Drinking margaritas and dancing senoritas

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Running at 15 km/h on the treadmill is probably the same as 12 km/h in the real world. That’s what it felt like. The original idea was to chill at the hotel’s spa because of the rain. Unfortunately the spa was closed at the time. So I decided to cease the day and use the gym instead – conveniently it was right next to the spa entrance. Twenty minutes and five kilometers later, I left the treadmill drenched with what appeared to be the sweat of a thousand scrotums. Mhm, that bad! I went upstairs and knocked on Chinatown’s door to join the tribe.

“Can I use your shower?” I asked as the kids were enjoying their hotel room lunch. They probably enjoyed it a lot less after I joined – I think Mr Fox passed out as he couldn’t handle the smell… or the visual.

All showered up, I realized this was not my best look as my nasty sunburn was on display and I continued sweating. After a bit of chit-chat I had to go back to my AirBnB place to change clothes and have a second shower (my sweat glands didn’t get the memo that I was done running). Hey, it’s warm in Spain!

Neither one of my AirBnB hosts – Christina and Victoria – spoke much English. Consequently we didn’t talk that much as my Spanish is buenos nachos assessino caracas!

Two days earlier, I arrived in Barcelona and spent some time sightseeing. I checked out the Sagrada Familia (it’s the pointy tower building which shows up when you Google images about Barcelona), I checked out a few parks and a castle etc. There was a lot to see.

My first impression of Barcelona was: Wow!

It was so beautiful. I was falling in love with every other girl I saw. They are gorgeous!!! This place was heaven! I’m never coming back to London I thought. I will cherish that day forever and ever.

On Thursday, they had a beach party before the zouk festival. A few of my dancing friends showed up that day in Mataro as well (it’s an hour train ride away from Barclona). The plan was to go to the beach party together and get a cab.

I was told they’d pick me up in two minutes. My feet took me downstairs and across the street so the cab could pick me up. The problem was that the cab never arrived or stopped. I waited a full 10-15 minutes but no dice. So I decided to walk it instead (in all honesty it was only a 10-15 minute walk anyway).

Here’s what happened. Chinatown, The Girl from a Swiss Cottage, Mr and Mrs Fox and the Little Dinosaur hired a cab. They only had room for six people and told another girl at their hotel that she can’t share the ride as one spot was reserved for me. The cab got in front of my place but there was no place to stop, so the cab driver just drove past. They all tried calling/messaging me but I had no reception nor internet on my phone (I actually left my phone at ‘home’ anyway as I thought it’s rather useless here).

The taxi driver was a bit cranky I was told and he didn’t seem too eager to look around to find a spot to pull over. It doesn’t seem that he knew where the beach bar was and ended up stopping way past the actual place – all the kids had to walk quite a bit back.

The way I see it, nobody won that day. I got screwed over as I was left waiting for a cab which never arrived, the sixth girl got screwed over as she couldn’t join the taxi at the hotel, the cab driver was annoyed, the ride cost a lot more than it should’ve and all the kids had to walk back about a kilometer from where the cab stopped. It was a disaster.

One thing is sure I will never let Italians organize a cab again. Ever!

We had a bumpy start to the evening but it got better. A lot better. Picture this: a beautiful beach, with palm trees, warm weather, a light cooling summer breeze, surrounded with gorgeous chicas, good music and some amazing dancing at a beach bar. This is the place to be. It felt like a real holiday.

Next day, I had my first encounter with the local customer service at breakfast. It wasn’t great and my fellow breakfesteers thought the waitress came across as miserable. I couldn’t tell as I don’t speak Spanish and didn’t understand the conversation, The Girl from a Swiss Cottage did most of the talking. So I’ll have to take their word for it. Although I thought the service was OK.

I was impressed that the girl was able to memorize our orders. However, she charged us less than she should’ve and the bill was incorrect. This happened later that day too as the staff forgot to add my cherry beer to our bill. I guess they think throwing in a small freebie will keep customers happy or… they aren’t too fussed about doing things properly.

