2015 Highlights

First of all, a very Happy New Year to all who read my blog! I hope 2015 was a great year for you all, and I wish you and your families all the best for 2016! Secondly, I haven't had much of a chance to post regularly on my blog over the last couple of months, mainly due to the amount I've been working, but I wanted to do a post where I rounded up all of the highlights in 2015 for myself.

January

In January of 2015, I was lucky enough to be invited to a couple events, one of which was a special preview of the New Balance 1500 x Footpatrol "Encyclopaedia", which was held at Library on St. Martin's Lane in London. The event was attended by a small number of people, mainly press and loyal customers, and we were treated to a personal Q+A with some of the New Balance team, as well as an insight into the Footpatrol shoe, while being able to indulge in some fine food and drink. Shouts to all who were behind the event!

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The second event, which coincidentally enough took part on the same day, was for the launch of the New Balance C-Series. The event was held at the Tokyo Bike store in London, with over 300 people attending for a night filled with beer, food, great company, and a chance to check out the collection in person.

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March

My girlfriend is a little bit obsessive with travelling, and although we don't get to do much because of work and other commitments, we do try, and we decided to visit Iceland in March. Our time spent in Reykjavik and surrounding areas was beyond excellent, and we can't wait to plan our next trip there!

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There's one pair of New Balance that I've came to love, and is one of my absolute all time favourites - the 1300JP. The 28th of March was to see the release of the 1300JP2, 5 years after the 2010 release of the 1300JP, so this definitely warrants a place in my highlights. My only regret is that I wish I grabbed a second pair!

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April

I've grown up watching American TV shows, American sport, playing games like GTA, and just obsessing over all things America, so one thing that I have ALWAYS wanted to do is go and visit, and so we hit up New York City in April, and it was everything I had hoped it would be. I wrote a two part blog post (part one and part two) about our time spent there, but I'll definitely be back in the very near future!

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Over the last couple of years, I've became great friends with the guys behind the UK's best and original sneaker event; Crepe City. The 25th of April saw their 13th edition of Crepe City, and of course, they absolutely smashed it. Shout out to those guys!

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May

Towards the end of 2014, I had heard rumours that New Balance would be sponsoring Celtic FC for the forthcoming season, so naturally, when my favourite brand are rumoured to sponsor the football team I support, I get a little excited. Anyway, fast forward a few months down the line and I'm sat at Celtic Park for the official New Balance kit launch!

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July

Emma and myself made it a point of trying to get out and explore as much as possible during summer, but we live in Scotland right, so we don't get much of a summer. Anyway, we managed to check out a couple of castles, Crathes Castle being one of them...

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And Castle Fraser being another...

 

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One of my fondest memories from childhood was Saturdays spent climbing Bennachie with my family, or with my school friends, and it had literally been years since I'd went for a wander up that way.

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The last Wednesday of July, as NB Gallery, myself and Rob headed to Cockermouth, a town in Cumbria, England, for the official global launch of the New Balance Real Ale Pack, and boy was it good. The hospitality over the few days that we were there was absolutely faultless, big big shout to all those involved for absolutely nailing the event, and great to see old and new faces!

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August

It had been long overdue, but finally, on the 1st of August 2015, Scotland had it's first ever sneaker festival - Solebloc, held in Glasgow, and it was an absolute banger. The event itself was held at the excellent SWG3, a warehouse in Glasgow's West End, and was the best setting for the event.

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We created our first ever NB Gallery Showcase at Solebloc with over 250+ pairs of New Balance on display!

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I got my hands on some never-before-seen New Balance x hanon shop samples!

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After what felt like a pretty hectic couple of months, myself and Emma took a little jaunt off to Italy for 10 days or so, and we visited some pretty sweet places along the way.

First up, Rome!

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From Rome, we took a de-tour via Naples to visit Pompeii and it's ruins.

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Heading back to Rome from Pompeii later that night, the next morning we packed up and jumped on a train to the lovely city of Pisa.

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Pisa was an absolute dream, but our time was up, and it was off to Florence we went.

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However, we both fell in love with Rome, so before we left, we had to re-visit that amazing city! If you ever get the chance to go to Rome, do NOT pass it up.

