Iconic Bondi – Sydney

Sydney’s most famous and certainly the busiest as well beach, Bondi for sure rings a bell even for those that didn’t get the chance yet to visit it. The iconic beach attracts many people surprisingly even in winter. Winter at this part of the world is mild though, today in a pleasant 18 degrees sunny day I was lying on the beach, reading a book, while a few brave ones were taking a dip in the ocean.

Just recently Bondi hosted a typical winter activity location, an ice rink, where both young and older could enjoy some fun on the ice with ocean views. That’s probably the closest you can get to winter here.

Nothing to complain about, especially when you’ve got the amazing coast line to explore.

On a day like today, when it’s warm and sunny, but not too hot, coastal walks are the ideal weekend activities that keep you in shape.

The stretch from Bondi to Coogee is easy and starts right from the beach, passing Bondi Icebergs and going all the way along the coast.

Very relaxing, on one side with the waves hitting the rocks and above us the beautiful blue sky, amazing combination of what in my terms means perfection.

Along the way you’ll see plenty of interesting and picturesque stone formations that look great in photos.

Also, a few small beaches, such as Tamarama or Bronte, where there are barbecue opportunities and always good vibe.

Lots of people take their dogs on this walk as it’s a very pet friendly environment and I’m sure the dogs enjoy the walk as much as their owners.

As Australia seems to be encouraging a lot sport and fitness in general, this part of the city is in particular a great example of that. Everywhere around Bondi and the sea in general, there are always many super fit people doing their work out, run, stretch or yoga. While on our coastal walk we’ve been taken over so many times by runners that just casually jog from one beach to the other on a regular Sunday afternoon.

The walk goes through a cemetery as well and between the graves you still have the magnificent view of the ocean. One way takes usually just over an hour in a normal rhytm with occasional stops for drinking water or taking pictures. Whether you opt for one way or return, in either cases there’s public transport available.

It does worth it sticking to the area until sunset for having the chance of looking at the ocean on a different light, that is quite pretty and relaxing.

The atmosphere becomes quiet and romantic as the night falls and the waves sound much louder but in the same time more calming. In the distance the city’s light start turning on and the darkness begins to take over slowly. It’s handy to have a light jacket because it gets windy and chilly very quickly, as soon as the sun sets.

The return walk took almost 3 hours and at return  the night lights welcomed us back to reality: busy, noisy and always fun Bondi.

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First paragliding experience in Flüelen – Switzerland

I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky … – and if you don’t believe probably you shouldn’t sign up from the very beginning for such an adventure. Paragliding – as exciting as it seems, I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s an adventure sport and either you want to make it a once in a lifetime event or practice it on a professional level – it sure requires some guts to do it. Considering that it’s been for ages on my to do list and theoretically I could have done it anytime in the past, I would say that you will just feel when you are really ready to do it. Really ready it’s relative though,  before take off your pilot will ask you: ” are you ready” and of course you will be completely lost and won’t have any idea wether you are ready or not, but about that a bit later on.

As a person who likes to share strong emotions and experiences with someone who is on the same page with me, in a rather unusual setting I met the right person. She’s Kaola, the girl I called a couple of times koala – I’m pretty sure you can understand why, don’t you? – and after a few emails and phone calls with our paragliding professional, Marcel, we were all set up for our first ever paragliding event.

  
The excitement before the flight was as big as during and after. Exchanging a few lines with Marcel the previous day was totally helpful, he is easy to talk to, funny and positive, so I was sure to fly with him, feeling somehow a specific trust level. Kaola was going to fly with Phillip, who is the other half of our paragliding team. The preparation takes around 10 minutes, during this time we joke around and take pictures, put the harness on and check a couple of times if we are well tied to our pilots. 

   
 Marcel explains the easy steps the passenger must follow and from there on we rely on the force of nature, in this case the wind. Lucky us, cause Mr Wind starts to blow gently so when I hear: “Run!”, the good listener I am, I do exactly that. From then on it’s: Wow! In a few seconds we are up in the air, above the trees, the streets,the lake, the people, above the world. You don’t even have time to be scared, you are too busy enjoying the view and experiencing this unique feeling. To be honest, actually you really don’t have any reason to fear. The seat is comfy and the flight smooth, the view absolutely breathtaking and such a relaxing silence that I wish I could float for hours up there. 

   
   
I took the chance of interviewing Marcel up in the air while he was flying me around and found out that besides the hobby of flying, it’s also his full time job, taking aprox 5-6 flights/day. The whole equipment weights aprox 25 kg and during the way more than 10 years experience he has, he just suffered minor injuries, managing to bring  all his passengers to the ground in one piece and fully satisfied.

  
Me: How did you discover your passion for flying?

Marcel: Exactly like you ( laughing ). Took a tandem flight and loved it, so I continued and now it’s my living.

Me: Which was your most memorable flight?

Marcel: I did many great flights in various locations around Switzerland and not only. The first flight for sure it’s memorable, but not necessarily the best one. I did a flight once in Brazil that lasted 12 hours. I covered a few hundred km. That was amazing!

Me: Wow! ( completely overwhelmed) How did you manage with the basic needs for so long? And I assume it must be tiring too…

Marcel: Eating and drinking is not an issue, I can carry the products and eat, drink without any problems up in the air. Toilet can be an issue though… At the end of the day I am tired, yes.

Me: I read online that there’s no age limit for the passengers. Is that so? Did you have any extremes?

Marcel: Just a week ago I flew  with a 5 years old kid and my oldest passenger was 81. 

Me: Could you imagine yourself doing something else for a living? What could determine you to give up flying?

