Friday 4 March 2016

The world is a very big and fascinating place, and sometimes I fear I won't have enough time (or money) to explore it all. During my 21 years on this earth I've been very lucky to be able to meet people from all corners of the globe, and sometimes this is enough to gather an insight to a city or country without even having to visit it. Or it means you've got a free bed and tour guide for when you do decide to visit. I decided to catch up with some of my friends and readers on what life is like in their city.

1. Kelly - Johannesburg, South Africa 

Johannesburg. A life on the edge in short. Formed after the discovery of gold, the city lies on top of massive tunnels from the 19th century. Living in Jozi means you are always a short trip away to see lions, rhino, elephant, giraffe, hippos, crocodiles and many others basking in the sun and disappearing back into the water holes and bush.

Ingenious entrepreneurial activities, cheap alcohol and food, random but fascinating debate with strangers in the street (without wearing anything that can be sold), ducking at shoot outs in the mall with the largest private security business in the world and relaxing in the sun on lazy afternoons with friends is a part of the culture. What stands out to me about SA is how people are always willing to dance and rejoice any time, any place. Even those that live below the poverty line gleam at welcoming you into their home and share their life, not without trying to suss you out of course. With over 8 million people, Joburg is the biggest and busiest city in Africa and with a pace that the rest of the country does not keep up with. You will find vibrant clubs and music gigs very easily.

 One of the top ten hot spots in the world for lightning, thunder and hail storm, biggest man made forest of over 10 million trees and officially rated the cheapest country in the world to live in, people are proud – not in arrogance – but to welcome travellers back to the cradle of mankind- where some of the most important early archaeological findings have been and continues to be discovered north west of the city – tracing us back to our beginnings. Violent crime and corruption is what has always gotten the focus on this City – but truly understand the history and its people (which they love to debate) and you can’t help but love it... My favourite time of the year is tasting the first summer rains wetting the thirsty earth. Best spot in my opinion for going out Newtown and Braamfontein - the oldest parts of the city that has now had its pulse re-injected. Lord Kitcheners Pub is the second oldest in Jozi and has live gigs to suit anyones taste.

2. Laura - Guernsey 

Guernsey is the little 7x5 mile rock I call home (no it's not Jersey!). The best thing about Guernsey is how idyllic and pretty it is, and how it hasn't been commercialised by the UK…..also we don't pay VAT :) 

 One of the funniest things for me when I tell English people about Guernsey, is the look on their faces when I tell them we don't have any fast food chains, 'what, not even McDonalds?,' Nope!
You're never more than a 5 minute drive from a sandy white beach on the island, and we have the best weather in the British Isles….and it's free parking all over the island. And my favourite place to visit on Guernsey is a beach called Fermain bay, that has a cute little cafe looking out onto all the other Channel Islands. Being on Guernsey can feel very isolated at times as it is a little island in the middle of nowhere, however it will always have been such a great place to have grown up in.

3. Julia - Innsbruk, Austria 

Home is where the mountains are, Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria. What I really do like the most about my hometown is the unique charm: it is the proximity of being in the city center just drinking a coffee and staring at the colorful “Innpromenade” and the surrounding mountain peaks and being in the middle of the mountains in just a second.

Our dressing up means donning skiing clothes or a traditional “Dirndl” and hiking, ski or snowboard boots instead of stilettos. That is why no one is looking at you if you are taking the bus in the early morning, in skiing clothes because it is normal to “just go for a quick ski session” before classes or one’s student job starts. Being active is one of the most suitable descriptions for young people because there are thousands of possibilities to spend one’s leisure time. Right after exploring the beautiful nature, one of the best things is just sitting at the Inn with good friends and a bottle of wine, looking forward to watch stars and meteor showers. 

Innsbruck will always be my first love. So if you are into meaningful relationships, sometimes old-fashioned but true hospitality and spending quality time with loved ones while exploring the beautiful Alps – come and fall in love with the lovely city in-between the beautiful Tyrolean mountain scenery.
But one thing is sure – you will never have to learn real German because all of us default Tyrolean dialect instead.

4. Richard - Barcelona, Spain

It's midnight and I've just dropped my friend off at her house and I've been walking the streets of Barcelona on my own without a care in the world. Why? The masses of people. Even at this hour lights are on everywhere, families are at bars having drinks and snacks, with kids in tow. Some people are smoking pot on their balconies and others are skateboarding at high speeds down the narrow and graffiti filled roads of the mysterious Gothic Quarter.