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September

From the tourist filled cities of Italy, to the tranquil lochs of Scotland with a bothy fit for the Queen, Loch Muick was a great escape for a day!

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Trying to fit in as much as possible before the dark nights truly set in, and we'd no longer be able to explore and take the dog on some adventures on the week nights, we headed north up the coast to Collieston.

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Now this is one trip that I had wanted to do for a while, and just could never get the time to do it. Sadly Emma couldn't make it along, but we'll be making a point of heading back this year or next now that Aberdeen fly direct to Warsaw. Anyway, it was great to head to Warsaw and catch up with my great friends Arek, Maciek, and Radek, along with everyone else I met. Huge thanks for the hospitality!

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Conveniently, my trip coincided with Warsaw’s edition of Sneakerness, and it was definitely the perfect event to pop my Sneakerness cherry, and a big shout out to all the great people who worked tirelessly to pull off the third Sneakerness in Warsaw, as well as the absolutely wild night out!

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October

One last castle before the year ends? It's only right! And New Slains Castle was the perfect one to end the year on!

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Apparently, if you visit the Bullers of Buchan at a certain time during the year, you can spot some Puffins nesting. Sadly, no puffins for us, just empty hidden rock beaches and miles of coastline.

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It had felt like an absolute age since the last hanon shop collaboration, I was certainly struggling to remember when I was last at an in-store release for one at the time of writing the post for this shoe, but anyway, the "Spirit of '83" was a massive success, and rightly so.

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The 14th instalment of Crepe City fell on Halloween and it was the most successful Crepe City yet, which included the launch of their first branded apparel and merchandise collection, as well as their inaugural magazine launch.

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November and Year End 

This might have been the most important month of the year for me, as I started working for hanon shop. Over the last year or so, I had already been doing bits and pieces for them, and helping out in-store at some of their releases, but I am now working for them officially.

My role involves photography and social media, as well as some other things, but basically the two main things I have been doing seriously for the last few years.

My first main project would be the Asics Gel-Lyte III x hanon shop "Lyte Night", where I was shot all the images for the press release.

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The second project I shot the week after was the Le Coq Sportif LCS R1000 x hanon shop.

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If you want to follow my work at hanon, be sure to check out @hanonshop on Instagram and Twitter.

Since November, I have been working full time for hanon shop, as well as my other job, and on top of that, doing NB Gallery and other bits, so I haven't had much time to myself which is why this blog has been neglected a little. I hope you can understand, and I promise I won't be so infrequent with the blog posts going forward!

Anyway, I am super excited about what's to come in 2016 and look forward to sharing it with you all!

Florence - Italy Adventures

Utilising the Italian Train service once again, we hopped on a train and made our way to Florence from Pisa, a relatively short journey, gave me some time to try and edit pics too which is always good. Tried to take a chunk out of the inevitably large amount of images I'd have to go through when I got home. Arriving in Florence in the middle of the day probably wasn't the best idea though, as it was roasting, much hotter than it had been in both Rome and Pisa. With our screenshots of Apple Maps in hand, we made our way to the hotel, and had to wing it a little as I may have taken us up the wrong street, even with directions.

Anyway, we eventually made it to Hotel Pendini, which is where we would be staying for the next 4 nights. A lovely hotel sitting right on the Piazza della Repubblica, and next door to the Hard Rock Cafe, with Louis Vuitton across the road too if you fancied a spot of shopping.

DAY 1 -

So you can probably guess by now what we done once we got checked in, right? Of course, we went for a wander to get an idea of where everything was.

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Hotel Pendini on the right from Piazza della Repubblica.

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Palazzo Vecchio from Piazza della Signoria.

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Fountain of Neptune.

One thing I knew about was the Ponte Vecchio, so this is what we would search for first, and after going in the wrong direction originally, we eventually made it to the awesome Palazzo Vecchio which you can see above.

You'll notice a lot of people going in and out of a door at the front of this building, so make sure you do the same, it's worth it. Below are images of what you'll discover when you do!

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From here, the Ponte Vecchio is an extremely short walk through the Piazzale degli Uffizi, which you can see below. A busy area both day and night!

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Due to the time of day, I couldn't get a good shot of the Ponte Vecchio from the front side, so of course, we'd come back a few times more, but we did take a wander over the bridge which is full of jewellers, and then head to one of the bridges behind it to get a better view.

