Soy Argentino, soy Cordobés!

So after a massive month in Buenos Aires it was time for a change of scenery and a bit of chill time in Cordoba. For those who haven’t heard too much about Cordoba, it is the second largest city in Argentina and is located in the heart of the country.

First thing I noticed about Cordoba was it was BLOODY HOT!! Not being on the coast or by a large body of water, as well as us having no air conditioning in our apartment, made for a pretty steamy month of December.

The difference between Buenos Aires and Cordoba was drastic. The city was less frenetic, the people were super welcoming and dare I say there was a little bit of a relaxed country feel going on. I needed a bit of down time and Cordoba, you had me a “hola”!

So what the hell happened here? Well, lets get into it!

Hablas español?
I love the Spanish language and wanted to get past the basics. After 2 weeks of intensive language classes my Spanish definitely improved and the confidence is up. I am still not comfortable with people saying that I “speak fluent Spanish”, I am absolutely far from it, but if you need someone to fumble through something for you I might just be your guy! Thanks so much to Santiago and Pamela for helping this gringo out!

The language school crew!

Everywhere we have been I have met some awesome people. And Cordoba, you delivered the goods! Coti and Jou, our contacts in town, really did sort us out with everything we could need. On one of our first night’s in the city Coti had dinner with myself and my two friends Mike and Josh. We proceeded straight past the small talk and got into solving the world’s problems. I knew immediately how much of a hero she was! Not to be outdone, with Jou, from the first handshake, fist bump and football chat I knew I was onto a winner!

Jou, myself, Coti and good ol’ Michelle

Sometimes you are lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time with good people. At other times, the interaction is brief but the impression is great.

A group of us headed out a couple of times to the Argentinian countryside, (the Sierras) with a proper gaucho (Argentinian Cowboy). Marcos was one of the most welcoming guys you could imagine. We met in mid-December and he couldn’t believe how much of the asado I ate. We then met again on Boxing Day where he hosted us for the night. When we saw each other for the second time he embraced me with a big hug and an “ohhhh amigoooo” as if we had know each other for years. One of the biggest privileges of the month was him allowing me to cut my own piece of meat from the asado he prepared for myself and 20 other people. Huge moment, huge memory, hugely Argentinian!

Hanging with the gaucho of all gauchos Marcos and our other host Cesar while drinking fernet and coke out of a cutoff coke bottle

Speaking of being Argentinian, there is a tradition in Cordoba that I absolutely love. When students graduate from university their friends take them out onto the street, cover them in flour, juice, eggs, champagne, pasta sauce (you get the picture) and then parade them around the street in the back of a car. With us being in Cordoba at the end of the calendar and academic year, we would see this happen every day. 

Coti thought it would be a great idea to do this with us. I was up for giving it a go and thought that I could use this as my graduation from Argentina. Check out the video to see how this panned out!

Successfully graduated from Argentina

Who doesn’t like Christmas?
We had a big Christmas celebration on the 24th of December. This was perfect timing for me as it was at the same time that everyone back in Sydney was celebrating Christmas day. I managed to avoid a lot of the Christmas separation sadness by spending time with everyone and working away on the grill for 3 hours. We ate, we drank, we were merry!

Just me, a grill and an idiot…

Now I couldn’t leave Argentina without playing a little bit of football. Through my friend Christian from my Spanish class I was able to play a game with a heap of Argentinians. It was probably my most Argentinian moment ever! We even experienced a box of fireworks go off accidentally on the field next to us. You know you are alive when you have a firework explode about 5 metres from you after a football match!

Finally, they say that you are not truly part of Cordoba until you are given a nickname from the locals. After running around on the soccer field with this group of Argentinian legends I was referred to as “Flaco” (the “skinny one”). Between that and my Argentinian graduation, I feel pretty comfortable calling Cordoba home.

The reflective stuff

You never really know what you are going to get from a place. I loved aspects of Cordoba and wasn’t a fan of others. Having said that, I know I would never have come to Cordoba if it was not for it being on our Remote Year itinerary. Now that would have been a tragedy. I would not have met the people I met, cooked with a gaucho, improved my Spanish and ultimately graduated from Argentina!

It is a cliché but remember be open, be interested and be inquisitive, you never know what is on the other side of the door.

On to Lima!

As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time!

Did somebody say Asado?

Well what can I say, another month, another continent! Time to leave Europe and North Africa and head to South America! The 14 hour flight from hell on Alitalia was well worth it!

First things first, being in a city where I can understand basic conversation is a huge win! In the last few months in Morocco, Serbia and Bulgaria I became really good at looking at people with a smile and a subtle shake of the head trying to communicate “I have no idea what you are saying but I promise I am a nice guy”. My Arabic, French, Serbian and Bulgarian are non-existent so being in Argentina, this was a nice change!

As for Buenos Aires itself…what can I say?

Representing Valencia in Buenos Aires

One of the first things that come to mind is MEAT! Choripan (chorizo on a roll, but it is so much more than that!) and the mind blowing asado for me ARE Argentina. I became a regular frequenter of the local choripan place near our workspace and ate more than my fair share of steak.

Lesson from this meal…make sure you actually confirm you have ordered parrilla mix rather than just drink beers for an hour-and-a-half, apologies boys!

A culinary surprise for me were definitely the mollejas/sweetbreads/gizzards. Yep you read that right. One of the best things I have ever eaten were the sweetbreads from La Carneceria next door to our apartment building. Sweetbreads cooked on the barbecue with a sweet glaze on sweet corn bread, duuuuddeeee, sweeeeeeet!

La Carneceria changed me for the better, sweetbreads for life!

But what would Argentina be without a little football? I managed to get to three Argentinian Primera División matches involving Banfield, Boca Juniors and River Plate. At each match we were supporting the home team for a few reasons but the main one being that no away team supporters are allowed in the stadiums. The violent reason behind why this is a rule sucks but I have to say I kinda loved one sided support! The stadium is truly a fortress!

At River Plate’s stadium El Monumental with the boys

Unfortunately it seems like we were bringing some bad luck with us around the stadiums. We went to Banfield with my friend Gerladine’s family (who are awesome!) and in an uninspiring game they drew 0-0 with last placed Temperley. We paid 12 times the face value of the Boca Juniors ticket, had the time of our lives with some of the most intense, awesome fans I have ever seen and they lost 2-1 to Racing Club. We sat high up in the stands watching River Plate and saw them lose 3-1 to Newels Old Boys. I have to give credit to the fans though, they all kept chanting non-stop, especially Boca Juniors. I have never seen a team concede a goal, go behind in the match and after literally 2 seconds of a pause to digest the goal, chant like their lives depended on it. Absolutely brilliant!

