Stoketoberfest

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This year, I decided to take on the challenge that is Oktoberfest with Stoke Travel. For six weeks, from the start of September to the middle of October, I would be camping in sunny, warm Munich (please note the sarcasm here), turning a patch of forest into the mythical land that we affectionately call Stoketoberfest. Continue reading “Stoketoberfest”

Five Days in Barcelona

  
There is no perfect way to end a summer on the road. There’s nothing that can make your heart break any less as you say good-bye (for now) to the constant excitement and adventure of a foreign place and to the people who make it feel like home. 

Five days in Barcelona was about as close to perfection as I could get. 

I found out I was going to Barcelona about six hours before I was sandwiched in the Stoke Travel van on my way. As a natural born planner, this gave me just a touch of anxiety. I quickly booked a hostel for that night and an air bnb for the subsequent four nights. I don’t even want to talk about how expenisive it was to book on such short notice, but I am very grateful to have found a place at all. 

  
In less than a week, Barcelona became one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. My days were filled with endless delicious foods and my nights were filled with cheap wine and great company. I was constantly surrounded by the strange, amazing road family I’d grown to love. 

  

We camped out on the “grassy knoll” late nights, buying overpriced beers from the random Spanish men out of the convenience of never having to stand up. We danced in basement clubs and watched the “Rolling Circus” of confusing but delightful delinquents. We cooked ourselves on the beach, surrounded by naked women and hairy men. And on one special occasion, we woke up to find ourselves on the deck of a sailboat. 

 
Barcelona is a city with everything you want, and then a little bit more. There’s city, beach, beautiful parks, and winding old streets. My days there were the night cap to a summer of fun, that I’ll never remember but never forget.  

Xo,

K

  

San Sebastián with Stoke Travel

  
San Sebastián is a magical place. It had been on my mind since I first heard about it in the pages of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, as the city where Lady Taylor escapes to with her lovers. San Sebastián is a paradise for lovers. 

I took a train back to Spain from La Rochelle, stopping in Irun to transfer. As soon as I crossed the border again, it hit me how much I had actually missed Spain. I missed the language, the heat, the cheap beer. I felt home again. 

   
San Sebastián has two main beaches: the big La Concha and the smaller Playa Zurriola. I stayed my first night at a hostel near Zurriola and my next two nights at the Stoke Travel house just a bit further away from the beach.

  
  The Stoke house, called “House on the Hill,” is the home base for our San Sebastián surf camp. As soon as I arrived, I was welcomed back by my family. I saw familiar faces and a few that I didn’t know, but within a few hours we were all as close as ever. The adventures began. 

  

  I was in San Seb for “La Semana Grande,” which is a huge festival the purpose of which I am still not sure. Every night, there were carnivals and street parties and fireworks. The Spanish sure know how to party.   

Old Town San Seb is home to countless bars and tapas restaurants (known here as pintxos). The winding streets lead to old monuments and buildings, giving a truly Spanish vibe. We got down with the best of them and, despite our efforts, still cannot out-party the natives. 

During the day, we headed to Zarautz to surf (or try to surf) the waves. Stoke has some of the coolest, most patient surf instructors I have ever met. After a long morning of surf, we went back to the house to eat, explore, and make a dent in the keg. 

On Sunday night, I caught an overnight bus from San Sebastián to Valencia for my next adventure, the Tomatina festival. While my stay was short, I hope to be back to San Sebastián in the future. It will always hold a special place in my heart. 

London: Bar Crawl Edition

  

I find myself back in London once again, nearly exactly one year later. This time, I am here for longer and so have more time to explore the city truly, in my favorite way: by going to as many bars as possible. 

Our first excursion out into the city brought us to Camden Town for my friend’s 21st birthday celebration. It was a Monday, so not many bars were very active. We met a promoter on the street who offered a free drink for the birthday girl, so we stopped into Bar Vinyl and received a free shot a piece. The shots were some sort of creamy, coffee liqueur that the bartender then lit on fire. We grabbed two more cocktails at half price, so the whole night ended up only costing £10. We called it quits early because we were having a bit of a quiet evening, but Camden has so many other bars to offer for a big night out!

  
My next booze-fueled exploration brought me to SoHo, to Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. It was the night of another friend’s college graduation ceremony, so a large group of twenty-something’s were there and looking for a big night. We arrived after 11, so we had to pay a £12 cover and were the soberest ones there. Not for long! 

    

Downstairs at Ronnie Scott’s is a subdued, more upscale experience. There is a live performer and tables all around the dimly lit room where older couples were all enjoying their overpriced cocktails. Initially, my friend and I were seated here. This does not seem right looks were exchanged between us, both dressed in flannels and jeans. We soon figured out that the real party was upstairs, so we got out of there quickly. 