I did a few zouk classes that day as well and learned a move or two – nothing fancy. After grabbing some dinner we went all back for the social and did a bit of freestyling until 5 AM.

Green man

As you can see above, the green man is also dancing in Mataro!

The next day was a bit similar but this time me, Mr and Mrs Fox decided we’re too cool for school. We all skipped the first class, I did the second one and then a bit of the third until I quit. I walked out of the class because it felt like a lot of contemporary bullshit and I got really bored. Our alternative pastime was to head to the beach and drink some Sangria (red wine mixed with chopped fruit, something sweet and a small amount of brandy). I became best friends with Mr Sangria that day.

The social was way better on the second night. I thought I’d be too tired because of the previous day’s 5 AM finish… but no I actually felt much better this time around. I danced with the same amazing Swiss girl I wrote about in the post about Prague. Many times, you will meet the same people from previous zouk events (the world isn’t that big at all). I was also impressed by a German girl and most of the Spanish chicas.

I had another unicorn moment when I found out I was dancing with an Estonian girl. Man, she was out of this world. She was wild, she was young, she was chaotic, she was fun. Then I recommended Chinatown to have a dance with her to be part of the magic I encountered. He, however, said she was rubbish and completely out of tune and out of control. In her defense, she was a beginner but she moved like a pro. I guess what I’m trying to say is, she made a very positive impression. Disclaimer, this is a completely unbiased overview and has nothing to do with her sharing the same nationality with me.

I can’t leave out the London crowd and have to say they were entertaining to dance as well. The best, without question, was The Girl from a Swiss Cottage. I didn’t get to dance with Mrs Fox though but I saw all the kids show one fancy move after another one.

5 AM finish again. Next day, however, the sleep debt caught up with me and I spent the entire day sleeping and didn’t do any dancing whatsoever.

The day before leaving Spain, I was in Barcelona sightseeing. I checked out Park Güell and Castle Montjuic and other stuff. It was just as beautiful as my first day in Spain.

Park Guell

I took the train back to Mataro. A lot of teens joined me at the next station. They were loud and on their way to a big party (shower party or something). They couldn’t wait until the party started, so they were drinking their booze and smoking right there on the train. I’ve never seen something like this. It wasn’t just one kid smoking but more like 10-15. They also played loud music and were drumming loudly on the windows or train walls. It was quite a sight.

The next few stations we got extra people in to make sure the train was tightly packed with teens. Some guys were pushing other passengers off the train when they tried to board at later stations. It was wild, anarchy at its best.

Next morning I had to get to the airport and was greeted by a massive line of teenagers all the way out of the train station. Policemen were everywhere and during my wait I saw two or three kids being taken away by them. I was a bit worried that I might miss my flight.

It took me twenty minutes to get into the station and buy a ticket. Following this I was quite surprised that the train itself wasn’t packed at maximum capacity. There was plenty of room and I even managed to grab myself a seat. Not sure where the teens disappeared… they must’ve travelled in a different direction from me.

I’m very pleased with my first visit to Spain. It widely exceeded my expectations. I’ve always thought that travelling in Europe is a bit meh, but now I’m starting to realize that maybe it’s not that bad after all…

Yours truly,

Chicalover666

One model, a mankini and the Prague Zouk Marathon

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A woman who looked like a supermodel was casually strolling down the pedestrian road and flicking her hair whilst talking on a mobile phone. All eyes were on her and people stared… some even took pictures. I didn’t think of that because all the blood from my brain was downstairs. Did I mention she was completely naked? Then she disappeared behind the corner just as suddenly as she first appeared. My friends, with that visual I welcome you to Prague!

Only a few days after running the London marathon I set myself up for another marathon. This one however was of a different nature – 5 days of lots and lots of dancing in Prague.