Hanging out at one of the spiritual homes of football, La Bombonera!

Like many of the cities we have been in it has been so good to meet new people, whether they be our Remote Year city team (much love to Juli and Santi), people from the workspace that we worked out of, random people we met along the way or friends of friends. I couldn’t have asked for them to be more welcoming and open. Spending time with these locals really defined my experience in Buenos Aires. Thank you guys!

As awesome as meeting new people can be, there are also times where reunions are exactly what you need. Huge shoutout to my friend Gwen’s boyfriend Craig who brought my drone to Buenos Aires with him. Drones are illegal in Morocco so I needed to see how I could get it to Buenos Aires cheaply and safely. In my last couple of days in Belgrade I shipped the drone to Craig in London. He trafficked it across the globe for me without us ever having met. Hands down one of the best guys you will meet! (He also didn’t know about the drugs I had stashed in there)

Ironically one of the best events of our first month in South America was actually a North American celebration! Thanksgiving lunch with everyone was a great experience! This was my first thanksgiving and my American brothers and sisters really did pull out all the stops. The turkey was succulent, the stuffing to die for and we ended up with some sufficiently drunk people in the afternoon due to the all you can drink deal that we struck with the bar who hosted us.

Selfie with the thanksgiving crew

It was awesome to see everybody share their culture with guys like me who have never experienced this holiday. The mood was just perfect and it was great to see the differences and similarities in how people celebrated the day. The key commonality though, seemed to be, just eat and drink as much as you can. Dare I say, after the day was done, I may have felt a little American myself…but let’s not get too carried away!

The reflective stuff

It became clearly apparent to me that we all need to know our limits. I mean this a couple of contexts.

Similarly to Belgrade, Buenos Aires every now and then did a number on us! Being in the pitch black of bars with music blaring, to then walking out into the silent sunlight of the street was something that I never got used to and don’t plan to. It really was off-putting. Also, going to the rooftop of our building at midnight to have a few pre-drinks before entering a club at 3:00am was a battle. Let’s be serious for a second, 3:00am to start your night out is pretty outrageous. I love you Argentina but still don’t understand exactly why this is the case? I know I sound like a grandfather and don’t get me wrong, could do it every now and then but sometimes you need to have an evening where you eat 8 empanadas and watch Netflix (that did happen).

Remember how I said it was great to feel that I could understand the basics of Spanish conversations in the street? Well this basic understanding does not extend to knowledge of the geography of any Spanish speaking city or the ability to communicate detailed directions.

I was hailed over by a middle aged couple in their car and asked for directions. Instead of saying “I’m sorry, I don’t know the city very well” I walked over armed with my basic Spanish and good intentions. I thought I could find the street on google maps and show them how to get there. That plan fell through pretty quickly when I struggled to understand which street they were after and my google search came up with results in another city over 3 hours away. All I could do was revert back to my “I have no idea what you are saying but I promise I am a nice guy” face.

Does this mean I won’t continue to try to help people out? No. Did it provide me with enough motivation to enrol into an intensive Spanish language course! Yes! More on that in my next post!

As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time.

Much love,

Nick

 

 

 

2 boats, 20 Spaniards…and me! Viva La Brigada!

In the last week of July 2017 I was fortunate enough to spend 7 days at sea with the entire Brigada.

Who are “La Brigada” you ask?

They are the one and only crew you need to know in Spain. For those who follow my posts you will know that I have a special connection with Valencia and this group of guys. You can find out more about La Brigada in this previous post.

As the only non-spanish member of La Brigada I have to thank Pascual and Chimo for opening the door for me to enter the group and invite me along on this trip!

La Brigada!

This adventure was in the works for over 6 months. In January 2016 I was added to a WhatsApp group chat to keep across everything that was happening regarding organisation for the week. I would wake up every day back in Sydney to at least 100 messages in Spanish talking about logistics, boats, food, boat crews and anything else La Brigada oriented. With over 20 people in two sailing boats travelling from the Spanish mainland to Ibiza and Formentera there was a lot to talk about!

After months of planning, the day finally arrived to pick up our boats and sail to the islands. We spent days in the sun, swimming off the back of the boat, going out at night and somehow making our way back to the boat on our little zodiac/dingy in the early hours of the morning.

I debated what was the most appropriate way to write about the week and I felt the best I could do was hit you with a summary of points that will give a feel for what life was like for one week with 20 other guys on two boats.

Out and about at Beso Beach in Formentera with Pepo, Pascual, Chimo, Hugo and Joseka

No shitting on the boat

The first and most important rule of the boat. With one toilet and 10 guys this toilet was about to be destroyed, the boat was going to stink and there would have been some serious hygiene questions asked when we brought the boat back to shore.

We therefore had two options, do your business in a bucket and throw it out the back of the boat or…go for a morning swim and release the demons.

I personally was a fan of the later. Once I got through this the first time I have to say that this became a rite of passage that I looked forward to everyday. Clean snap! Just watch out for where the current takes your efforts, it may pop up a little closer than you expect!

Dare I say, it did become a competition to see who could release the most impressive of demons…

Clean bathroom = a happy crew!

Improvisation and thinking on your feet

Sometimes you cannot find your zodiac/dingy to get you back to your boat. Sometimes you are stranded on a beach at 2am. Sometimes you have to “borrow” another person’s dingy in order to get back to the boat and then find yours later!

Finally, sometimes your name is said by a random Italian girl a few meters away from you, while you are sending a WhatsApp voicenote to your girlfriend. There is then some serious explaining to do (true story, this actually happened to one of the group, an Italian girl was talking to another guy on the beach who coincidently had the same name!! Poor Pablo! To Pablo’s girlfriend, you have to believe him, it was a serious misunderstanding!).

Eating well

One of the most important things to La Brigada is food. We must eat well! From marinated muscles, jamon serrano and beef fillet, we had it all! Special mention must go to our resident chefs for always taking care of business. Chimo, Hugo, Edu and Migel, impresionante!

You gotta eat well to sail well!

Along with the chefs there was also the cleaning crew predominantly made up of myself, Pascual, Pepo and Joseka. Boys well done on getting out the back of the boat and scrubbing those pots, pans and plates. We only lost one plate to the sea as a result of girls in bikinis on other boats distracting us from the cleaning process, which I think we can say was a good result for 7 days!

