I love Africa. I hope to see as much of the African continent as I can before I die. I’ve been to Morocco and Kenya, and now I am in Gidi town – Yes, Berry is doing Nigeria!
I will wholeheartedly admit that Nigeria has never been at the top of my Wanderlust hit list (actually, it was never really on the list to begin with). However, living with a Nigerian changes things and it soon became apparent that I would be venturing to Lagos sooner than I had anticipated. Initially I was largely apprehensive as to what to expect. Whilst I did not envisage skeletal toddlers naked at the roadside batting away flies (I can’t believe these kind of images are still being perpetually missold to the west – Geldof you should be ashamed), I did brace myself for the very visible rich poor divide as witnessed in other places I’ve travelled to such as Kenya and Jamaica. I mean, the rich here have no chill. You will easily find a 3 storey mansion stretched across 8 acres of land with 5 cars parked in the drive adjacent to a shack made of corrugated iron. I’ll be honest, it takes a while to adjust.
Another (albeit small) worry, was the issue of food. As the main ‘chef’ of the house, I tend to cook a lot of english and west Indian food. It’s who I am, what I was brought up on. It’s what I know. In an effort to cater to my highly conservative and traditional nigerian partner, I have attempted some of his native cuisine. I won a 2 year battle with Jollof rice (fried rice is so much easier) and will be attempting stew. But after a traumatic experience with gizzard and “assorted meats” (am I the only one who has trouble eating food that they cannot fully identify?) I was worried that I would be living on plantain and noodles. I couldn’t be more wrong! The food is delicious. Maybe because the ingredients are fresh, organic and have not been tampered with, but the food is really very good. I tried pounded yam for the first time with egusi soup. I had pepper soup, moi moi, meat pie (which I of course called patties – causing the locals much confusion), and egg stew. The suya here is out of this world! I have a new found love for ‘Chewables’ or ‘small chops’ as they are better known and will definitely be adopting this back in London. My only disappointment – I didn’t taste any palm wine and I nowhere we ate served puff puff. I ate very well and have had to refuse food often (my general assumption is that Nigerians are ‘feeders’) to ensure I fit into the clothes I came with! For those not quite accustomed to the local food, there is definitely an emerging market of westernised bars and restaurants aimed at international clientele and well travelled locals. So when I wasn’t chowing down on stew and plantain at Casa Starr, I was out dining on 10 hour slow cooked pulled pork burgers and wild mushroom risotto. Washed those bad boys down with chocolate vodka cocktails and porn star martinis. Felt right at home 😛
The nightlife scene is crazy and very similar to nightclubs the world over. There is table life and then there is whatever you do when you are not on a table. ‘Table girls’ as politely (as I can put it) look the same the world over. The main difference between Lagos club life and elsewhere is that they have no entry fee coupled with no respect for venue capacity. Never thought I’d see the day when I would be praying for a door bitch with a clipboard; Be ready to sweat. The smoking ban is not in effect here – so be ready to stink. The men out number the woman by 6 -1. Great news for single girls, bad news for single guys (Although, I reckon 2/3’s of the men in the club are in some type of situation and ought not to be there in the first place… no shade, no shade). The music is very very good and caters to all tastes although afrobeats, Hip Hop and bashment rules the decks. Be ready to Dance. The men pop champagne bottles as if it were Evian; Be ready to drink. No one, absolutely no one arrives at the club before 1am; Be ready to wait. And wait. My Starr and I partied most nights – If you like to party, you will like Lagos!
There are lots of other things to do apart from eat and party. I went shopping in the local markets and visited art fairs and galleries (more on this in Part 2). I went jet skiing at Lekki Leisure Lake and bike riding in VGC (Victoria Garden City). But most importantly, I got to meet the rest of the Starr family including Grandma Starr who I bonded with right away. I was missing my Nan back in London terribly, so in a small way, I felt like I had a piece of her with me. I have always known Africans to be one of the most warm and hospitable peoples – but I can’t thank everyone enough for making me feel so welcome and loved during my stay here. It is truly a great skill to be able to make a person feel so at home in your own personal space – especially when they are so very far away from home. Thank you to the Starr family who made that possible.
Below is a list of the places to visit (Unfortunately, some of the places do not have official websites so you will have to navigate through the search results on google – Just make sure you add Lagos the search:
- Radisson Blu – This is where all the movers and shakers go – amazing view – dress up.
- Metisse – Asian fusion restaurant. Its not Hakkasan. But when you are so far from home – its the closet you will get. Calamari and salmon highly recommended.
- Mega Plaza – All your shopping needs. Plus the bar on the roof is super cool and was host to a ciroc sponsored party when we attended.
- Southern Sun – Great food – Awesome Buffet
- Four Points – Half decent spa. Doesn’t beat my Koreans in Harlesden though.
- WheatBaker Hotel – We stayed in this boutique hotel over Christmas and it was fab.
- R.S.V.P – New restaurant in Victoria Island where I had my chocolate vodka cocktail! My fave spot.
- Lekki Leisure Lake – Jet skis, quad biking, serious sound systems and chapman on ice.
- Skye Lounge, Eko Hotel – Great View, Great cocktails
I am having to split this travel diary into two parts as I have so many pictures and amazing stories to share with you. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment – In Part 2, we’ll do the fashion round up as I can’t wait to share with you my favourite looks from my trip! Check out ‘London to Lagos Pt 2 HERE!.
Let me know if any of you spent the festive season in Nigeria – especially if you were a first timer like me!