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Things to Do

A Beginner's Guide To London's Social Season or How To Survive Royal Ascot

London is a ever fascinating town. There is always something to see or something going on. No time is this more true than in the spring. They  refer to May and June as "the season". Royal events, galas, Royal Ascot, Henley, Wimbledon and regal garden parties. Of course the dress, protocol and the invites to attend are strict and are hard to come by. But I am going to let you in on how this Canadian girl came to London and got invited to these royal events... became the Queen's biggest stalker ...AND more importantly how you can too. 

PLAYING IN THE MUD. LOOKING FOR BURIED TREASURE ON THE BANK OF THE THAMES

You think you have learned all there is to know about London history?  Been to every museum,  taken every tour, listened to every audio guide about the Tudors "this" and the Stuarts "that". Well until you start digging in the London mud, turning over a few rocks your education on London is totally incomplete

The Notting Hill Carnival

An estimated 2 million people descended for two days for The Notting Hill Carnival, one of the largest Caribbean festivals in Europe.  With thousands of dancers, performers and some of the biggest and (loudest) sound systems you can carry on the back of a truck, I had to go and let my inner "island girl" out.

My Crazy Obsession With Chalk Paint... OR...How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

For those who know me even a little you would know my obsession with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint has gotten waaaay out of hand. In fact there are family members who have suggested that they are concerned for me and my mental well being when I run out of things to paint. Well luckily that day is not here yet. So I thought I would share my obsession and take you through step by step my latest Annie Sloan Chalk Paint project as I repurpose someone else's junk, two old side tables into my personal treasure...all while not spilling a drop of rosé.

Piccadilly Might Be In The Dark But London's Lights Are Still Shining Bright

So Christmas has come and gone (phew). The Christmas lights on Regent and Oxford Street have been packed up for another year. Even the iconic lights of Piccadilly Circus, London's Time Square have been shut down until the fall 2017 to go through a major upgrade. Did you know that aside from World War ll  and the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana these lights have not ever been turned off. 

 So what is London thinking? Right on top of Blue Monday as well, known as the most depressing time of the year.  Seriously, the holidays are over, you have gained five pounds (which you swore you would not let happen again this year) your credit card bills have arrived in full sobering force, spring is no where in sight, you have already broken all your New Year resolutions and you have not been able to shake that 4 week long cold. So is London in the dark? Not a chance. This city makes the most of their very long winter nights (that start at 4 in the afternoon). So even though some of the lights of London have been shut down, others have been springing up. Here are two of the most colourful, brightly lit places I visited to help make the most of the long, London winter nights. 

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Winter Lights Festival at Canary Wharf

31 international artists showcase some of their most inventive pieces working with light and sound. A lot of the work is interactive and it requires you as a viewer to participate to further create the artist's vision.  I don't recommend going on a rainy night as lot of the exhibits are outside and there is a bit of a walk required between exhibits. The Winter Lights festival has a lot to see but here are a few of my personal highlights.  

Angels Of Freedom

A Broad in London at Angels of Freedom, Canary Wharf 2017

Angels of Freedom. Five different set of giant angel wings and halos where you can put yourself in the picture and become an angel. 

Ovo

This is a large installation that is surrounded by sound, water and light. Looks a little like a egg shaped spaceship.  You can walk in and get immersed in its size and incredible visuals from every angle. 

Ovo, Winter Lights. Canary Wharf 2017
Looking up inside the Ovo light installation at Winter Lights, Canary Wharf 2017

On Your Wavelength

One of the trippiest exhibits is where the light, music and sound is controlled by the participants mind via an EEG headset. You stand in front of this large scale light tunnel fitted with over 30,000 lights and your mind creates the journey that you will experience. It looks like you are in your own personal Sci-Fi movie....actually you are. 

Digital Skin

Another exhibit I enjoyed was the Canadian exhibit called Digital Skin. You can be digitally painted with light and visual images by a friend or by the charming artist himself, Mateo. He then shoots a short video that gets emailed to you that you can share it on social media..or on a blog. 

Being Painted Digitally. Winter Lights at Canary Wharf 2017
  Click photo to view

Click photo to view

Water Wall

Here they project giant colourful images on a wall of water and mist that becomes the canvas for this art form. The eerie sounds also adds to the overall experience.  