Enjoy life

Similar to eating well, a key tenant of La Brigada is to enjoy life. Take your time to get from one place to another, eat paella for about 3 hours with your friends and soak in what life has to offer you.

Cheers to you…

I thought that this would also be a good place to highlight a few special awards…

The Piti Master – Pepe – for always making sure not only he, but everyone else had a cigarette when needed

The Naked Man Hugo – I love you brother but I probably saw a bit too much of you. Having said that, thank you for making us all feel very confident to take off our clothes and get back to nature. Pretty much every one of us had an open air naked moment, you are a visionary!

The First-ish matePascual – for always being eager to help, sometimes leading to not so desirable consequences. I think of all of us Pascual was the only one that was “lost at sea” with a broken zodiac and a titanic struggle to find our boat at night. On our last day he even had to swim for 30min to the boat at 10pm to make sure we made it back to Denia on time! A true seaman!

The Man with a PlanChimo – with an amazing ability to not be affected by a late night Chimo was always first up to get us moving, keeping us on schedule and well feed. A true Brigada hero!

The El Capitano Andy – who else could this go to but our “Patron”?!?! We would have been lost without him…and his dance moves

The reflective stuff

Probably my favourite moment of the trip happened while we were cruising from one beach to another at about 10pm at night. Pascual was at the bow of the boat and called me over. We were chatting after having had a few drinks with the boys, could see the lights of the islands and hear the sea gently swooshing under the boat as we sailed along. We both couldn’t really believe that after meeting in Copenhagen studying together 6 years ago we were on a boat sailing off the coast of Spain. Pascual turned to me and said he was really happy I was there, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Additional to this, another member of La Brigada, Edu (Yuyu), came over afterwards just to say he was really happy I was part of the group. This was a relatively new friend who I felt I had known for a long, long time. For me, this is what life is about!

These guys have been so great to me every time I have been in Spain, I cannot be more grateful!

Sure we had fun and partied but this was the best moment for me.

In the words of Hugo, “Viva España, Viva Australia!”

And I might add, “Viva La Brigada!”

As always, take what you will from this post, I hope you enjoy the video, and see you next time!

Nick

 

 

Moroc’n’roll!

The last time I was in Marrakech I was 21, studying in Milan and flew in from Italy with a couple of friends. I remembered landing and realising pretty quickly that the city was very different to Milan. Food, customs, religion. All at opposite ends of the scale. I remembered Jema El Fna square being one of the most impressive places I have ever seen and hence was talking it up to all my travel buddies before we arrived in October. My reputation was on the line and I was praying that Marrakech would live up to expectations…well done Morocco, you didn’t disappoint!

If you do nothing else in Marrakech, get yourself to Jema El Fna. Fun fact, the name of this square translates to assembly of the dead. This may be in reference to the display of the heads of criminals executed there until the 19th century. Bit dark but interesting nonetheless.

Jema El Fna by night

Jema El Fna, for me, is my experience of Morocco encapsulated in one place. Someone asked me to describe Morocco in a sentence and all I could say was “It is an assault on the senses where at any moment, Aladdin could walk around the corner”. The hustle and bustle of the square, the cacophony of sounds, mixture of smells and the constant conversation with street vendors is overwhelming and exciting all in one hit!

Abdul and I met in the medina where he was trying to get me into his stand for dinner. We didn’t eat there that night but became friends over the few weeks we were in town and… here he is taking a selfie with my friend Trish, the rest of the staff and I!

It can be a struggle to get around the markets in Marrakech with everyone constantly trying to pull you into their shop. One thing I would recommend is if you want to get away from someone trying to get your attention just talk more than them.

Street vendor: “My friend, my friend, you hungry, come in, come in”

Me: “HELLOOOOO! (big smile) Man I am so glad to see you, your shop looks great! I just ate but we are here for a few days. Morocco is so beautiful. I will be back in this area tomorrow and will come back to see you. What number stall are you? Number 31. Perfect. This is such a good setup! See you tomorrow!”

Street vendor: “See you tomorrow my friend”

*Shake hands and part ways*

I am convinced that they are so bamboozled with what is happening they don’t know what to say or do. Always be respectful, shake hands and laugh with them. I made a few Moroccan friends this way.

Let’s not forget though that Morocco is not just Marrakech. I headed out to the desert with a small group of friends to see what it was all about (another post on that to come) as well as ventured to Taghazout to go surfing for a weekend. When I was out in the surf listening to the call to prayer in the afternoon I knew that this was one of those experiences I would never forget.

Shaka’s all round with the surfing crew

The month was not all smooth sailing though. As a result of some interesting restaurant food handling habits it was not unusual to have a little upset stomach here and there. However, the food was too good to turn down! Gotta say, I am ok with not seeing another tagine for a little while but I did enjoy my fair share of Moroccan delicacies!

Cultural immersion

Probably a highlight of the month though had little to do with Morocco and everything to do with just being a ridiculous person. Where we were staying there was an awesome, large pool. In the first week I was speaking to a friend of mine Ryan about what fun activity we could do down by the pool with everyone. A flat-out winner was obviously water aerobics. I can’t remember it exactly but the conversation went something like this…

Nick: “What do you reckon about doing something fun down at the pool with everyone?”

Ryan: “Yeah would be great! Some kind of workout or water sport.”

Nick: “Hahaha yeah, maybe something like water aerobics?”

Ryan: “So ridiculous, could you imagine!”

Nick: “So stupid!! Haha”

Ryan: “So are we doing it?”

Nick: “I think we are…”

Ryan: “Here come the Wetboyz!!”

And with that Wetboyz Workouts were born. We have held 2 sessions so far and are looking to have a third one this month in Buenos Aires. Who knew I had a love of aqua aerobics? Check out the video to see a few clips of the Wetboyz in action!

The Wetboyz – Come get wet, leave drippin’! (Thanks Dorothy for the photo)

The reflective stuff

I feel a place like Morocco can be really confronting for people. There is no way to ease into it, the country comes at you like a freight train. I remember travelling when I was younger and how this would really be a struggle for me. I didn’t feel confident just getting out there and immersing myself in what was going on. And to some extent, I still experience that now with new places. You are not used to this new place and you need to be street smart. What I learnt though is it is important to engage with exactly what is going on around you and not your preconception of it.

Walking into Morocco a few people I know were worried they were going to have a tough time. And, they did. When they came at it from that angle it was always going to be a struggle. Meanwhile others were happily surprised with how much they enjoyed the city due to their openness and willingness to let go of preconceived ideas. Don’t get me wrong, some places are not for everyone but make sure you give yourself every chance of liking a place before you count it out.

