A market outside Milan train station
From Lake Garda we went to Milan for a few hours. The juxtaposition was startling. We decided to explore the area around the train station to get a sense of this working, living, breathing Italian city. What we saw, we did not like. The area around the station is not very pretty and, as you’d expect from a major city, it was very far from the tranquil paradise of Garda. Milan has always left me with a funny feeling. It gives off vibes of having a dark underbelly, ready to explode at any moment, like when the sky darkens before a wicked storm strikes. Bizarre, but that’s the feeling I get in Milano.
After a few short hours in Milan, we hopped on a train to Bergamo to meet Paolo and Ashleigh. We stayed in their lovely, tidy flat in the lower town, and spent our time together swapping stories of mutual friends, eating home cooked food, and watching the champions league semi finals. It would be an all Madrid final after Chelski and Bayern got smashed by the Spanish clubs – hooray for Spain!
Other than catching up, we did a bit of sightseeing in Bergamo. Katie and I spent a day wondering around the upper old town and the lower, newer town. It was a relaxing way to spend a few days, which was topped off with a trip to Lake Como on May 1st. 
Paolo was doing well. His business was turning over some money and they were both excited about the new chapter they were about to embark on. After four years living in Paolo's home town, they would be moving to Manchester, which is where we all met. I noticed that Paolo had that angst that comes with such a major life change, especially when it involves a move across countries. They were seemingly shipping their entire life with them and would be hiring a palette. What a move! So much stuff, including Paolo’s Mini, which has 204,000km on the clock!
I realised it had been eight years since Paolo and I first met and lived together in Manchester. And now he was returning. Time flies in adulthood.

It was a bank holiday so Paolo and Ashleigh joined us and we drove to the lake. Como wasn’t as serene as Garda but it was every bit as beautiful, and a lovely way to invite Katie into a new age bracket (26-39) – welcome to the club sweetie-pie.

We'll leave you with some delightful snaps of this part of our trip, and join us next time as we explore Bologna!

Bergamo birthday balcony breakfast!


Our train from Venice arrived into Verona an hour late and we were greeted by a huge downpour. The rain thundered down in a biblical fashion and would continue for the majority of the three days we would spend in the city. After the glorious weather in Venice, this came as somewhat of a surprise and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't stop it affecting your opinion of a place.

Verona seemed like a city that was elegant, rich, and beautiful, but also small, old, and quiet.

We didn't come across any clubs, dance floors, or loud bustling bars. Just quiet wine bars and a plethora of expensive restaurants that we were happy to try, but wouldn’t be happy to visit regularly.

We visited a castle for a bit of culture and it had a beautiful bridge. It also had a horse head fountain! But it is far too weird/wonderful to share in this post.

We spent the majority of our time in Verona going between coffee shops and restaurants, trying to stay dry and out of the rain. We saw the Arena but decided not to go inside (as it was raining). The Piazza Bra was lovely and was even beautiful with the bad weather. We saw several ornately decorated and interesting buildings and churches and enjoyed the romantic feel to the city.

We walked under a whale bone that has hung from an arch for over a hundred years. Legend has it that it will remain there until someone walks under the bone that has never told a lie. I guess there has to be a minimum age requirement as well otherwise it would have fallen down and crushed a baby by now.

We went to Juliet’s house and balcony and even got to touch her boob. This is the same boob that Leo touched in Baz Lurhmann's remake of the classic Shakespearean tragedy. There is a certain thrill to groping a statue in front of an audience. It’s like a tamer form of streaking.

We met up with a GSK Super-Grad called Callum and drank wine and told stories. It was nice to have someone else in the fray as so much of our time had been spent drinking wine on our own on those rainy days. Callum made us feel less like alcoholics and more like social drinkers.

On the third day we awoke early and got on short train to Lake Garda. As we left Verona in the rain, we seemed to pass through the clouds and emerge on the other side into what turned out to be a beautiful day and one I wish I hadn’t spent wearing jeans.

Lake Garda is stunning. Clear water for miles with mountains on the horizon, it is truly one of the nicest places I have been to. We set up camp in a cafeteria and I went on a lone walk for a good few miles around this beautiful landmark. It was one of those mornings that will live long in my memory. It was so relaxing and chilled and the sun made a massive difference to both of our moods. We were uplifted. It was either the sun and heat or the excuse to eat a delicious ice cream.

