Thursday, 24 July 2014

Latitude Festival

Having tickets booked for Latitude Festival made me feel a bit less bad about not going to Glastonbury this year. My brother Andrew and sister-in-law Sarah told me how great it was; they met at the festival six years ago and have been going ever since. It takes place in Henham Park in Southwold, Suffolk. It's much smaller than Glastonbury and is a lot more focused on elements like comedy, theatre, art, poetry, dance and literature rather than just the music (although music remains key). Also, you don't have to walk for forty-five minutes to get from one stage to another and the toilets don't stink. Winning!

Alex and I made our way to Southwold on the Friday morning. The sun was shining, the temperature was mid-twenties and I was in the festival mood!

Oh, Mr Whippy ice-cream. How I love thee.

I've been to Glastonbury three times before and I camped in a tent twice. The first time it was fun, the second time it was a pain in the ass. The third time we stayed in a yurt which was as far away from the Pyramid Stage as it could possibly be though it had been a relief to not have the hassle of a tent. So this time, on recommendation from Andrew and Sarah, we booked ourselves a Podpad - or a Luxpad to be exact - and I couldn't recommend one any higher. They're basically a colourful shed with a bed but it has electricity, lights, security and a surprisingly comfy mattress.

I was very happy to live at number 22.

You can wander to your heart's content at Latitude. There are lots of open grassy areas, a wood, a lake and the main Obelisk stage. Around these you'll come across all sorts of goings on. I don't just mean the things I listed about - music, theatre, etc - but also yoga, knitting, dance classes, wine tasting, meditation or a booth in which to confess your sins.

You'll probably bump into the raindow sheep too.

Latitude is children friendly. Part of me thought this might be a negative thing but it wasn't in the slightest - in fact it added to the fantastic, friendly atmosphere. It also gave me cute kids to coo over (yes, I'm getting broody...).

We spent a fair amount of time over at the main stage. It doesn't get ridiculously packed like it does at Glastonbury so you can find a good spot, throw down your blanket and just enjoy the sun, the music and the cider. 

Lily Allen - who stepped in as Friday's headliner after Two Door Cinema Club pulled out - was great. She was my musical highlight of the festival (along with Hall & Oates!)

The festival looks amazing at night, especially the lake and the woods which are lit up with an abundance of colourful lights. There is still tons going on in most of the twenty-three stages into the early hours. 

Somehow, I only needed my rain mac to save me once over the entire weekend. It happened on the Saturday night as Damon Albarn was being his usual pretentious self on the main stage. The cracks of thunder had been threatening us with a downpour for over an hour and finally, the skies opened and we were given a good soaking.

The rain didn't last long - maybe a couple of hours - but we weren't too fussed either way. We took sanctuary in the BBC Radio 6 Music Tent and then danced the night away with Buttoned Down Disco.

Onto the food and drink. Like Glastonbury, you're completely spoilt for choice. There's a stall for most cuisines you can think of. If you want to attempt to be healthy there are a number of  decent organic and vegetarian options.  Alex and I even queued up for a good twenty minutes for a man to open up a coconut with a knife and put a straw in it (but, my, it tasted good on a baking hot day). 

I started off with the weekend with the best of intentions.

Then there was a slow decline as everything with carbs, pastry and sugar became more and more appealing. Cider, wine, pies, Thai curries, churros, cupcakes, brownies and my favourite dish of the weekend that I had more than once: curly fries with chilli and cheese! 

I am one classy lady!

And let us not forget the cocktails. I had to see what was going on over at the cocktail van at least a few times for the sake of the blog; it wouldn't be right otherwise!

I had such an amazing weekend and I have to say - I'm going to be controversial here - I actually preferred Latitude to Glastonbury! There, I said it! 

So consider booking your tickets for next year. Bring your whole family! It's a festival that welcomes all. I'm pretty sure I'll be there again so do come and say hi. 

I think you know where to find me...

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Visit California: Because Dogs Can Dream Big Too!

Hello. I am Jimmy Chew and I have a dream. 

I dream of a life of daily steak dinners and rawhide chews. I dream that one day I shall succeed in chasing away every grey squirrel in the north London area. I dream of a world where dogs have the freedom to say "no" to flea treatment and "yes" to receiving the love and affection we deserve from every single person we pass on our walks! 

I have a dream today!

Last week, Mum excitedly announced that she had been short-listed to win an amazing award in the Food & Drink category at the Dream Big Awards organised by Visit California and The Guardian. She had to write a post about her California dream but had little time to do it because she was - yet again - abandoning me to go away for the weekend. Typical! Despite having planned to watch all the episodes of Game of Bones season four back-to-back, I decided instead that this was the perfect opportunity to get my journalistic paws in gear. I would write it for her in return for treats.

I've often overheard Mum speak of how California is her favourite place in the world. My fluffy ears perk up as she describes how she dreams of moving to Los Angeles, living in the year-round sunshine and taking me for long walks down the palm tree lined streets. She says California is a place of romance and adventure; where dreams come true and anything is possible.

So if anything were possible right now - money were no object and the sky was the limit - what would be the dream in the Golden State? Would we aim for luxury or would we ruff it?

Forget I am a dog. Forget I have no thumbs. I have dreams and BIG dreams at that.

