Six Short Stories From The Roskilde Music Festival

Last year I wrote up my experiences as a first timer at the Roskilde Music festival. The festival is world famous, not only for its size, but for it’s unique and quirky atmosphere.  The experience was rich and deeply enjoyable in no small part due to the people I had with me.  So, this year, I recruited Juan Martinez, a close friend and periodic consultant for VirtualWayfarer. I gave him free reign and set him loose on Roskilde with the charge of recording, documenting, and then coming up with a creative look at the festival. What follows is “Obi” Juan’s insights into the festival as a long-time festival veteran and one of my de-facto tour guides.

The Orange Feeling (n) defined as: Good friends, good vibes and good times

Six short stories of the Orange Feeling at Roskilde Festival

by Juan David Martinez (flickr | Instagram)

Camp Unknown

My phone rang. It was a lovely Wednesday summer afternoon and our camp aptly named “Camp Unknown” was beginning to start the party in the camping area. We had one day until the music started and the friends who couldn’t be there the entire week started coming in. Beer in hand, we took in the much needed sun, and told stories of festivals’ past. I answered my phone. I heard a soft familiar voice, but seemingly saddened.

It was my friend Andra. She was in tears – the ticket she had bought was fake. The festival had sold out that year and she tried to purchase the ticket via an online website. The frailty in her voice drove a dagger through my heart. Some of our close friends were already at the festival and she was the last person we were waiting for. My heart started racing, and I asked where she was and immediately started running that way.

I told the rest of the camp what had happened, and immediately the party stopped.

The Night Rider’s Lament

Family in Europe - 95

(Family Photo, Europe, 1995)

There’s an old country classic that has always resonated with me.  It’s one of my favorites and always touches my soul in a way few songs are able to.  The song, Night Rider’s Lament, is an old cowboy song about a cow hand reading a letter from a friend late at night. The song talks of the things he’s given up or delayed to pursue the lifestyle he’s chosen.  It talks about a wonderful woman passed over, life choices, opting for a road less-traveled, and forgoing many of the things we’re culturally told we should love and define our lives by.  It then follows with a chorus about the beauty of nature, the glory of the seasons, the majesty of the world, and the different types of companionship we might experience.

I like to think that, perhaps, I inherited a sliver of the old cowboy’s soul by way of my folks and had it ingrained in me as a young kid. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on my dad’s lap on an old 1940’s Ford tractor grading the road to our house in southwestern Colorado. Despite these slightly more country roots, I’ve spent a majority of my life immersed in big cities. These cities are also where I often view myself as most comfortable and at ease.  This is the opposite of another piece of my core essence, which will always view the rural valleys deep within the San Juan Mountains as the place I think of as home when I close my eyes and let my mind wander before drifting off to sleep.  Despite that strange contrast, I’ve chosen to prioritize travel in my life. Where others invested their time and energies in passionate pursuit of a spouse, a job, a house, and a family, I’ve spent my early life chasing the horizon. To the extent that when I explain my lifestyle over the last few years to people who wonder at the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen, all I can do is shrug, smile, and explain, ‘No mortgage, no dog, no girlfriend’.  It’s not that I don’t value those things or that I don’t want them.  It’s just that for now, they’re not the thing that drives me forward.  It is a sentiment that many serial travelers may understand even though the nature of our relationship with discovery and the unknown is always different from individual to individual.

Earlier tonight as I sat besides one of the lakes here in Copenhagen, enjoying unusually warm weather on a still-crisp March evening, I took in the light of the moon, the stars, and the twinkling reflections of buildings as they cast their light across the still surface of the lake.  Lost in the moment, listening to my music as I sat smoking the tobacco pipe I picked up in southern Turkey several years ago, Night Rider’s Lament came on and it left me reflecting on where my future lies. It’s also likely no coincidence that my 29th birthday is just around the corner and with any birthday comes an added sense of introspection.