Marcel: I could  never give up flying!  ( very, very firm) I could imagine working something else, of course, and I sometimes think that yes, I do this now but what will happen let’s say when I’m 50 and maybe can’t do it anymore, what’s next? But I definitely wouldn’t want to give up flying!

  

During the discussion I was looking down at the mesmerizing landscape and under me the everyday life was having it’s own rhytm, the cars where going on the streets and it looked like the pieces of a moving puzzle which I could almost touch and rearrange the way I wanted. The wind was blowing us, we took turns, we were gliding and I was even managing the direction at some point, which for sure wouldn’t be a smart idea for more than 2 minutes. The landing is a whole adventure itself. A roller coaster kind of sensation with turns one after the other with a great speed in a spiral down until you nearly reach the ground. After a little more run and that’s what I call landed succesfully!

Belgium in 6 days

Belgian beer and chocolate attract for sure many tourists from all around the world. Most of them land in the capital and unfortunately many don’t make their way out of it to the less well know towns. Belgium is not just about Brussels! Just a 20 minutes train ride from the airport and we are in:

Leuven
This cute university town is my first stop in my Belgian backpacking trip. On a Sunday it’s very quiet and relaxed,but I don’t mind as the weather is nice and I can soak up the sun in the Botanical Garden of Leuven next to a Belgian beer.

  
Leuven is a university town and you can notice this while walking around and seeing at every corner the bars and restaurants advertising their special student menus at low,student prices. Though no student on a Sunday! “The city is empty of students during weekend” – locals say – ” here,in Belgium students still like to go home for the weekend and spend time with their parents.” Nice of them I would say… I have to just imagine how crowded it gets during the week and the now almost empty Oude Markt probably is murmuring.

  
I can still notice some movement around the city hall: a huge group of elderly tourists posing with the beautiful landmark. Conclusion: Edit come back on a weekday if you want to see the other face of Leuven!

  
Brugge

Before going to Brugge I watched the movie In Brugge and the town is so small that I didn’t need any direction to find the places presented in the movie. It’s loaded with tourists facing their cameras in every direction, because in every direction there is something pretty. Brugge, although is very touristy, was my second favorite town in Belgium. With it’s canals and those eye catching medieval architecture, Brugge steals your heart in an instant. 

 Walking around Brugge is more than relaxing, it’s a real cuddle to the soul and also a perfect ambiance to endulge in the delicious variety of Belgian chocolates. You can find any shape and flavor you desire, just at a hand stretch towards the chocolate and of course your wallet.
 
Ghent

From the second favorite I made my way to the first favorite. Ghent has the perfect vibe, the friendliest Belgians, the funniest Monday night out and I bet that many other – est-s. I didn’t expect so much from this town, I’m sure that also the company made a difference, but man,I really liked this place! You actually have the impression that you are wandering around a big city ’cause it’s active and full of energy. If you ask me to describe Ghent in one word, I’ll just say: alive. Let me add also: divers. It has chill riverside, busy shopping street, medieval castle, artistic grafitti and my super awesome friend, Cindy. 
   
 

+ 10 for Ghent!

Antwerp

Biking in Belgium is a pretty popular way of getting around and Antwerp is a good place to do so. It’s a rather small town but with fairly enough to offer and a gorgeous train station.

   
  

 

You would think that the pics above are from a cathedral,right? Well, that’s the main station in Antwerp. It’s ranked as the worlds most beautiful train station and no doubts about that.  

Not only the train station is beautiful in Antwerp. The city hall and various buildings in the central area worth checking out too.

   
  

 

We are in the country of beer, so let’s pay a bit of attention to this detail and find out that Belgium has more than 375 types of beer. Basically you can treat yourself for a whole year every day with a different kind of beer and that still leaves  you for New Year’s Eve with at least another 10 different flavores to try out. Cool, no?

  
Brussels

Arriving to the capital might sound exciting, but in fact it isn’t. For me Brussels was rather disappointing and from far not the prettiest place in Belgium. Such a pity that many tourists visit Brussels only and miss so much by not checking out the others.

However, Brussels is a city as any other capital, with it’s multicultural mix and the best waffles in the world. 

Grand Place is not as grande ( = big) , but not too bad for hanging out , there are many shops, restaurants, bars and waffle vendors closeby. 

  
Mmmm, did I tell you that in Brussels you have the best waffles in the world? Right, I did, but it’s hard to focus when you remember that taste. Don’t – and I mean DON’T – skip that! Waffles are a must! 

Ok,getting back to Grand Place – which is still not as exciting as waffles – it’s nice to walk around and make your way to the famous Mannekin Pis.

 
Of course, Atomium is nice to see, there’s also a cute park next to it with lots of rabbits jumping around freely in the grass.

   

 And you can admire the beautiful flowers all over, but after that rush out of Brussels and discover the real beauty of Belgium. In less than an hour train ride you reach:

Liège

Laidback, small town, perfect for a daytrip from Brussels. Besides the center there’s not much to see or do, but it’s great for a day when the motto is : “take it easy “. 

 For church lovers there are a few to check out, as I had enough time I walked in a few and were quite nice, all just a few steps from each other.

The Liège Guillemins train station is another masterpiece Belgians are proud of, being also in the top 12 most beautiful train stations in the world.

 
  


In order to put an original print on the whole trip I ended it in a Romanian restaurant in Liège. No matter where I am, for me the best food still comes from home, so I’m sorry Belgium, you might have the best beer and waffles and fries, but my yummi ciorba de perisoare doesn’t have any comparison grade. Though it’s not much appreciated by locals, says the restaurant owner.