Segregation, provocative marches and murals, relative deprivation and not a lot of brown people. You'd think I would have hated my time in Belfast, but I didn't. It's probably the most interesting city in the UK - and yes that includes London. Not for the landmarks it has, or the things you can do - but to study and understand the effects of two groups of people who live in close proximity but who couldn't be more different in their world views. You can read my in depth review of Belfast here, but below are the 5 things I loved about Belfast.
(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..
Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals ***1/2
When I make a list of my favourite cities in the world, you can bet that Edinburgh will feature somewhere on it. An often overlooked destination in the UK, Edinburgh has history, culture, creative energy and it's the perfect size to explore in a short amount of time. Perhaps best of all, it's one of the most beautiful cities that I have had the privilege of visiting, thanks to its almost uniform Georgian architecture. You can read detailed notes about my visit to the Scottish capital here, but here are the 5 things I most loved about Edinburgh.
Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals *****
Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals ****
Firstly, I have not been paid to write this article, but this is a product that I came across that I felt I had to share as it has made my stay in the United States so much easier. Revolut is a financial disruptor, one of a number of recent financial innovations succeeding in London. My job involves me staying up to date with global financial innovations, but it was a colleague of mine who introduced me to Revolut.
The company was founded in London in 2014 by a couple of Russian immigrants to the UK and its growth has been pretty incredible. The premise of Revolut is simple - its a global money app that allows people to transfer between a select group of currencies without charging any commission, a fantastic tool for anyone that exchanges currencies on a regular basis.
I've always wanted to fly Business Class, even if its just once and a few weeks ago I got the chance flying from London to New York. For me it goes much deeper than just a single luxurious plane ride.
Growing up in a single parent household in a council estate has its obvious problems. I can count on one hand the number of people in my estate who no longer live there. Many have been stuck there for generations, social mobility completely passing them by. I was one of the lucky ones. Many of the people I knew had two parents who did the work of none. I had one parent who did the work of two.
A trip to the US Embassy
Security Rating ****
Reception of officials *****
According to the World Tourism Organisation, the British Passport is ranked 1st in the world, and as I have written in the past it means that you can get visa free travel to more destinations than with any other passport in the world. Under the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) you can get visa free travel to the United States for a maximum of 90 days. However, I'll be spending 6 months in America, therefore I had to take a trip to the Embassy to get my visa and it was an interesting experience.
A bar doesn't mean you have to drink
I'm not sure how it began. Centuries of almost continuous warfare meant Sikh soldiers were known for carrying around certain natural painkillers. One of the leading Sikh Misls (conferederacies) of the 18th century, the Bhangi's, were given their name due to their love of cannabis and some Nihang Singh's protect their practices of taking Sukkha (peace giver) passionately to this day.
However drinking alcohol, although recorded, wasn't a Sikh favourite until Sikh's started to get power and money in the early 1800's. Left unchecked, alcohol consumption in Panjab has reached epidemic proportions, its now one of the largest areas of alcohol consumption per capita in the world.
My mom tells me a story that during her pregnancy with me, she went into labour while my dad was out drinking in the pub. And although alcohol didn't kill him, it certainly didn't help. Back home in the Midlands I worked behind the bar of the largest club in the city when I was a student and also worked part time in an Asian wedding hall. I've pretty much been surrounded by alcohol my whole life, and I'm sure thats the same for many Panjabi families.
Sikh's are so closely linked with alcohol that if my friends offer me a drink and I refuse they look confused, even my white friends ask me "what sort of a Sikh doesn't drink?". Something isn't right in our community. But thats another post for another day.
So when I talk about my favourite rooftop bars, I'm not saying go out and get drunk (that's on you). I love these places because they are a world apart from the small town in central England where I was born. Tall buildings with amazing views of a beautiful city, whats not to love.
Now thats out the way, here are my 5 favourite FREE rooftop bars in the City...
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.