TC Original: Tips for Travel in Russia

Russia is huge and I mean massively huge. It’s half of Europe going all the way to Alaska in North America. I recently travelled to Russia visiting the cities of Moscow & Kazan. Both these cities are beautiful and have their own unique charm. It’s got the European charm that everybody loves and at the same time it has something unique that sets it apart from rest of Europe.  Elements of the ‘Mysterious Russian Soul’ are there in the air and you can feel it when you interact with the people.  Below are some tips which I gathered from my trip.

Visa & visa registration:
Now the Russian tourist visa has a bit of red tape, at least in India. You can get a tourist visa of 30 days maximum and you ought to have proof of hotel reservations for your duration of stay. You need to have an official ‘Invite’ from a tourist agency. They usually charge you anything between 20$ – 30$ for the ‘Invitation’ and a little more if the Russian embassy in your city requires a hard copy.
Once you’re in Russia, ensure that you register your visa with the local post office or immigration office. If you stay in a hotel/hostel, they will do it for you as it’s their lawful obligation.

Internal Travel:
Internal travel in Russia is as modern as it gets. The preferred mode of transport between major cities is by train. Long haul journeys can be fun. It’s recommend trying the Trans- Siberian line. Moscow to Vladivostok is an interesting journey you can try! It would surely be value for money.  In Moscow the metro is great for internal transportation. Places which are further away from metro stations are easily connected with buses.  Kazan on the other hand is much smaller. I’d surely recommend visiting the stunning new Metro Stations.
Kazan Metro

(Kazan Metro)

People & Culture:

Hollywood movies have demonised the Russian and created a negative image of Russians all around the world. Well, the fact is that they are as human as anybody else. The women are drop dead gorgeous and the men are thorough gentlemen (most of them at least).  The culture of Russia is welcoming. There is a huge diversity with people having different ethnicities like Marie, Chuvash, Slavic, Tatar and many more. It’s amazing to see how the communist rule unified all these different ethnicities under one banner. People is Russia love to have a good time, enjoy life  and after all that is done, work hard. Every town in Russia will have a ‘Banya’ a community pool and you are sure to find a ‘Piva’ (Beer) Store next to it.  It’s not advisable to visit them, but if you’re adventurous by all means go for it.

Language:
The official language is Russian, however there a many dialects and sub-languages within the country. Almost like India, the language changes after every 30-50 kms.  Russian is easy to gather and understand if you are attentive.  You can try learning some of these words:

Pri-ve-yt – Hello
Zd-rast-we-tya – Formall Hello
Da – Yes
Neyt – No

Baton – Bread
Vada – Water
Kuri-tsa – Chicken
Spa-ci-bo – Thank you
Bye – Pokah

Money:

The Russians use the Rouble as their currency. Thankfully it trades at 2 INR to 1 RU.  Things are generally expensive in Russia. Sadly the simple jobs don’t pay so well but all the prices are of European standard.  If you eat simple and local you can easily survive in 400 roubles a day for food.

Did you find this helpful? Do leave your comments below, I’d love to chat up!

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The Tomorrowland Experience by Adam Beaumont

Tomorrowland has only recently become one of the most in demand music festivals in the world.

 

Location

The festival is located in a small town in between Antwerp and Brussels in Belgium. The town is aptly named Boom. his prime location means that people from all around Europe can visit within hours, cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne, Lille, London are all within a a few hours via train.
 Truly International

Tomorrowland was this year visited by people from over 245 different countries which must be a record for a music festival. From as far as Brazil and Australia this is the festival the world wants to go. If you want to go to a truly international festival with people from all around the world partying and having fun together then Tomorrowland is the festival to travel to.

Sell Out

Tickets for Tomorrowland 2013 sold out within minutes this year with an estimated 1.8million people trying to get the 80,000 tickets on sale. The sheer demand for this festival means that the tickets not only sell out but are only available if one decides to purchase from a secondary ticket agent which is often much more expensive.

Best Dance festival on the Planet

Tomorrowland is by far the best dance festival in the world as voted by visitors from all areas of the world. Tomorrowland has won many fantastic awards and has gone from strength each yeah. Every major DJ has stated that this is the best festival in the world and the one gig that they look forward to most in the year.