As always, take what you will from this post and I will see you soon.

Nick

 

 

Belgrade and chill?

As all my avid readers would know I had a pretty crazy 21 days leading up to my time in Belgrade. It was awesome but tiring nonetheless! As a result, I was pumped for a month of just staying put and chillin’ in a city. Which is how it turned out…kind of…

Belgrade is such an interesting spot. Seriously! Not what I would call a pretty city but it definitely has its charm. The scars of conflicts of the past really are apparent  with bombed buildings littered here and there around the city. The craziest part of which being, they were only bombed in the recent past.

Belgrade is a place that you really do need to dig into to find its gems. Unlike Rome which offers itself up to you, Belgrade you have to at least buy dinner first.

Belgrade from above. Not too impressive, I know, but don’t count her out just yet!

One thing that will really stick with me from Belgrade is the smell of smoke. People can smoke almost anywhere. One bar, Magic Garden, basically punched you in the face with a plume of smoke. Great bar but terrible for asthmatics. Bars and clubs on the river (Splavs) were no exception, the one thing all partygoers were guaranteed to take home was a set of clothes stinking like an ash tray!

Truth be told, Belgrade did a number on us on most weekends but during the week it was fairly smooth sailing. Probably the most awesome thing about the month was being a member of what we liked to call the Belgrade Party Penthouse. Made up of Ryan, Minho, Le and myself, this crew of housemates was awesome to have for the month. With an apartment overlooking the Serbian Parliament in the centre of town we had no choice but to live it up like the politicians do!

Having said that, we never actually had a party in the apartment… (the irony is not lost on me)

Our house was a sanctuary of good vibes, synchronised workout times with “dem funky beats”, Chinese degustation lunches cooked by Le in the tiniest kitchen in the world (I really hated that kitchen) and Saturday night debriefs on Sunday morning/afternoon.

3 of 4 members of the BPP. Myself, Minho and Ryan. Le was yet to arrive at this stage to complete the crew! We actually don’t have a photo of us all together…

After being in Sydney, I managed to bring a few delicacies from home which went down a real treat. Mint slice, iced vovos, pinapple lumps and, of course, Tim Tams were a hit! We even managed to hold the great “Mite-off” pitting marmite, vegemite and promite against each other. Promite, my favorite, won the hearts of the people confirming that vegemite and especially marmite are trash. It is official, you read it here first!

One of my favourite travel buddies Michelle coming to terms with the fact that Marmite is rubbish. As you can see, I am sympathetic to her distress…

We also had an Aussie night where we watched The Castle. It was an absolute pleasure to share this classic film with my friends from around the world. If you can think of another movie that is better than this masterpiece, you’re “dreaming”.

On a heartwarming note, you will see in the video that we supported refugee Aid Serbia and raised funds for hygiene packs to be distributed at some of the largest refugee camps in Serbia. Huge props Jana and Starz who are doing an amazing job in Belgrade!

The month was not all smooth sailing though. With construction in our apartment building for our 3rd and 4th weeks in the city, we were struggling to get anything resembling quiet time during the day, let alone gentle a wakeup. Our alarm clocks were the sound of steel being torn apart by a grinder a couple of floors down. Only yesterday I heard some construction work downstairs and got a message from some of the BPP members mentioning they are struggling from PTSD! I feel you brothers!

Not only that, the day before we were leaving, one of my housemates Ryan and I found out we probably missed out on meeting the loves of our lives. The old ladies who ran the bakery across the street managed to tell us in their minimal English that they wanted to set us up with a couple of girls who came into the shop the day before. The hits just keep on coming. Guess we just gotta go back!

Shoutout for the month goes to the Asian restaurant on the block behind us aptly named “Asian Food”. For $5USD you would be served a mountain of food. Half a kilo of Asian goodness. I don’t know how many times we went to eat there but I think my insides are grateful to no longer have this “restaurant” as an option.

The cheapest and most cheerful place in Belgrade. Asian Food restaurant, what a find! Enjoying it with Ryan and Big Daddy Le!

What a month it was but the travel train keeps rolling on. Marrakech, here we come!

I do have some sad news though, drones are illegal in Morocco. After some creative courier manoeuvres involving DHL and a visiting boyfriend of one of my travel buddies I will be getting the drone back in Buenos Aires (where I am currently) in the next week or so. Cannot wait to be reunited!

Oh and I forgot to mention, we also did a casual 5km colour run. Thank you Belgrade!

The reflective stuff

Travelling around the place has taught me a few things. One of which is your time in a city is heavily impacted by who you live with. Obvious, yes, but nonetheless, true! I have been fortunate to have some pretty cracking housemates these last few months but I have to say, living with the boys of the Belgrade Party Penthouse was something else!

Everything was super chilled, movie nights were had, days exploring the city and nights out were a blast. I can’t thank Ryan, Minho and Le enough for a fantastic few weeks at the one and only BPP!!

As always, take what you will from this post and keep your eye out for a Morocco post soon!

Much love,

Nick

Kissed on the d*ck

So a few months ago I was travelling with some friends through Sri Lanka on tuk-tuk’s. Those 10 days were awesome and would often ebb and flow between super exciting, intense moments to long stretches of quiet contemplation and conversation on the road.

One of the conversations that I had during these long driving stretches really stuck with me. I was in one of the tuk-tuk’s with my friend Sticks and we were having a moment where we were discussing how lucky we were and how awesome our lives have been. We have been able to travel, make great friendships, work in well paid jobs and most importantly been brought up in safe, loving environments. During this conversation Sticks talked to me about the theory of being “kissed on the d*ck”. This is where god, jehova, buddah, overall consciousness or whatever you want to call it, grabbed you before you were plonked on this earth and gave you a little kiss on the dick, blessed you with some amazing luck and sent you on your path through life.

Never was this more apparent to me than during my last weekend in Valencia.

For many years I have wanted to go to a Valencia CF match. I became a fan of the team as a result of making some awesome friendships with Pascual and Chimo, two true Valencianistas. The last few times I had been in Valencia there were no games happening at the hallowed home turf of Valencia CF, Mestalla. I am soon to be heading to South America and I was not going to leave this part of the world without getting to a game.

I booked tickets to fly in from Morocco on the evening of Friday the 20th of October for the Valencia vs Sevilla match on the Saturday afternoon. After getting picked up by none other than Pascual, we hit a few bars and then went to bed, getting a good rest in for the big event!

