Thursday, July 24, 2014

Glastonbury 2014, Part III - Wild Meadow Village

Wild Meadow Village - Glastonbury 2014
I would never get tired of talking about Glastonbury - though I suspect you might get tired of hearing about it - but I just can't let the chronicling of the experience go by without talking about the camp where we stayed, Wild Meadow Village. As I mentioned before, most people camp onsite for Glastonbury in tents and gear they bring themselves. Coming from the U.S. though, we weren't inclined to go to all that trouble, and as much as we like camping - pitching up in a field surrounded by thousands of other tents in a place we had never been before just sounded like asking for trouble.  So once we secured our tickets, we exhaustively researched the pre-erected camping and "glamping" options available.
Yurts and Tipis at Wild Meadow Village - Glastonbury 2014
There are actually a pretty wide range of options, with prices ranging from just a few hundred pounds for the whole festival on up to thousands, depending on the amenities, location & type of tent or structure you choose.  (Just Google "Glastonbury Glamping" to find them.)  I decided that a real bed was at the top of my wish list - given we were going to be there for five nights, and I was pretty sure they would be long nights at that.  After thoroughly examining the options, including the Worthy View campsite operated by the Festival, Tangerine Fields, the Pop Up Hotel, Pennard Orchard and a couple of others whose names I can't remember now (but were so wildly expensive it didn't matter) Woodlands Retreat's Wild Meadow Village rose to the top of the list, offering the lowest price for the best amenities that I could find.
Yurts at Wild Meadow Village
It was a relatively small site with about 100 guests altogether and three types of accommodations - Tipis, Cadir Tents and Yurts.  The Tipis and Cadir tents were quite a bit larger than the yurts and were priced accordingly - but the yurt was relatively affordable and offered more than enough space and luxury for us. (I just noticed they've posted their accommodation options for next year, and they've added some larger yurts and raised the price pretty significantly for the small yurts.)  The accommodations all share access to "luxury loos" and "posh wash" showers - housed in trailers, and a huge and lovely hospitality tent with a bar, seating area and fire pits, where they served breakfast every morning, snacks in the evening and dinner on the first two nights.
Wild Meadow Village - Glastonbury 2014
The interior of our yurt was well appointed with  jute rugs, a double bed, electrical outlets and bedside lights, a mirror and even a vase of flowers.  The furnishings were roughly the same quality in all the tents - though there were chairs, side tables and rugs in some of the larger ones.
Wild Meadow Village - Glastonbury 2014
The bed took up most of the 12 feet of floor space, but we hung our clothes on the lattice walls and used the space under the bed for storage - which worked out great.  It rained pretty hard while we were there, but we had no issues with leaks.  (Our friend did though, which was a bit of an inconvenience.)
Wild Meadow Village - Glastonbury 2014
One of the best things about the place was it had a real "family affair" feel. It was staffed almost entirely staffed by the owners with multiple generations pitching in to help - the sons were tending bar, mum was cleaning the showers, and dad barbequed on Wednesday night.  They had even recruited friends to drive the Land Rovers to and from the gate. The family actually owns a few other picturesque farm houses in the area and offer them as luxury holiday rentals - one of them even includes a spa.  Wild Meadow Village was set up on the grounds of their Lower Hedge Farm, which was also available to rent for the festival for a cool 10,000.00 pounds (not including festival tickets.)
Wild Meadow Village - Glastonbury 2014
They have an allotment of "hospitality tickets" that they offer for sale with their more expensive accommodations - they are double the price of the regular ticket but they are available for outright purchase instead of competing with the other million people trying to get one of the 170,000 tickets available.  They provide access to some limited areas - mainly viewing areas for the stages and a pass through between the Other Stage and the Pyramid.
Welcome Dinner at Wild Meadow Village
We really enjoyed socializing with the staff and our fellow campers. On the Thursday night, they threw a welcome party with champagne and appetizers, and a hog roast dinner for an extra 10 pounds per person.  I don't recall ever seeing hog roast in my travels around Britain in 2003 and before, but it's a big thing now.  Pork and cracklins served with buns or rolls, applesauce and salad.  Can't go wrong with that.
Welcome Dinner at Wild Meadow Village
If there was a drawback to the place, it has to be that it was just a little bit too far away for easy travel to and from the festival.  It was on the opposite side of the East car parks - about a 15 minute walk from Gate C without mud over pretty rough terrain - and at least 30 minutes with the mud, since you're slipping and sliding all the way (I had no idea how exhausting that could be!)  The transportation was great, but it also took about 20-30 minutes, by the time we went all the way around, stopped for all the ticket checkpoints, etc. This meant that we generally went in and out only once per day since the round trip took about an hour.  After a day or so we settled into a routine of sleeping in, having breakfast, getting dressed and heading into the festival, and not coming back until ... well... late, or maybe early is a better way of putting it.  It is shockingly easy to stay up until dawn in Britain.  When it doesn't get dark until after 10, and it gets light at 4 AM, and you slept til noon? Trust me, you'd do it too.
Wild Meadow Village - Glastonbury 2014
They ran the Land Rover transport over starting when people were ready - generally in the after noon.  They tried to do it on a half hour schedule, but I think it wound up being more on demand, because everyone always wanted to go at the same time and they tried their best to be accommodating.  They also started sending several cars over at a time for the night pickups between 12 AM to 3 AM, so there would always be one waiting.
Sunrise over Wild Meadow Village
 We caught the car back on the extremely hectic and crowded Saturday night and it was a godsend, but the rest of the days we had a long, slow trudge back in the early morning (saying "good morning" to the parking attendants instead of "good night" was a struggle.) But we were rewarded with the beautiful views of the sunrise over the tents at the end, and best of all we slept like babies until it was time to get up and do it all over again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nashville-Style Hot Fried Chicken ala Bon Appetit