We ordered a panino each and sat on a bench overlooking a lake drinking a cheap fizzy wine and orange juice combo that got us quite giggly and over-excited. It was a delightful way to spend a morning and one that will stay with us for a long time.


In the spring of 2014 we took a two week trip around northern Italy. It was my first time in the country and our first stop was Venice. Expectations were high, to say the least - could the city live up to all of the cliches? Spoiler alert - yes it could!

What could I possibly say about Venice that hasn’t already been said? Probably nothing as I am not a Venicistorian and neither are you, but I’m gonna give it a go.

The island of Venice is situated off the Eastern coast of Italy and is accessible via boat or train. We stayed on the neighbouring island of Lido, which is quieter even though, unlike Venice, it has motorised land vehicles (commonly referred to as cars). We ended up staying on this picturesque island because it was a bank holiday weekend in Italy and we were priced out of the fancier hotels on Venice island. No way is this guy paying over a £100 a night for a 2* hotel!

We forked out for a Best Western hotel instead, which was delightful. We arrived on the hottest day of the year so far and the temperature continued to rapidly rise... The room we paid for had air con, however we weren't allowed to use it. Apparently 26 degrees is not A.C. weather in Italy. In Britain that is hot enough to walk around with only a thin piece of fabric separating your genitals from the world. But not hot enough for chilled air in Italy. (I did find out this was for environmental reasons, as air con isn't used until June, as a rule, and this was only April. I’m all for saving the environment but the CO2 that bellowed from my lungs as I moaned and complained about the heat probably cancelled everything out, so they might as well have turned the A.C. on).

As I sit writing this, on a beach surrounded by men and women wearing jeans, I start to question my temperature control. Am I going through some kind of early on-set male menopause? Is this how Scots feel when they wear shorts in five degrees and call me a southern pansy? Or is my South England attitude / culture / acclimatised body the perfect model?

Lido beach - definitely worth a visit if you're in Venice during the summer.
The downside to having this British temperaturement is that it makes us stand out like tourists more than I would like, as we never seem able to blend in with the locals' attire. And besides, my five Italian phrases are rarely used, as I only ever get responses in my native language. It is both the curse and blessing of a native English speaker. It's incredibly helpful to navigate the globe as almost everyone speaks a little bit of your language, but impossible to learn a language as everyone wants to practise their English.

Anyway, we have spent the last two days walking for miles around Venice, taking in the beautiful buildings and delicious foods. The sheer visual beauty of the place both during the day and at night really added a feeling of warmth and romance like no city we have visited. Unfortunately when this is coupled with excessive consumption of delicious food with many generous scoops of gelato, one struggles to reach that romantic climax as often as one would like.

I'd like to say we limited ourselves to one
gelato a day, but I'd be lying.
Venice has no cars, no mopeds, and it does not stink – that myth has officially been debunked by one of England’s greatest sniffers. I realise that calling myself England’s greatest sniffer makes me sound like either some kind of deranged glue addict or a human version of an overly forward bottom-smelling dog. But I am neither. I am merely an expert in bad smells thanks to having an older brother who enjoyed the nasal torture of his siblings and a diet that didn’t help the situation either.

We decided that going inside museums wasn’t going to be our thing in Venice. I would like to say that I love learning and love culture. But so often going around museums is too structured and organised to allow the sort of creative learning I like. I need to dip in and out of cultural learnings and not be overwhelmed by information in one burst. I feel museums are often too much like that teacher in school who loved to lecture at you for an hour rather than let you express your own understanding and thoughts on a subject. That coupled with the exorbitant museum entry fees really left us little option but to sit in piazzas and drink coffee and Spritz (the Italian Pimms!), staring at the beautiful museum buildings. What a shame!

We walked and we walked around Venice enjoying the sights, tastes, sounds, and lack of smells. We wanted to be more observers of beauty than tourists of destinations. I didn’t even make a note of anywhere we went besides seeing the Grand Canal and St Marco’s Square – two things even a blind man could see walking around the city.

As it was a national holiday, the city really was quite busy, so places like this were a little
overcrowded for our liking. Still, it's a pretty fantastic sight to behold and well worth a detour
from the maze of side streets.