The song, combined with decisions about my future which I’ll likely be making in the next few weeks, left me thinking about choices, responsibility, distance, and family. Some might assume that when my brother and I both chose, within three days of each other, to head abroad for three-year periods with few opportunities to return stateside or to be co-present with family, that we lacked close family bonds. Yet, as I sat there staring out at the water through a small cloud of vanilla-scented smoke, I felt reunited with the rest of my loved ones. Where we’ve chosen to pursue paths that have placed us on different continents, thousands of miles apart, we still share one of the closest familial relationships I’ve ever encountered. We communicate with each other regularly, often daily, and when we do have the opportunity to come together – that’s been about once a year – we take to the road and travel together. These collective trips allow us to break free of the monotony of sterile routine and old memories, while forging new experiences which we create and share.

As I sit beneath the stars and a lazy partial moon, the smoke before me isn’t something that leaves me sitting behind a wall of solitude.  It is a connection that leaves me partially in the moment and partially reflecting on similar evenings shared with my brother, father, and mother. Sitting with our pipes, cigars, or guitars while enjoying similarly crisp spring air with views out over the Zambian bush, San Juan Mountain range, and the Scottish Isles. It is a wondrously rich experience which I treasure more than anything I own or the vast majority of my more material accomplishments.  It also puts my spirit at rest, as I wonder if I’m making and have made the right choices and if I should press forward, continuing to pursue the path I’ve chosen.

It’s no easy thing to be far from loved ones without the sense of security and permanence more traditional lifestyles provide.  Especially when we face challenging decisions, new opportunities, or the biting sense of isolation that comes with hearing about the loss of extended family, familial health issues, or in the moments where we discuss, across great distances, our fears, our frustrations, or our failings. In these moments it is tempting to pack it all in and rush back to the security and comfort that a more traditional lifestyle would offer.  Yet, it is also in these same moments that the most self growth, discovery, and realizations are born.

On that note, I’ll finish with an original song my mom gifted my brother and I which mirrors this evening’s musings and always serves as a wonderful reminder to press forward along the path I’ve chosen.  Even when it’s uncertain or uncomfortable.

Snow Covered Copenhagen

Snow Covered Copenhagen

How do you take a picturesque city with beautifully colored buildings, elegant canals, and wide pedestrian streets and make it even more picture perfect?   You add snow.  At least, that seems to be the approach Copenhagen takes a couple of times a year.   Despite its northern location, Copenhagen’s close proximity to the sea and placement along the Gulf Stream keeps it surprisingly warm and snow free for most of the year.   Over the last week, however, a cold spell hit the country dumping more than 20cm of snow across parts of Denmark.  While it also meant that temperatures plunged below 0 Celsius, the result has been worth it!

Eager to enjoy the city before the snow melted or got too dirty, I bundled up and headed out into the cold to capture these photos and shoot the above video.  As I walked the city center the snow periodically alternated between large light snowflakes and small slow-falling flakes that were few and far between.  Combined with the colors of the streets, the warm yellow glow of the street lamps, and the overhead lighting of the holiday lights that decorate many of the larger pedestrian streets, the snow left me feeling as though I’d been transported into a magical snow-globe. Pinch me, I am really here.

Snow Covered Copenhagen

Despite the cold I still found the streets crowed with tourists wandering the city and locals out doing their shopping. A few of the buskers had suited up and decided to brave the cold, casting the haunting notes of clarinet, accordion, and violin drifting across streets that date back to the 1400s and 1500s. In other areas the rich smells of freshly made crepes (pancakes as the Danes call them) and caramelized almonds offer a feast for the senses that leave passerby’s stomachs rumbling.

Snow Covered Copenhagen

Despite the snow and black ice most Danes still bundle up, layer on their scarves, and then hop on their bikes. It’s an amazing sight to see and definitely more than a little inspiring. I guess it makes sense, if I’m silly enough to enjoy walking around in the snow, biking in it isn’t all that different…right?