Day 1 – Arrival
The ATM said minimum withdrawal was 3,000. I thought to myself three thousand what? This clearly demonstrates the level of my unpreparedness for my stay in Prague. I had no clue what the exchange rate was for the Czech currency (CZK) to my beloved paper with the queen on it. Now I know it’s about 37 CZK for £1. I felt quite rich after walking away from the ATM.

Czech currency

Getting to my AirBnB place proved to be a challenge as well. I managed to get on two wrong buses until I finally found my way. I also put too much faith into GoogleMaps. Even though I found the place my app was telling me to go to I was on the wrong street. Luckily my host knew this could happen and he found me around 1 AM that night.

Even though it was a bit late I still decided to go to the first Prague Zouk Marathon (PZM) event. It’s a party guys, you can show up whenever you like. I arrived around 2 AM and had a few dances but wasn’t quite “feeling it” as I was a bit tired from the travel. I didn’t stay long and then went back “home” to get some sleep.

Second day
My room us HUGE. Think Donalt Trump huuuuge. It’s at least 5 times the size of my room in London. It’s wonderful. I discovered we also have a bubble bath in the property. However, it doesn’t work… or I simply don’t know how to operate one.

A vegan restaurant was super close to my accommodation and I went there for some late lunch. This was a very positive surprise. The food was delicious and I can recommend the place. I think it’s called “Vegan’s restaurant” and it’s on Nerudova street.

The main tourist thing in Prague is its castle. After filling mah belly with blueberry pie I set path towards it. Only a five minute walk from the restaurant until I reached the big gates. Someone was playing the violin nearby. So I sat down and listened to a few songs and enjoyed the view (the castle is on a hill and you can see the entire city and the river etc).

The weather was super sunny… although last night it was quite cold. I found myself expressing classic spring behavior – always trying to walk in the sun as it’s the only place which wasn’t cold. I’m sure many of you can relate.

I wandered about quite aimlessly and made my way to the river to greet some swans. I couldn’t but notice how clean everything was. It’s a very nice city.

I reached a bridge and that’s then I saw the hot naked girl walking around. There was a cameraman or two walking around her – maybe it was a photoshoot or something. Man, Prague is amazing!

As the day turned to night I started to head  back to the PZM venue. I walked past a big garden/vineyard and saw a rabbit hopping about. Earlier I saw an otter in the river. It’s quite a lively place here compared to London. The only wildlife in London you could see are mostly squirrels and foxes. I’ve also seen mice/rats in both underground stations and Starbucks coffee shops – it was nowhere as cool as seeing an otter. Prague 1 : London 0.

The PZM provided lunch, dinner and snacks in between. I got there on time for a buffet dinner. I think it worked really well – it was easy to fill my plate with vegan stuff although I had my doubts initially. I think the organizers deserve some praise in this area. Well done!

I didn’t do any dancing that night. I was too full and I think many others felt the same. There weren’t enough ladies to dance with so I decided to go home and take a nap and maybe come back in an hour or two if I felt like it. However, I woke up in the morning.

Day three

I was a bit bored in the morning and ended up booking myself a spot in the Paris marathon next year. This is one of the largest races in the world. It’s on 9 April 2017 and the registration is still open. Come join me!

I did the usual touristy stroll in the city and discovered these small islands in the river. They’re really nice and are basically just parks with flowers and benches and grass to sit on and have a picnic. I was chilling on the grass and looking at the water etc. Then a group of lads with one guy in a mankini got to the park to chat and chill and make fun of him. It was quite entertaining. It was probably some sort of a stag do ritual.

Prague islands

Back to the party for dinner. This time I decided to hang around after dinner (although it was a bit boring) until it got busier. I did a lot more dancing that night. My first victim was this Swiss girl in red. She was amazing!