This is a city for all to find their space to live their lives in the most enjoyable way possible, in a state of tranquility. Some say New York is the city that never sleeps, but I believe Barcelona is the city that never sleeps. Ever developing, flourishing from its 'living city' vibe where the city is ever changing and growing into something more special day by day. Locals and tourists intertwine and smile over a few beers across the centre and towards the suburbs. The best part? No two streets look the same; as the ornate artwork decorating doors and facades of buildings differ the deeper you go into the soul of the surroundings. 

I've never felt safer to be around people from all walks of life too, where people live harmoniously and respectfully. I've never been more demanding to be able to soak up all the culture on offer in this marvellous capital of Catalunya. After spending time working in Barcelona, I have also never been happier than when I made the friends I will hold dearest to me forever. If you haven't been to Barcelona before, you are missing out on what I'd say is the greatest city in Europe, seriously. I can't even find the correct words to describe that feeling of the sun on your face when you're in complete sync with the world and life doesn't get any better. Barcelona will change you.

5. Lauren - Allentown, New Jersey 

Everyone knows New Jersey by the MTV show "Jersey Shore", but there is more to Jersey than just Seaside. I grew up in Allentown, New Jersey(not to be confused with Allentown, Pennsylvania). It is a small town located in the central part of NJ with lots of farm land in and around it. Its in a prime location to everything- NYC is an hour & a half North and Philly is an hour & a half South and yes, the "Jersey Shore" is only a short 30 minutes away. 

My house was located in a development so every day after school, you would find all the neighborhood kids together playing in the street. We were not far from school so we would often walk home. One of my favorite things about living there (besides being not far from NYC) is being able to walk up town where there were little boutiques, a pizza place, a bakery, ice cream shop, and a candy shop. And of course I love how Six Flags Great Adventure Amusement park was only 15 minutes away. Six Flags isn't like Disney where the rides are geared towards little kids. About 75% of the rides are coasters- including the Tallest Roller Coaster in the world- This place is every roller coaster junkie's dream!

6.  Miriam - Casablanca, Morocco

White villas, romantic scenery, couples in love, and fresh breeze – that’s what many visitors think of Casablanca. Prior to going there. When they come, they experience something completely different; crowded streets, tall buildings, and a terrible traffic jam. Don’t get me wrong, Casablanca can be nice however, there’s one condition: you have to know the places to go to! Sometimes I hate this city, sometimes I love it. When someone asks me to show them around, I always try to focus on the best, non-touristy spots. Let me unveil the hidden gems of this city in just one day!

The best place to start off your day is the Old Town, in Arabic called Medina. It’s in the city center, and you can easily recognise it. How? Thanks to the tall walls surrounding it and rounded wide entrances. Years ago Medina used to serve as the city center. Fancy seeing the city from above? Drop by the Sacré-Coeur Cathedral, a place that gives a splendid view and is not tapped by tourists. My favourite spot has to be the port of Casablanca. There’re two fancy, expensive restaurants; a small bar run by the Subsaharians; and some shabby (yet serving delicious seafood!) stalls. For the third option you have to stroll deep to the port. How? Follow the smell. A lunch for two will cost you 5 euros.

7. Nicole - Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, although not the capital which many people think it is (Edinburgh is incase you didn't know). It's home to the River Clyde and walking along it at night is one of my favourite things to do as the bridge is all lit up and it just looks so lovely. 
Glasgow has a reputation for being really dangerous but I've always felt safe there and just like everywhere has its good and bad areas. The people are obviously the nicest and friendliest people in the world and say the word 'murder' better than anyone (I get asked to say it a lot, especially by Giana!). There is a great subway for getting around and it's basically just a circle so it's really easy to understand if you are like me and find things like that difficult. 

The nightlife is amazing as there are a large variety of clubs and bars that have a little something for everyone. The atmosphere is always amazing at night and never disappoints. The city offers the second best 'shopping experience' in the UK as it has a wide range of high street shops and shopping centres all very close together so it's easy to get around without having to spend too long out in the cold which is always handy! It also has great museums and art galleries and other cultural things (apparently). Although I've not been to any of these places in like forever so I'm not the best judge. 

The city is so so so pretty at Christmas time. They set up an ice rink in George Square as well as a Ferris wheel and other rides. They decorate everywhere with fairy lights and obviously have the massive Christmas tree. It's probably the best time of year in Glasgow in my opinion and I wouldn't spend it anywhere else! 