Piled Bikes in Snow

Still, not everyone is up for a snowy bike ride home, especially after a night out at the bars, which contributes no doubt to the piles of snow-covered bikes that line the city’s streets. This dogpile was especially messy. Apparently a few bikes had been double-parked during the weekend and then fallen over, knocking the others into a giant confused and snow-covered jumble.

Copenhagen Christmas Market

Copenhagen takes its holiday decorations seriously and has beautiful heart-shaped lights that hang over most of the larger streets. It also has a collection of wonderful Christmas markets. The one located near Christiansborg Slot at Amagertorv is one of my favorites! You can also find other markets in nearby squares and along Nyhavn.

Copenhagen Christmas Market

The market stalls in Amagertorv are solidly built, have beautiful facades, and a wonderful traditional holiday feel to them. They’re a mixture of random goods, warm-weather gear, food, and of course, Gløgg/Mulled Wine.

Copenhagen Christmas Market

I found Danes and tourists alike huddled together, hands wrapped around smoking cups of Gløgg, eying hot dogs and other delicious meats as they cooked in nearby stalls on circular suspended grills.

Copenhagen Christmas Market

The market even boasted a tiny Santa ride for little kids. Little more than a giant train set, the ride made a very tight circle around the Christmas Market’s central Christmas tree. What the ride lacked in size, it made up for with ornately decorated cars and a vibrantly decorated tree.

Snow Covered Roses

Another thing that always surprises me is the flower stalls. Despite the cold weather, there are several small street stands that stay open year round. In the photo above you can see the wide variety of roses and flowers they offer, all beautifully covered by a soft layer of snow.

Snow and Flowers in Copenhagen

Beyond cut flowers, they also offer live flowers waiting to be planted. Perfect holiday gifts which are somehow perfectly resistant to the cold weather and damp kiss of half-frozen snow.

Danish Bakery

I finished my stroll with a quick walk past a traditional Danish bakery with its windows full of stacked fresh bread, deserts and delicious Danish treats.

Danish Bakery

Cold, and ready to retreat back to the warmth of my apartment, I found myself playfully walking through the snow…a light near-skip to my step. There’s something about Copenhagen that always leaves me charmed. The more time I spend here, the more I fall in love. It is an amazing place and an incredible feeling. If you get the chance, don’t just assume that Copenhagen is a summer city. It has a lot to offer no matter what time of year it is!

Students Only: Partying in the Black Diamond Library in Copenhagen

Black Diamond Student Party

While Copenhagen is famous for its architectural flare, one of the city’s famous landmarks is the “Black Diamond“. Built as an extension to the city’s ancient Royal Danish Library, the Black Diamond is a neo-modern 7-story addition which extends from the old library building to the city’s harbor/waterfront. It was finished in 1999.  Granted its nickname due to the polished black marble and dark glass used to design the building, it houses a theater, armies of book shelves and a classy waterfront cafe.

Black Diamond Student Party

The library holds a yearly event with a local students group which puts on a fantastic evening of music, drinks, and social mingling. The event is limited exclusively to students and their guests. This year it showcased a variety of wonderful musical performances ranging from a lone cello performance to well known hip-hop artists.

Black Diamond Student Party

While the individual library wings were closed (understandably) to the general audience, all of the open spaces were made available and filled with wild lighting, musical performances, and space to mix and mingle.  With large open halls and an acoustically friendly atrium crisscrossed at different points by flying bridges it made for a delightful experience. It is also interesting the difference a legal drinking age of 18 plays in enabling these sorts of events.  While still possible in the US, the lack of a need to ID, wristband, and police the event as well as the more responsible drinking behavior among undergraduate-aged students that results from the lower drinking age makes a huge difference. While you could hold a similar event in the US, it would definitely be far more challenging logistically and have a different ambiance as a result.

Black Diamond Student Party

The main performers were set up on the flying bridge that cut across the center of the atrium at the 3rd story.  It served as the perfect stage as the rest of the atrium consisted of wrap around, open air causeways which formed a large U before giving way to the ceiling to floor glass windows.  The main windows which stretched from ceiling to floor before warping into a large skylight offered a charming view of the harbor at night.

