An introduction to Seville

This week we're starting a new collection of blog posts, in which we'll be exploring the autonomous region (equivalent of a US state) in southern Spain, Andalusia.

Andalusia is spectacular, with a history so deep and interesting, it's difficult to know where to start. But since our Andalusia adventure started in Seville, the capital of the region, it seems as good a place as any to begin this series.

We've recorded some amazing 360 VR footage to accompany each blog in this series so check that out on YouTube to really get a feel for what this region is like. Katie and I had a lot of fun making these cultural 360 trips and we'll be continuing our VR adventure for the foreseeable. We now have over 7000 followers on SamsungVR and we're about to make our first short film…Exciting times indeed!

But enough about us, let's get stuck into Seville! With around 700,000 people (and seemingly just as many churches), it's the fourth biggest city in Spain. There's a lot of history and culture to absorb, and a lot of small places to stop and have a tapa and a caña (little beer). This is one of the many reasons that Seville has so much appeal to us and the millions of tourists that visit each year. There's also the laidback atmosphere, glorious weather, of course, and the special architecture that dates back centuries.

Andalusia was the first region conquered by the Moors and this history is shown in the design of the buildings. We're going to be exploring this a lot more, particularly in next week's post about the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alcazar!

We did find some interesting and more modern architecture as well, such as this old cigar factory, which is now part of the University. I'm a big fan of industrial architecture… These huge projects really grew the wealth of an area at the beginning of the industrial revolution. I think I like them so much because I'm a chemical engineer and I enjoy large, beautiful factories that have such a unique design and purpose to them.

I also found a couple of strange structures, such as this wonderful bridge.

Close by was an old, abandoned space travel museum. It now looked desolate and there was an eerie feel to the place, sort of like being in a post apocalyptic world…I think seeing a very futuristic building that is now shut down just has that impact on your brain.

We spent a lot of time in Seville, as we wanted to get to know this jewel in the south of the country. Two separate trips, miles of walking, and hours of researching means we'll be bringing together an exciting few posts and 360 experiences over the next few weeks. As always, thanks for reading and we'll shall meet again on the page soon.

This circular plaza had a very busy flea market going on, with some interesting treasures... this old and very ornate matador outfit!

How grand is this is the old tobacco factory?! Imagine going to uni in there!

Tenerife: Parque Rural de Anaga (8/8)

The final part of my epic Tenerife tour concludes this week with a visit to the phenomenal Anaga Rural Park!

The beauty of this part of the island would take a thousand words to describe… So I'll use a photo instead.

This national park, very close to the capital, Santa Cruz, has gorgeous jagged mountains that look like broken shards to pottery rising from the ground. Simply stunning. See it for yourself in our 360 video.

As well as mountains, the park is home to laurel forests that are 40 million years old…living fossils, so to speak.

When visiting the park I also drove along the coast, stopping in a few small towns and I was just in absolute awe. Of all the things I saw in Tenerife, this part of the island and Masca were the most beautiful in my opinion, along with the views from Teide.

This trip reopened my eyes to travelling again… I mean, they hadn't been shut for long but the peace of mind that comes from taking in this natural beauty cannot be understated. The older I get, the more time I need in nature, without speaking, without a podcast in my ear, simply alone with nature.

Lucky for me, I would be heading back to mainland Spain and going on an epic trip around Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, known for its beauty and cultural interest. I would get time alone in nature, as well as exploring the cultural hotspots of Seville and Cadiz with Katie.

I just feel very grateful to be living this life of adventure - thank you all for reading.

See you next week!

Tenerife: Black Sand, Funky Trees, and Pyramids (7/8)

Another week, another blog about Tenerife! This week is all about three curiosities of the island: black sand, funky trees, and the pyramids of Guimar. If you'd like to see them for yourself, remember to check out our latest 360 video!

The black sand is very curious…it's made by the sea eroding the volcanic basaltic coastline, and it creates a strange and beautiful vista. The texture and feel is very much like the yellow variety, which Tenerife actually imports in to cover some of its beaches.

The downside of black sand is the temperature that it can get to when the hot sun has been shining on it all day. Ouch!

Another strange element of Tenerife are its dragon trees, which are littered all over the island. These trees are pretty special, with their distinctive shape and twisted branches.

The oldest and largest living dragon tree on Tenerife is called Icod de los Vinos and it's found in a lovely botanical garden that I did not enter and only saw from afar. I wasn’t in the mood to wander around in the heat, even to see a thousand-year-old tree!

