How To Have Your Own ZNMD-Themed Vacation!
Did you also watch Zoya Akhtar’s hilarious buddy movie, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara? It’s a wonderful movie about three old friends–Kabir, Arjun, and Imran–reuniting for Kabir’s bachelor’s trip to Spain. The characters had made an old pact that they would each pick an adventure sport that they would all do together. Kabir picks scuba diving, Arjun picks skydiving, and Imran picks Running with the Bulls in Pamplona. Aside from its touching and light-hearted script, the movie features long shots of green hills draped over yellow grass, cobalt blue waters and shoals of orange fish, the old brick walls of Pamplona, and dramatic clips of the characters jumping out of an airplane over the Andalusian countryside.
If the precis of the movie doesn’t fill you with the unstoppable urge to book your tickets to Barcelona, then perhaps you ought to keep reading.
Creating Your Own ZNMD-Themed Vacation:
The movie takes place over four locations (five, if you count Barcelona in the beginning): Costa Brava, Būnol, Seville, and Pamplona. If you draw a route between these destinations, you get an awkward but enormous triangular-shaped path that will take you a few weeks to traverse.
And to take part in every event that was mentioned in the movie, you’ll have to craft an itinerary that doesn’t quite match the movie’s plot, you see. La Tomatina, the tomato-fight festival, takes place in August, while Running with the Bulls (Pamplona), happens in July. In effect, it means that if you want to check everything off your list, you’ll have to visit Pamplona first and then head towards Būnol for La Tomatina.
The whole circuit–keeping in mind event dates–will take you around two months. If you want to cut it short, you’ll have to choose between either participating in Running with the Bulls OR La Tomatina. This is because this famous bull run takes place between early-mid July, while La Tomatina is scheduled for the last week of August.
Barcelona is the richly cultured, dreamy city, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Catalonia. Not too long ago, Catalonia was at the heart of an independence movement that could have separated the whole region from Spain to make it a separate country. Though that bid for independence failed, Catalonia maintains a distinct culture, separate from the rest of the country, and Barcelona is very much the beating heart of Catalonia. It was not uncommon to see Catalonian flags hanging from windows and balconies across the city.
But politics aside, Barcelona has a rich artistic history, most evident in its fanciful architecture. This city is home to some of the greatest works of architect Antoni Gaudi. At best, his buildings, like Casa Batlló, look like a combination of a melting ice cream sundae, a child’s art project, and a fairy queen’s mansion, with its shockingly colourful facade, honeycomb shaped windows, roofing tiles that look like fish scales, and interiors that could be straight out of a daydream. The Sagrada Família, the still-unfinished basilica that looks, from a distance, as though it’s made out of bones. Its stained glass windows add rainbow tints to the sunlight that streams in, making you once again feel like you’re not quite on earth–you’re somewhere much, much prettier. Park Güell and Casa Mira are also must-visit places to enjoy architecture like this (and you might as well go, because these structures are all genuinely unique, there’s nothing close to similar anywhere else in the world.)
You can easily spend up to a week or more in just Barcelona.
It’s hard to point out the best scenes in ZNMD, but perhaps one of the most memorable is the scuba diving scene set in Costa Brava, where Arjun finally allows himself to enjoy his holiday–and develops a special relationship with his diving instructor, Laila, in the process. Laila teaches the boys the basics of scuba diving (we assume she’s PADI-certified), and guides them through the essentials of communicating and breathing underwater.
Costa Brava is approximately one-and-a-half-hours by road from Barcelona. The Moventis Sarfa bus company has hourly buses plying the route, with prices ranging from anywhere between INR 160 to INR 1200. Because Costa Brava is quite literally a coast, there are a range of lovely seaside towns you can choose to stay at, from Tossa de Mar to L’Estartit (which isn’t just Spain’s easternmost town, but also the winner of the Family Holiday Label awarded by the Catalan Tourist Board). Girona is perhaps the most famous of these towns, but not far behind is the aesthetically-named Roses, a place rich in history and seaside beauty.
You can learn scuba diving from many of the diving schools along the coast. Most towns have diving schools. Ensure that they are PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors)-certified. Depending on your experience level, you can do anything from a Try Dive or a Discover Scuba Diving Course, or attempt longer and more advanced courses like the Advanced Open Water Diver Course. If you’re just starting out, you may be advised to do the PADI Open Water Diving Course for beginners.
We can’t promise you’ll have a life-changing romance with a diving instructor, like Arjun had with Laila, but the dives themselves will certainly have a powerful effect on you. Being among the astonishing biodiversity of the Mediterranian Sea, you feel a little more connected with the world, even as the waters around you swallow you with solitude.