On Saturday I was pumped!! I had brought my Valencia jersey with me ready to wear in the stadium but Pascual told me not to worry about putting it on. We were going to meet with one of the official supporter’s groups (la peña Viachers) and would most likely all be wearing the same shirt together with them. Not thinking much of this we headed to have a couple of drinks with Viachers. They were really welcoming and kind of intrigued as to how an Australian becomes a Valencia fan. After chatting for a bit, I looked around and saw everyone in Valencia jerseys, including my friends Pascual, Chimo and Roberto. I started to get a little annoyed that I wasn’t wearing mine? What was going on?!

We left the Viachers and joined up with a smaller group of our friends at restaurant Mo for a classic paella. Again, everyone in Valencia jerseys! Pascual beckoned me inside to have a look at the paella being cooked. To be honest, I wasn’t really fussed to see it, I wanted to be wearing my jersey not the stupid grey t-shirt I had on! This was my first Valencia CF match for god’s sake!

I wander inside the restaurant and take a look at the Paella nonetheless. We had a laugh with the restaurant staff and then headed back outside to our table. At this stage, Pascual had taken my camera from me and was filming. Still completely clueless I see a package at my seat at the table. Now I am excited…

The boys start chanting my name in the typical celebration style of our group “La Brigada”. I open the package and see that the guys have gone out and bought me a new jersey for the day. Not only that, they also printed one of my nick names “Nickao” on the back of the jersey with the number seven to represent the size of my “pipa” (nose).

I was shocked and excited! I have no idea what I have done in a past life or my current one to have such an amazing group of friends anywhere, let alone in Valencia, on the other side of the world to where I grew up!

After a lot of hugs, words of thanks and some great food we went to the stadium.

Pascual, myself, David Villa and Mestalla!

The atmosphere was electric!! Valencia is coming second on the table, ahead of Real Madrid and just behind Barcelona. Sevilla is a long-time rival that historically has been at the centre of a few Valencia CF heartbreaks so the match was as big as they come!

We were chanting on the streets with the Viachers peña, meeting up with other members of our group and even dropping in to say hello to the Spanish national team’s most famous supporter, Manolo del Bombo!

Pepe, Pascual, myself and Joseka having the time of our lives before the game

While we were walking around, Pascual spotted a media team from Valencia Play TV interviewing people on the street. He mentioned that he had a friend here from Australia and they asked to interview me. I wasn’t able to do the interview in Spanish but they asked for my details and said they would be in touch. I didn’t think too much about it and entered the stadium.

The atmosphere was awesome. Young and old, families and friends, everyone was getting into it. The unity and excitement in the stadium was palpable. After a pretty even start to the game Valencia went up 1-0, then 2-0, then 3-0, then 4-0!!! Everyone was pumped, the chants continued and when the final whistle blew it was high fives all round!

We were the last ones in Mestalla, singing the Valencia CF anthem and savouring the moment. We then went out for dinner and enjoyed the victory along with everyone else in the city.

The hallowed turf of Mestalla. The calm after the storm…AMUNT!!

It doesn’t end here though…the next day I got an email from Valencia Play TV…

“Hi, this is Maria form Valencia CF official TV, we met yesterday outside of Mestalla. We are interested in interviewing you so you can tell us your experience as an Australian Valencia fan. Please let me know if you can meet up tomorrow. I know you are leaving Tuesday but it would be very cool to get to interview you before you head home. 

Feel free to email me or text me anytime, Thanks”

I couldn’t believe it! My incredulity was only outmatched by the excitement from the boys! Pascual couldn’t believe it, Roberto was shocked, Chimo was pumped for it, Yuyu was yelling “SAAAA GGUUUAARRAAASSSS” and Pepe just smiled and laughed saying “Nick, tio, es un escandalo!”.

On Monday at noon I was interviewed outside the stadium talking about my experiences as a fan, we then went into the stadium and walked around the inner sanctum. After telling my story and getting all the footage they needed I was invited to the team’s closed training session later that day!!

Taking a stroll through the change rooms

Again, the boys were flipping out, I was pretty excited and there was nothing left to do but be out there at the training pitch in the evening. Chimo has to be quoted here with the best call of the day saying “Nick, tienes una flor en el culo” (Nick you have a flower growing out of your ass”) that’s how lucky I was.

Pascual, Roberto and Chimo hanging out with the Australian Valencia CF correspondent

I went behind the security gates at the training fields and was closer than any of the media while the team was training. After after noting a few players who I would like to say hello to, I was told to wait until after they were done with the technical section of the session to have my photo taken with them.

Chillin’ with the team

I went to the bar outside the security gates and sat with the guys, we chatted and waited for this photo to happen. Our contact came out and we were ready to go…

Alas…

We couldn’t get in to take the photo. The team had much to do and the manager was not up for distractions. This I could totally respect so away we went to dinner with the lads but not before we saw Phil Neville pulling into the parking lot!!

The next day, about six of the guys showed up for a farewell lunch with me at none other than “La Pergola”, the best boccadillo place in the city. Pascual and I hugged each other at least 7 times before I left, it was very emotional but simply awesome. I am not sure when I will get to see him or the rest of the guys again but I cannot tell you how grateful I am to them all!

Later that evening, I received a message from Pascual saying:

“It was a great moment seeing you leave with my friends today! I have grown up with them and there you were with them!!! (Ok im getting too sentimental)”

To which I obviously responded with an equally sentimental message.

Yuyu and Jorge (Me Cago) took me to the airport, which was probably for the best as I am pretty sure there would have been tears with Pascual.

I love all these guys, y nada mas…AMUNT VALENCIA, AMUNT LA BRIGADA!!

The reflective stuff

I have spoken about the importance of connections with people in my last post. What I didn’t mention is the importance of luck in meeting these people and the importance of being open to these chance scenarios. Don’t miss the opportunity to do that random thing, meet that random person or be in a random place. Recognise those moments when you have been “kissed on the d*ck”, accept that kiss and be grateful.

I will let you know when the interview is up on the Valencia Play TV website!

As always, take what you will from this post and I will see you next time!

Nick

 

21 of the best!

2 continents, 3 weeks, 6 countries, 9 flights – 21 of the best days!

As we all know, time flies while we are travelling. Never was that more true for me than during the period of the 14th of August 2017 to the 3rd of September 2017. I went from Sofia to Milan, Milan to Barcelona, Barcelona to Sofia, Sofia to Sydney, Sydney to Belgrade, Belgrade to Hamburg and finally Hamburg back to Belgrade to breathe again. With all those flights, that is a total of 2 continents, 3 weeks, 6 countries and a lot of time on aeroplanes.