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Ponte Vecchio from Ponte Santa Trinita.

 My parents had visited Florence last year, and I swear all they done for the next few months when they came back was just talk about how amazing it was, so this was one of the main reasons we chose to visit here.

In all honesty, although we'd only walked around for a couple of hours, we weren't too impressed with Florence, certainly not in comparison to how we felt about Rome. Maybe the travelling and walking around had eventually caught up with us, so we headed back to the hotel to unpack and get changed.

Some shots from the way back.

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Basilica di Santa Maria Novella.

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Feeling a little drained, we just planned to head out for some food and of course gelato! We headed to Piazza della Signoria to grab some food at a restaurant we'd spotted during the day, and of course, it was busy, so they probably are doing something right.

How wrong could we have been? They weren't doing anything right. We waited an absolute day and age to just get drinks! I wish I could remember the name so you could avoid them, but I've forgotten.

So off the back of a shitty meal, all that could make up for it was the biggest tub of gelato I could find, and that's just what I got. (Photo not included as I absolutely demolished it!)

Back to the hotel it was!

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"Put that f*cking camera away!"

Day 2 -

One of Emma's friends had booked us on a walking tour as a birthday gift, I'll be sure to get the name for you off of Emma. Big shout to our guide Sylvia, in the middle of the day, in the scorching heat, she was great!

However, first, after demolishing some croissants with nutella, I said that I couldn't get a decent shot of the front of the Ponte Vecchio, so off to the bridge we headed as the sun would be at the opposite side.

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Now it was time for our walking tour, so meeting outside the Hard Rock Cafe, we got acquainted with our guide, and off we went. We basically toured the historic centre of Florence, while getting all the necessary information about each 'attraction', and trying to find any unoccupied spots of shade. Basically everything you'd expect from a walking tour, it was pretty spot on.

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Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.

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Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze.

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Campanile di Giotto.

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

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Museo Casa di Dante.

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Chiesa di San Carlo.

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Palazzo Vecchio.

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Now if you didn't know already (we didn't until my mate told me), Florence is pretty damn fashionable. Pretty much every street you walk down will have some form high fashion shop on it, or just a clothing shop in general, so it was time for me to get dragged around... for a little while at least.

We were struggling to find much to do at night to be honest, except for eat and drink, which isn't exactly a bad thing, but we wanted to be able to walk places and check out new things, but literally every thing was closed.

So once we grabbed food, we just headed to the Ponte Vecchio where there was a couple of guys singing and playing guitar, who were amazing, so we spent an hour or so chilling listening to them.

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Day 3 - 

So we pretty much had two days left in Florence, and it felt like we had done very little, so we figured out what we wanted to do and..... we came up with very little!

However, one thing we definitely wanted to do was visit the cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore), it's dome and it's surrounding bell tower, and baptistry, but every day we had been there, it was queued all the way around.

The night before, we spent some time checking opening times, and what not. Also, we had failed to find a ticket office, as we knew we had to get tickets to climb to the top of the duomo, as well as the bell tower, and to enter the baptistry. The cathedral was free, provided you were respecting the religion and had your shoulders and top of your knees covered. This is pretty much standard in Italy, so please bare it in mind, just a simple shawl will suffice for the ladies!

A 7:30am wake up call, we took our bottles of water and baguettes that we had bought last night, made our way to the ticket office, paid 10e each for two tickets, and went to join the queue to climb the cathedral's dome. This was the largest queue, so figured it would be smart to do it first, and even though we arrived there about 9am, the queue was huge, and we spent two hours in it before we managed to enter. Thankfully it was only 11am, and the sun wasn't that strong yet, but we were in the shade for the majority of the time anyway.

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Now this cathedral and everything about it, located in Piazza del Duomo is just spectacular.... however, the climb wasn't, but this was mainly due to the poor organisation from staff who failed to stop people coming down various staircases while people were trying to go up. Therefore, you were stuck in these little claustrophobic humid staircases, feeling like there was very little air to breathe! Not a pleasant feeling.

463 steps later and inside the duomo...

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And to the top of the duomo...

