Oktoberfest in London: Epic times

When I convinced fifty one of my friends to accompany me to Oktoberfest in London to celebrate my birthday, I must admit I was a bit concerned it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. After going to the ‘real’ Oktoberfest in Munich in 2010 the bar was set extremely high, and I wasn’t convinced the true spirit of the event would translate all that well in an English context. But fortunately I was wrong, and as soon as we walked into the tent and saw hundreds of people dancing on the tables holding giant steins of beer I knew we had made a good decision to come. Before long we were dancing on our table too, singing along to all the cheesy songs and sloshing beer around with the best of them. It really was rip roaring fun, despite the ridiculous lack of beer taps and staff, which led to enormous queues for the bar and ultimately to our leaving early and returning to the pub we started in to continue the festivities. But by far the best bit of the day for me, besides seeing all my friends in Bavarian fancy dress, was when an East End gangster strolled into the pub and bought my entire party shots of jager bomb for my birthday. Utterly, utterly surreal, and absolutely bloody fantastic. Maybe thirty two won’t be so bad after all…

Prost!!

Today is my thirty second birthday party and, true to form, I have arranged a suitably ridiculous event to mark this auspicious occasion. From 1pm, fifty two lederhosen and dirndl-clad men and women, all between the ages of twenty five and thirty five, will be gathering in a pub somewhere near Greenwich. Once the motley crew has assembled, we will make our way to Milwall Park to collect our tickets for Oktoberfest London, where we will proceed to dance, make merry, drink beer and eat stew like they’re going out of fashion. If we can’t go to the real Oktoberfest in Germany this is the next best thing. As they say, if you can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed. And if you can’t dress up and be silly on your birthday when can you?

In Bruges

We arrived in Bruges yesterday evening. It was raining. Almost twenty four hours later I can report the rain has barely ceased. Fortunately, however, there are lots of fun things to do here in spite of the weather – as we have discovered today. This morning, after a hearty cooked breakfast, we walked to the chocolate museum, where we found out lots about the Mayans and their sacrificial activities, and learned about the origins of chocolate and its high ranking amongst the British aristocracy. After a chocolate making demonstration we wandered over to the brewery via some chocolate shops and a tea room, where we sampled chocolate tea (which I rather enjoyed but which the other half was less than enthusiastic about). The next available brewery tour was an hour after we arrived, so we made the most of sampling some local beers whilst we waited. The tour itself was well executed and informative, and afterwards we took full advantage of the beers available in the shop to take home to England for tasting sessions with friends.

Bruges is a funny place-charming and quaint with fantastic architecture and delicious food, yet also so full of tourists as to be, at times, almost soulless. The canals are beautiful but were today oft frequented by rain mac-clad foreigners sitting in boats clutching umbrellas. At every turn there seemed to be a walking tour.

It’s not all bad though. There are still delightful enclaves to be found, and last night’s dinner in a gorgeous haute cuisine canal-side restaurant that we stumbled across was just sublime. It’s now 7.20pm and we’re off in search of seafood and cocktails. Until tomorrow…

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