So if you are in London and want to see this, (and I highly recommend you do) it is only around to January 27 and it is free.

  Click photo to view.

Click photo to view.

And far away...on the other side of town in Chiswick they have begun celebrating the Chinese New Year with The Magical Lantern Festival. Although Chinese New Year is not officially until January 28th London has already started to break out the red lanterns.  I will report back on that celebration as I have been told that outside of China London has the biggest celebration of the Chinese New Year. Should be quite the party. I am guessing we will be seeing a lot of red. 

Magical Lantern Festival 

Magical Lantern Festival 2017 London

The Magical Lantern Festival is a colourful enchanting one hour night-time walk through Chiswick Gardens where these giant lanterns would tell stories of Chinese history or transport you with some iconic images around world. It did have a Disneyesque feel to the place and I had to fight against my very strong urge to burst into song and sing, It's a Small World After All, as some of the lantern exhibits felt like they escaped from a theme park. Still impressive. 

Magically Lantern Festival London, 2017
Magical Lantern Festival London 2017
Magical Lantern Festival

I personally loved that France and UK celebrated shoes in bright lights. Shoes need much more celebrating in my opinion. 

Celebrating Shoes and Fashion. Magical Lantern Festival. London 2017

But there were also the more traditional Chinese influences with the camels travelling the Silk Road, or their traditional red lanterns and temples.

Magical Lantern Festive, London 2017
Magical Lantern Festival London 2017
Magical Lantern Festival London 2017

What I thought was genius, about halfway through the park as my frozen toes and fingers where telling me I have had enough there were these fire pits and they were selling over a dozen different types of homemade marshmallows to roast. I bought myself a toasted coconut marshmallow and roasted it over the over fire.

Roasting Marshmallows. Magical Lantern Festival 2017 London

Honestly I cannot recall ever enjoying something so much as I did that marshmallow. I am contimplating returning just for the marshmallows. Tickets are £18 for adults and £12 for children (the marshmallow £1.50). It is a nice thing to do on winter's night but dress warm. It wraps up Feb 1. 

So thank you London. I, for one appreciate all the things you are doing to make the cold dark, bleak winters more beautiful and bearable. And again...a special shout out to those wonderful.. WONDERFUL people with the homemade marshmallows.  You bet I am still dreaming about them.

 

 

London At Christmas. Is There Anyplace More Magical?.... Nope!

Christmas at House of Fraser Oxford Street, London

One of the downfalls to living in London is how dark it gets so early in the winter. It starts getting dark at 3:00 in the afternoon which could make even the most festive of people want to climb back into bed and scream bah humbug. However it feels that the whole city of London is celebrating this time of year. London has decorated its streets, storefronts and buildings for the holiday season and I have to say God Bless them everyone.

Regent Street Christmas Lights, London

The lights of Oxford and Regent Street are magical. Hyde Park has a Winter Wonderland theme park, there are pop-up skating rinks, colourful markets and in and around every corner there is a beautiful reminder that this time of year is special.  Even Pokémon Go is into the Christmas spirit as their poster child and mascot Pikachu is popping up all around London wearing a red Santa hat (don't ask me how I know this). If you are planning to visit London I strongly urge you to come for Christmas. For those of you who can't be here this time of year or you are here and looking where to go, let me show you some of the highlights that makes London come alight at Christmas. 

The Angel Lights on Regent Street, London

Oxford Street & Regent Street

One of the most magical places to be at Christmas is on Oxford and Regent Street. At the centre of the most beautiful shopping area in London the city has spared no expense in lighting blocks upon city blocks with twinkling strings of lights crisscrossing the streets, giant angels with wings that span the entire street or the over 1700 beautiful snow-ball like orbs that go on as far as you can see. Over 750,000 lights on Oxford Street alone.  

Christmas Lights on Oxford St, London

I was coming out of the Bond Street Tube station the other night (actually it was late afternoon but it was already dark so it felt like night) and the contrast from coming up from the deep dimly lit London Underground to be greeted by the incredible lights of Oxford Street you actually heard people gasp at its splendour.