The square isn't really visible here, but it's a lovely photo and in the right area!
The famous St Marco's Square did flood at night, which is when we realised what all of the wooden boards had been lying around for - they were a makeshift walkway across the water.
Some people choose to sit on beaches for 10 days, drinking margaritas and watching the waves splash into the sand. We chose to sit in restaurants and cafes guessing people’s ages and nationalities. I think you can learn a lot from just watching people go about their lives. It puts certain things in perspective, especially in such a romantic, idealised city.
Back to Lido and back to the beach. As I write there is this giant flying beetle wasp thing that seems particular fond of the free crisps we got given with our iced drinks. I was told to ignore it by our waiter but I feel like it’s one of those natural things that I seem ancestrally scared of. Like birds pooing on my head when flying over me. Actually maybe that came from when a bird pooed on me after a particular hair cut in Manchester... by an Italian man. Too many coincidences. If a coincidence is really a coincidence, why does it feel so contrived?

Also there is a metal stair case that protrudes onto the beach spoiling the view somewhat. However it will take more than these things to throw me off my stress-free existence at the moment. Having a city so full of romance, culture, beauty, and food with a beach a mere twenty minutes away is something of a dream scenario. And the alcohol helps too.

Before sharing a carefully selected snippet of the hundreds of photos we took of this breath-taking city, I will just briefly mention the train ride from Venice to Verona. We ended up sitting opposite a Czech man and Argentinean woman who were delightful. They were friendly and we very much enjoyed swapping stories. We also forgot to validate our ticket but no-one checked – ka-ching!


Los Reyes

Spain loves the Three Kings Day more than Christmas. It is a Christian celebration, a.k.a. Epiphany, that I was fairly ignorant of until a few weeks ago. The celebrations started on our first full day in Spain and involved a huge parade through the centre of town. We know we're special but even this was a warmer welcome than we expected. The centre of town was at a standstill, marvelling at our arrival to Valencia. It was reminiscent of the Carnaval thrown when we arrived in Brazil.

There were floats full of adults and children throwing sweets at the huge crowds of people. It was delightful to watch and ended with an address from the Three Kings to the thousands of little people who stood waiting in a wild frenzy. 
The kings declared "You shall be good kids! You shall tidy your rooms! You shall eat vegetables!" and everyone went wild.

We noticed how many toddlers there were just out and about at midnight on a Friday. Whether this is a holiday thing or a Spanish thing remains to be seen.

The next day was a public holiday and this is the day when kids are given their presents - a whole week after Christmas. 

So far our time in Spain has highlighted the friendiness, party-loving attitude, and intense Catholicism that exists in a large portion of the population. This combination is going to lead to a lot of interesting experiences and we shall be reporting on them with the the usual candor and amusement.

Christmas markets were still up in January for Los Reyes!

So many people!

First tapas while we hid from the crowds.

Seconds after this photo was taken, one of the stilt walkers stacked and fell over. She was okay.
The traditional cake that comes with a crown!

Ice skating in the sunshine in 15 degrees.
Next we will be diving back in time to 2014, when we had two wonderful weeks in Italy.

Stay tuned mis amigos.

A New Start

And breathe. 

It's been over two years since our last blog post. Rio feels like a distant memory. South Korea feels like a forgotten dream, with the blog being the fading recall during your morning tooth brushing. Except the blog doesn't fade, it acts as an anchor in time of our thoughts, fears, and actions during many transformative experiences. 

Well, the blog's back so guess what? We're about to embark on another trans experience.

Most of our friends and family know we are moving to Valencia, Spain. Why? In the words of the dude who climbed Everest, "Because it's there". Also we're taking back control of free movement before Brexit removes our freedoms to take back control.

What will we be doing? Well we were supposed to be arriving jobless but Katie is too efficient and has landed a job before we landed a foot on Spanish soil, so she'll be teaching English. I will not be working. Well, I will not be being paid for any work. No, I am not volunteering but I am attempting to make a dream a reality and test my own entrepreneurial skills. More details to follow once things are a bit more real and a little less fantastical.

One thing's for sure though - Blog of the Morning Calm is back! So expect posts on all things Spanish, as well as some of our other travels that we haven't shared with you yet. You see, I have been writing blogs on all our holidays for the last five years, waiting for a time to post my insights, rambles, and snaps from around the world. I'll be using this platform to relive our hols, flex my writing muscle, and build up rapport with the virtual world. So take a deep breath and get ready. This shit just got professional.