Guaranteed Good Weather

Mid-July is guaranteed to be hot in the town of Boom, last year the temperatures were amazing with the sun starting from first thing in the morning and lasting all day until the night. With this guaranteed good weather this makes the festival much more better, no need to worry about packing wellington boots like most other festivals.

Excellent Value

Tomorrowland has the best venues, best stage, best production, best layout and best DJs for a festival in the world.  One would expect the tickets to be expensive but the value is truly fantastic. UK and festivals in Sweden, Norway and Germany normally cost twice as much as this festival yet do not offer the same facilities and headline acts. The great value is no surprise as 180,000 purchase tickets within minutes each year.

World’s Best DJs

Only the best of the best DJs in the world will be at Tomorrowland and the headline acts truly are the best DJs on the planet. Whilst the lineup has not yet been released, the headline acts are guaranteed to be truly amazing. Last year the main headlines were Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta.

Friday, 26th July

MAIN STAGE

Tiësto
Sebastian Ingrosso
Hardwell
Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike
Fedde Le Grand
ARTY
Otto Knows
NO_ID
Nervo
Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano
MC Stretch

Saturday, 27th July

MAIN STAGE

Avicii
Armin van Buuren
Axwell
Knife Party
Chuckie
Sander van Doorn
Zedd
Thomas Gold
Audien
Maxim Lany
MC Stretch

 

Sunday, 28th July

MAIN STAGE

David Guetta vs Afrojack vs Nicky Romero
Steve Angello
Steve Aoki
Alesso
Joachim Garraud
Yves V
Deniz Koyu
Porter Robinson
Djaxx & Neurotique
MC Stretch

6. Excellent Location

Being located in Belgium means that people can travel to Tomorrowland very easily as the country is located in central Europe. Major cities such as Antwerp, Brussels, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and many others can be reached within a couple of hours on the fantastic railway system in Belgium. Amsterdam is a major hub for flights from around the world and is the chose city for incoming flights for people wanting to enjoy the festival.

7. Amazing Venue

The venue is located in a park just outside the town of Boom in Belgium. The bowl shape allows for a truly magnificent festival with views of the stage from all sides. Inside the layout is amazing and no expense shared for the production and detail of everything. The amount of detail truly is remarkable for a festival with a lot of reference to the Tomorrowland theme. Pictures of inside the venue to follow shortly.

 Unlike any other Festival

Tomorrowland truly is a festival that is not like any other, with the international crowd, excellent venue, central location and worlds best DJs you will not find an event anywhere in the world. Even the camping environment is themed so that you completely feel the Tomorrowland atmosphere.

24 Hour Party

If you are looking for a 24 hour party festival from the arena to the camping then Tomorrowland 2013 is the place to be in the summer. Whilst the festival arena opens at around 12:00 and finishes around 2am the party continues in the Dreamville camping for those people with the weekend pass.

 

10. 180,000 People 

Each year 180,000 people purchase tickets within minutes of the Tomorrowland festival going on sale and it makes it the fastest selling festival in Europe without doubt. If you are wondering whether to come to Tomorrowland then simply ask yourself why 180,000 people would come, this is without the many thousands that are unlucky and cannot by the tickets because of the sheer demand.

 

Credit – This awesome article is by Adam Beaumont on event-traveller.com. Read the complete article with pictures HERE.

 

5 Best Places To Surf in Spain and France by Todd on surfstronger.com

As surfers, going on a bona fide surf trip can be a key and exciting part of the surfing experience. And while far flung places like the Metawais, Bali, or Tahiti, are often the places surfers dream about first, we’ve often thought about getting over to the “Continent” to surf France or Spain.

Our friends over at Surfholidays.com have provided us with their fave top five European surf destinations. Check it out!

If you ever have the chance to take that a once in a life time surf holiday then there is no better option than a trip through Northern Spain and South West France. We have taken a look at the 5 places that you have to visit along the way.