Let's take a break from all this travel to talk about something else.  Namely, one of  my favorite subjects - fried chicken.  There's a running joke among my friends that I can eat a lot of it.  It started at the lunch buffet at Dooky Chase in New Orleans - where, according to my husband - I ate five pieces of chicken.  Of course, they cut the chicken into small pieces for the buffet, so it wasn't like I ate a whole bucket of KFC...  Yeah, I know - the more I try to explain it the worse it gets...  In any event, good fried chicken is a little harder to find around here than it is in NOLA, so I decided to go ahead and make my own after seeing the photos of the Nashville Hot Chicken in this month's Bon Appetit.  (I want to make the cherry pie on the cover too - but haven't been able to find any sour cherries in SD!)

This is a pretty traditional recipe, right up to the point where you whisk a bunch of spices into some of the frying oil, and brush it over the top.  I was a little skeptical about using the cooking oil for this - thinking it might be bitter or greasy, but it was just fine. I changed a few things here to reflect some things I learned in the cooking process.  I found the cooking time suggested in the magazine of 15-18 minutes too long.  The coating started to burn before that.  Around 13 minutes was just right - cooked through but not burnt to a crisp.  Since I fried this in four batches I kept the cooked chicken hot on a rack in the oven, where it had plenty of time to finish cooking if it needed to.  It actually improves a bit while it sits.

I reduced the amount of cayenne, because six tablespoons is just RIDICULOUS - it was still plenty spicy with half that amount - and I don't own garlic powder, so I just smashed a clove of garlic to flavor the oil. You could certainly play around with the seasonings to suit your taste too, making it more or less spicy or sweet.  The hardest part of this might be finding chickens that are small enough - you want the pieces the right size to cook through without burning on the outside. If yours are a little big, I think you could just crank up the oven to 300 and give them a few minutes to finish cooking in there once the coating is as dark as you want it.  Enjoy!
Nashville-Style Hot Fried Chicken - adapted from Bon Appetit

2 small (3½–4-lb.) chickens - preferably kosher or pre-brined, each cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved)  (If you are not proficient at cutting up a chicken, there's a great tutorial here.)
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (if not using pre-brined chicken) plus 4 tsp. kosher salt
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk (if your buttermilk is really thick)
 2 tablespoons Crystal or other vinegar-based hot sauce
4 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 10 cups)
3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove fresh garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon paprika
White bread and bread & butter pickles (for serving)

If your chicken is brined - toss it with the pepper in a large bowl about 1 hour before frying - leave out to come to room temperature.  If the chicken isn't brined - toss with both 2 Tbs salt and pepper and chill for a few hours before cooking.  Pull out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to start frying.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Whisk flour and remaining 4 tsp. salt in another large bowl.

Fit a Dutch oven with thermometer; pour in oil to measure a generous 2”. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 325°. Pat chicken dry. While the oil heats, dip each piece in the buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl, and dredge in flour mixture and place on a baking sheet.

Heat oven to 250 degrees.  Working in 4 batches and returning oil to over 300° between batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp - about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a clean wire rack set inside a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm and continue cooking.  It will take about an hour to cook all the chicken.