8. Sarah-Jane - Dublin, Ireland 

Dublin, the capital of Ireland and most importantly, the place where I was born Now I have never lived in Dublin, I live in the Midlands of Ireland in County Laois but Dublin is much easier to talk about! 

There is lots to see and do in Dublin! Even for me, who's always in Dublin, I always find a new place to eat or a new place to see! One of My favourites places in Dublin is Croke Park without a doubt! It's were I spend most of my summer weekends at Gaelic Football and Hurling matches! It's the home of Ireland's National sport, GAA! 3 other places you are most likely to find me is in the 3Arena, The Olympia and The Academy! These 3 places are the popular music venues in Dublin! One of my favourite bars is The Grand Canal Bar on Abbey Street/O'Connell Street because the staff are great craic and you'll always get a good pint! Food wise, Supermacs is Ireland's version of McDonalds and their chicken nuggets are to die for! 

Dublin has many shopping streets and shopping centres, including Henry Street, Grafton Street, Jervis Shopping Centre and my favourite Dundrum Shopping Centre! I can not forget to mention Temple Bar, and sticking to true Irish Culture, that's where you'll find all your typical Irish pubs and restaurants! To get the best pint of Guinness in Dublin, you'll have to go to the Guinness Brewery and you even get to pull your own pint! Nightlife wise, Copper Face Jacks' is probably Dublin's most well known nightclub. To find out more, you might as well just come to Dublin!

9. Me - Gibraltar

What can I say about Gibraltar, I've lived there all my life until coming to the UK for university. It's small, you can't go further than 100m without bumping into someone you, your mother or your grandparents know - that's both a negative and a positive fact. You're never short of a helping hand when you need one and we know how to come together as a country and community when it's needed. I love that I can see my friends whenever I want and most of them live just under 2 minutes from me. I love that I can walk to 5 different beaches or go out by myself on a Friday night and be sure that I'm going to find someone I know to dance the night away with. I love how I can have conversations half in Spanish half in English naturally, or as we like to call it in "Llanito".

In terms of food, there's no point being on a diet when you're in our country - there's an abundance of cuisines available around the rock and we're not short of our own national dishes, "Rosto" and "Minestra" being my favourites, not to mention you can't leave Gibraltar without trying a "Bollo Tikka" from Ramsons. My favourite spot in Gibraltar has to be Ocean Village, or spending a summer evening watching a movie outdoors in Commonwealth Park. 

10. Isis - Taupo, New Zealand 

Taupo! In an absolute nutshell, it is the heart of the central north island! Boasts incredible scenery, the biggest lake in the southern hemisphere, a rapid white waterfall, natural hot springs and crystal clear river. It is full of tourists, personalities and laid back locals. People swim, sail, wake board, raft and sky dive, and when it gets cold, which it really does, people head to the nearby mountains to ski or snowboard. As its population is made up of kiwi’s and people travelling the world, it has an incredibly up-beat, happy go lucky vibe. And all though, generally it is just a stop off point between the two biggest cities in the North Island, Auckland and capital, Wellington, many people stop off and never get back on!

11. Josh - Cardiff, Wales 

Living in Cardiff it has been immensely gratifying and full of excitement throughout. Due to its diversity and pure energy, this beautiful city would always welcome any foreigners and you can be self assured that you will never be bored. The mesmerizing architecture and Victorian decor; those with a passion for photography will be perplexed with the images they could achieve. 

Personally, my favourite place to hang out with my friends is Biekerller; it is probably one of the most popular and vibrant bars/sports bar in the city. Situated in Wood street, this place situated right beside the Vue Cinema and Cardiff central station which is perfect for those whom travel from smaller villages surrounding Cardiff

12. Austin - Orlando, Florida

Disney World, that's it - na just kidding. Aside from the fact we have the best theme parks in the United States, (yes better than California) we are some of the friendliest American's around. I guess we have to be since most of us work in hospitality and are dealing with tourists most of the time. Aside from the touristic side of Orlando, it has always been a city full of life and laughter. The weather is great (apart from the odd rainstorm now and then) and you're never short of something to do, besides the theme parks. 

We have the best supermarket (Publix) that sells better fried chicken than Mr. Kentucky himself and we have so many beaches to choose from (Cocoa Beach being my favorite). There's nowhere I'd rather live than Orlando, I even chose to stay here for college. There's no afternoon better spent than taking a walk through Lake Eola Park, drinking "around the world" at Epcot, or okay - spending time with Mickey and Minnie.  