1. Mundaka

We’ll start here as for many it’s the easiest to get to. The city of Bilbao is only 25kms away and most major airlines fly here. Now what you do in Mundaka really depends on what kind of a surf vacation you are on. If you’re a good surfer you will definitely want to try it, if not then you can marvel at it from the viewing area and watch surfers catch barrel after barrel as the water travels in land to the town of Guernica. Mundaka is a very traditional Basque town; it’s also worth taking some time to wander the narrow streets.

2. Zarautz and San Sebastian

From Mundaka make your way back on to the motorway for a quick hour drive to Zarautz or else stick on the country roads; great if you have time as they are picturesque and mountainous plus there are a few surf spots along the way. Zarautz is home to arguably Spain’s biggest surf town. While it’s not a big town as such, the main reason it’s so popular is because of its 3kms beach that runs parallel to the towns promenade. The promenade is packed full of restaurants, bars, basketball courts, skate parks, cycle lanes, skate lanes and many other amenities that make it a great place to send some time. The beach is a great beginners surf beaches, a perfect spot for surfing lessons and because of its length there are numerous points for improvers and the more advanced. The town is host to a WQS event every September

3. San Sebastian

20kms from Zarautz is San Sebastian. It is without doubt one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. The focal point of the city is its old town – packed with lively bars and delicious restaurants – it is often referred to as the gastro capital of Spain. The city also has what every city can only dream of, two spectacular beaches, one of which is the very consistent La Zurriola. Spend as long as you want here, sitting in the sun and surfing it as often as you like.

4. Biarritz

This can also be a starting point thanks to the cities international airport which is only 10kms from the city itself. It’s 40kms from San Sebastian. The city has been described as the birthplace of European surf. Its two beaches offer perfect conditions for all standards and both comes alive during the summer with surf festivals and events taking place almost every day.

5. Hossegor

While Biarritz might be where European surf began, Hossegor has become its surf Capital. Just 30kms north of Biarritz lie beach after beach of perfect surf. This is what surfing holidays in France are all about. Three towns join together, Capbreton, Hossegor and Seignosse and possess the best beach breaks in the world. The WCT has held an event here for years and it’s easy to see why. Hossegor really has it all but be careful, the beach bars come alive at night and you might never get to sleep…

Credit – This awesome article is by Todd on surfstronger.com. Read it HERE.

Walking Maumee Trails by Jim and Dee Walter

Maumee Bay State Park, Oregon, OH) Hi 77 Lo 68 – It was cool 60 this morning, and rainy. We did our morning routine of coffee and computers, then around noon Kathy came over to see if we wanted to go to the beach. I hadn’t noticed that it quit raining and the sun was starting to shine. I got a bite to eat and we headed for the beach.

There were three guys kite boarding on the lake. The kite was huge and the winds were brisk. (Click on photos to make them larger.)

And away he went!  He flew thru the water. One of the guys went high enough he was out of the water with his board attached to his feet and did a summersault and back in the water. We watched for several minutes.

Kathy is pointing to the sign that tells the different conditions of the lake. Not the condition of the surf, but the pollution level of water. At certain levels you’re not supposed to swallow the water, and at the worst level it’s not safe to be IN the water. Umm, no swimming for me, thank you.
2013-06-30 Maumee Bay state park beach of lake erie Kathy

When we got back to the RV we waited on Sandy and Dick, another couple from Adelaide Shores RV park (our winter home), to arrive. It’s so surprising how many of our Florida friends live in Ohio (and in Pennsylvania, where we’re headed tomorrow).

We brought a couple of outdoor chairs into our living room and managed to fit everyone in.

From left to right is Dee, Dick, Sandy, Kathy and Kenny. Thank you Sandy and Dick for taking the time to come see us.

We hope to see Sandy and Dick again at Beaver Falls, PA where we’re headed tomorrow. They’re driving there for a gathering of Adelaide Shores friends. More about that in the days to come.

After Sandy and Dick left it was so nice out and there was still plenty of daylight left, Kathy, Kenny and I decided to take a walk around the park. Jim stayed behind to watch the NASCAR race that he recorded.

Kenny has walked the trail a few times so he led the way.

We went through some woods…

… and mowed grass paths…

… and climbed up this large hill near the beach.

The hill offered a great view of the beach area and Lake Erie.