I recognized a lot of people from the Zouk Libre Festival which was in Warsaw earlier this year. Norway (I think it’s Caroline?) was here again and she was very entertaining to watch. I didn’t dance with her – it’s dangerous for both of us as I never know what she’s up to. Anywho, she put on quite a show – just like in Warsaw. Very cool!

I think my Casanova skills reached a new low when I asked for a girl’s name and she said it was Laika – like the Russian dog who was sent to space and for all I know is still orbiting us. I couldn’t stop laughing for a few moments… she did not appreciate my sense of humor. We never danced again. Worth it!

I danced with many others (a lot of them were Polish) and left around 5 in the morning.

Days 4 and 5 – Afterparties

All that dancing and prancing was not good for recovery from the marathon I ran a few days earlier. I now have a blister between two toes and one of my toenails is about to fall off. Walking was a bit painful and it still is. The Prague Zouk Marathon was over but two afterparties were still on my agenda.

The first afterparty was at the TV Tower. The entire floor (96m up in the air) was reserved for the event. It had a wonderful view of the city. I didn’t realize that this was a “fancy” event – the girls had beautiful dresses on and stuff. I guess my crappy unironed white T-shirt, running shoes and dirty jeans didn’t quite fit in. I didn’t dance as much as I would’ve liked – things were hurting and I was a bit worried because of that.

TV_tower

Next day, my feet were still hurting and I decided that enough is enough. I needed to MacGyver a Band-Aid or something for the blister between my toes. I fixed it with a bit of tape and bandage. I felt like a doctor who got his degree online when I was operating the scissors etc. Now I can walk again.

The second afterparty was at a hotel and it wasn’t very busy when I got there. Things got better but I left around midnight to catch the last tube back home – I wanted to catch some sleep before my flight back to London as well.

Aftermath

Now I’m happily back in London and enjoying the rest of my day off. I think I didn’t get the most out of the Zouk Marathon – I only went to the evening parties and spent a lot of time sightseeing and stuff. The close proximity to the London marathon also didn’t help. I feel like I missed out on a lot and could’ve had a better experience.

However, Prague itself was amazing. The buildings are very symmetrical, detailed and refined – like a good wine. I’m obviously an expert in the subject matter of buildings and design because I once dated a girl who was into architecture or was it psychology? I’m not even sure.

Anywho, Prague is a city in which the crazy/unusual will find you if you stay too long in one place – whether it’s a hot naked woman, a man in a mankini or a film crew stopping you from going home because my street was transformed into a movie scene from the dark middle ages. Prague has Australia’s sunshine without the heat and Stockholm’s buildings without its price tag and reminded me of Amsterdam but without the bikes. Lots of trees and flowers were blossoming – it really was quite romantic. It’s well worth a visit!

Ivar

Passat comfort, crying babies and eating snow

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Day 1 – Getting to Bulgaria

It’s the end of tax year here in the UK and work is busier than ever. I’ve found myself working late – something I’ve never done before.

One of my colleagues here used to say that ‘you never stay late, what is wrong with you? I don’t know… maybe I started to care about work and what I do. Sadly it’s to the detriment of my happiness and job satisfaction. The latter has significantly deteriorated since February.

Keeping all the above in mind, it’s no surprise that I needed to get away, somewhere far-far away from London – the further, the better.

Luckily I had already booked some annual leave. This was for ZoukFest – a zouk festival here in London near the Heathrow Airport. However, I got a message on Facebook from Benn (my old Australian housemate) who said he was snowboarding in Bulgaria and invited me over.

I had a quick think, looked at flights, went for a run to clear my mind and decided to go for it. ZoukFest happens every year but how often do you get to see old friends from the other side of the planet? Besides it’ll cost me roughly the same. Following my cost-benefit analysis I booked my flights to Sofia, Bulgaria. I figured it would feel more like a vacation if I was overseas as well. I’m a smart little man, aren’t I?

