Alicante, Spain 2019 by William Bryan


After the success of our last trip to Rome Paolo, Jonas and I didn’t waste much time in planning a second outing. This time around we opted to fly to Alicante, Spain for some warm weather on the tail end of a dark European winter.

I invited my coworkers and one of them had the good sense to take me up on the offer—she was especially happy when she learned that round trip flights from Berlin were €14.50. The rental car for the weekend was only €13.68 (plus a €31 fee for being under 25). Being a weekend warrior is a lot easier when travel is affordable.


After arriving in Spain Olena and I learned that we’d have to wait two hours for a pair of Jonas’ friends to arrive. Rather than sit in the airport we picked up the rental car and explored a nearby town. We stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall tapas restaurant and scarfed down some grilled octopus and fried cheese before rushing back to the airport to pick up the others.

During the hour drive up the coast we got to know each other before arriving in what can only be described as a villa. As I walked in the door Paolo handed me a Gin & Tonic and we got down to the serious business of celebrating Jonas’ birthday.

I woke up at 9 a.m. to an abandoned house. After making sure that the cars were still in the driveway and everyone hadn’t abandoned me I made myself some breakfast. Still no survivors. I figured I’d make the most of it and lay outside in the sun while I waited for the dead to rise.

One by one revelers made themselves known as they stared at me with squinty eyes in the bright Spanish sun. Two hours later everyone but Jonas was accounted for; we weren’t too worried because the only obligation that day was a reservation at a paella restaurant at 1:30 p.m.

Then another hour had passed still with no sight of Jonas.

Then 1 p.m. ticked by and Jonas finally showed himself, but there was no way he’d make it out to lunch. Jonas’ sister called the restaurant to cancel the reservation but they had a better idea: bring the paella to us. 30 minutes later Tara showed up with a meter wide paella dish filled with the traditional rice dish.

After picking at his paella for thirty minutes Jonas declared it was time for our hike.

As we drove to Moraira Tara got a call from her brother in the car ahead of us..

“Hey, so are we still doing the thing,” Tara asked.

Jonas said something on the other end of the phone.

“Ok, sweet, I’ll tell Will to follow you,” she replied.

I was just about as confused as you must be while reading this, so I asked Tara what was going on but all she would say was: you’ll see. And that’s when I saw it appear around the next turn: AV Karting.

“NIKI LAUDA,” I yelled in excitement.

We ripped a dozen laps around the go-kart track and fought for first place (shout out to Tara) before climbing back into the real cars and driving to our hike.

We stumbled our way up the mountain to a tower with a view of the Mediterranean before making our way down to the harbor and watching the sunset from Jonas and Tara’s sailboat.

The next morning we made sure to go back to Moraira for gelato before taking Paolo to the airport. Olena and I drove back to the coast one more time for a final Spanish meal before returning the rental car and flying back to Berlin ourselves.

London, England 2019 by William Bryan

My cousin Jared was set to graduate from the National Film and Television School at the end of March; so my dad and I planned on meeting in London to celebrate his graduation as well as recent engagement.

But life had other plans.

Less than a week before my dad was scheduled to fly to the UK his partner slipped on a pesky patch of ice in the Sierra Nevada mountains and broke his back. Logically, this meant that my dad needed to stay home in California and ensure that a drugged and mostly bed-ridden Vince made a speedy recovery.

So I was forced to tough-out London on my own.

OK, maybe tough-out isn't the right phrase. My aunt and uncle wine-and-dined me to the moon and back and it felt more like a luxury cruise than a struggle of any sort. From sun-up to sun-down on Saturday the five of us (Aunt Sandi, Uncle Jack, Jared and his fiancée) hopped from beer to beer with champagne in between.

We started the day by taking the train from Kings Cross to Cambridge where our first stop was lunch, of course. I excitedly stuffed fish and chips down my gullet and washed it all down with a pint of local ale.

From there we meandered (slowly, remember the pint of ale) through the charming old town before snagging a bottle of champagne for our punt ride on the River Cam—we were celebrating a master's degree and an engagement after all. I may have snuck a couple of cans of pre-made Pimm's Cup aboard also. After the leisure cruise we made the logical next stop—more beer—before walking back to the train for London.

As if all of that wasn't enough we decided we needed to go out with a bang at Le Relais de Venise, a French restaurant with no menu and only one delicious option: steak and fries. After plenty of beef and potatoes and three bottles of wine we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and made our way home.

The next morning I woke up with a headache (no idea why) and slowly made my way to the British Museum (to look at artifacts stolen from all around the world) and Hyde Park before taking the Heathrow Express to the airport.

And finally, as reconciliation for such a taxing weekend British Airways consoled me with a completely empty row of seats to spread out on for the short flight back to Berlin.

Rome, Italy 2018 by William Bryan

Paolo shot me a message in early November asking when was a good weekend to visit Berlin.

"The weekend of December 7th should be good," I said.

Jonas shot me a message, also in early November, telling me (not asking) we were flying to either Amsterdam or hot springs outside of Rome on the weekend of December 7th.

I wasn't sure which direction to fly so I made a group chat with two people who had never met.


Introducing two strangers…

"Paolo, meet Jonas. Jonas, meet Paolo," I typed.

"Where’s the location for this? Cuz if it’s near Rome, I have an apartment there we could stay in," Paolo messaged.

Rome it is, I thought. We booked our flights a week later along with a petite Fiat 500 for the two hour drive north of Rome to the hot springs.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I got off the plane to meet up with the other two who'd never met before—they both arrived a few hours before me and spent the afternoon together—but they bantered like old friends in the front seat while I squeezed into the cramped back seat of the Fiat. Apparently the trip was off to a good start.

I asked what we actually planned on doing over the next two days and this is what the fast-friends in the front seat responded with in a quick stream of ideas: pizza for dinner, hot springs in the morning, lunch in Tuscany on our way back, pasta dinner in Rome, and who knows for Sunday, maybe the Colosseum. There was a short silence in the car as we took it all in and then we laughed at how ridiculous it all sounded. But that didn't stop us from sticking to our imagined itinerary.

After stuffing our faces with local pizza that night (✓) we drove the Fiat 500 north to the hot springs the next morning (✓). After soaking in the warm waters for a couple of hours we headed back to Rome and ate lunch in a butcher shop in Manciano, Tuscany along the way (✓). Unplanned moments included accidentally passing some ancient Roman ruins and flying Jonas' drone over them while parked on the side of the freeway and joining in on Manciano's petite Christmas parade after lunch at the butcher shop.

Waking up the next morning the worse for wear from the evening's wine we slowly packed up our things and made our way into the city. Jonas and I explored the Colosseum and ate gelato outside it’s walls while Paolo met with family. Then the other two left for the airport, leaving me in the city with a few hours to kill before my own flight. In only three hours of solo wandering I saw the Altar de Patria, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Vatican City (including stumbling into St. Peter's Basilica just as the Sunday Evening Mass began).

I made my way to the airport after it got dark and taking photos got tough. As I sat on the train I stared out the window and thought in amazement at how much I'd managed to do in two days in Rome.