There’s a fishing lake behind the hill.

Then we had to walk DOWN the hill.

My knees were really barking at me, so Kenny loaned me his walking stick. It sure makes a difference.

I have two ski poles stored away, but I can never remember to get them out for walks.

We rested awhile when we got to the bottom, then Kenny said we’d take another way back, which was more grass paths with bugs and mosquitoes.

There are May Flies all around this area. They come up from the lake when it’s warmer, mate, and then die. Kenny says they make great fish bait.

The path back to the campground was a half a mile longer than the one we started out on, but eventually we got back to the RV. Kathy and I were both pretty tired and sore. My RunKeeper app said we went went 2.8 miles. So the past two days I’ve walked four miles. I’m set for a couple days. 🙂

We had some dinner then went over to visit Kathy and Kenny for the last time before we leave tomorrow. They’re also leaving tomorrow, so we’ll say our final goodbyes then.

Credit – This awesome article is by Jim and Dee Walter on http://tumbleweed-jimdee.blogspot.in

12 great places to see in Canada by Lisa on canadablog.y-axis.com

The Flowerpot Rocks at Hopewell Cape are seen here at high tide. Sea kayaking is popular on the Fundy coast in New Brunswick.

We may not always put our hands over our hearts while singing the anthem or swing the flag with as much energy as our neighbours to the south, but we Canadians are quite proud of what we have to offer and this summer there are more reasons than ever for it. Here’s a look.

British Columbia – The new “Cliff Walk” expansion to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver offers a unique way to take in the rainforest vegetation. Not only are you walking out on walkways suspended from the granite cliffs above the Capilano River — in some places you’re doing it on a glass floor.

Alberta – Heritage Park, Canada’s largest living history museum, has been around for years but a recent expansion and renewal project makes it a must-visit. There’s an 1860’s Hudson Bay Fur Trading Fort and Aboriginal Encampment; an 1880’s wild west pre-railway town; a 1910 railroad town with Main Street and a 1930’s Heritage Town Square. With 127 acres to play in and the magical Rocky Mountains and Glenmore Reservoir as bait, spend the day (or opt for an overnight sleepover for the kids) and never run out of experiences to try.

Saskatchewan – The tall black boots, the scarlet red jacket, that hat . . . who doesn’t want to be a Mountie? The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Saskatchewan offers insight into our Canadian heroes. With the on-site “Depot” — the last training academy stop for all officers — visitors can take in historical exhibits with the newest recruits in their midst.

Manitoba – It may be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year but the Winnipeg Children’s Museum is brand spanking new. A $10-million campaign is doubling the original six galleries and promises to offer families a new way to be educated and entertained in the popular Forks area. Grand re-opening is June 4.

Ontario – The Agawa Canyon — 183 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie and more than 500 feet from tip to floor — is a highlight of the Canadian Shield. And with brand new coaches that offer up the newest in technology you can relax on the day long tour with stories about the Ojibway, the fur traders and the explorers who have all made their way through the pristine forested lands.

Yukon – In its heyday, Dawson City was the party spot for gunslingers, gold seekers and gamblers. Fast forward just over a century and while it is (mainly) law-abiding tourists who come through now you still get the feeling of that amazing time with visits to the can-can show at Diamond Gerties’ saloon or catching the Gaslight Follies at the Palace Grand Theatre.

Northwest Territories – Must-see stops include Yellowknife, Tuktoyaktuk, Great Slave Lake, the community of Norman Wells, the Mackenzie Mountains and the Arctic Ocean. The wildlife scenery and hot springs will make it worthwhile.

Quebec – Sure, there are top festivals, but there are also beavers and deer and rare birds and black bears; wildlife set in scenes that will steal your breath. Try the Laurentians or the Charlevoix area for a combination of cute artistic villages and a river cruise in the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park.
New Brunswick – You sit on the cliffs overlooking the highest tides in the world at high tide at the Bay of Fundy, then climb down and walk on the ocean floor at low. Along the way peek up at the Hopewell Rocks (see if you can distinguish the one nicknamed “mother-in-law” from the one nick-named “E.T.”) and behind you the pristine Fundy National Park.

