Popular culture in the UK seems to distinguish between the 'north' and London, with scarcely a mention of the land in between. However, the Midlands is culturally, historically and economically one of the most important regions in the country. After all, the Midlands is where the Industrial Revolution took birth, the middle-earth of Tolkien, it's the place that gave us league football and the sport of rugby, it's the birthplace of William Shakespeare and is home to the UK's second largest city. This article focuses on the (West) Midlands and I look at 10 reasons why you really should visit it.
Airport Rating ****
Reception of locals *
Update: I originally wrote this article when I was living and working in NYC, but other than a SuperBowl party, I didn't get to see an NFL game live. That all changed on my return, so I've updated this article.
Almost all the world plays (English) football. No matter where I have gone, football seems to be the unifying language. Roughly a third of the world also plays cricket, and rugby has far surpassed its humble origins in the English Midlands into a truly global sport played across all hemispheres.
American sports on the other hand are not so well known outside their home country. Baseball is limited to the American continent, surrounding islands and parts of Pacific Asia (i.e. Japan and Korea), ice hockey is limited to the North American continent and parts of northern Europe, American football seems to be just the States. In fact, its only basketball that has a somewhat global following, so unsurprisingly its only basketball that I had any familiarity with.
However, wanting to immerse myself in American culture, and being a keen sportsman myself, I thought watching as many American sports as I could was a way of better understanding the American psyche and its people.
There are a lot of things New York does well, and a few things that it doesn't do so well. One thing the city does particularly well is its museums. Across the 5 boroughs of New York, there are 80 museums, 32 of them in Manhattan, the area in which this article will concentrate on. The city has its own 'Museum Mile' an area that is covered with museums.
This number is considerably smaller than London (where there are over 200), and not only that, unlike the UK, museums in the United States charge admission prices, and some of the prices can be incredibly steep. However, despite these negatives, and the relative youth of the city, the museums in New York more than hold their own against European and British museums - and here are 10 of my favourites.
(Disclaimer: I took the photo above from the Emirates Cable cars - not from the climb)
I've been to the O2 a few times, but I've never managed to experience Up at the O2 - an opportunity to climb the famous dome and see the London skyline from a different perspective.
So when my friend decided to take me along for a climb, I was looking forward to ticking off something from my London list..
I lived and worked in New York City and found it was unlike anywhere else in the world. And, without a doubt, Manhattan is NYC's beating heart.
The cool thing about Manhattan is that it's split into a number of neighbourhoods, each with its own unique character. The differences between Chinatown, the Financial District, TriBeCa and SoHo are incredible, even though you could walk through each of them one after the other.
Given these differences, I decided that during my time in New York, I would visit every part of Manhattan and then pick some things I really enjoyed. Since my return, friends have been asking for my tips, so I thought I'd share this more widely. This list shows one thing to do in every Manhattan neighbourhood, with the neighbourhoods defined by the city's own political map.
The New York Pizza
Ever since Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria in the United States in the Little Italy neighbourhood of New York City, the New York style of pizza has grown into a global phenomenon unique in its flavour, detached from its Neapolitan origins.
From that first pizza place in 1905, the city now has close to 500 pizzeria's operating in the city. So what makes New York pizza so different? Firstly, there's a standardised size, 18 inches in diameter, secondly it uses a high gluten type of bread. I've tasted pizza in many parts of the world, but the New York style is definitely one of my favourites, in fact, I had a boss who would come from Washington DC, just for the pizza! So what else could make New York pizza so special? Some say its the evolution of the pizza through Gennaro Lombardi (many successful NYC pizzeria's can trace their origins directly to his pizza place), others say its the unique concentration of minerals in New York's famously high quality tap water.
Whatever the reason, you are never more than a couple of blocks from a good pizza place, and during my time in New York, I made it a mission to visit some of the best pizzeria's the city has to offer. After all of that, here are, in my opinion, the 5 best pizza places in New York City.
Airport Security *****
Reception of locals *****
Its been less than three weeks since I came to New York and its pretty safe to say its unlike anywhere else I have been. It's loud, dirty, polluted and I absolutely love it!
It seems like I walk into some political disorder wherever I go; it happened in Thailand, it happened in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Barcelona and now America. I got here less than a week before before Donald Trump became President and since then the city seems to be in almost a continuous state of protest.
In between the protests, I've managed to walk around a fair bit of Manhattan and managed to visit parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. The first thing I noticed was the size. The buildings are bigger, the roads are bigger, the cars are bigger, the people are bigger but the main part of Manhattan itself is quite small, surprisingly small actually. However, it manages to pack quite a punch for its size.
Firstly; I'm no Mr Universe. I'm not even close, however I'm a strong believer that physical fitness is incredibly important for a number of reasons. Appearance isn't everything, however you can still make some valid judgements about a person depending on their appearance. It takes discipline to stay in shape and if you can't take care of your health, how are you going to take care of your family or anything else?
Physical fitness is also one of the core requirements within Sikhi, infact the second Guru, Angad, ordered that every Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) should have a gym attached to it and although this custom has fallen in some parts of the world, in the UK its still very strong with groups like Lions MMA, Shin Kin and various Gatka Akharas basing classes in Gurdwara gyms. I did Shin Kin when I was younger and then trained for a short while with Lions MMA when I was a little older and have a lot of respect for these groups. A Sikh is supposed to be 'Tyar bar tiyar' (always prepared) and the life of a Sikh is supposed to be geared toward protecting the innocent. It's pretty hard to protect someone else if you can't even protect your waistline.
I tend to go to the gym between 3-4 times a week, train in Thai Boxing and play football. To test my fitness I took part in a Tough Mudder (which I'd recommend for all) and occasionally do medium distance runs for charity. That being said, as a guy of Panjabi heritage, my diet isn't great, although its something I'm actively trying to improve.
I usually get a little cranky when I don't go gym for a few days, so going on longer travels presents a problem. However, during my first extended trip I found that just because you're travelling, doesn't mean you have to skip gym.
Cambodia is a country with a history as tragic as any you will hear about. During the rule and subsequent guerrilla campaign of the Khmer Rouge between 1968 and the late 1990's, up to 2 million people were killed, representing a quarter of the total population. Most of these deaths happened over a 4 year period between 1975-1979 during the 'killing fields' era.
Despite a whole generation of Cambodians being wiped out, you can't help but see the positivity permeating in the country. The demographics are very youthful and there is an energy unmatched anywhere else. Sure there is still a lot of development that needs to happen as the difference between Cambodia and its two neighbouring countries, Vietnam and Thailand is extremely noticeable but changes are happening.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took across the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Cambodia, its culture and its attractions.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.