Black Diamond Student Party

A group of students from the Communication, Cognition, Film and Media Studies programs met up before the doors opened for a relaxing drink along the harbor waterfront. As the sun set we made our way into the Black Diamond.  It set the mood for the night.   Once inside we split into smaller groups as we explored the library (for most of us, it was our first time inside) before re-connecting to catch up on the week’s events and antics while listening to the various music performances.   The entire event was more than just music or drinks.  It was a beautifully executed experience and definitely ranks as one of my favorite events in Copenhagen so far.

Black Diamond Student Party

There’s something truly magical about a great concert series in a captivating venue.  The added effort the organizers put into building on the library’s native ambiance also made a huge difference. One surprising aspect of the evening was the number of international students in attendance.  Though University of Copenhagen has a relatively small international student population (in comparison to its size), the event was very foreign student heavy which offered a fun mixture of accents, cultures and personalities. Holding the event as a students-only event also ended up being a great thing.  It eliminated the potential social discomfort that often goes with attending a formal event and served as a fun way to bridge the gap between a more traditional event and student life’s informality. The event was an absolute delight and one I hope to participate in again next year. Have you enjoyed a concert or event in a particularly unique venue?  I’d love to hear about it in a comment.

**I didn’t take my camera with me to the event so the photos in this post were taken by Frida Zhang and are used/hosted with her permission.

Wandering in Oslo, Norway

Embassy Row - Oslo, Norway

My final day in Oslo was spent meandering the city’s cobblestone streets, wandering through the old harbor, and resting lazily in the park reading my book.   I’d paused at the local rail station during the previous day’s walking tour and picked up a discount reservation for an overnight train from Oslo to Stavanger on Norway’s western coast.  To my disappointment, my Eurail pass only reserved a reclining airplane like seat, but – it would have to do.   The train left late in the evening – 10PM if memory serves and would take just over 8 hours as it wound its way along the southern coast, before hockey-sticking up through the Fjords to Stavanger.

Downtown - Oslo, Norway

The late departure gave me the entire day to explore the city and relax.  Hildur was off work at 4:30 which gave me a sold 4 or 5 hours to explore.   Eager to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I struck off down towards the old harbor.  My path took me along major streets with old buildings, showcasing an eclectic mixture of architectural styles from all over the world.  Despite the inherent beauty in most of the buildings, one stands out in my memory: the US Embassy. The building stood on the corner of the street which encircles the Palatial Park/Main Palace.  It was an odd building.  Ringed by an imposing 10+ ft tall black fence, the building was all blacks and grays.  About 3 stories, it was square, with an odd architectural design, one which had arrow slit like windows.  The whole thing oozed a sense of…I don’t want to say Evil…but perhaps…unfriendliness is a better word.  It may have just been the color and the architectural era it hailed from.  Either way, it left me feeling disappointed and misrepresented.

The Harbor - Oslo, Norway

Though I’d poked around the main Harbor the day before, I relished the opportunity to continue my exploration.  The harbor is home to some 5-10 “tall ships” which is to say old/classically modeled sailing vessels.  Many have been converted into tour vessels but others are still classic sailing ships.  All offer a beautiful ambiance to the harbor which is ringed by cafes and small kiosks not to mention an incredible view back towards the down town area.

Street Performer - Oslo, Norway

From the harbor I struck back up, re-tracing the previous day’s steps, towards the Parliament building and central greenbelt.  From there it was up and down the main shopping street. Lined with people, the street also provided a wide selection of street performers.   From jugglers, to musicians most of the usual types were in attendance.  Some of the more a-typical ones, however, included a puppeteer playing the piano, and cripple using his two crutches to alternately perform tricks while bouncing a ball with them.  The sights and sounds left me chuckling at times, wincing at others and of course scratching my head in bafflement at yet others.

Flowered Square - Oslo, Norway

The street eventually led me down  towards the main train station, where I headed to the left, and quickly ended up in a picturesque square which was doubling as a flower market.  The market was awash in colors, scents and people as passerby’s paused to relax, pick up flowers, or wound through the square on their way to some errand or meeting.