Why was I travelling so much ?

I lived in Milan in 2009 as an exchange student. In that time, I did a lot of growing up. It was a crucial period for me. Throughout those 6 months my Italian housemate Raffaele was just awesome. To me, he felt like my older Italian brother. I wanted to go catchup with him, meet his partner Lujan and his two kids Tito and Lisa. Yes, a lot has changed since our bachelor pad days of 2009. Crazy but awesome to sleep in my old room at Raff’s apartment which has now turned into a children’s play room.

Spontini pizza with my italian crew!

I also took a quick trip to see my uncle Peter and aunty Franca just outside of Bologna in a town called Imola. Not only this, I got to catch up with their daughter Olivia and her husband Marco and, maybe most importantly, got to meet Olivia and Marco’s daughter, Emma. I have to admit I laughed A LOT at their comments about how much of a whirlwind my mother was when she visited about a year ago. It is amazing how language barriers are just not barriers at all for some people! Just like my visit to see them in 2009, they took care of me like I was their own and I am so thankful. Grazie tantissimo!

Did someone say gelato in Italy?

As for Barcelona, I had an opportunity to meet with a great crew of people from across the remote year world for a weekend to talk about mindfulness and general headspace stuff. We stayed in a house in the Spanish countryside outside Barcelona, practiced some yoga, discussed meditation and just got real deep! The group was awesome and the connection with everyone was amazing. Have a deep and meaningful conversation with someone today guys. You will be better for it!

Sofia, well, it was my home base for the month and coming back when I did also meant that I could get to my friend Stevie’s birthday! I promised I would be there and what is a man if he is not his word! I then had to pack up my stuff and head out to the airport but not before a couple of cheeky fun nights out in the city and even a last minute run the day of my flight!

Sydney, well what can I say, I made the trip back home to be there for my father’s surprise 70th  and my niece’s baptism. Mum mentioned the idea of coming home a couple of months before the party and initially I wasn’t sure, it was a long flight and expensive. When she offered to pay…how could I not go?! The surprise was awesome, my father had absolutely no idea and I couldn’t have been happier to be home. I got to see a heap of people I hadn’t seen for the last few months and was especially excited to see my niece. Cuteness level – off the charts! I have to say, busting out on the dance floor with your 70-year-old father during an afternoon surprise party is something that everyone should do! (Check out the video)

Hanging with the fam!

As soon as I was back on Sydney time, it was time to fly back to Europe. But staying put would be silly! After arriving in Belgrade, I flew out the next day to Hamburg to go and see my friend Hans. Hans, like Raff, was a key figure in my time overseas as an exchange student, but this time from when I was studying in Copenhagen in 2011. Hans and I shared many awesome times together during our six months in Denmark. We laughed a lot, cooked mountains of pasta with pesto and even ran from the police once! We hung out just like old times (with less pasta and no run in’s with the police).

Hanging with Hans. No pasta or pesto in sight!

In Hamburg, I also got to catch up with a Brazilian friend Giovana who I met while travelling around Brazil during the World Cup in 2014. She is studying now in the city and has just been published for her research (massive fist pump!). Crazy how the world (and staying connected with people on facebook) can bring you back together!

Finally, I have to say that Hans and his girlfriend Jenny took great care of me and I am looking forward to being the honorary Australian godfather to their baby which is due very soon!! By the way, Nicole/Nicoletta/Nicky are all strong, beautiful names, just saying guys…

The reflective stuff

On all these flights, I had a lot of time to think about things. Three things really became apparent for me.

The first was the importance of connection with people. The old adage “people won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel” came to mind. I hadn’t seen my Italian housemate Raff for 8 years and it was like no time had passed. We got to share a lot of special times together all those years ago and for both of us, I think it was an important time for different reasons. In the car on the way back to Malpensa Airport to fly to Barcelona, Raff just game me a little punch in the leg and said “it has been awesome to see you man” and I couldn’t have agreed more. These connections are what makes travel worthwhile. Forget the churches and the monuments. The people are what counts.

The second was that yes, things do change, but good friendships stay the same. We are all growing up! Yes you too. From when you started reading this post to the end of it, you will have grown up just a little bit more! Two of my close friends, Raff and Hans, are now either fathers or about to become fathers. When did it became normal for my friends to be fathers, I have no idea!?!? Having said that, hanging out with them was just like old times. On Sunday night in Hamburg I relaxed with Jenny and Hans and watched a 25-minute video of a road trip that we did back in 2011. We laughed about the trip and all that had happened years ago. I couldn’t be more grateful.

The third was about the importance of being where you should, and want to be. I wasn’t sure I would make it back to Sydney for my father’s 70th. It was a long way to get there, I was travelling around and weirdly, when I left Sydney, I had thought that I would be away from home for at least a year. For a moment there, I felt that coming back any time sooner would be a failure of sorts. How stupid this mentality was! When I told people that I was going home for 5 days some immediately asked, is everything ok? Presuming that I would be going to a funeral or there was something serious happening with family. It would shock them to hear that everything was great and I was going home for a party. What better reason was there to go home than to be present for my father’s surprise 70th birthday?

People also started to say to be careful that my dad didn’t have a heart attack due to the surprise. To which I responded with “well you never know, I could be coming back for a birthday and a funeral…” bad taste, yes, but he made it!! Love you Baba!

Out of all of this, what I found myself saying to people was. Come to my birthday, don’t come to my funeral. And that is what I say to you too, come to my birthday and have a blast, and if you do make it out to my funeral…have a blast too!

As always, take what you will from this post and I’ll see you next time!

Nick

3, 2, 1…JUMP!

So, one day a few years ago I made a pact with myself. A pretty simple pact that made me feel physically ill every time I thought about it…

“Before I turn 30 I will bungee jump”

I didn’t really tell anyone about this, nor did I feel I really needed to. I was 25 at the time and 30 seemed a long way off. It’s amazing how time flies, here we are in 2017 and my 30th birthday is only 5 months away!

I had food poisoning on the Saturday evening (as you may have read from my last post), managed to go mountain biking on the Sunday morning, napped for 5 hours on the Sunday afternoon to recover and had just crawled out of bed to eat something. In my feeble attempt to catch up on what had been going on with my travel buddies I saw that a few were going to go bungee jumping…in two days time.

I thought about it for a while. A long while. Deep down I knew I would do it. But by god I fought it.

I weighed up the pros and cons…

Pros – I was yet to turn 30, I wouldn’t have much time to think about it, I would feel great afterwards.