The incredible Christmas lights off Oxford Street London

Even if you are like me and you refuse to get into the Christmas spirit until WELL AFTER all the Halloween decorations have been taken down and given a long rest it does makes you feel like you are in the middle of Frank Capra's film It's A Wonderful Life and you and Geroge Bailey are dancing down the streets of a electric Bedford Falls.

Oxford Street

Covent Garden

Covent Garden is one of my favourite places to be anytime of year in London but come the Christmas season Covent Garden turns it up to 11. What makes this super special aside from the incredible decorations and lively atmosphere is usually there is some incredible opera singer or a string quartet playing inside the Apple Market (not to be confused with the Apple Store). The acoustics are incredible and it creates the perfect soundtrack to such a beautiful place to shop and see the sights. 

Christmas Decorations in Covent Garden, London

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London

This is the 10th year and every year I have been told it is getting bigger and better. Free admission to get into the Winter Wonderland park but once there you can choose to buy tickets for Christmas shows, ice skating or the many rides. I walked through both during a weekday afternoon (very quiet) and on a evening weekend (not so quiet).  If you don't mind the crowds I'd suggest the evening.

Winter Wonderland Hyde Park

Again everything is lit up and sparkles. There is a giant Bavarian Pavillon that has live entertainment, wood burning fires, plenty of gluehwein (I call it mulled wine) and bratwurst (I call it a pale hotdog). The band had everyone jumping although covering more hit's of the 70's than Christmas songs. But who doesn't love a giant group sing-a-long anytime of year to Sweet Caroline? Nobody, that's who.  Even though it felt to me way more like Octoberfest than Christmas it was tremendous fun. Lots of Christmas market stalls to buy those stocking stuffers as well.

ICE SKATING 

  Ice skating outside the Natural History Museum . 

Ice skating outside the Natural History Museum

If you grew up in Canada like I did you take for granted that ice rinks are everywhere and it is just part of life in the great white north. In London the only time you really see ice skating is over the Christmas season. There are several pop-up ice skating rinks that are quaint and are a throw back to a simpler time. Christmas carols are playing and there is hot chocolate or mulled wine for when your feet and fingers get cold (although in London it never gets "Canada cold").

  Somerset House

Somerset House

As few folks in London actually have skates (or need them) you can rent them at the rink and for a small cost you can spend some time skating around and around outside some pretty fantastic historical places like the Natural History Museum (my favourite exterior in London), Somerset House and Hampton Court Palace.  It's important to note that you should pre-book tickets, especially on the weekend. As these rinks are only seasonal their demand is high. The Westfield Mall in Sheppard's Bush has turned their main atrium into a giant indoor skating arena with live entertainment. Lady Gaga surprised the crowd and turned up there the day after I was there and sang a surprise gig under their giant snow globe on the roof.  How awesome that would have been to see.

Somerset House Pop-Up Skating Rink

Christmas Markets

Roasted Chestnut at The Southbank Christmas Market

There are many pop-up Christmas markets all around the city. Mostly little chalet-like booths selling holiday wares and stocking stuffers. Some with old fashioned carousels or simple rides or one at South Bank that has a 80's themed rollerskating rink. They all have plenty of food and drink options and is a nice festive alternative for a place after work to get a pint. 

A few of the popular markets are the Southbank Market and the Christmas Market at The Tate. Southbank and Tate are both on the south side of the river so you can have a lovely stroll from one to the other. The markets on one side of you and the wonderful London skyline on the other. Wow. 

The Shops...ooh the shops

Once again I believe that Selfridge's has outdone itself in the Christmas window department. The entire store is covered with ever-green and tiny little white lights. The windows feature 12 sequinned Santa's each in a unique situation like in a hot tub or a ski lift. Each Santa suit has over 6,000 hand sewn sequins. The windows themselves have over 114,000 baubles, 2 tonnes of glitter and five of them have a state-of-the-art sound system which uses vibration of the glass panes to create its own soundtrack. 40,000 man hours went into these windows that started back in June. Wow....I mean WOW!!!!!!

Click to see behind the scenes of the Selfridge's Christmas windows that are seen by over 100,000 people each day. 

Fortnum & Mason's flagship store on Piccadilly is like walking into a live Christmas window with the added benefit of the aroma of cinnamon and clove tea being handed out as you enter the store. 