Children at Play - Oslo, Norway

Eventually my meanderings took me back through the warren of H&M stores and small cafe’s towards the old National Theater.   The boulevard it sits on is split down the middle by a series of small fountains, flowerbeds overflowing with blooming flowers, and of course the usual assortment of relaxing and sunbathing Norwegians.  I paused briefly next to one of the fountains to capture the photo above – two young children at plan.  There’s something about it which just seemed to strike me as being a bit classic.  Boy meets girl.  Boy wears blue. Girl wears red. Both enjoy the innocence of youth, combined with the joys of a youthful, inquisitive nature, while relaxing in front of a gorgeous fountain on a beautiful blue day.

Town Hall - Oslo, Norway

From the fountain I decided to see if I could explore the inside of the city hall.  It was, after all, a rather unique building.  It seemed only natural that the interior would be equally interesting.  The 5 minute walk down to the main structure was quick and enjoyable.  I say walk, but it was more a lazy meandering as I lankily ambled my way along the sidewalk.   The building – a massive red brick creation – served as a picturesque backdrop for various pieces of artwork, often added seemingly at random.  A prime example is the large clock shown above, which I found all the more beautiful due to the relatively basic and plane brick backdrop that it had been set within.

Town Hall - Oslo, Norway

The building’s main entrance was equally interesting.  Though not completed until 1950 due to the War, the building was started in 1931 which is reflected in its general feel and appearance. Parts of the design left me thinking of a simpler, less ornate version of the Chrysler Building in New York.  Interestingly, the City Hall is also the site of the award ceremony each year where Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded.

Town Hall - Oslo, Norway

The building’s immediate interior is a massive open room.  The room has a variety of different murals – all done in a similar style – decorating each of the walls.  The murals reflect the nation’s history and toils, while conveying a very propaganda-esq artistic style. One which, at least in the US, we’ve often come to associate with former Soviet and more Socialist governments. The murals focus on the people, their labors, culture and wars.  Not surprising given the building’s history and completion in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

The Palace - Oslo, Norway

After leaving the City Hall, I found my way back up past the Royal Palace before connecting with Hildur, who had just gotten off work.  After a quick nap, we decided to pick up some Sushi to go (which to my surprise was only slightly more expensive than fast food), before heading to the park to enjoy the weather.  We ate, chatted, and enjoyed the weather before saying our goodbyes. It was time to head to the rail station and to continue my exploration of Norway’s culture and natural beauty.

My stay in Oslo was incredible.  Made that much more delightful by my incredible hosts, who truly went out of their way to share their city, culture and local cuisine with me.  I owe them a huge debt of gratitude and will always have very fond memories of Oslo, in no small part, due to their hospitality.

Dublin Part III

Still slightly drowsy, we rubbed sleep from our eyes and made our way downstairs. Tossed a few hamburger-like patties in the microwave for breakfast and said our good-mornings.

After recharging cameras, writing a few blog posts, and socializing for a bit David and I met up with three English girls – two of whom we’d met briefly the evening before. After chatting for a while the five of us set off to meander through the city…we made our way down across Temple Bar, past vibrantly colored pubs and wound towards Trinity College and it’s gorgeous campus, situated in the very heart of Dublin. Passing through the huge outer doors/compound walls, the campus opened up before us with large greens, beautiful trees and historic buildings. Pausing periodically for pictures we wound our way through the campus before striking out and heading north towards the bronze statue of Molly Malone – famous fishmonger by day and immortalized lady of the night. You’ll find her name affectionately referenced in a number of Irish songs and as the namesake of a similar number of Irish pubs.

We paused with Molly to take a quick photo, while Lizzie leaned in for a quick squeeze, before cutting across to the Dublin tourist center. The center, like a number of other buildings in the Isles, is in an old converted cathedral. Large, spacious and beautiful, the interior is jam-packed with booths, fliers, and tourist gear.