Cons – it is dangerous, the most common injury from bungee jumping was retinal detachment (I value my eyesight), I am not that flexible so this could throw my back out, Sofia is not a bungee hot spot nor known for safety, people don’t bungee jump on a Tuesday, this would be right over lunch, the planets were not aligned, I would have to delay my catchup on Game of Thrones…the list went on and on.

Nevertheless, in what can only be described as an out of body experience, I watched myself sign up on Monday for the jump the next day. In the time between agreeing to jump and actually jumping it was amazing the amount of aches and pains I felt, thus adding to my cons list. My neck felt really stiff, my lower back was not feeling great and my left hamstring was super sore. I had no choice but to pull out the sports massage cream and kneed it out.

The night before the jump I was walking home looking up at various buildings, trying to judge their height, trying to assess how high 62 metres was, but how could I possibly prepare for this when I felt so safe on the ground. I found myself standing in the street, putting my arms out to my side and pretending to fall, stopping myself by stepping forward at the last moment (yes, I know it is weird but hey, that is what happened!).

I tried to channel thoughts about flying and landing safely. One song that worked for me was by Simply Red called Stars. I have always loved this song and somehow when I sang the most famous lyrics to myself, I was comforted.

“I want to fall from the stars…straight into your arms”

So I’m a romantic, shoot me!

Lets not forget, this was a quick turnaround. Sick on Saturday, read about jumping on Sunday, sign up on Monday, bungee Tuesday. I am not sure I could ever truly articulate the way I was feeling while thinking about jumping the day before or while we were heading out in our van to the bridge to jump. It was an hour-and-a-half to get there so I had plenty of time to think about it. I might have put on a brave face however I was feeling anything but!

My trepidation was further exacerbated when I saw the setup of the bungee. Part of a dual lane highway going over a bridge was cordoned off with witches’ hats. A small pulley system was setup on the side of the road to winch us back up after the jump. The bungee cord was looking a little frayed and attached directly to the guard rail on the bridge. I knew that this rail was designed to withstand a car hitting it at high speed but for some reason this particular part of the setup was making me nervous.

One of us had to go first, turned out it would be me. My initial plan was to go second so I could have one of my fellow jumpers “test” the cord. Alas, this was not to be and my macho façade had to step up to the plate and get me ready to go, while my petrified inner-self was mortified to be dragged along for the ride.

One of the, what I felt, more considerate things I did just before I jumped was to get onto WhatsApp and send a simple yet powerful message to my family saying “I love you guys”. If I was going out, that was going to be my last text, I could deal with that.

I was then strapped up and ready to go. Our bungee “instructor” gave me the brief of what I needed to do. Basically, jump and then put my hands behind my head for the first bounce. He gave me a countdown of a very quick 3, 2, 1 and…

I didn’t jump. I paused…

It is the weirdest feeling ever to be voluntarily lifted over the side of a bridge and stand there looking out over the precipice with nothing in your way but clean, crisp, Bulgarian mountain air. Completely exposed, panicked, yet clear. There was only one thing to do…

I took a breath, looked at the trees below and imagined they were big green cushions…

Counted myself down…

3…

2…

1…

And flew. Well “flew” might be a little bit of a stretch. More like fell.

It was amazing.

I felt the pull of that cord and then bounced a few more times. The rush of free fall, even for a few seconds is just indescribable. Total cliché but nevertheless, true! I looked out across the fields I was hanging over and was super happy to be alive and have completed a tough, tough, tough goal of mine.

Everything was in-tact! I hooked myself onto the cable to winch me back to the bridge and that was that. I then got back onto WhatsApp and let my family know that I just bungee jumped (only my older sister Claudia knew I was doing it!). Sorry mum!

I then focussed on pumping some great tunes and spreading good vibes for my friends who were jumping. All of whom absolutely nailed it!

Geraldine was second cab off the rank and jumped like a pro. No nonsense, got it done even though she said she was shitting herself (cagada)! Sangeeta said on the way to the jump that she might actually need a push to get over the edge. True to her word she needed one, and I was there to help out. When was the last time you could say that you actually pushed someone off a bridge…and they lived? Rachel was nervous like the rest of us but flew like an eagle! Eric (MY BOY!!) confronted his intense fear of heights and jumped like a true legend! Seriously inspiring. And Ryan, what can I say about Ryan, he was cool as a cucumber, attempting classic “white boy” moon walks before swan diving off the edge.

The Bungee Crew (from left to right, Rachel, Eric, Geraldine, Sangeeta, Ryan and little old me)

On the way back home we all felt that if we could do that, we could do anything. And with what I saw on that day, there is no reason to think otherwise!

As always, take what you will from this post and don’t forget to subscribe!

Nick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So…who is Sofia?

After a week of being on a boat in Ibiza and Formentera, I was looking forward to chilling out for a while in Bulgaria before the craziness of 3 weeks which involved travelling to 6 countries, a lot of time in aeroplanes and a few cheeky surprises! (more about that in another post)

Just chillin’ at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The couple of weeks started out well. I was now back with my travel group and enjoying exploring Sofia and its surrounds. I had no idea how beautiful Bulgaria would be! Sofia is situated at the foot of mount Vitosha with plenty of camping spots, hiking trails and mountain bike tracks for the whole family!

Of course, I am completely clueless when it comes to this kind of stuff. As evidence of this, I went for a walk with my friend Ryan up the mountain. We followed a random track to a random campsite in the early afternoon. After resting for a while we realised that neither one of us were in the mood to continue walking in the summer heat so we decided to do the manliest thing possible, start a fire (with no matches). What ensued was probably the most intense exertion of energy the mountain has ever seen. For two hours we worked at building this fire. After about 45min of rubbing sticks together we were getting, dare I say, plumes of smoke coming off this wood, billowing off the log (seriously, we were!). We toiled in the fading sun, taking turns to keep the heat going. We could feel the fire coming, it was about to ignite up on the mountain and the celebration would have been heard in the city far below. In the end, after 2 hours, we were nowhere near a flame and the dream had died. We walked back to the city dejected but hopeful for more successful escapades into the wilderness in the future!