Whisk cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully ladle in 1 cup frying oil and whisk to blend. Brush fried chicken with spicy oil. Serve with bread and pickles.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Glastonbury 2014, Part II - What I Learned

From the Top of the Ribbon Tower
First off, there is no shortage of blog posts and articles out there offering advice and guidance on Glastonbury.  The best of the best is probably GlastoEarth, with an FAQ that answers every question you could possibly have.  His descriptions of the different areas and campgrounds are almost as good as being there.  Others are more funny than helpful, like this one, and still others are funny and helpful, like this one.  I've seen lots of blog posts about what to and not to bring and I think this is an especially good one - particularly if you're camping.  Even with all that information though, there are a few things we learned over the course of our five days at the festival that I thought might benefit another lucky duck who manages to snag one of the 170,000 tickets available to approximately 1,000,000 registrants. So here goes...
The Tipi Field
1.  Stay on site, or at least as close as possible.  We stayed at a really nice "glamping" campsite just outside the car parks on the east side of the festival, at Lower Hedge Farm. I can't say I regret it, especially since it was our first time. We had no idea what we were doing, and we weren't going to pack a tent and sleeping bags in our suitcase in any case.  Even so, I found myself wishing we were staying inside the fence by about the 2nd day.  It really is an immersive experience, and we wound up spending about an hour of each day getting to and from the Festival grounds, whether we walked or drove.  If pitching your own tent doesn't sound fun or isn't practical, the Festival offers Tipis in Tipi Field, and pre-set up camping in Worthy View, conveniently located just above the Stone Circle.  You'll still need to bring your own bedding and whatever else you need for the interior though.  Camplight offers pre-pitched tents as well as air mattresses and sleeping bags inside the event in a pre-selected location. They repair and recycle tents left behind in past years and rent them out for between 100-400 pounds for up to 9 people. Medium-level glamping options like Zooloos and Tangerine Fields set up just outside the fences with showers, breakfast, and different levels of accommodations from two man tents on up to bell tents.  If you stay in a place that doesn't have power outlets, pack a solar or battery powered phone charger, because charging stations are few and far between.  You probably won't have much data service inside the event anyway though (luckily the app with the lineup and map doesn't require data service to run.)
The Bimble Inn
2.  Don't worry about the lineup.  Before we went, I read a lot of comments to the effect that the lineup doesn't matter, the festival is about more than that, yadda yadda...  Since the lineup is all you hear about from the outside, I didn't understand what that meant, and I was a little concerned that I wasn't super jazzed about the lineup going in.  In the end though, I was glad I felt free to explore rather than knocking myself out running around to the stages.  The truth is the festival is so huge that the big stages are only part of what is going on at any given time. What I enjoyed most was walking around and ducking into the smaller venues -  like the Bimble Inn, Avalon Cafe & Beat Hotel - to hear the huge variety of smaller acts performing. It was so much more intimate and comfortable than standing outside in the rain at the larger stages - though that experience had its charms too.
Huge crowds surging up to Arcadia & the Park after Arcade Fire on Saturday night
3.  Surf ahead of the crowds and get to the late night areas early. One thing that was not fun about the big stages was the crowd surge after they let out.  I snapped this picture from the main walkway (Railway Line) on Saturday night.  All of the stages had let out and everyone was trying to get to the late night areas - The Park, Arcadia and Shangri La - to party 'til dawn.  We were headed to Silver Hayes to see Fatboy Slim and just had to give up.  It wasn't too big a deal since we were planning on going to bed early anyway, but we learned a lesson.  At least on Saturday night, don't get involved in this mess - get where you're going by 10:30 or 11 and stay there. Even during the rest of the day, the stages have about a 45 minute to hour break between artists, during which everyone tries to go get a beer or use the loo.  If you go too deep in you could spend an hour trying to get out and back in for the next set.
Glastonbury Long Drop