  Clockwise, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and Liberty Department Store

Clockwise, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and Liberty Department Store

  Outside Selfridges on Oxford Street

Outside Selfridges on Oxford Street

  Left: The exterior of Cartier all wrapped up for Christmas. Right: Carnaby Street

Left: The exterior of Cartier all wrapped up for Christmas. Right: Carnaby Street

Carnaby Street, made famous in the 60's for their avant grade hippy generation has kept to that theme with a Carnaby Christmas Revolution with giant overhead signs and lights lining the streets with messages of Love, Peace, Kiss and Rebel .

  Clockwise, Waiting For the Carousel at Natural History Museum. Reindeer at Covent Garden. 

Clockwise, Waiting For the Carousel at Natural History Museum. Reindeer at Covent Garden. 

Here Comes Santa Claus...oh wait...Here he comes again...and again...and yes again!

The Annual Santacon, London

On the lighter side of Christmas, London celebrates a newer tradition called "Santacon". Thousands of people fill the streets of London dressed as Santa (or the occasional elf or reindeer) and sing Christmas songs and spread the holiday cheer...and well... drink the holiday cheer. This now has become a worldwide celebration with now over 50 countries taking the jolly old man in red to the streets in masses.

Santacon Santas in London

I got this friendly group of Santas early on in the parade/pubcrawl but this event goes all day and with everyone carrying their "cheer of choice" plus they do make the occasional stop to "water the reindeer" at a few pubs along the way this to me has all the potential for one very festive, jolly looking drunk holding tank gathering later in the evening. Only an hour in and lets just say, the reindeer games had already begun. 

Santacon London 2016

Everyone was in fine holiday form and you can see what I mean when you click on the pretty dancing elf above.  The video with the two Singing Santas is funny if you watch what is happening behind them as they are joyfully singing a Christmas song all the while a Santa and a reindeer are going to town on one another. Yup, reindeer games.. On the official Santacon website they ask you to behave and not be "that" Santa. They do have a family friendly route that does not pass by any pubs (how they map that out in London I cannot imagine) but why confuse your little ones with all those Bad Santas?.  

Santacon London 2016
Christmas Tree at Somerset House, London

Finally... my last observation. London is not afraid to say "Merry Christmas". In North America over the years I have personally found the so called "political correctness" of wishing someone Merry Christmas has  gotten out of control sucking the life and colour out of this holiday. They have stopped saying Merry Christmas and replaced it with a generic "Happy Holidays" in an attempt to not offend anyone not celebrating Christmas. Toronto City Hall came under fire recently for having a Christmas tree in their lobby. Seriously....who is the person that could object to something so beautiful? Even Starbucks came under attack with their holiday snowflakes and winter decorations on their Red Cups. Getting some sort of weird public pressure to remove any decorative seasonal images on their cups. So Starbucks yielding to pressure left them just plain red. Then once again Starbucks was attacked for being "anti-Christmas" for having yielded to pressure removing the wintery images some were complaining about in the first place.  Too Christmasy OR just too red? Talk about you can't win. 

Starbucks Red Cup Design Winners 2016

 Cut back on the caffeine people... it's a snowflake. This year there are 13 different winter inspired Red Cups, all contest winners designed by Starbucks customers. Lets see what controversy this invokes.  I celebrate Christmas and would not be offended if someone wished me Happy Chanukah, an outstanding Kwanza or Gong Hey Fat Choy at Chinese New Year. Actually the opposite, I'd be honoured to be recognized with that blessing around anyone's faith or holiday. 

  My local pub the Churchill Arms is all decked out with over 21,000 twinkling white lights and 90 Christmas trees. Beautiful. 

My local pub the Churchill Arms is all decked out with over 21,000 twinkling white lights and 90 Christmas trees. Beautiful. 

So MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!!!!!! It doesn't matter what faith you are, a Christmas tree (not a "holiday tree" as they suggested renaming it at Toronto City Hall) can be admired and enjoyed by all. Let the lights shine and twinkle and help fill in the darkness. Have a safe holiday and celebrate responsibly. And remember if you lose your shoe at night it is not because you are in a fairytale, it's because you are drunk!!!! Be a Good Santa, call a uber! Coz you never know who is watching you. Ho Ho Ho. 

