Korea in Trafalgar: Dano Festival

June 15, 2008 at 7:01 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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On the 8th June Trafalgar Square featured stalls and cultural displays as part of the Korean Summer Festival – Dano. Apparently, to quote the pamphlet they were handing out “In Korea, people celebrate Dano when Yang energy is thought to be at its highest.” Unfortunately I seem to have misplaced my camera so there’ll be no photos of the event.

The festival ran for about 5 hours with various cultural and music events on the main stage. Around the edge of the lower forecourt were food stalls (including from far afield Surrey), fan making (traditional festival activity) and tourism information.

In all honesty, the main reason I wanted to come was for the food. In the end there weren’t that many stalls – maybe half a dozen – all with very similar menus. I opted for simple Yakitori (meat skewers) to start and Tim went for chicken and rice. Mine was £3 for 3 and his was £6. As mine had been sitting out it was rather tepid and only average quality. I don’t know about the quality of Tim’s meal but it looked like a large enough portion and for six pounds it ought to be. Given that lacklustre start I didn’t go back for another dish.

Instead we settled down on the steps to watch Noridan. A group of male and female drummers who all looked upbeat throughout a physically intense performance. The act consisted of a bicycle like contraption fitted out with percussion and drums for the artists to pound away at. Occasionally they would break away from the main machine and pick up personal drums to beat on. Fun and energetic.

After Noridan we opted to leave and say goodbye to the Korean Festival. All in all there wasn’t much to do but it was a good diversion before heading further into the city. I imagine this is simply indicative of the population of Koreans in the city or that the weather was particularly good so people were off to the parks and beaches (oh fine pubs) instead.

If the festival is back next year I would only encourage you to go if you have something else to do in the area.

Westminster Abbey

June 15, 2008 at 6:24 pm | Posted in General, London, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Iconic, ancient and a tad morbid are just some of the interpretations of Westminster Abbey. While the building doesn’t resonate with the same instant recognition as St Paul’s or the Palace of Westminster (Big Ben), it nonetheless features heavily in British cultural and political life. Religious and spiritual events have been occurring at the site of the Abbey even before Christianity took hold. Religious buildings have come and gone and the current church began construction in the 13th century. Although it has been the home of coronations since 1066 and seventeen monarchs are buried there.

Westminster Abbey (18) Westminster Abbey (10)

One of the features of the royal coronation is the coronation throne which has seen monarchs come and go since the 1300s. For me it’s this sense of continuity that gives the Abbey it’s strength and gravitas more so than its vaulted ceilings and stone work. That a chair and a building have borne witness to so much in English history impresses me and upon me. Despite upheaval they have remained.

In the same manner the multitude of memorials and busts to notable persons (poets, scholars, philanthropists and politicians) all highlight the changing nature of British society. Even when there is upheaval there can still be development of culture and a snap shot, however brief, is captured in these stone monuments.

At least this is what I took away from my visit. On the other hand you might be more interested in the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I and her sister Mary (amongst others), the ornate stonework or the religious events that take place throughout the year.

Westminster Abbey (17) Westminster Abbey (12)

You can take your own initiative and look around and read information displays but that content is limited and a more advisable option would be to take an audio guide or if one is available a tour with one of the Abbey’s Vergers. The latter two options will be cost more (about £5 or £6), which is on top of the £12 adult entry fee. I used the audio tour and was able to go at my pace while learning about the Abbey. Presumably the Verger tour will be a bit more regimented – though more interactive!

The Abbey is a worthwhile experience and it took just over an hour and a half (the audio tour is 90mins). For the history and culture buff the Abbey should go on your list but if you only have a limited stay in London I would opt for St Paul’s. While the Abbey is older and features more heavily in British life, St Paul’s has many similar cultural monuments and has views over the city. With the latter clinching the deal.

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