Festival magic

21:42, Aug 14 2012

The best cure for the post Olympic blues is to keep partying as if Usain's gold medal run hasn't just ended for another four years. Sporting organisers must have known that when they timed their event to finish just as the Edinburgh festival geared up. If you're a Londoner still sobbing into your Pimm's, get thee to your northern neighbour for a bacchanal fix to ease the comedown.

It's worked a treat for me. I hadn't purposely planned to back up the greatest athletic showcase on Earth with one of its top carnivals of the arts, but I'm sure glad I did. I'm here as the International Festival, Festival Fringe, the International Book Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo pull out the big guns (literally) to wow their audiences. The book festival especially is turning its charm on me.

I can already tell most of my time here will be spent reading on the grass in Charlotte Square on one of the ubiquitous literary-quote-adorned deckchairs. All of life's needs are encased in the park's four borders. I can eat and drink here, then peruse the bookshop on one side, before ducking to the other for an author signing. But best of all are the myriad tents where the world's top writers inspire with their craft. All that's lacking is an area for diehard book fiends to sleep.

This is my mecca. And apart from the Olympics, the Edinburgh festival is the first time I've attended a renowned global jamboree. Which of the world's festivals do you dream of? I'm dying to shake my booty along Rio de Janeiro's streets during carnival, watch the bulls of Pamplona chase crazy tourists through the streets, and embrace the spirit world on Mexico's day of the dead. Then there are the big music festivals: Coachella, Glastonbury, Austin's SXSW, and closer to home, New Zealand throws a number of fabulous New Year's Eve celebrations.

We were too late to catch the New Orleans jazz festival but one local told us the city parties hard every day so better to experience that first. Our disappointment at missing the Big Easy's big bash was tempered by chance encounters at a free music event in Atlanta and Montreal's comedy festival. It's not difficult to stumble across a fiesta in Canada's slice of Europe though; they run a different one every week of the summer.

There's something about a carnival that transforms a city. What is usually a staid, sensible place (I'm looking at you, London), opens its arms, beams a smile (even the weather comes to the party) and hands you a drink. Bring on my next chance event.


Which big festivals have you been to and where are you dying to go? And is it better to plan for a fiesta or stumble across it?

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