Abroad in London with Santa at Selfridge's

24 Hours At Burning Man...

Followed by a week in a trauma hospital in Reno. 

The Playa/The Art/The ER

With his super-hero cape riding across the desert at Burning Man

Burning Man. Man Oh Man. Words or photos will never be able to accurately describe this most surreal temporary metropolis and the 80,000 participates who call themselves “Burners”. My desire to attend this annual infamous “radical self expression” art and community festival was on the urging of my 21 year old daughter and a very spontanious decision on my part. A mother/daughter experience of a lifetime, I thought.. lets do it.  Within 48 hours, I had booked a flight, rented an RV, pack a weeks worth of food, water and supplies and began our venture out to a dried up lake bed with two of her friends in the Nevada desert to a place called Black Rock City.  But 24 hours after my arrival I found myself with a fractured pelvis in three places in a hospital in Reno, Nevada, no cell phone service and no one even aware I was missing. Not the “burn” I was looking for…but my God it was a adventure.

So here is my story, a virgin burner...

AND THE MOST SURREAL 24 HOURS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. 

  My daughter Sam and me at Burning Man 2016

My daughter Sam and me at Burning Man 2016

First, What is Burning Man?

Buring the Man 2016

Simply told it is a week long art and community festival in the desert. But that is way too simplified. That is like if you described the Rolling Stones as some boy-band. The festival plays out each year in Nevada's Black Rock Desert where 80,000 people build a city in a week, burn a giant wooden effigy of a man, and then restore the arid playa to its original state.

  Aerial shot of Burning Man. If you parachute into Burning Man you don't have to buy a ticket.  

Aerial shot of Burning Man. If you parachute into Burning Man you don't have to buy a ticket. 

The sign says, Enter and Be Free. Burning Man

To try and further describe... it is a radical inclusive, self reliance utopian city that looks like a cross between post apocalyptic Mad Max and Terry Gilliam’s Barron Von Munchausen. Throw in a little Star Wars Cantina Bar and you are just getting to the beginning of it.

Overhead shot of the Distrikt Camp party, Burning Man

This pop-up city is almost completely created entirely by its citizens and the idea is you bring in everything you need for a week in the desert and you leave nothing behind when you go, no trace. It is described on their website as a laboratory. "Not every experiment works, but we'll never know if we don't try".  It has been know to draw celebrities and billionaire’s like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg or Telsa's Elon Musk who's mutant "art car"  was an adapted ship that was put on wheels with a reported half a million dollar sound system.  

 It draws the tech world's CEOs, top doctor's and leading surgeons in America all coming for a week to let their freak out. Except wait, it's actually  a bunch of dusty, acid-tripping naked hippies. Or is it candy-tripping techno ravers?  People even bring their kids. Seriously, who are these parents???

Burners at Burning Man

 Its attendees are all of the above. Celebs like Katy Perry, Susan Sarandon, Paris Hilton and super model Cara Delevingne were all in attendance this year. It is, and always has been, ruled by all kinds of techno-smart futuristic punks rather than nostalgic hippies or dippy ravers. But all groups are certainly represented. It is even rumoured that some of David Bowie's ashes were sprinkled at Burning Man this year. 

  Paris Hilton, Cara Delevingne and friends at this year's Burning Man.  

Paris Hilton, Cara Delevingne and friends at this year's Burning Man. 

The only modes of transportation once you are in is either cycling (I will be coming back to that) or mutant art cars. For accommodation you are either camping in tents or an RV. 

Customized bike at Burning Man
  Teacup mutant art car. 

Teacup mutant art car. 

Mutant Art Car. Travelling the desert at Burning Man 2016
Mutant Art Car with killer sound system at Burning Man

When we arrived in our RV it was 4:00AM after waiting four hours to get in. We were in the middle of a dust storm. We could not see the hood of the car and the fine playa dust was already so thick we had to put on our face masks in the RV. They came into the RV waving their flashlights to look through the foggy vehicle to make sure we were not smuggling anyone in without a ticket. You were then met by "greeters" with dusty goggles and scarves covering most of their faces who greeted you with a hug that lasted just a tad too long... and said, “welcome home”. 

