Sunday Special – Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Scotland


January can be a dreary month in the northern hemisphere, what with its short days of sunlight, frigid cold air and in many places with snow but no place to ski or snowboard. So what does one do to help pass the dreariness? Well in Lerwick, Scotland they hold a fire festival on the last Tuesday of January (that is January 26 for the 2016 festival). The Up Helly Aa Festival has been a Shetland tradition since the 1880s. An homage to days of Viking glory this 24 hour period sees “squads” of men dressed up in Viking gear marching through town with torches ablaze and songs being sung. A full day of revelry, food and drink awaits participants. The evening is topped off with a Viking-style ship is set ablaze and the sky filled with fireworks. It sounds grand.  I have just decided that I am going to head to the Shetland Islands one Januray to attend this fun and crazy Up Helly Aa Festival.

Photo credits: Mike Pennington via Wikimedia Commons

Burning the galley at Uyeasound Up Helly Aa - geograph.org.uk - 1706017

Procession at Uyeasound Up Helly Aa - geograph.org.uk - 1706007

Guisers in the procession at Uyeasound Up Helly Aa (geograph 3848202)

A WORLD OF FESTIVALS


Who doesn’t like a good festival? Big ones, small ones, free ones, music ones, food ones, holiday ones, religious ones, cultural ones and even silly ones. I would guess that there is one for just about everyone.  And to list them all would be a serious feat, one which I will not attempt. Every village, town and city has one so a quick Internet search should do the trick. Here is a listing of Vancouver’s festivals.

Now, how about those really big festivals? The ones you may spend several days enjoying or making a specific trip for? You hear about them from friends, on social media or even on travel/tourism websites. Today I will post a few of the big ones I’ve heard of and a great website that I found that lists even more!!

Here are some BIG festivals that I am aware of:

GLASTONBURY MUSIC FESTIVAL (U.K.) -This is a 5 day music festival held at Pilton, Somerset (England) and has been around since the 1970s. It is a huge celebration of music and performing arts. This year’s festival (June 25-29, 2014) is already sold out.

LA TOMATINA TOMATO THROWING FESTIVAL (Spain) – FOOD FIGHT!! This festival just screams FUN! I may not be into the music festival scene but I could go for throwing tomatoes at people around me. It is always held on the last Wednesday of August near the town of Bunol, Spain.

ROSWELL UFO FESTIVAL (USA) – I learned of this festival after being invited to attend.  I am not a UFO enthusiast, though, I think it would be interesting to check it out. Perhaps I will make there sometime. This 3 day event is being held July 3 – 6, 2014.

TOMORROWLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL (Belgium) – since 2005 electronic music fans have been able to revel in not only music but the creative psychedelic-type lights and decorations. With numerous stages and musicians this festival is bound to be fun! This year has the event over two weekends in July in Boom, Belgium.

BURNING MAN FESTIVAL (USA) – I know quite a few “Burners”. I am intrigued by Burning Man but am not certain I am Burning Man material – I am not one to really dress up in costume/cosplay but I heard such tremendous things about this particular festival. Held in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada during the last week of August, it draws tens of thousands of people looking for “radical self expression”. Incredible art sculptures, a focus on community and expression it certainly is attention grabbing.

SANTA CON (various world cities) – Somehow I have missed Santa Con every year since I heard of it about 5 years ago. Every year! Now it may not be your typical festival (its actually a pub crawl) but how can one not want to dress up like Santa with dozens of others and go from pub to pub? This is, of course, held in December.

So these are some of ones I have heard of time and again. There are many many more. Upon some Internet research I found a great site that has done all the work for you. They list loads of festivals all over the world. This is probably your best one-shop stop for world festival info!! Fest 300 has plenty of information for you to find out about a great festival.

Summer Fun in Vancouver


I originally complied this list and posted it on Couchsurfing at the beginning of the spring (and received some info from other members too). Seeing as there is a plethora of fun events around town I decided to share it here as well. Summer in Vancouver is fantastic. Generally the weather is agreeable, outdoor activities abound and patios beg for attention. If you are planning a trip to Vancouver this summer, I hope this list finds you. If you live here, I hope to see you out and about at one or many of these activities.

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RICHMOND SUMMER NIGHT MARKET – May 10 – Sep 8, 2013
One of 2 night markets in Richmond; enjoy entertainment, food and various vendors

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET – May 17 – Oct 14, 2013
The other night market in Richmond! Enjoy the food, vendors and entertainment

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL TEQUILA EXPO – May 24, 2013
Held at the Hyatt Regency, learn all you need to know about tequila (like the good stuff actually tastes good). Tickets required.

IN THE HOUSE FESTIVAL – Jun 7 – 9, 2013
Enjoy comedy, music, art, magic and much more in the comfort of someone’s home. Reservations required.


Make Music Festival – Jun 21, 2013
A free music festival where musicians will participate all over Yaletown and Gastown areas of Vancovuer.

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL – Jun 21 – July 1, 2013
Enjoy everything Jazz at various venues in Vancouver. Some events are free, some required tickets.