4.  Bring wipes and kleenex packs* - Ahh the long drops... an unpleasant but necessary evil.  Go when you can, especially if there isn't a line, and go early.  They get exponentially worse as the evening wears on.  The bank of long drops near Gate C was especially clean and uncrowded - the ones along the railway line are the worst since they are the busiest.  Regardless, there will be no toilet paper.  You can get some at the property lockups and carry it with you, or do what I did and bring mini Kleenex packets and Cottonelle wipes.  There are no hooks in the stalls, but you can hang your bag on the door fastener hook.  I figured that out on the last day - until then I was hanging my purse around my neck.  Carrying your own hand sanitizer or wipes is a good idea too - it's not always easy to wash your hands.  Oh, and one last tip - if you're the kind of person who beer or cider goes right through, hard liquor is the way to go.
The Green Fields
5.  Explore explore explore - then explore some more. There is so much to see - and there are things you will never find no matter how much you look. I really enjoyed the Green Fields and Park areas, they're pretty with a crunchy hippie vibe and look out over the rest of the festival - the high ground, if you will. There are magical little hidden spots -  little dug out resting spots with firepits, the secret area of the Rabbit Hole (that really isn't a secret anymore) and the hidden underground piano bar which changes location every year.  There's a club with an entrance behind a water fall, a bar and dance club in a tree complete with disco ball dappling the leaves, a sauna in the Tipi Field, a venue high on the hill above the Park, the list goes on. Just spend some time exploring - chances are the best moments you'll have will happen when you least expect them.  Talk to people too.  People were hugely amused by us Americans coming all the way to Glastonbury "just for this??" One thing Glasto does not lack for is conversation starters - ask people about their favorites places and things, who they saw, how many times they've been, where they're camping, the list goes on. People are generally very open and friendly - it's that "Glasto Spirit."
The Diner in Shangri La
6.  Eat and drink on site. I wrote a whole separate post about the food, but it bears repeating.  Even if you are camping, you don't need to bring food, except maybe some minimal snacks.  If you're on a budget then sure, bring booze - but if you're not, you won't lack for choices or access in the festival. There are bars everywhere you look.  Many of the food stalls offer full breakfast - some all day - and there are literally thousands of choices for meals throughout the day. There are even some sit down cafes in the festival, like the Diner in Shangri La, the Tree House bar in the Park and the Avalon Cafe, if you get tired of eating standing up or balancing a plate on your knee (it does get old.)  DO pack lots of ibuprofen, blister bandaids and whatever hangover cure works for you. (I swear by Pink Lemonade Emergen-C with added Vitamin B12 drops.)
Wellies at the ready
7.  Prepare for all kinds of weather -  We brought wellies and rain gear, and were afraid it wouldn't rain.  HA.  It started right after I took this picture, and my boots were never this clean again.  They were absolutely covered with mud by Sunday.  I read some advice list that said don't bring an umbrella.  That's bunk - I wished I had one.  You can get by with the plastic ponchos they sell at the sundry stalls if you have to, and in fact you should buy the plastic ponchos even if you have a rain coat - they're a good top layer and are great for sitting on when things get muddy.  The problem with the mud is that it gets on things, and then it gets on you.  You sit on it or put your hand in it, and suddenly it's all over you.  God forbid you should fall in it.  I packed a change of clothes in my bag on Sunday just in case - then wound up putting them all on when it got cold late at night.  You really don't need Hunter wellies, but make sure whatever you are wearing fits, because you'll be walking in them a LOT.  I saw a lot of people in hiking boots, which are a good choice too as long as they keep your feet dry.  Don't worry too much about fashion at Glastonbury.  Unless you're Kate Moss or Alexa Chung nobody will be paying attention - take care of your comfort first.  Wear layers and keep a jacket or sweater with you too since it gets chilly at night.  They sell warm, fuzzy ponchos for around 15 pounds if you need one.  You'll want a sun hat and high SPF sunscreen too - we saw a lot of sunburned people walking around on the 2nd and 3rd days.
The Dandy Lion Vintage Shop - Field of Avalon
8.  If you see something you like, buy it.  Don't assume you'll be able to come back and look at something later, or that it will be there if you do.  The vintage and flea market shop stalls have the best displays and selection on Wednesday and Thursday before the bands start, and you'll have too much going on later to prioritize shopping.  If you want to shop at all do it early, and if you see something you want, get it.  If you don't want to carry it around you can check it at the property lockup.
Elbow at the Pyramid Stage
9.  Spend at least one sunset at the Pyramid Stage. Maybe it was just a lucky break, but the sunset behind the Pyramid stage during Elbow's set on Friday night was so spectacular that it turned their set into a true Glastonbury magic moment.  I suspect that sunset behind just about any band would have a similar salutary effect - it's that beautiful.  Glastonbury involves a lot of choices, but should one of the bands on your list be scheduled around 9 PM at the Pyramid Stage, take that into consideration.
The Healing Field
10.  Make time for the Healing Fields.  Even if you've paced yourself well and you're feeling good, five days is a long time to be on the go, and you'll need to take care of yourself.  I had heard about the Healing Fields and I vaguely knew they offered massages, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect.   It turns out it's a field where individual practitioners of the healing arts set up their yurts and tents and offer their services in exchange for donations.  You make arrangements with them individually - mostly by just walking up and speaking to them quietly while they are already working on someone else.  There's also a larger yurt for craniosacral work that you can just wait in line for.  I moseyed up there at about 5:30 on Sunday and found that most of the practitioners were already closed for the weekend - so getting there earlier would be a good idea.  I got a massage from a woman who it turns out I had met when she was performing with her friends at the Tipi Fields campfire on Friday. I didn't remember her until she recognized me, which she did because I was American. They have a nice little chill out garden and shelter in the center where you could relax for a while.  There are also two saunas you can seek out - Sam's near the Railway Line, and the Lost Horizon Sauna in the Tipi Field (aka the "naked sauna.") Both were recommended, but I didn't get a chance to try them.  Next year, for sure. :)

* - I didn't take a picture of the loos, so I pinched this one from the Guardian (photo cred:  Matt Crossick.) If they object I'll take it down, or I could just forward all of my profits from this post to them as payment. ;)   (p.s. - I actually saw that Korean band and they were amazing.)