Prince Edward Island – An Arts and Heritage Trail launches this summer. Jump in your car for a self-guided tour chock full of experiential hands on stops, musical interludes, family products and more. When you’re finished, try one of more than 75 “authentic island experiences” (including learning an Acadian dance or feeding your foodie passion on the “flavours” trail).

Nova Scotia – The popular Pier 21 just became the first national museum in the country to exist outside of Ottawa. Recently renamed the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, the Halifax Museum is now on a five-year mission to expand its exhibition space, take exhibits on the road and tell the broader story of the immigration experience in Canada.

Newfoundland – It’s not everywhere that you can walk on the Earth’s “mantel” — the term for the third layer below the earth’s surface. But you can do it here. The UNESCO World Heritage Tableland Mountains in Gros Morne National Park offers a sub-arctic (and somewhat Mars-like) alpine terrain perfect for viewing local caribou, moose, fox and more.

Credit – This awesome article is by Lisa on Canadablog.y-axis.com

10 best biking cities in Europe by Tyler Falk

While biking is becoming more popular in U.S. cities — L.A. is adding 1,600 bike lanes, Chicago has a new bike plan, and Portland has 17,000 daily commuters — Europe has some amazing biking cities of their own.

The Ecologist has come up with the 10 best biking cities in Europe (in no particular order):

Lyon, France

  • “With its charming twisty lanes and dedicated bike routes, Lyon is a cyclists’ paradise.”
  • The city’s bike sharing program, Velo’v has over 300 stations throughout the city.

Rome, Italy

  • “Cycling is by far the best bet for seeing the sights close to the Tiber, where a picturesque route runs from the Ponte Sublicio to the Ponte della Magliana.”

Basel, Switzerland

  • “Featuring street lanes geared to cyclists and dedicated left hand turns to make crossing the road safer, Basel tops the list of cities to cycle in Switzerland.”

Berlin, Germany

  • Thanks to the combined efforts of Allied air raids and the Communist predilection for destroying picturesque old buildings and replacing them with big, brash new ones, Berlin’s streets are wonderfully wide, which makes it easy to get around by bike.”

Trondheim, Norway

  • “With its picturesque setting on the shores of the cerulean Trondheimsfjord, Norway’s fourth largest city has built a reputation for bicycling brilliance thanks to innovations such as the Trampe bicycle lift which takes the effort out of pedaling uphill.”

Paris, France

  • “While the many hazards of the Place de la Concorde aren’t the greatest advertisement for cycling in Paris, once you’re a safe distance from the city’s infamously crazy drivers – on the pavement in other words – then cycling in Paris can be a real pleasure.”

Barcelona, Spain

  • “Surprisingly, given Spain’s reputation for endangering the lives and limbs of cyclists thanks to its motorists’ penchant for going everywhere at top speed, Barcelona has 50,000 regular cyclists and that figure is increasing daily.”

Copenhagen, Denmark

  • 37 percent of all Copenhageners bike a total of 1.2 million kilometers each day.
  • “The Danish capital has been quietly turning itself into one of the best biking cities in the world; a fact revealed when the International Cycling Union gave it the first ‘Bike City’ award last year.”

London, England

  • The city is working to build 12 biking “superhighways” — there are already two — and increase biking by 400 percent from 2000.
  • “Cycling in London used to be pretty dreadful thanks to an unfortunate combination of rain and aggressive drivers but since the first two Barclays Cycle Superhighways launched last summer, things have become a little easier.”

Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • There are 600,000 bikes in a city of 750,000.
  • “Thanks in part to the narrow streets in the medieval city centre, cycling is by far the most efficient way to get around.”Credit – This awesome article is by Tyler Falk on smartplanet.com. Read it HERE. 

A Tale of Two Cities: Singapore & Sydney by Nan

I had never planned to go to Singapore and, frankly, didn’t think I would. I’m not even sure why I didn’t plan to go, but I suppose part of it was because I had heard from many people that it is a large, very modern city and that just didn’t appeal to me. But it turns out that Singapore is really well-located within SE Asia, it has a great airport and many flights that go through there — which I needed to do — and did. But what made me decide to stay a few days was the fact that I had a friend, Sonya, who lived there with her family (husband & 2 boys) and she encouraged me to go stay with them and check it out. So I made a plan to go there on my way from Bali to Sydney.