Younger dragon trees are all over the island so there's no desperate need to see this particular one, despite its size and age. I loved these trees. They reminded me that I was very close to Africa, which was easy to foget, since the culture on Tenerife is basically like mainland Spain.

The Guanches were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands and were of African descent, having migrated in 1000 BC. They were fairly isolated until the Spanish conquest in the 15th century, when their culture and ethnicity was absorbed by the invaders. Not a lot is known about the culture, which is a shame as island cultures that have little contact with outside influences, always fascinate me.

One interesting place I visited was the pyramids of Guimar. There is a theory that there existed a transatlantic link between Egypt and Central America and that Tenerife served as a stopping point during these voyages thousands of years ago. The Guanches built the pyramids, as a place of worship and community with these travelling voyages.

The bad news is that archaeologists have concluded that this theory is not actually true and in fact, the pyramids only date back to 19th century farming practices. I love "out there" theories on ancient structures so I will continue to believe in the more fanciful version because that's the world I would like to inhabit! 

On that topic, I definitely need to visit Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, which seems to be a complicated civilisation that existed before civilisations were supposed to exist (according to current archaeologists!)

I'll leave it there for today. And see you next week for the final post on Tenerife!

Icod de los Vinos: The oldest and largest dragon tree in the world

Tenerife: Los Gigantes & Playa de Las Americas (6/8)

While I was in Tenerife I stayed in Los Gigantes, home to giant cliffs that gave the town its name: The Giants.

I had a lovely time with my family, which included this epic coffee:

Condensed milk, orange liqueur, a little Cointreau,
coffee, lemon, cinnamon, milk!

The sunset from Los Gigantes is a real delight, as it sets behind another Canary Island called La Palma. You can watch the sunset in 360 in this week's Morning Calm Experience! Marvelous!

As well as the sunset, the town has black sand beaches and a lovely parade of restaurants tailored to the many British, German, French, and Russian visitors and inhabitants.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the nightlife on Tenerife. I came here with a group of lads in 2006 and went to Playa de las Americas. It was a wild shambles full of teenage lust and a lack of respect of the power of alcohol on our 18-year-old bodies! A typical "lads' on tour" vibe with themed shirts and testosterone-fuelled arguments.

It was fantastic in many ways, despite taking five years off my liver. It was the last time all six of us would hang out together and, of course, we did not know that at the time. I guess you rarely do, especially at that age. It was nothing tragic, just one friend dropped off the radar...

Many strange moments and frenzied memories flood my brain - many too esoteric or too embarrassing to share. It was the Inbetweeners before the Inbetweeners. The same awkward energy and naivety expressed itself in all of us at various times. We all had our personal missions: To get laid, to get drunk, to be liked and have fun with our mates…Whatever it was, each of us had our insecure 18-year-old minds and high hormone levels that led us down paths of adolescent cravings.

I find it hard as a 31-year-old to imagine being 18, not too far off half my age. I know myself better in most ways and have reduced or eliminated many of the insecurities I had on that trip.

I remember in 2006 buying cheap drinks desperately trying to get the courage to speak to a lady. Too afraid of rejection, I found comfort in making my friends laugh…I hated how I moved on the dancefloor and this was before I realised how to enjoy dancing. This was when dancing felt like steering a car when you've hit ice. No control of my limbs, my best moves being modifications of my Wing Chun forms (i.e. set routine movements). It was an odd time and I had some odd dance moves.

We had finished school and would all be going to uni. We were all about to start fresh and begin a new life where we could throw away the baggage that school brought with it. 

I had just started writing stories and it was already becoming somewhat of a passion/obsession of mine. I was going to study engineering but why couldn’t I be a sitcom writer as well!? The world seemed limitless, both in experiences and opportunities.

This feeling, thankfully, I still hold. Even with my sarcastic cynicism, I know it to be true. The world is incredible and more open now than ever. It's just a shame that stating the truth just isn't as funny as a sarcastic cynical response. That was one thing I was ALWAYS trying to be the best at…Being funny. 

I was desperate to get people to laugh… Then I knew they liked me (at least in that moment) and wit was my best weapon for the job.

I no longer crave to do this as much. I don’t want to be liked as much as I used to, which I think is a good thing. I listen more to myself and know what I want from life better, rather than seeking approval from others.

However, it means I don’t try as hard to be funny! That's something I should work on. If someone is laughing then everything is fine. Even if it only lasts a few seconds. That's the joy of laughter. And that's what this trip to Playa de Las Americas reminded me of.

There's nothing better than making others and yourself laugh. Until next time.

Eating in a club like a champ!