STEVESTON SALMON FESTIVAL & CANADA DAY CELEBRATIONS – July 1, 2013
Take in the music, arts & crafts, parade, salmon BBQ and much much more in the Steveston Village in Richmond.
CANADA DAY @ CANADA PLACE – July 1, 2013
3 stages with live music and entertainment and many exhibitors, enjoy Canada’s birthday here.

CANADA DAY IN SURREY – July 1, 2013
Enjoy great music (Sam Roberts Band, Hannah Georges), cultural shows, dance shows and much more at the Cloverdale Ampitheatre

SUNDAY AFTERNOON SALSA @ ROBSON SQUARE – Every Sunday in July & Aug, 2013
Learn salsa for free and then have time to practice every Sunday afternoon.


Vancouver Folk Music Festival – July 19 – 21, 2013
Head to Jericho Beach for one of the best music festivals in town. Tickets required.

SURREY FUSION FESTIVAL – July 20 -21, 2013
Head to Surrey’s Holland Park for 2 days of food, culture and music. All shows are free. Line up for 2013 to be announced.

CARIBBEAN DAYS FESTIVAL – July 27 – 28, 2013
Head over to North Vancouver for the largest Caribbean Festival and enjoy music, entertainment, food and much more

POWELL ST FESTIVAL – Aug 3 – 4, 2013
Celebrating Japanese culture & art

VANCOUVER ZOMBIE WALK – Aug 17, 2013
Live out your dreams of being a zombie at this awesome annual event

LATIN FESTIVAL – Aug 18, 2013
Trout Lake Park is the venue for this family fun festival celebrating Latin music & culture

VANCOUVER PRIDE PARADE – Aug 4, 2013
The biggest and most fun parade in Vancouver – a must see! 


Squamish Valley Music Festival – Aug 8- 10, 2013A weekend of music and fun. Tickets required.

Burnaby Blues Festival – Aug 10, 2013
A celebration of Canadian and International Blues musicians.

PNE (PACIFIC NATIONAL EXHIBITION) – Aug 17 – Sep 2, 2013
Carnival midway (Playland), games, exhibits, food (mini donuts)!! Tickets required.


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There you have it. An impressive list of Vancouver summer events. This is by no means exhaustive but does cover the main events. Happy summer.

FOOD!!


Since I ain’t going anywhere for the next bit I will wander Vancouver, finding bites of pleasure around town. Food and drink bites that is! Listed below are a few of foodie finds happening now or in the near future around Greater Vancouver. Some I have or will take part in. Alas, I can not participate in all of them but I smile just thinking that the opportunity is there.

DINE-OUT VANCOUVER – Entering its 12th year, Dine-Out Vancouver is Canada’s largest dining festival with over 200 participating restaurants in Greater Vancouver. Running from Jan 18 – Feb 3, 2013, foodies can enjoy a plethora of prix-fix menus at various price points depending on the restaurant. $18, $28 or $38 gives you an appetizer/salad, entree and dessert that will leave you sated and happy.

FEAST VAN – Similar to Dine-Out Vancouver, Feast Van focuses on restaurants in the east Vancouver area while also donating $1 from each prix-fix meal sold to the Strathcona Community Center Backpack Food Program. This program aids inner-city youth and families to have food when other food programs are not running (i.e. weekends). Feast Van meals are $20 or $30 and for a good cause. It runs from Jan 18 – Feb 3, 2013

HOT CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL – drooooool…whoops…ya caught me. This annual event, sponsored by City Food Magazine, is in its 3rd year and has over 60 flavours concocted by local chocolate makers. Spanning 27 days (Jan 19 – Feb 14, 2013) your New Year’s resolutions do not stand a chance.

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL – All things wine can be found at this long running festival. Events around town require advance ticket sales. Not only will you be able to taste wines, you can take part in seminar, minglers, galas, lunches and dinners. Running from Feb 25 – Mar 3, 2013 make sure you buy your tickets now as many events are selling or sold out.

FESTIVAL DE LA POUTINE DE VANCOUVER (Vancouver Poutine Festival) – What?! Have I died and gone to comfort food heaven? $10 (kids free) will grant you entry and a serving of poutine at The Heritage Hall on Sat March 9, 2013 during the day. Evening event is $20 with a rock concert to enjoy while munching on your poutine. Can’t get much better than this!

EAT! VANCOUVER – The weekend of May 24 – 26, 2013 will have your mouthwatering as you sample, sip and buy some foodie goodies. Food exhibitors, cooking stages, celebrity chefs, wine and beer sampling is standard here. Ticket required and some extra costs for purchases and sampling.

VANCOUVER CRAFT BEER WEEK – Craft beer is how beer should be – made in small batches and full of flavour.  May 31 – Jun 8, 2013 will find beer lovers trying amazing beers from local breweries. A great way to start off the summer.

There you have it…a few great foodie finds over the next while in Vancouver. I hope some of you get to enjoy them. I know I will!