I tore myself away from Bali on Tue, 26 Mar, and headed to Singapore. My plan was to stay there for 3.5 days, as I had a flight to Sydney scheduled for very, very late Friday evening  (actually 2:00am Sat morning). I figured/hoped that time frame would be long enough, and not too long, to get at least a taste of what Singapore is all about. And I think it was….

I arrived there mid-day and followed Sonya’s instructions to get the subway to her part of town, then got a cab to her condo. They live in one of the many (many, many) condo complexes in Singapore…. and it’s a really lovely one. Rather than a high-rise (as most of them are) her complex is more sprawling and very, very lush & green. Beautifully manicured. They have a nice pool there and a little gym, which I used a couple times.

It was so nice seeing (& spending time with) Sonya and her family. They were extremely generous and gracious with me. We had some outstanding meals together — many of them at their home — and one of them being lunch in a restaurant in the Botanical Gardens (after which we took a nice long walk through them). We had a lot of great time to sit & catch up and for those times, it was worth the trip.

As for Singapore itself, I wish I could say that I liked it. But I didn’t. I REALLY, REALLY didn’t. I’m hard-pressed to find anything about it that appealed to me and I actually couldn’t wait to leave. I know, I know… those are some strong words, sister! But that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

I could share with you some of the tangible, concrete (pun intended) reasons why I didn’t care for Singapore (there are MANY), but I don’t much see the point. And besides, so much of my aversion was more energetic. On a very deep and visceral level, I actually felt repelled by Singapore. When people have asked me how I would describe it (and/or what it was about it I didn’t like) I’ve always had the same succinct answer: I found it “soul-less”. And after Bali — perhaps THE most soul-ful place I’ve ever been — the contrast was almost too much.

So without getting into what might amount to a (further) blast on Singapore, let me just say that it was nice to leave….. and to arrive in Sydney!! (it’s probably unnecessary to tell you that I haven’t a single photo of Singapore. Ah well….)

*********************************************************

So Sydney! A lovely place indeed…. and now I think it’s time for a few pics, don’t you?

I arrived there mid-day on Sat, 30 Mar, and my awesome friend, Danielle (along with her 2 daughters, Missy & Piper) picked me up at the airport. Easy-peasy (as they would say). We drove back to their house on the “scenic route” so that Danielle could show me some sights around the area. It was a gorgeous, early autumn day and my jaw was dropped the whole time. But I managed to snap a few pics from the car. These were all taken within 10 minutes of their house….

We eventually made our way to their house, and that is where I ended up staying for the next 6 weeks(!!). I hadn’t actually planned that, but it was so comfy & easy, I just stayed. 🙂 It’s a great house, in a very nice & convenient part of the city (maybe 7 miles, as the crow flies, from downtown Sydney). I felt immediately at home with Danielle, John & the girls, and fell into a family life-style.

As I moved around Sydney — on foot, in buses, in cars — I was always struck by how much I liked the look and feel of the neighborhoods. If I were to move there it would be very hard to decide in what area to live, as I liked so many of them. It is the antithesis of suburban sprawl. Instead there are numerous neighborhoods (almost village-y), with architecture that is mostly eclectic bungalow style (various materials, eras, styles, etc), and each area seems to have it’s own little central “strip” of cute mom & pop shops. Very walkable. At times it reminded me of Berkeley; at other times, Pittsburgh. It has a great feel.

And, oh boy, Sydney has a “cafe culture” like no other place I’ve been (yes, Boulder included). You can’t imagine the number of cafes… EVERYWHERE … and they all serve absolutely fantastic coffee and they’re all full…. all the time. And yet I don’t get the impression that everyone is “speedy.” Seriously, I could practically go into the shop at a gas station and count on getting a perfect espresso drink! I am not exaggerating here, people.

Turns out that my friend, Lauren — who I knew from Sunny’s group — had gone to Sydney a few days before I had, to visit an old friend. So we were able to connect up and spend a couple days tromping around Sydney together. Some pics from those days….