Jimmy Chew is California Dreaming

A Home In The Hills

Los Angeles is like a cluster of many towns in one sprawling metropolis. Whilst a home in family orientated Brentwood or by the ocean in Malibu is tempting, it's Beverly Hills that Mum has fallen in love with. It's clean and safe with an abundance of great places to eat, drink, shop and be entertained. Most people here like dogs too so I'd get lots of attention and love!

Up in the Hollywood Hills is where many celebrities and millionaires choose to call home. You can drive around these peaceful little winding roads for ages, admiring the fascinating architecture, taking in the incredible views over the city and - if you're anything like Mum - celebrity spot.

The dream house has already been chosen.

Do they have squirrels to chase around up there?

Mum says her perfect afternoon would be like an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; a sunny walk along the pretty streets with me then a spot of lunch and a delicious cocktail in The Ivy.

The white picket fenced patio area is a lovely place to just relax. It has that homely feel like you could be sitting in your back garden catching up with friends (just in a slightly more expensive manner!).

After a hard couple of hours lunch, only a spot of retail therapy would do and why not do it on one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world - Rodeo Drive. Three blocks packed full of glittering elegance and style. In real life, Mum would just do a lap or two of high-end window shopping but remember, we are dreaming big here! Prada, Gucci, Bvlgari - I'm sure they would all be paid a visit! Dad would cringe just thinking about the damage that could be done on that road.

One question: do Dior do dog collars?

I, Jimmy Chew, would become a member of The Club Beverly Hills. It's a 'members only' dog country club where I can socialise with other dogs (not sure about that bit), enjoy a jacuzzi soak (or that bit), do doggie yoga, enjoy massages, gourmet meals and aromatherapy. I'm pretty sure Mum would think this is all a bit over-the-top for me but I disagree - if I'm going to fit in in this neighbourhood, I need to get down with the cool pups early doors!

The Drive Of A Lifetime - The Pacific Coast Highway

Don't get us wrong; our California dreams are not just about indulgence, great food and material things. Far from it. One of the most wonderful aspects of California is its natural beauty and living in LA would mean that one of the most exhilarating driving experiences in the world would be on our doorstep - The Pacific Coast Highway.

Bags packed, roof down and fluff blowing majestically in the wind, the three of us would hit the twisting, cliff-hugging route along the central Californian coast. I'd probably whimper a lot and look a bit sad as I don't really like the car very much but it's nothing some pieces of liver and a cuddle wouldn't fix.

Mountains plunge into the Pacific as we'd travel through the Big Sur. Mum and Dad would take in the mind-blowing scenery, wondering what landscape the next bend in the road would bring. Occasionally we'd get out of the car so they could enjoy the fresh, sea air and I could have a sniff and a wee. I'd also bark at the scary looking elephant seals. I don't like elephant seals.

It's the drive of a lifetime.

A Piece Of The Mediterranean - Sausalito

Our drive would take us to a place called Sausalito. It's known as one of the west coast's sleepy delights which is great because along with ripping up boxes and eating cake, sleeping is my favourite thing! Located on the north side of the Golden Gate bridge and twenty minutes from San Francisco, it's a quaint waterfront town with pine forests overlooking the bay and millionaires' houses perched on stilts among them. It's a very pretty village and Mum says it reminds her of the Mediterranean; the perfect place for a cool pup like me to catch some rays.

Sausalito boasts world-class dining, artists and galleries, boutiques and a real bohemian spirit.

We would stay at a hotel called Casa Madrona. It's elegant, grand and most importantly, they love dogs! I would be promised my own dog bowl, bed and lead! The Alexandrite Suite would be ours for the night. With panoramic bay views and huge private outdoor deck, the suite is the height of luxury with tons of room for me to run around and sniff.

Whilst staying in this suite you can relax on your beautiful terrace, put your paws up and sip on champagne which has been delivered to your room by drone. Yes, by drone. Now I'm just a dog so have no idea what any of that means but Mum says it's the most ludicrous yet strangely fantastic VIP service she's heard of! 

But it's one for this California dream!

I don't know why there has to be such a big canine policy document though. I'm a good boy, you know.

Breathtaking Yosemite National Park

Back on the open road with me topped up with liver pieces for comfort, our final port of call on our way back to LA would be Yosemite National Park. With it's 'hanging' valleys, incredible waterfalls (some of the highest in the world), cirque lakes and giant sequoia trees, it's one of the most exceptionally stunning places in the world. You can wander for hours just taking in the natural and dramatic beauty.

At Yosemite you can camp, hike, swim, trek, climb, cycle or just daydream to your heart's content.

Jimmy Chew Fact: Did you know Yosemite has sixty seven mammalian species including thirty two types of rodents, two hundred and twenty one birds and eighteen reptiles?

That's a hell of a lot of animals to chase, even for me!

But what a way to end a dream adventure!

It was good fun taking over Mum's blog but I have to go now; I'm being called downstairs for a kibble and cheese dinner.

There are endless magical reasons why California is such a wonderful place to visit and I have touched upon just a few. It's full of adventure, beauty and diversity. It welcomes the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the two-legged and the four-legged! Hopefully not cats though. I hate cats.

Dream big! And don't stop retrievin'!

Until next time, this is Jimmy Chew signing off

I'm entering this California dream into a competition to win the trip of a lifetime to California with the #DreamBigAwards, Visit California & The Guardian - wish me luck! 

Comments welcomed & appreciated!