We were invited out of our RV in the middle of the dust storm, masks still in place and then asked to bang the gong to announce our arrival. You were then encouraged to roll on the ground in the desert sand (not I...not yet). We were here, we had arrived and I have to admit that was the first time (not the last) I thought, oh crap what have I signed up for? 

Burners at Burning Man

In the light of day I was blown away by the scope of this place. I know I only saw a fraction of the grounds. People had set up camps for as far as you could see... and beyond.  Little villages within this pop-up city in various camps, themes and groups. 

The Last Word Camp at Burning Man, 2016
Really Bad Advice booth at Burning Man, 2016
Platy Bus & The Band rocking on top of the bus. Burning Man

As I went out to explore, one of the Burning Man themes "radical self-expression" was evident everywhere. In how people were dressed (or not dressed), their camps, their bikes and the content itself that they were expressing. Some of the more overt camps were places like the Orgy Dome, The Spanking Bar and The Sanctuary, a incredible tent where one could have a beautiful safe guided acid trip. I could not have felt more like Dorthy being slammed down right in the middle of Oz...Oz on acid. 

Naked Performance art on the Playa at Burning Man

That afternoon I spontaneously became part of a group wedding proposal. I joined a herd of a hundred bikes I saw moving somewhere across the white desert chanting Erin, Erin, Erin as we approached a girl in a green satin evening gown who was stunned as her boyfriend (and 100 or so burner on-lookers) proposed. 

  Erin's wedding proposal

Erin's wedding proposal

  Group hug after wedding proposal.

Group hug after wedding proposal.

I explored some of the incredible art installations in the desert.

  This mechanical boar rotated continuously 360 degrees. 

This mechanical boar rotated continuously 360 degrees. 

Sand Witches in the desert. Part of the art at Burning Man, 2016
Art installation of Giant Spheres in the desert at Burning Man 2016
Art installation at Burning Man
EARTH art installation at dusk. Burning Man. 2016

I then joined a group guided meditation at dusk. Now voluntarily lying on the desert floor I avoided when I first arrived. Feeling the energy of the warm earth and the hundred people I was surrounded by and surrendering to all things dust. 

   The meditation tent.   

The meditation tent.  

I had made friends with two doctors from the suburbs of Palo Alto, Brian and Ryan who had set up camp beside our RV. They were struggling with their tent and I had cold beer.  So embracing one of the other themes of Burning Man, "gifting" I brought them ice cold beers and we later made plans that evening to go and find the playa party that suited us best, a Prince Retrospective was where we were starting.

I never made it to that party.

Talk to God art Installation at Burning Man 2016

On our way, with my bike decked out with dragonfly lights and neon necklaces I sweved to avoid a stoned biker who was weaving back and forth and not paying attention to where he was going. I made a hard left and I hit the ground even harder. I knew something was seriously wrong. Once again, but involuntarily this time I was on the playa ground, desert dust and its strange spawn of desert people surrounding me. 

  Sunset on the Playa near the meditation tent.   Click on to see video.

Sunset on the Playa near the meditation tent. Click on to see video.

Now if you thought that the people watching was interesting on the outside on the Playa it was nothing compared to the inside of the "M.A.S.H" style emergency tent that housed the damaged burners. It was all in shades of white and beige, blending perfectly into the white desert sand. I learned that most of the doctors and nurses were there volunteering some of their time in trade for a ticket supporting yet another theme of the festival "communal effort" and "civic responsibly". In the 10 hours in emerge I saw all sorts of fascinating looking people come and go, most wearing some sort of funky fur article of clothing and supped up goggles.  Thinking I wish I could take some photos because this must be the most unusual, insane ER in the entire world. 

Fortune Teller on the Playa at Burning Man 2016

7 people that night I was told had been airlifted out with serious injuries. Learned from Dr. Rick (everyone's on a first name basis at Burning Man) my handsome ER doctor who I thought nothing of him wearing a rainbow ballet tutu and leg warmers over his scrubs that the number one common accident at Burning Man is ....wait for it...bike accidents. One girl even had fallen off her bike and she wasn't even moving, so I felt a little less stupid. Next common accident Dr. Rick told me about were people totally drunk or high or both thinking that jumping or leaping off multi-story art structures or trapelines would end with them actually taking flight. I did have a celebrity sighting in the ER.  I am almost certain I saw a very, very drunk and dishevelled Matthew Perry (Chandler from Friends) come in while I was there but legally I will not stick my neck too far out on that one and lets say there is a 5% margin of error that it might have been someone else (not a chance). 