Fast forward to Wednesday. My flight was from Luton at 9 PM and I had to catch my EasyBus shuttle from Commercial Street (near Liverpool St station) after work. However, work being super busy meant that I had to rush to the pick-up point. My colleagues thought it would be a 20 minute walk from the office. I decided not to trust them and ran the whole distance. It took me 20 minutes to get there. Google Maps says that it was a 36 minute walk. Trust is a fragile thing you know…I will never trust my colleagues again.
Everything went smoothly once I got on the bus. The flight was on time and I landed on time.

I had some trouble booking a transfer from Sofia to Bansko (the ski-resort town). Everything was booked out. One guy from a taxi/shuttle company said they’re all booked out but he’ll look into it. He referred me to Svetlio, who in turn said that he could give me a ‘private’ transfer for £48. I said forget it because I’m poor.

Then he came back quoting £20 instead. I said that’s reasonable and agreed. I think this is how Bulgaria works. They try to skin you alive and then if they find out they can’t get away with it, they’ll reconsider their offering.

So. My flight landed at 2:15 AM local time and Svetlio promised to pick me up from the airport. I was quite impressed that he was actually at the airport with a sign with my name on it and everything. For a moment I felt important.

That didn’t last long.

Svetlio (a man in his late 30s with long dark hair who didn’t speak much English) walked me to his car. It was an old Volkswagen Passat from 1989 I think. This all reminded me of the beginning scene of a horror movie. It was late at night, I got into a dodgy car (which had no logos or anything identifying it as a proper transfer vehicle) with a stranger who barely spoke English. Oh well, I thought… I have no kids nor dependants and nobody will miss me anyway… Let’s be less racist for a moment and give this suspicious man a chance.

We didn’t talk much. I was tired and tried to get some sleep however the thought of being murdered kept me awake.
We stopped at 3 petrol stations and I managed to get Wifi to message Benn to let him know that I was on my way (they don’t sell SIM cards at gas stations for some reason and my crappy T-mobile contract doesn’t function overseas).

I got to Bansko in one piece and have to admit that all my fears were a fiction of my imagination.

It was good to see my kids again. Benn hasn’t changed at all – he still looks like Jesus with his massive hobo beard. Em hadn’t changed either.

We had some tea and a bit of a catch-up before going to sleep.

Day 2 – A day of pain and suffering

I have never snowboarded. Nor have I ever skied downhill with those heavy wide skis. I’ve done a bit of cross country skiing about 10 years or so ago. We put together a plan and decided that skiing was lame. Therefore, I was going to be snowboarding with Benn and Em on my first day.

I had a lot of trouble standing up on the board even on a small incline. Falling down was painful because everything was covered in icy snow. I’m no quitter and we thought that I need a real hill to learn.

Naturally, we went to the tippy-top of the mountain. It was cold. Not renting proper clothes was a mistake. I was shaking from the cold as we went up on the chairlift. The top is about 2.5km high. The views from above were breath-taking.

Bansko (179)

Benn helped me to get the feel for the board as we tried to get downhill together. We were holding on to each other as I needed someone to hold on to for balance. Again, falling was painful.

At one time we decided I should go solo. It was OK for a few seconds until I face-planted and hurt my left arm. It’s been 10 days and the arm still hurts. It probably needs to be amputated.

Side note, completely unrelated to the above. Today I helped out a colleague with a case and she gave me a quick overview: this is a very old client who fell and had to wait almost an entire day until his son found him. I know tragic… but I couldn’t stop laughing once I heard this. And she laughed along. Oh well, I’m going to hell. 😀

Ok, back to the top of the mountain. Benn figured that the only way for me to learn snowboarding was to actually go do some snowboarding. Before he managed to kick me downhill ‘this is Sparta!’-style my whole life flashed before my eyes. A lot of things were already hurting and I decided I’d rather take the chairlift down because this was a very long and icy slope, I was miserable and my ass was wet and I just wanted to go home.