From the tourist center we found a small bridge across the Lithie River and down along O’Connell Street. Pausing so our English companions could grab a cup of tea, we braved intermittent raindrops and soon found ourselves wandering through a slightly more rugged section of the city. The industrial feel quickly gave way to office buildings and a beautiful river walk. We spotted a 3-masted schooner tied up about a quarter of a mile down the river.

We wound down past a rather powerful monument commemorating the potato famine with gaunt, holocaust-esque bronze figures, before getting a good look at the ship from a narrow walking bridge that crossed the river.

Tired and footsore we climbed up the opposite side of the river-walk and back across Temple bar. Pausing to pick up cooking supplies for dinner at a small market, we found our way home and set to the task of a nap and preparing dinner.

By the time we set to cooking dinner, things were bustling. As we all piled into the kitchen, ducking and dodging each other we made new friends, shared food and stories. Eventually, eyes glazing over with full stomachs we settled in for another round of Kaste Gris. With the Danes laughing along joyfully we butchered the pronunciation, took our turns throwing the small pig-like dice, shouting, hollering and applauding good rolls.

As the evening progressed, we rounded up a good group of Brits, Danes, Austrians and a few others and then set off to the Porter House. There we listened to live music until close, before heading across the street to the Turks Head – a small club/bar which was offering Salsa. A few dances later, they called it a night, leaving us to start our own dance party – congo line included – in the bar/nightclub part of the venue. Eager for new surroundings, we migrated back to the Czech Bar shortly thereafter where we continued to dance, drink, and mingle well into the evening.

Not to be outdone by the previous evening, by the time we finally returned to the hostel, we quickly settled into the common room where Rasmus played a few songs as we sang and wound down.

Two New Salsa Videos

Howdy all! As a quick sidetrack from my Spain blogs this post includes two freshly recorded videos from this past weekend. What of? Why social Salsa dancing of course!

While each Salsa club is completely different the following videos were recorded at Paragon Dance Studio’s Sunday Night Salsa Function in Tempe, Arizona which trades the conventional restaurant/night club backdrop for plenty of space and a top notch dance floor. Make sure to select the HQ option when viewing both videos & remember – I love your questions! Have one? Post it in a comment response to this post and I’ll get back to you promptly!

Elektra & I Dancing:

Debbie & I Dancing:

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Sevilla – Part I

Christmas has made writing the last few days extremely difficult. Everyone has been engaged in one giant festival here in Cadiz with stores running odd hours, people everywhere, and lots of fun adventures to be had. As I wait for my train to depart Cadiz, I finally find myself able to sit down and share a bit about my time in Sevilla.

After arriving at the hostel, I unloaded my bag and began to get situated. Oasis Sevilla is a fantastic 4-story hostel with a bar and common area on the first floor, rooms on the 2nd and 3rd, and a rooftop terrace with a (cold) pool and nicely equipped kitchen. From the start, the hostel had a warm, friendly feel to it which built camraderie.

I immediately met two German guys and a Swede who were in my room. We made the usual introductions, I checked my email briefly and eagerly dove into the city. The hostel is located immediately off a large plaza containing a mid-sized cathedral. The plaza, divided  into two park areas, was the site of one of the oddest pieces of construction I’ve seen in a long time. One half had been turned into a large walled-off construction zone as they assembled what looks to be some sort of flying sauceresque large building. I cannot for the life of me figure out how or what the end result will be, but it makes for a very odd addition to the skyline. As I was checking my e-mail I talked briefly with a guy who recommended walking down to the river and tracking down some of the graffiti which I put on my to do list for the following day. With no particular direction or location in mind, I set off picking up a bit of tapas in a small tapas bar along the way. I wandered around the zone immediately around my hostel, taking in the huge crowds of people in the streets, the chestnut vendors cooking and hawking their toasty ashen wares and the general hum-drum of a vibrant city alive with life.