Upstairs, a young band was feverishly playing at the center of the dance floor. Drunk college graduates were jiving and swinging all around them. We were in the right place. My friend treated me to a cocktail or five, off of a rather overpriced cocktail menu. But damn, they were good. At 3 am, we were herded out onto the street to end our evenings. 

Overall, I’d give Ronnie Scott’s a 7 out of 10. It was great fun, with awesome music, but out of my budget. Once was plenty for Kylie. 

Friday night, we were looking for a little bar to just grab a few drinks in. We found Simmons Bar in King’s Cross, just a few blocks away from where I was staying. Simmons is well known because it is decorated like a 1950’s living room and because they serve drinks in tea cups. While we all ordered beers and so missed out on the tea cups, the experience was pleasant. The DJ played old jams that catered to the audience, which consisted of mostly people in their late twenties and early thirties. Drink prices were reasonable and we went home feeling good!

  
Saturday night was our first real big night out. We signed up for a bar crawl in Shoreditch, one of the most hipster neighborhoods of London. The bar crawl (Website here) started at a bar called Translate, where we received one free (and watered down) shot and had happy hour drinks for about £5 each. I got a whiskey drink, which was amazing. 

 
From there, we went on to Road Trip bar. This bar was on a corner and was pretty big. It is also a diner and sports bar. They offered rail vodka drinks for only £3, so we had several each. We weren’t here for long, but just long enough to take a selfie with their American flag painting!

   Our third stop was a Brazilian bar called Floripa. This is where the dancing started and the fun really began. Floripa offered cheap drinks for those of us on the crawl and had a stage that we could dance on. They pumped out Caribbean style dance music and even had a few go-go dancers to show us the ropes. Though we wanted to stay, we moved on just after midnight to our final destination. 

The last club of the night was Club Aquarium, close to the Old Street tube station in Shoreditch. There were dancers dressed like unicorns and plenty of other strange sights here. The music was okay, with mostly mo-town oldies and a few pop hits. It wasn’t my style, but I still spent a solid couple of hours getting down with my bad self. 

  
In all, I spent less than £20 on drinks for the whole bar crawl. That’s unheard of for a night out in London! Shoreditch is an awesome area, and we went back in the early evening the following day to hang out in one of the many cafes. We picked The Love Shake, a little retro diner on a bar-filled street. We grabbed a chocolate shake and a hot dog, for a total of only £6. The place offers free wifi and an overall awesome atmosphere for spending a few hours. 

  
My first week in London for this summer is coming to an end. I head off tomorrow for a five day tour of Northern England and Scotland before heading back to London for one more weekend. I feel like I have made a dent in seeing the city, but there is still so much more to explore. I look forward to seeing a bit more before I leave the UK indefinitely again!

Xoxo, k

And don’t forget! If you plan to travel in Europe and want to check out a festival, visit the Stoke Travel site and use promo code “kykyamplify” for unlimited free booze on any of our trips!!

Appreciate the Road Blocks

   Today, I sit alone under a willow tree in London’s beautiful Hyde Park. How the hell did I end up here?

Six months ago, I had pictured my life going in a completely different direction. I was looking up apartments in my hometown to rent out with a friend. I was planning for a summer at home. I was thinking about continuing my education and looking at entry-level jobs in my field. But then, a series of rather disheartening and soul-testing events occurred that led me to this place, under the willow tree. 

At the time of each event, I felt as if the walls were crumbling around me. I felt that nothing was going right and that I was a failure. But in one of these dark moments, I received an email from Stoke Travel to work for them this summer. And it was because I felt that nothing at home was right that I decided to apply for this job and go somewhere else. 

Had I been in a different place, still content with the comforts of my life, I would not have applied. I might still be at home, living my life inside the box. Would I be as happy as I am here today? Maybe. But this experience has been so amazing, so rewarding, so fulfilling, I can’t imagine who I would be without it. 

There are times in our lives when we are broken down. It seems unfair and horrible.  But now, with the perspective I have gained today, I can view these moments as crossroads. Each failure is an opportunity to seek a different path. “Every time a door closes, another opens.” Yes, I did just use that cliche. But that is exactly what happened to me. It is hard to see it at the time, but just wait. It’s coming. 

Take a risk, kids. Leave the comforts of your home and find a new home within yourself. 

Oh, and come join me for La Tomatina Festival??? Book Here

Xoxo, k

Running of the Bulls

  It’s hard to believe that my month in Pamplona, Spain for the Running of the Bulls has already come and gone. It whizzed by in a blur of red and white, leaving me only with the lingering scent of the city streets after a long night out and a fuzzy memory of running for my life. 

For the whole month, we were situated on the side of a mountain at Camping Ezcaba. This site is about half an hour from the city via bus, or 15 minutes driving. My home was a single man tent, with zero tree cover and high winds. To say I am weather-beaten after a month is an understatement. 