By the way the chairlift was scary as hell. I was trembling most of the way down – 10% because of the cold, 89% fear and 1% sheer horror. The wobbly chairlift didn’t help things either. I was proper shitting myself. Man, I’m such a pussy.

Our trio met at the mid base and decided to try a different slope. Now things improved. A lot. Here the snow was mushy and softer. After a few falls I started to lose my fear of acquainting my face with the ground. My way towards backflips and 360’s was no longer paved with tears and pain but it was more of a sure thing – I could see myself winning the next X-games and slalom Olympics.

I improved a lot and managed to stay on the board like a pro – a very slow one though but still. The highlight was when I crashed into the hottest girl on the hill – this was totally planned of course.

Instead of the gondola, we took the ski-road down the hill. This was a very nice beginner friendly road. However, it was a tad bit too long. I remember my quads and thighs were feeling the burn as I was coming down the mountain. I’m probably doing it wrong because Benn said his thighs don’t ache after snowboarding.

My low-point was when I face-planted with a bit of speed behind me. It hurt and I needed a few moments to bring myself back up to face the rest of the way. Whilst I was on my back begging for a miracle and dreaming of a nice warm place anywhere but here I heard babies crying in the distance. The cries got closer and closer until I saw that some mothers had their kids on their backs as they skied past me. I’m way to cool to call this child abuse but hey… I’m not a parent and therefore can’t judge.

Bansko (171)

Anywho, I was in lots of pain but eventually got up and boarded the rest of the way back to the very end of the road. I congratulated myself on a job well done for surviving this ordeal.

Day 3 – Luxury day

All of my muscles were sore. There was no way I was going anywhere near the mountain. I needed to lick my wounds and some luxury.

Luckily our crib was just three houses down road from a hotel which had a pool and a sauna. That’s where we headed for some easy swimming and chillaxing. It wasn’t anything special. However it was Benn’s (and I think Emily’s as well) first time in a sauna. These kids only lasted about five minutes and it was only 80 degrees in there. Australia has made them soft.

Day 4 – Pro day

I remember feeling sore and watching my videos from Poland in bed. I figured that I could be at ZoukFest and dancing and having a good time. But no, here I am, all broken and nostalgic.

Bansko is not a nice city. It’s got a lot of empty unfinished buildings. We think that the real estate boom crashed spectacularly here and that’s why it looks the way it does. It was quite creepy. I call the street we stayed on Murder Lane because every time we walked past anybody we were scared of getting stabbed by the locals. They did not seem friendly.

The customer service here has lots of room for improvement. I was trying to buy a lift pass for the gondola. The woman sold the ticket to the person in front of me and then just closed her little window and started to count the money in the till and what not. Then she proceeded to have her lunch. I think it would’ve been nice if they kept one of the windows open whilst the rest were on their lunch break. However, out of solidarity all windows were closed at the same time and they didn’t seem to mind that there were people queuing up at every window.

I finally got my ticket and was on my way to the mountain. Since I had already mastered the snowboard I decided to apply my marathon running legs to skis. I also invested in proper pants, gloves and the fastest jacket they had. I was well prepared for backflips and 360s.

The good news is that I was much better on the skis and managed to enjoy the whole thing much more than the snowboard. I ate considerably less snow that day. It was wonderful!

Bansko (185)

Moments before I turned around and dropped all our gear

Benn and Em both managed to injure themselves. Benn fell and stabbed himself in his back with one of his skis and Em hurt her leg when she face-planted on our way back home. Their injuries weren’t serious, they walked it off. However, I was injury free the entire day and didn’t want to leave… but they closed the mountain (i.e. stopped the chairlifts) and we had to go.

On day five I had to head back to Sofia airport and then back to London.

I think this was one of the best short holidays I’ve ever had. Seeing Benn and Em was good, mastering the snowboard/skis was a plus and getting away from London was well worth the trip. I’m definitely going on a ski holiday again.

Peace,
Ivar the future X-games champion

Bansko (203)