Giant Snake art installation at Burning Man 2016

So while my daughter was dancing in the desert at dawn with Paris and Cara (yes she was) I was in the back of a ambulance for a three hour ride to Reno. 

    Dancing as the sun comes up at Burning Man.  Taken on top of the art car Robot Heart. 

Dancing as the sun comes up at Burning Man. Taken on top of the art car Robot Heart. 

I am now back in Toronto recovering from my accident. 24 hours at Burning Man, 10 Hours in the ER, 8 days in a trauma hospital and 6 to 8 weeks recovery.

The question most asked after all I went through was, would I go back? The answer is yes, but with these conditions. I call this Burning Man Lite. First, I think I would need a few of my friends there so we could create our own age appropriate camp. As much as I love my daughter and her friends we rightly will have a slightly different idea of what is fun in the desert. Some will overlap for sure but for the rest lets bring in my troops.. I would go for three nights midweek, not a full week and not dealing with the crush and line-ups getting in and out of the festival. I would pay to join a luxury camp like one called White Elephant. They do everything. All the necessities brought in for you, hot showers, meals, champagne...I even heard mention of sushi... none of this roughing it for me anymore..

...And finally (and this was my daughter Sam's suggestion) my own mutant art car so I can get across the desert in style and.... safety. The hell with bicycles. 

This art car below will do quite nicely.  Like they say in the desert, enjoy your burn and for 24 hours I burned ever so brightly. 

VW Mutant Art Car. Burning Man 2016

POKEMON GO AND LONDON ...Yup I am seriously writing about this.

THREE OF THE MOST AWESOME PLACES IN LONDON TO CATCH POKEMON....and why this game has the whole world in a playing frenzy. 

So here is something I never EVER thought I would be doing...little alone writing about. I am playing a new game on my phone ...Pokémon Go... AND I am just saying I might be a tad blown-away. Not only is it addictive the game itself is revolutionary creating a whole different and personal gaming experience the world has never seen. Maybe I did have a little bit of a Sims City "problem" back in the day but just saying I was not alone and man I am not alone with this.  I do want to explain before the judging starts to kick in (WHICH SHOULD BE ABOUT NOW!!) I have a 18 year old stepson. Enough said, right? Actually no. 

POKEMON GO...WHAT THE HELL IS IT?

PLAYING POKEMON GO AT LIVERPOOL STATION

 First for those who have been hidden from all television news or any social media let me quickly and simply explain. It is a location based augmented reality game you play on your phone. These virtual creatures called Pokémon appear on your screen as if they are in the same real world you are in using your phone's camera. You then throw Pokéballs at them trying to capture them, then evolve them and eventually battle in a gym. There is more to this game than that but for the purposes of this blog that is basically all you really need to know.

Here is the incredible WOW bit. In the few short weeks since the game's release the success has been an unprecedented phenomenon  becoming one of the most used mobile apps worldwide and that is in less than a month. Ninetendo shares have skyrocketed . Players are taking it to the streets, malls and parks in huge masses hunting for these little creatures.  It actually gets the gamer off sofa in their parent's basement, outside and rewards them by hatching eggs with valuable Pokémon when they walk  2, 5 or 10K.  Are you with me so far?  Sadly some of these "gaming" kids who are strangers to outdoor activity are walking into traffic...LOOK UP PEOPLE!!!!

  Pokémon Go gaming in London

Pokémon Go gaming in London

In London, offshoots to this craze have popped up over night. Private tours have been launched with promise of finding rare Pokémon. Pokémon cruises on the Thames, Pokémon Friendly Cafes, group websites and live Twitter feeds on where rare Pokémon are spotted have triggered actual stampedes. It is insane. But it is not just London. In all the cities that the game has been launched the frenzy is the same. Watch this video of Central Park New York when someone spots a rare Pokémon. Who knew this demographic of nerdy XBOX/Call Of Duty junkies could move so fast. If I had come across this scene I would have thought the city was being attacked and everyone was fleeing. 