Sofia from Vitosha (no fire in sight, also, I might work on those pectorals)

Thankfully, the ability that we were lacking was more than made up for by Asen Velchikov from Balcanic Life. We were connected with Asen through our city team in Sofia and managed to get out mountain biking, go camping in the Bulgarian wilderness and even snuck in a traditional naked Bulgarian bath. The last one being a very liberating bonding experience with the lads! (sorry ladies, no photos)

I was also fortunate enough to meet up with Teddy, a friend of an old team mate of mine back in Sydney, to play some football. Teddy picked us up one afternoon and drove us to a university complex outside the city. I have to admit, for a second I was worried when we turned into some back roads with abandoned cars on the side of the street in order to get to where we were going to park the car. My concerns were ill founded! Teddy came through with the goods, Bulgarians vs Africans on a synthetic pitch at the university, followed by beers for a few hours afterwards. One of the best experiences in Sofia!

Enjoying a beer with Teddy after a solid game of football

Finally, we worked with T.R.A.P. (Trotoara Room for Angry People), a community organisation providing a space for the youth of Sofia to come together and work on creative arts projects. The group is just beginning and did not have their first space up and running yet. They did however have an old warehouse that was yet to be refurbished. We thought, “warehouse party!!!” and away we went!

With the $1,000USD raised from the party, T.R.A.P. now has the funds required to pay for new flooring, paint the walls, complete electrical installation and install air-conditioning. Their first common space for the kids is now on target to be completed by the end of October 2017. It’s amazing what the group is looking to create and it was really special to be a part of it!

Did I also mention that I struggled with food poisoning at one point during my time in Bulgaria…?

So, just when you think that you are going to have a chilled out few weeks you end up getting food poisoning, struggle through a few days with a testy stomach, hike in the mountains, camp in the wilderness, mountain bike through the forest, throw a warehouse party, make some awesome new friends (from both within and outside of the Remote Year group), check out a reggae club in the park and decide to go bungee jumping…

Bungee jumping!!! WHAT?!?!?! Hold onto your horses. You’ll have to check-in tomorrow for that story!

The reflective stuff

When I took a moment to reflect I realised how easy it can be to get lost in travel. I felt that I was constantly thinking about what I was going to do in the near future while at the same time reminiscing on what I had just done in the recent past. I was therefore missing some of the great things in the present moment. Just a reminder for us all to take a breath every now and then.

As always, take what you will from this post and feel free to get in touch!

 

Valencia – Que pasa nano?

So a lot has been going on since my last post! I continued to enjoy Valencia, visited Ibiza and Formentera for a week with the Valencia boys, moved to Sofia with the remote year crew and I am now in Milan visiting my old housemate Raf. Barring a weekend bout of food poisoning life has been awesome!

What happened in the last couple of weeks in Valencia you ask? Well that trip to the islands of Ibiza and Formentera will have its own post, I won’t even try to cover that here! However, Valencia itself had a heap going on.

Chillin with Carlos, Miguel and Pascual

We had nights on the beach, countless long lunches/dinners and we were often out until the early hours of the morning for no other reason than “this is Spain”. I didn’t mention in my last post that I was living in the BEST location in Valencia. We were right in the heart of Barrio del Carmen which meant that there was something on every night. And I do mean every night, Mondays and Tuesdays were not off limits. Somehow, I would find myself enjoying a bar or walking around the city late in the evening admiring the beauty of the city after promising myself I was going to take it easy.

I will say that this was not totally my fault. With the people that I know in Valencia I had no choice but to spend time with them. I was taken care of better than anyone could ever hope for in any city in the world. I would often be picked up at a moment’s notice by a member of the Valencian “Brigada” to be whisked away to explore some new part of the city. It was awesome, gracias a todos!

Seeing the sights with Pepo and Roberto

On another note, as part of our remote year experience, we as a group have taken on the challenge of contributing to the local community in some way during our time in each city. We have helped out at dog shelters in Split, taken tours with homeless guides around Prague and in July we visited Casa Caridad. This charity has been operating non-stop for 111 years, its dining room offers over 200 meals a day, temporary accommodation for more than 100 people as well as kindergarten services. Seventy-five percent of their income comes from donations.

I am proud to say that our group raised some funds to help out the charity and we had a great time playing football with the Casa Caridad team.

Some of the Remote Year crew with the Casa Caridad team

The reflective stuff

I have truly felt that I got to immerse myself in the Valencian way of life. Even to the point that I was running into friends randomly in the street. Basic things like buying Hawaiian shirts for a party with Pepo and Roberto and walking around the central market and grabbing supplies with Miguel and Pepe were special moments for me.

Stocking up on supplies for the Ibiza and Fomentera trip with Miguel and Pepe

To have these seemingly innocuous experiences in a foreign country really makes you recognise the beauty in the simplicity of everyday life.

When you are not fluent in the language things like ordering at dinner were always fun experiences especially when you have friends like Pascual teaching you how to say “thank you beautiful” in Valenciano, “gracies bonica”.

What is super special though is when you really feel you become part of a city. Kiosk La Pergola is an institution in Valencia. They are famous for their bocadillos, specifically their Super Bom Bon. Slices of meat, chips, sautéed mushrooms and special sauce on a crunchy bread roll make this a meal you won’t forget! Having said that, going there with the Spanish boys earlier in the month, showing them your last blog post with a picture eating in their restaurant and going there for lunch 3 days in a row helps to make sure that they remember you! It was awesome to be able to walk in there and wave hello to everyone. I truly felt like a local!

Another event that brought me closer to the city was going to see a bull fight (gracias Pepo for the tickets!). I know it is contentious and divisive, I don’t want to see any animal suffer but you have to admire the skill of the bullfighter and his bravery to get in that arena. It is definitely something that I wouldn’t do. It was also amazing to learn that many of the bullfighters raise and fight their own bulls. I am not going to get into any commentary about cultural customs and right and wrong here. All I would say is that it was a test of my own preconceptions and opened my eyes to something new.

So to sum it all up…Valencia has a lot of things going for it (as my friend Pascual reminds me of frequently). Pascual and I would talk about the beach, food, nightlife, architecture, history and his group of friends. I have to say that Pascual, his Tio Juan Carlos, his family, and his group of friends are what makes this city my second home. When you strip everything away, it always comes back to the people you meet, the connections you make and the shared experiences you have in a place that make it special.

I also have to say a big thankyou to Chimo, Joseka, Miguel, Andy, Pepo, Pepe, Yuyu, Roberto, Carlos, Jorge (Me Cago) and Hugo (LA DORA). You guys really made my experience in Valencia special and I will soon put together a piece on our epic week away on the boat together. Couldn’t have asked for a better crew! Keep an eye out for that one my dear readers!

As always take what you will from this post and hit me up with any comments, suggestions and requests. Don’t forget to subscribe!

Much love,

Nick