Making Merry in May
Take a break from your labours to enjoy some May Day mayhem
Issue: May 2011
Morris dancing, a traditional May Day celebration activity, goes back to the 13th century and usually depicts a legend or a rural activity like sowing or harvesting
Photo credit: www.cotswolds.info
Even if you are not a royal watcher, the wedding of Catherine Middleton to her very own Prince Charming should be something you would want to embrace with joy if you’re in England. Their 29 April nuptials has been declared a Bank Holiday. Given the fact that it falls on a Friday and the Monday after is 2 May, another Bank Holiday, a four-day long May Day weekend is in order. This is certainly cause for celebration. So while 1 May (synonymous with International Workers’ Day or Labour Day, a public holiday in many parts of the world) may not be an official holiday in England, this year there’s a perfect excuse to use the bonus time-off to rest from your labours and explore London and the regions around. Furthermore, near many of these events and places, you will find ideal accommodation at a serviced residence property of The Ascott Limited.
The Phoenix Garden, run by community volunteers, has won first prize for Best Environmental Garden in the Camden in Bloom competition six times
Photo credit: www.gardenvisit.com
A Taste of Traditional May Day
Traditional May Day celebrations in England have their roots in the Roman festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers. Dancing around the Maypole and crowning of the Queen of May were all par for course. These days, not much of the old ways have survived in modern London. But just a 10 minute-walk away from Citadines Prestige Holborn-Covent Garden London, in the heart of the West End, you can still get the chance to relive the past. At the Phoenix Garden, some of the traditional May Day celebrations will still be observed at a May Day party. Held on 1 May, it is called May Day Mayhem. Along with a fancy dress competition for May Queens and Kings, there will be a barbecue, English tea and cakes in the afternoon. Entrance is free though the food is not.
From ancient times, May Day is celebrated as a Spring Festival all over Europe and, till today, is a lovely time to enjoy flowers in bloom
Photo credit: www.roadsofstone.com
A short tube ride from Citadines Prestige South Kensington London is Hammersmith in West London. There, you can catch Morris Dancers over the May Day weekend, another aspect of traditional May Day celebrations. Dressed usually in white with coloured belts across their chest, colourful hats and bells on their knees, the dancers execute rhythmic steps while wielding short sticks or shaking white handkerchiefs.
Traditionally, 1 May marks the start of warmer weather. So if the weather permits, a picnic in the many parks in London is a perfect way to enjoy the May Day weekend. Go for typical English food like pork pie, sandwiches, Scotch eggs, pickled onions, farmhouse cheddar cheese, and fish and chips, a traditional English take-away food. At Fortnum & Mason, Marks & Spencers and Selfridges, picnic hampers are often readily available so you don’t even have to make up your own picnic basket. All these malls are conveniently located near The Ascott Limited properties: Frotnum & Mason is near Citadines Trafalgar Square London; Selfridges is near Ascott Mayfair London; and there are Marks & Spencers near Citadines Prestige Holborn-Covent Garden London and Citadines Prestige South Kensington London.
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London
Photo credit: www.panoramio.com
The Dove is famous for having the smallest bar in the world
Photo credit: www.home.online.no
If you want some action along with the picnic, on 2 May, you can take part in a seven-mile walk at Richmond Park in the morning, a 20-minute tube ride away from Citadines Prestige South Kensington London. For £10 per person, participants can secure a place and get a free tee-shirt to boot.
London’s pub culture is something you should not miss when you’re in town. Hammersmith is a good place for some pub-crawling with several pubs beside the River Thames on Lower Mall, Upper Mall and King Street where rolling lawns and a river view await.
Dive into The Dove, one of London’s most famous pubs with a history that stretches as far back as the 17th century. Some of its more famous patrons include Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas and Sir Alec Guinness. Though the bar is modest, it does boast a range of Fuller’s traditional English draught ales as well as chilled English and Continental lagers.
Another place to get a taste of England is The Old Ship W6. It has a Best of British item on their menu that will let you have a culinary tour of the country in a single meal. Pork pie, Scotch egg, Lincolnshire poacher cheese, honey and mustard Cumberland sausages and sour dough bread served with homemade piccalilli and Branston pickle – the feast is surely something to be shared.
Venture Beyond London
Given the fact that the May Day weekend spans four days, a trip out of London is not a bad idea. Oxford is a good bet. But try to go there the day before May Day because the festivities begin at dawn. You can listen to the college choir sing madrigals (vocal music usually sung in parts) from the roof of the tower of Magdalen College at six am. Alternatively, visit Oxford Castle. There will be a troupe of traditional street organ grinders there from 10am and Morris Dancers throughout the day.
Kent, also known as The Garden of England, is another out-of-town place to visit. Over the May Day weekend, there will be a Kent County Fair at The Hop Farm near Paddock Wood. On top of the usual fun fair, there will be tank and quad bike rides, fishing displays, horse and hound pony club games, show jumping as well as ferret racing. You can also buy Kentish produce along the way.
This May Day holiday, if you happen to be in London, take a break and join in the fun. After all, you deserve a good rest from all your labour.