Apps have already been created (AND shut down) to help locate where these Poké are hiding. But currently still active is Go Radar (for now). That helped us to be able to find where the interesting ones were lurking. 

Poliwag Pokemon at Tower of London

So with an 18 year old boy in tow, two external battery chargers and comfortable shoes we went out on an vast excursion across London to hunt us some Pokés.

Searching for Pokemon in Regent Park

THE TOP THREE PLACES IN LONDON TO FIND POKEMON

Number 1.  TOWER OF LONDON & TOWER BRIDGE 

Can you imagine playing a game like this where your playing field is such an iconic landmark as Tower Bridge?  What other cities could boast to something like that?  You don't have to go too far from here to find them little critters, they are spawning everywhere. Just be careful you don't fall into the Thames while trying to catch them.

  Tower of London

Tower of London

Rumour is there is a very rare Pokémon that hangs out by the Royal Jewels inside the Tower of London but you will have to pay to take the tour if you are looking to add that one to your Poké scorecard. I will go out on a limb and say that whomever that little Poké is hanging around all those diamonds and emeralds has got to be a girl.

Second for Pokémon spawning ... REGENT'S PARK.

Unlike Tower Bridge and Tower of London you have a lot more walking to do to catch you some critters.  But that is a good thing. With all that walking you can hatch yourself a Poké egg.  We had researched that the London Zoo inside Regent's Park had a diverse variety of Pokés. 

  London Zoo in Regent's Park

London Zoo in Regent's Park

Many a rare Poké have been reportedly caught at this park... particularly in and around the zoo. In fact, within minutes of us walking in the park we were told about some mammoth, high-score, rare Poké by some gamer on a bike who sadly pegged me immediately as a player. This will need to be thoroughly addressed another time.  Frustratingly we had some system failures (which has been a big problem with the game) just AFTER paying out almost $100 to get into the zoo with only an hour before closing. We did however manage to find a few hanging out with the lemurs. 

  London Zoo, Regent's Park

London Zoo, Regent's Park

NUMBER THREE (according to my research)... BUT MY PERSONAL FAVORITE, HOLLAND PARK

My favourite spot in London to truly experience the whole gaming Pokémon phenomenon has to be Holland Park. This is where you not only see and catch some interesting creatures, but it is clear you have stepped into a generational world that is even more bizarre and interesting than the one on your phone. There were hundreds and hundred of gamers in the park, speaking a language I actually understood (well most of it). I felt like I was part of some massive cult or nerdy private club.. well nerdy private "boys" club. For every hundred guys I saw maybe two women. Actually to be more accurate, they were girls. I was the only person I saw outwardly playing by a clear age margin of a generation. Wasn't sure if that made me cool or a geek (I think I know the answer to that question) but I had the confidence to tell myself I was researching something very current and important for my tens and tens of readers. You are welcome. 

  Playing giant Chess in Holland Park. Pidgey clearly disapproves

Playing giant Chess in Holland Park. Pidgey clearly disapproves

For those looking for More "GO" in London there are many links to sites telling of Pokémon sitings and spawnings. I personally liked the Time Out piece. A far more detailed account of where to find what Pokémon where. 

  Here is the "poster child" of the Pokémon world and a rare find in this game, Pikachu...and yup I caught him, while shopping on Oxford Street. 

Here is the "poster child" of the Pokémon world and a rare find in this game, Pikachu...and yup I caught him, while shopping on Oxford Street. 

As I ended my Poké Extravaganza I have to tell I was totally impressed. The technology was incredible, the frenzy contagious and you know looking back years from now it will have left a generational mark of something that changed the course of how we play.  And to think my generation was all excited about Pet Rocks?  Collecting these Pokémon was like a giant, exciting, worldwide scavenger hunt and who doesn't like a scavenger hunt?  So if you have nothing to do this weekend tell your kids you want to take them to the park.  Hell, who are you kidding, there are likely there right now without you. 

Now can someone tell this Drowzee to back away from the rosé!  This Pokémon has just crossed a serious boundary!!!