For my first month living in Madrid, I stayed with a host family who was incredibly kind, open, and welcoming. I had a very positive experience staying in their home and receiving my first taste of Spanish culture. When I was moving out of the house and into my apartment in the city, they invited me for a “goodbye lunch” in their home, so I was nothing short of grateful and excited. (Also, free food!) It was a bittersweet affair that turned into quite the fiesta.

Spaniards love their extensive lunches with multiple courses and a certain amount of tradition. (Kayleigh, too, loves the multi-course lunches.) Their quaint dining room with the formally-set table served to be a happy atmosphere for me, my host mother and father, their thirty-something daughter, and her husband. As we sat down for the first course, the apertivo, they served me vermuth to be paired with the cheese platter and meatball-type appetizer in front of me. (Kayleigh’s Drink Tally: 1) It was a bitter beverage, not my favorite when compared to other lighter and fruitier forms of traditional Spanish alcohol such as sangria or tinto de verano. But I drank my glass and kept the grimace off my face in an effort to obey the most basic rule of etiquette when having lived with and been hosted by someone: you eat and drink what’s in front of you.

Reading time: 7 min

Sydney is fun. There is no better word for it. This is the city of beaches and amazing urban environment. This is a destination for waterfront, culture, parks and entertainment. You name it – Sydney has it. This was the landing place for weary Europeans who first arrived in Australia. While those first settlers were not a cheerful bunch, things have drastically changed since then – Sydney is the place to be, and you need to visit it. Just like any big cities, you need to know which of the neighborhoods is cool and hip and which to avoid. Actually, you can’t really go wrong anywhere in Sydney, but here are some tips for the best of the best that this beautiful city has to offer.

The Rocks: Place Where History Meets Today

This is definitely the historic, cultural and the touristic epicenter of Sydney. This is where Sydney began and this is where everybody comes to see the cobblestone streets, old buildings and the birthplace of this city. Needless to say, culturally, this is the place to be. All the museums and galleries are here, whether you’d want to check out the modern art or classical pieces. Some great attraction include the Rocks Discovery Museum, Cadmans Cottage, and the Dig Archaeology. Also, the Rocks is where you’ll be immersed in the most amazing art markets that are open from 10 am to 5 pm. Staying here isn’t cheap, but this is definitely a lively spot.


Surry Hills: The Cool and Urban Chic

If you want to check out the trendy, chic scene, then you’ll definitely want to head over to the metropolitan spirit of Surry Hills. Here, warehouses are turned into bars and restaurants serve an assortment of amazing international cuisine. Street art and cool architectural designs are what make Surry stands out. Bring your money because this is shopping central. Find yourself some awesome  and unique handmade clothes that you won’t find anywhere else. 


Balmain and Birchgrove: The Picturesque Spirit of the Old Days

Right across the Rocks are two suburbs that are magnets for those who come to visit Sydney. This used to be and industrial palace full of factories. Soap makers, steel workers, and boilermakers used to call this beautiful part of town home. Now, the area is going through a revival. All those not-so-remarkable spaces have been turned into living quarters and they are simply stunning. Bright, fun, and industrial looking, there is a charm about it that leaves one yearning for more – not to mention all the awesome bars and restaurants that surround this wonderful neighborhood. 


Randwick Area: Parks and Horses of Sydney

The gorgeous Centennial Park is in this area. Also, it is an absolute failure to come to Randwick and miss out on the awesome horse races. There’s no shortage of activities here, either. Skate park, bike tracks and tons of outdoors activities will keep you busy and entertained for days! Open pools and even ocean pools make for a perfect day at the beach. You can find affordable Randwick accommodation, even in some of the Victorian-style villas.


Manly: The Mecca for Surfers

Since the surfing community is well-established and strong in Australia, it is definitely worth the trip to this area, even if you’re just there to watch surfers glide easily over the waves. And don’t forget the views. Manly is home to the famed Manly Beach. Don’t want to drive around too much? Well, this is a perfect spot to relax, hang out, sip on a cold one, and spend your time every day and night. Bonfires, surfers’ bars and gatherings – these are promises of a great time to be had. If you’re looking to save on accommodations but still stay close to Manly’s main attractions, head to nearby Manly Vale.


Lilyfield: The Vibrant Clash of Energies

Wondering what it’s like to live like a typical Sydney cities? Then head to this area for some local eats, attractions, and good times. The unique and beautiful harmony of differing cultures, together with awesome cottages and quaint shops, makes Lilyfield a very cool place to visit, especially if you rent a renovated cottage. The area itself is very near the CBD, so you can reach it whenever you like. It is a great place to experience the Sydney community and also enjoy some pretty amazing weekly farmers market.


Of course, everybody loves spending time around the Central Business District because of all the amazing buildings and close proximity to the Sydney Opera house. If you like people watching, head to the Central Business District, find yourself a bench, and observe people go about their day. However, this area is not dollar-timid as you’ll like be spending a hefty sum to stay here. Why not give the other fun neighborhoods a try? You’re always within a short hop to the Central Business District anyway. There are better ways to spend your savings, and they can be far more fun.

Travel on my friends!

Reading time: 4 min

Hi, my name is Chris. I’m not a monkey. Sure, I enjoy eating bananas daily, but who doesn’t, right? Does that make me anymore a monkey than you? And just because I like to swing from tree to tree with my lengthy arms doesn’t automatically make me a primate. What? Because I can swing around with ease you think you can take pictures of me like I’m some kind of animal?! I will have you know that I am an engineer for a very important manufacturing company! Oh! You think that because I groom my friends at lunch, picking things off their heads and eating them, that somehow I am a monkey of Capuchin origins? How dare you!

See, it’s this kind of jumping-to-conclusion thinking that has resulted in so many misunderstandings and the subsequent pain and suffering all around the world. Let’s try to understand before passing judgment. Let’s be friends. Let’s hold hands. Let’s sing songs of joy and happiness. But first, you need to understand that I am not a monkey. I just like to monkey around. That’s all. Pinky swear.



And now… feast your eyes on some more pictures – I am a photographer after all.



hmmm… is this where i hid my snacks earlier?



i can’t find my snacks… 🙁


parasailing with the sunset… nothing better than this



hey! you took my sunny spot



sunset lighting up the sky



but mom… I don’t wanna go to school



weeee over the water



the cloud forest of Monteverde is cloudy



hi i’m jetski, i enjoy sunsets and slow walks on the beach



up close and personal with hummingbirds



looking for food or for a purpose?



one of many markets in San Jose



who goes there?



my name is megabuildingtron



on a mission



nom nom nom



the wheel on the oxcart goes round and round



a most beautiful view



is this paradise?



time to beach it



Monkeying around in Costa Rica - a 10 days adventure

Reading time: 2 min
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