hills allow you to soak in a lot of nice views of area:


As we walked along further, we saw some drunk people waving up towards that white tent on the right hand side of the picture above. We looked closely and who did we see waving back:


That would be John McEnroe, preparing to do his BBC commentary! hehe.

Any way, we soaked in the crowds, the Pimms, the odd upper level (for the haves) and the lower levels (for the have less) that permeated throughout the grounds and saw some tennis. That included this odd match:


These two players had played 3 very long sets (all in tie breaks). Victor Hănescu was up 2-1 against Daniel Brands. Brands, looked the better player and won the fourth set. At this point, Hanescu asked to have the match called due to darkness. The chair umpire said no and Hanescu started playing badly. Then, all of a sudden, he started spitting and cursing at one of the fans! He got a warning and the crowd got a little feisty. According to wikipedia, the fan called him a gypsy and he, being Romanian, didn’t take that too well. Regardless, Hanescu proceeded to double fault that game away on purpose and then quit. Very surreal indeed.

It was good fun and I was really happy I finally got to partake of a little of it. And, it was yet another bit of London I got to see! Yeah!