red stripe/jerk chicken

I went to the Notting Hill Carnival on Sunday.

“All it is is just people walking around the streets and following the herd, eating jerk chicken and drinking Red Stripe,” my boss said. “But you have to go. It’s an experience.”

It truly was.

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You see, my boss has lived in Notting Hill since the 70s. She loves it – she’s very proud of the area, and loves that so many people come to NH for the carnival every year. Even though she says she often steers clear of the whole thing.

My friends and I (James, Jeremy, Daniel and Yasmin) all met at The Windsor Castle pub in Notting Hill on Sunday, to start the day off with food and a few beers. We also wanted to avoid the crowds before we absolutely had to face them. The Windsor Castle is a gorgeous old pub on Camden Hill Road; it’s a rabbit warren of little cosy rooms, fireplaces, old wooden staircases, and a cute little beer garden out the back. It has tiny little doorways fit for hobbits, with “Mind your head” scrawled at the top. My friend Jeremy is one of the tallest people I know, so to see him clamber through those doorways is a riot.

Sunday roast & fish and chips in our bellies, we followed the throng of carnival-goers toward Portobello Road, following the face paint, the smell of jerk chicken and marijuana; the ultimate people-watching experience.

We didn’t know what we were trying to find. But we just followed the crowds. People following people. Blind leading the blind.

A man in the line at the portaloos said, “I came here to see women in metal bikinis. Where are they?”

“I hope you find them, mate!”

We most likely got second-hand stoned as we held hands trying to get through a crowd all dancing to hip hop music, and the boys stopped to pick themselves up some jerk chicken from one of the many stalls. Wanting to do the true Notting Hill Carnival experience, we bought £2 cans of Red Stripe from the corner store (it was diabolical in there!) and sipped them as we ambled along.

We weren’t cut out for the whole thing (either getting too old, or perhaps too sober?), as we ended up taking refuge in the Prince Edward pub on Dawson Place.

Notting Hill is the bees knees! It’s beautiful, with its multi-coloured houses, the Victorian terraces and the treelined streets. Not to mention the vintage second-hand clothes, books and comic stores and the wonder that is Portobello Road (+ markets). It has so much diversity, ranging from the posh upper class that walk the streets near my work on Pembridge Road, to the ethnic stores and stalls on Portobello Road.

If you’re thinking of going to the carnival, just give it a whirl. You may not need to go again, but at least you can tick that off your London bucket list.

Lou (Carnival Survivor) x

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