  On the bright side, the campsite had an amazing pool and was right next to a little creek which offered shade, waterfalls, and lots of rocks for skipping. Our siestas were spent partaking of said activities. 

The opening ceremony of Bulls was about two weeks into my month in Pamplona. We checked in about 500 guests to our little Stoke Travel site and showed them a great time. Opening ceremony includes Spain’s favorite activity- a wine fight! My brand new white shirt and pants were forever stained purple from the “vino tinto.” NO RAGRETS. 

  For the next week, bull runs were held every day at 8 am. At first, I was 100% not going to do the run. But after three days of hearing about all my friends who had run, I decided why the hell not?! So on July 10, I woke up at 6 and made my way to the streets. 

When I arrived in the city, people were still in the bars from the night before. People were puking on the sides of the road. And they did this every night. If any culture can show you how to party, it’s the Spanish. 

The police at the bull run are pretty strict about who they allow in the barricades. For one, you must be dressed in red and white. You must be wearing appropriate footwear. You absolutely cannot have a camera. (Bring one, for sure, but under no circumstances take it out before the Bulls begin to run. You will be kicked out immediately.) 

  When the first cannon sounds, it means that the Bulls have been released. The police leave the area ASAP because they’re like “I don’t wanna die today, you crazy people.” Now, you can take out your camera if you must. The second cannon means that all of the Bulls are out of the corral. Now, you wait. 

This is the hardest part. Once you’re in the barricades, people start to panic. Then the cannons go off and people really start to panic. But you gotta hold your ground and wait. Once you see the first bull, you run like hell and don’t look back. 

Now, this cultural tradition is pretty controversial. The purpose of the Running of the Bulls is indeed to herd these Bulls to the arena to be slaughtered later in the day. I’m not saying that I condone this practice, but this is a part of Spanish culture and when in Spain, do as the Spanish do. 

Many people think that the point of the run is to run in front of the Bulls. Don’t be stupid, please. You cannot outrun a bull. Period. The purpose of the run is to keep the herd together as they are transported to the arena. The Bulls don’t want to hurt you, unless they become separated from the pack. That is why we are there to keep them together. 

So back to my run. Here I am, clinging to my friend for dear life while we hurdle fallen runners and narrowly avoid bull horns (my friend pushed me out of the way and a horn missed me by about two inches. Shout out to you, homie). The first pack of six Bulls runs past in a blur, then the second close behind. At that point a lot of people slow down, but we sprinted even harder because we needed to get into the arena. Once all the Bulls are in the arena, the doors are shut and the real games begin. We made it just in time and with only a few scratches. 

Once the doors are closed, one baby bull is released at a time. They have corked horns and are not killed after the run. These Bulls are the same six every day. For about ten minutes, the crowd is able to “play” with each baby bull to the thrill of the audience. I lasted three baby Bulls before chickening out and hopping the fence. 

  Overall, I have no regrets about running with the Bulls. I would likely never do it again, though. The odds of getting gored are slim, but the odds are even slimmer if you don’t run at all. 

My month with Stoke Travel was unforgettable. I met some amazing people and had nothing but good times. It’s hard to believe that I got so lucky to have a job like that. I can’t wait to go back for one more festival this summer- La Tomatina in Valencia! But first, I’m in for a month of traveling through the UK, Hungary, the Netherlands, and France. 

Xoxo, 

Ky 

Summer in Spain

graduate

Greetings to all my beautiful readers.

I did it! I finished college. Finally, and barely, I am done. I even managed to graduate cum laude in my last semester. How’s that for finishing strong?

So where to next?  As I mentioned before, I am in for a summer abroad yet again. I have been hired by Stoke Travel to work at several different camps this summer. The first is the Running of the Bulls. Ever hear of it?

The company, Stoke, was started by a group of like-minded travel bums who went of a surfari and never really went back. They always promise an awesome time to travelers to festivals all over Europe. I traveled with them to Oktoberfest, which was an unreal time.

Stoke campsites are semi-permanent sites with a main kitchen area, a dance floor, and a bar open from 6 am with unlimited booze for 10 Euros a day. And they mean it when they say unlimited!

Are you thinking about heading to any festivals this summer? IF SO, let a sista help you out! Come stay with Stoke and use the code “kykyamplify” when you reserve (yeah, how’s that for a badass code?!) and you will either receive a free Stoke shirt OR free unlimited booze at the campsite. Um. YES.

Plus, you help me out by upping my rep for having the coolest friends in the game!

Here’s the links to follow for the festivals that I will be at:

Running of the Bulls

La Tomatina

San Sebastian Surf Camp

AND THERE ARE HEAPS MORE FESTIVALS TO CHOOSE FROM!!!! If you want more info about Stoke, stop by their website or shoot me an email at kykyamplify@yahoo.com. See you out there kids!