By about 8:30 pm I got back to the hostel just in time to join up with a free Tapas and Flamenco tour provided by the hostel. The guide was a German fellow doing an extended stay at the hostel. With some 15 odd people in tow we set out and wound our way through the streets before  arriving at a small tapas bar on a small stone square full of cafes and small shops. In a stampede we set upon the bar, scratching our heads, picking out tapas and passionately wolfing them down with the customary beer that goes with it. After glancing at a menu, I decided to take a different route than the others and asked the waiter/barman for a recommendation. Something different, exciting, and uniquely Spanish. An older gentleman – Fernando – who was sitting next to me at the bar jumped in, and after a quick conference with the barman they picked out a pork tapas for me. When it arrived it was delicious pork tenderloin in a mild olive oil and garlic sauce, over sliced potatoes with whole nodules of cooked garlic. All served with a basket of crunchies and bread and a glass of local beer. It didn´t take long to devour the entire plate.

As we drank and munched away contentedly we all exchanged stories and got to know each other. As it turned out it was our guide’s birthday was at midnight which added to the festive cheer of the evening. As we all relaxed at the table, I chatted with two brother and sister duos, both traveling from the states, as well as an Australian girl who knew one of the sisters. My buddy Rick, whom I´d met in Madrid at the hostel and bumped back into in Sevilla,  joined us … as did several others, including the two Germans and the Swede from my room.

Eventually our guide rounded us up and we again meandered through the city to a bar entrance off a side street. The building was an odd thing. It had an old stone entryway with a fireplace and small stage. There was an outer room with a tin roof, bar, and an expansive set up of two-tiered tables. We quickly re-arranged the tables and in the second (higher) tier set up a long bench of seats. The venue was a kick with old fans hanging from the roof, propane tower heaters, a thick layer of cigarette smoke, fake plant vines, large movie-sized flamenco posters and other odd decorations. The place was dirty, grungy and packed with flavor. Before we knew it everyone had picked up a cheap pitcher of local beer and the tabletop was littered with pitchers, glasses and cameras.

The flamenco show was good, more traditional and with better dancing than the casual flamenco evening I´d stumbled into in Madrid … but lacked some of the character. The performers consisted of two men, one on guitar, one singing and clapping, and a woman who did the majority of the flamenco dance. Her movements were beautiful and flowing all done to an amazing rhythm. At one point the second man got up and joined her in a passionate, tangoesque flamenco which combined the power of a romantic tease with the feel of a bullfight and the paso doble. By midnight the flamenco was coming to an end. We wished our guide a happy birthday finished off the pitchers of beer and made our way to the door. Or next stop was northward to the bar and club section of the town.

The club part of town is around the Plaza de Hercules – a long plaza/parkway full of cafes and shops during the day. In the evening the place comes alive with bars, lounges and discotecas. About 10 strong, we found our way to a rather odd alternative club. The crowd was a bit edgy, and all of the bartenders were female, with short hair and a lot of piercings. Some had mohawks or other similar hair styles. It was all around interesting…if short lived. About 20 minutes after we´d arrived in the packed, shoulder-to-shoulder press some sort of smoke went off. At first we thought they’d teargassed the bar, but despite being unpleasant to breathe and having a slightly orange aftertaste, it didn’t overly hurt, beyond generally being unpleasant. Jostled by the press to get out of the bar, hunkering low to avoid the smoke/fumes, we joined the others as the bar emptied out into the streets. Some sort of fire extinguisher? Hard to know.

After purging our lungs and trying to figure out what had happened, we continued up the street a ways before finally finding another nightclub. Once there, we settled in until 4:30 in the morning when one of the guys got kicked out (apparently for deciding to water the bar). Laughing at the absurdity of it, we decided to round up the troops and head back to the hostel. The walk back was hilarious, with several games of orange dodgeball in the empty streets, using fallen oranges from the heavily-laden trees that line the streets.

Covered in orange juice and smelling of smoke we crawled into bed and prepared for the morning.

The next day started at 11 am. Time is up, I´m off to catch my train. More adventures soon!