Prices depend on individual diving schools, the season, and the various courses and equipment you opt for, including the cost of diving insurance. However, you can expect to pay a very minimum of approximately EUR 30 (INR 2367). The final number can differ vastly from this estimate, because the costs hinge on variable factors.
We wish we could tell you to “end your trip in Pamplona, like the boys did”, but that wouldn’t be wise. If you actually want to do the famous bull run, you’ll have to be in Pamplona on the dates of the festival San Fermin, which takes place in 2020 between July 6 and July 14. Bull runs will take place every day between the 7th-14th of July 2020.
Running with the bulls is an activity not to be taken lightly. Serious injuries can occur. Online courses are available to initiate you with bull running, and prices start at USD 25 (INR 1793). Follow the rules of the bull run perfectly: this includes not provoking or touching the bulls, being intoxicated while on the route, carrying any photography equipment, or being under the age of 18 during the run.
It is important to understand that bull running is potentially fatal. Although rare, deaths have occurred. Only take part in this activity if you completely understand this risk.
If you’d rather not take part in the Running With the Bulls, Pamplona has a lot more to offer. You can visit monuments like the Pamplona Cathedral, Museum of Navarra, and La Taconera, Pamplona’s oldest park. You can also just enjoy the fiestas of San Fermin, there’s a lot more to than festival than just bulls.
Not for the faint-hearted, but certainly for the fans of Imran’s character development, we move on to Seville for skydiving. In the movie, Imran is terrified of throwing himself out of an airplane thousands of feet above ground. Who can blame him? But the scene where he jumps out of the plane (“Push me!” he tells one of his instructors), is designed to be a not-so-thinly-veiled metaphor for how he lets go of all the things weighing him down.
Seville, where it all takes place, has been cut out from a time long-forgotten now. The capital of Andalusia rests, old and wise, upon the Guadalquivir river. If you’re in Seville for the skydiving, there are actually a few options you can choose from. Of course, you can also skydive casually, but if you want to be really, really good at it and get a license, you can register yourself for an AFF (Accelerated Freefall) course. You can even try tandem skydiving with an instructor. The key factor here is that you will be safely strapped to an expert skydiver who will take the lead. This might be ideal if you’re short on time, because you’re ready to go after only 15 minutes of instruction.
One of our travellers, Ayush Gangrade, who did the tandem skydive, says of his experience: “Your lips go out of control–there’s just so much wind blowing in your face. The view is breathtaking. Spinning in the air is unreal. Plus there’s a camera guy who jumps with you and asks you to pose while you’re falling. That’s hilarious.”
Costs vary, but a tandem skydive from 10,000 ft comes up to about EUR 189 (INR 14,922). AFF courses start from EUR 1766 (INR 1,39,437). There are also different levels of coaching you can receive–prices depend on the type of coaching you choose, plus discounts you may receive. Check out Skydive Spain for more information.
Seville is also famous for its flamenco dancers. It is believed that the dance form originated from cultural interactions between several of the communities residing in the region at that time, including Andalusians, Romani, Castillans, Moors, and Sephardi Jews. The artform has been recognised by the UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Dances are performed at tablaos. Some of the best include Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus and Museo del Baile Flamenco. Just make sure that while you’re enjoying a performance, you don’t jump up on stage with the professional flamenco dancer–it might not be taken as kindly as it was in ZNMD’s song Señorita.
Trains from Pamplona to Seville take around six-and-a-half-hours. It’s an approximately 9 hour drive.
La Tomatina was a great highlight of the movie, and also the setting for one of its most popular songs, Ek Junoon (Paint It Red). The characters go to the town of Būnol to take part in this messy, tomatoey festival.
The festival began in 1945 as a quarrel between locals. Tomatoes from a vegetable cart were thrown at each other, and security forces had to be called to settle the peace. The next year, individuals took part in a pre-planned scuffle where they threw tomatoes at each other, prompting police to intervene once more. This set a yearly tradition of tomato fights. The practice was in fact banned a few times, but is now completely legal.
Today, you need to buy a ticket to participate, and follow official rules of the festival. That includes: not bringing hard objects like bottles as this could hurt others, squish the tomatoes between your fingers before you throw them to prevent injuring people, maintain a healthy distance from lorries, and stop throwing tomatoes when you hear the second shot of the warning firework.
La Tomatina lasts one hour and takes place on the last Wednesday in August.
Tickets are EUR 10 (INR 890).
You can reach Būnol from Seville by train. It takes about 5 hours and requires 2 transfers. Car journeys take about 6 hours.
As mentioned, if you want to combine La Tomatina with a bull run, you should head to Cuéllar next.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara has made all of us ache for the glow of a Spanish sunshine, but recreating this trip isn’t just about doing what the boys in the movie did. As long as you travel with your friends and make new ones on the way, you’ll have captured the universal spirit of this movie: life is all about great people, great places, and great times.