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Now it was time to check out the interior of the cathedral, and once again, another queue... It would have been great if you could climb to the top of the dome, and then visit the inside of the cathedral, but you get shuffled out a door, and then have to queue again.

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Next on the agenda was the baptistry, which sadly was covered in scaffolding on the exterior, and this seemed to deter people from going inside, which is a real shame, as this was honestly one of the nicest interiors I'd see since we were away.

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Now before we were able to muster up the energy to climb the neighbouring Giotto's Campanile (bell tower), we had to stop for some lunch, in the form of lots of water, and two of the finest crepes with nutella known to man.

Conveniently the cafe was just across the road, in the shadow of the bell tower, almost taunting us while we rested.

But we were finished, and ready.... but oh wait, another queue, yes, you have to queue to climb the bell tower too. Only a half hour wait this time.

We said we wouldn't stop until we got to the top, and then we could stop at various levels on the way back down, so 414 steps later...

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Duomo, Cathedral, Baptistry and Bell Tower - Check.

Absolutely exhausted - Check.

One thing I always do is keep an eye on the sky when it is getting near sunset, and the sky was shaping up to be pretty lovely, and since we knew it set behind the Ponte Vecchio, we figured we would head there to see what we could capture!

Rightly so, the sunset was amazing!

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Day 4 - 

If you didn't know already, one of the main attractions in Florence is the statue of David, which is housed at the Accademia Gallery. We had walked by the gallery the day previous to get an idea where it was and what the queueing was like, but as expected, there were queues of 2+ hours, so we didn't bother.

We were going to check it out on our last day in Florence, but once again, queues queues and more queues, so we really just couldn't be bothered! So sorry for no images of the very famous David.

One of the best ways to see cities when you go away is to use the City Sightseeing Tours which you will find in many cities worldwide. These guys offer informative bus tours, with at least one line running in the city, but sometimes many others. I've used them in Iceland, New York, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, and even in Glasgow and London. They also offer a hop on, hop off service, which is exceptionally useful when it comes to getting to certain places which may be a little bit out of the centre, or you just aren't keen on walking too far.

The City Sightseeing Tours in Florence begin at the Santa Maria Novella train station, so we headed there to buy ourselves a day ticket each, and hopped on the first line to do the full tour, which took around an hour.

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Buses can be a little bit of a nightmare to take pictures on, so we always just do the full tour first, and decide which spots we want to check out, then go round again and get off. We drove by Piazza de Michelangelo which provides stunning views over Florence centre, so we decided to come back here later on... for sunset, of course.

With the first tour over and done with, we got off at the station and waited until the next line came by which would take us out to the stunning little town of Fiesole, which is set up in the hills on the outskirts of Florence.

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The tour which goes up to Fiesole takes a little bit longer, so when we came back down, we grabbed a spot of lunch, and before we knew it, we were back on the first line and heading up to explore Piazza de Michelangelo.

When we were at the Ponte Vecchio the night before watching the sunset, you are able to see the Piazza de Michelangelo from here, and we could see all the camera flashes during sunset, so tonight was our turn to see what all the fuss was about.

Unfortunately, it was really cloudy all through the day, so we were hoping it would clear up a little for sunset coming around.

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First footwear shot of the holiday... couldn't go 10 days without one!

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While we were on the bus up to Piazza de Michelangelo, we spotted a basilica which was tucked away up some stairs, so of course, we were going to have a look.

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Not this basilica.. the next one.

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Sitting at the front of this basilica provided the most amazing views over Florence, and we were sure we had found the best spot for the sunrise tonight.

The front door to the basilica was open, so I went inside to be greeted with complete darkness, and only the sound of humming coming from the basement. So I walked over, and the below picture was what I was greeted with.

Easy one of the most eerie experiences of my life so far.

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I even had to take the above pictures with a flash, that's how dark it was.

After this eerie experience, we literally just spent the next couple of hours sitting on a wall out the front of the basilica, overlooking a graveyard in front of us, and Florence in the distance, watching the sunset unfold.

Sadly, the clouds hadn't disappeared at all, in fact, they'd probably gotten worse, so the below shots are the best I could muster.

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Our time was up in Florence, and our time on holiday was almost up too, so the next day, we headed to the train station, and headed back to Rome, as this is where our return flight was from on the Monday (it was cheaper that way).