We had such a great time (didn’t we, Lauren?!).

I also was able to spend time with my friend, Nevine, with whom, as you’ll recall, I traveled in Laos and Burma, back in Jan & Feb. Nevine lives in Sydney now and goes to University of Sydney (she’s finishing her studies in December… yay!). So we got together about 4 times while I was in Sydney but I neglected to take photos (or even have my camera) when we got together, so you’ll have to just believe me. 🙂 We spent one day walking around her neighborhoods (so cool & funky) and shopped a bit, another time she & her boyfriend, Vic, had me over for dinner at their place, on another day she & I went to a (really bad) French movie, and then on our last meeting, we spent the day walking/exploring around downtown Sydney. It was great to see her and I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to rendezvous again here in Europe this summer. Some pics from our stroll around downtown….

So, as I mentioned earlier, my time in Sydney was fairly chill & relaxed. For the most part, I spent time with the family, hanging out, etc. I was able to get back into a regular workout routine — and even did some personal training for some of Danielle’s friends — and was able to do a lot of relaxing. The two primary ways I got around Sydney when on my own were by foot and by bus. D & J live about 30mins walking from the beach — Coogee Bay — and about 25mins walking from a huge, gorgeous park, Centennial Park. I walked to these two places multiple times a week. There’s also an amazingly gorgeous coastal walking path, going for many, many miles up & down the coast. I walked that a few times as well, each time doing a different segment. One day I took the Ferry out to MANLY beach (now, how much do you LOVE that name??), which is a peninsula north of downtown Sydney. It’s quite picturesque and has a very young, beachy feel to it….

 Danielle & John took me out to several incredible meals — Sydney is, indeed, a foodie town — and we had such a blast. One of our evenings out….
Overall, I had such a great time in Sydney … I had the opportunity to really “dial down” and relax for a bit. That said, for reasons I still have not sorted out, I got a little “stalled” there. I had thought I’d spend a bit of time in Sydney then travel around Oz and hopefully even New Zealand. But it was SO very expensive there (MUCH more than I had thought) and my bank account was dwindling, so I aborted that plan. So then I needed to figure out what next … and I was having a heck of a time making a decision on that front. A huge part of me wanted to go back to Asia, as I loved it SO much — and it’s cheap! But where? I was thinking perhaps Indonesia — Java? Borneo?  Then I thought perhaps Malaysia. Or should I head back up to Thailand? I was all over the board and feeling VERY indecisive. Fortunately, Danielle & John were open to having me stay longer (as long as I didn’t move in:), so I had the time (& place) to work through it.

Somewhere in there I discovered two websites that serve to connect people who are traveling with hosts who need some work done. Basically, the traveler can go help the hosts in exchange for room & full board. It’s amazing and genius(!) and was perfect for me. There literally are host ALL over the world…. who need help on their farms or at their schools or just learning English or with their kids or with their business — and travelers can go help them and therefore stay for free? Not only is it a very economical way to travel, but it’s an opportunity to stay with locals, be immersed in the local culture, and visit places that often are not on the “tourist circuit.”

I decided that this was the way I needed to go. So I created a profile on both sites (www.workaway.info  and  http://www.helpx.net) and began searching. I found several places in SE Asia that sounded promising, so I sent several emails out to those places first. As it turns out, either the timing or the fit wasn’t right with any of them (and some never even responded), so Asia wasn’t looking good. Then I suddenly received an email from a woman who owns a B&B in southern Spain, in the Alpujarra region. At that point, I wasn’t ready to leave Sydney nor to commit to going to Europe just yet. But within a few weeks — after have not such great luck with places in Asia — I made the decision to head to Europe and come live in Spain for a while!

So at last my time in Sydney came to an end. I left there on Tue, 14 May, heading in the direction of Europe. I arrived in Paris 37 hours later (that included an overnight in Singapore) and the rest is history, as they say. Or, rather, the rest is for my next blog post.

Thanks, again, for reading all the way through. I’ll begin my Europe post in the next couple days, so stay tuned!

Abrazos y Besos a todo el mundo!!

Credit – This awesome article is by Nan and you can read it with images HERE.