Ernest Hemingway once said “…it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” The same is true for cities, you get to cover more ground quickly, feel the shape of the land you peddle over. With recent years seeing more and more urban areas around the world introducing public bike-sharing schemes and miles of brand new bike paths to encourage exploring on two wheels, there are so many amazing urban bike routes out there. Here are just a few of my favourites you should coast along one day. Continue reading
As we head into a summer of sporting events like Wimbledon and the World Cup, let’s not overlook alternative feats of physicality which demand years of training, tough competition and offer the spectators hours of entertainment. I’m talking about eating contests!
From downing hot dogs on Coney Island to piling in the pies in Wigan, here’s a whole slew of contests around the world where you’ll see champion eaters competing for pride, for money or maybe just because they’re really, really hungry.
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, Coney Island, USA
credit: Nate Smith
Consider this the Olympics of speed eating. Last year, current champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnutt ate a kidney-quaking 69 hot dogs in ten minutes to win his seventh consecutive title. Held annually since the 70’s, this 4th July event is now something of an international phenomenon and its fame keeps the crowds coming all year round to Nathan’s famous hot dog restaurant. In recent years this part of New York has become more popular with locals and visitors in summer months, something that the hot dog contest perhaps played a small part in as it’s watched by over a million people on TV too.
Oyster Eating Contest, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
If Chestnutt is the Superman of eating contests, Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas is the Wonder Woman. She’s the current reigning champion of the Oyster Eating Contest held each year at New Orleans’ Oyster Festival. Eating 40 dozen (yes, dozen) raw oysters in eight minutes, Thomas actually looks like an athlete with her slim physique and baseball cap. While New Orleans is typically a festive place to be around in spring thanks to Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, the Oyster Festival is one of many food festivals and celebrations of local culinary heritage in this vibrant city.
Pie Eating Contest, Wigan, UK
The focus isn’t on quantity but speed at the Wigan Pie Eating Contest, with the challenge being how quickly contestants can eat one pie. The reigning champion, much to Lancashire’s pleasure, is a local man called Ian Coulton who saw off international competitors by devouring his freshly baked pie in a winning time of just over one minute. Pies are something of a national institution in the UK and upon winning the Bradley Piggins Trophy, Coulton humbly said he enjoyed every bite. You can eat one of the pies too – and take as long as you want– by popping into Harry’s Bar on Wallgate in Wigan.
Curd Eating Contest, Patna, India
This beautiful city in East India is more famous, perhaps, for hosting visitors who’ve come to ‘find themselves’ in the nearby River Ganges, which one can only assume possesses a highly reflective sheen. There were nearly 500 contestants lined up to take part in the 5th annual curd eating contest here. Or rather, they were sat down as is traditional. With the winning man and woman consuming 3.8kg and 2.6kg respectively of ‘dahi’ or curd in just three minutes, there was also a children’s competition in an event that is sponsored by a local dairy company. What is not clear is how many people leave the contest wanting to actually eat more curd.
Cream Puff Eating Competition, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
It seems only right to loop back to the US for dessert at the cream puff eating contest at the Wisconsin State Fair. I’ll defintely have to say messy, because this is a hands-free competition where contestants have to navigate their way through an oversized cream puff using just their mouths, nose, face (and probably neck, hair and ear lobes) by the end of the competition. The winner is whoever can dispose of their cream puff the quickest and parents will be pleased (or really, really not) to hear that kids can enter too.
World Ice Cream Eating Championship, Lakeland, Florida, USA
One can only imagine the brain freeze felt by eaters at the ice cream munching contest in Lakeland, Florida. 2014’s competition was in April and the winner was a familiar name, Joey “Jaws” Chestnutt ate 15 pints (7 litres) of ice cream in six minutes. The name of the city should allude to the surrounding area inland of Tampa, full of lakes and of course the famous beaches of St. Petersburg and Clearwater aren’t too far away. And at least you know you should be able to find some ice cream easily too.
I was reading an interview a few weeks ago with a young British folk singer transplanted to LA and living the kind of bohemian life you can if you’ve got aristocratic parents and Kew passes for ‘slumming it’. But it wasn’t the weekly delivery of Time’s Crosswords or her glamorous artisan cottage or even the nauseatingly winsome photography that stuck with me. It was a brief description of a Sunday morning spent at a favourite local LA bookshop where, ‘the books are arranged by colour.’ I’m a committed bibliophile and I’ll pretty much give any bookseller a go, but books arranged by colour? Stop me if I’m wrong here but that doesn’t say enthusiasm for the printed word, that says ‘Interior Design Decision’.
This got me thinking about what I love best about bookshops. Which naturally led me to muse on some tried and tested favourites and quite a few on my ‘to do’ list. Strangely LA didn’t come out tops for great places to browse and buy. New York on the other hand, now that’s a totally different shelf of well-thumbed paperbacks. Continue reading
They say that cities never sleep; that they stay awake for 24 hours a day, every day, brimming with life, activity and energy. And that’s exactly why city-break-addicts like you and me love them. But many of the world’s most famous cities have another side to them; a side that lies dormant, abandoned and asleep deep underground – their lost subway stations.
Hidden beneath the earth, these disused railway stations, or ghost stations, have become popular sites for urban explorers as tributes to bygone eras or unfinished urban developments. Here are 10 lost subway stops to think about exploring on your next city break. Continue reading
While conducting research for this post, I was half-expecting to find all manner of blasphemous links between the New York City Easter Parade and Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter. My assumption was based on how crazy the hats have become over the decades as they bob down Fifth Avenue perched on the heads of thousands taking part in the Bonnet Festival, an essential component of the Easter Parade. However, aside from a few photographs of those intentionally (or maybe not?) dressed as The Hatter, I discovered that the event is still seen by many as a very religious and spiritual event, falling on Easter Sunday. The Easter Parade also holds a special place in the hearts of not-theologically-inclined New Yorkers as a unifying event where people from all over the city and the world descend on downtown Manhattan to celebrate new and fresh beginnings; a new season, a change in the weather, the birth of new things and yes, maybe the felting of a new crazy hat.