13. Claire - Newcastle, Australia 

I live in Newcastle in Australia (2 hours north of Sydney). A lot of people I know that live here often complain that Newcastle is boring and crap but I myself quite like it and feel blessed to live here. The thing about Newcastle that's so appealing to me is it has a mixture of beautiful beaches and city life. A combination you often can't get. I live 5 minutes away from the beach and 10 minutes away from the local shopping centres which is extremely convenient. There's also a large variety of culture in the street art, buildings, music, theatre and people of Newcastle. One of my favourite spots is the Anzac memorial walk which links one of our lookouts to the well known bar beach, hovering 450m above it. The view from the walk is breathtaking at any time of day but especially sunset or sunrise as you can see so much of Newcastle from up there.

14. Morgane - Butgenbach, Belgium

Bütgenbach, is a village in the beautiful area of East Belgium, a place where I come from; a place where things spring to life. With around 5,700 inhabitants, it’s way smaller than a metropolis such as London, but that’s the countryside; everybody knows each other. Here, we live like French people, but have the mentality of the Germans; but remember – WE ARE BELGIAN. 

In summer this place is perfect for anything you would like to do; from romantic walks and exciting sport activities to local restaurants and bars, there is always something to do. My favourite place is the lake. With its artificial beach and quiet places around, it’s nice to hang out and have a drink with friends during your holidays. However, for all snow fans there is hope as well. With the natural park just minutes away (with 694m the highest point of Belgium btw! ), there is possibility to ski – yes but only cross-country skiing. East Belgium is known for its nature, oh yes, and for the bad roads as well. However, Bütgenbach is a place where I was shaped and created and it’s a place I am proud of.

15. Alexandra - Miami, Florida 

I live in a small town in Miami called Miami Lakes. It's really pretty and quiet. Nothing ever really happens here. Just a bunch of shopping centers and restaurants. All the teens that live here say they hate "Miami" and want to leave. But 15 minutes away (on a good day with no traffic) are the beaches, Lincoln road, downtown which all have so much to offer! I spend my weekends there mostly eating at my favorite pizza restaurant Visa-01. My favorite landmark is downtown. It's the Freedom Tower built in 1925. In 1962-1974, it was used for Cuban Refugee to be housed and get immunization shots. This means a lot to me because it's where my mom and her family came when they first came to the states in 1970. They left a communist regime to start a better life.

16. David - Tel Aviv, Israel 

What can I say about my city, there is always a celebration going on somewhere. You're never far from the beach, the mountains or the desert if that's what you're after and we have over 300 days of sunshine a year, beat that LA! We have so much food to choose from, and not just falafels and hummus, shakshouka and shnitzel's are some of my favourite things to eat. The people are friendly and welcoming, and make you feel like you're part of the city. As for some of my favourite spots, I love strolling through Yarkon Park and spending time in one of our many museums including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the "Beit Hatfutsot". 

17. Garrett - Toronto, Canada 

I've lived in Toronto all my life, and there's nothing I dislike about it, apart from well the cold ass weather that you kind of grow to enjoy. Toronto is such a multicutlural city, just under 50% of our population were born outside of Canada, which means authentic food from around the world, lots of different opinions and ideas, cultural festivals of all flavours and basically a place where everyone belongs no matter what color their skin, their native language or their political views.

We have tons of festival, shopping, sporting games, places to chill and camp out but my favourite spot has to be Kensington Market. This was my home when I was a vegan for a short while.. For all you non-vegans, don’t worry, it’s heaven for you to, but then again… so are most areas ;) Fresh fruits and veggies, amazing restaurants, lots of vintage shops and a unique vibe that I’ve never felt anywhere else. Friendly and unique. Basically Canada is the best place ever if you're not looking for sunshine. 

18. Caitlin - Asheville, North Carolina 

My hometown of Asheville is what I would describe as the perfect mixture of small town and big(ger) city. It is urban with a great diversity of sights, attractions, and activities that appeal to everyone, yet if you hang around in the same spot, you start to recognize faces over time. One of my favorite spots in town is a restaurant called Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro; it is a place that has its own balance. During the day, this restaurant is relaxed and (if you’re me) the perfect place to have a drink and study for university, but at night it comes alive and is a hub of laughter and good times.

19. Manar - Chefchaouen, Morocco 

Morocco is a great place, it has many history and cultural place if you are looking for a new county to learn about or even travel too! The food is great if you like to try different cuisines and just in love with food in general! Morocco is different to many places you might have been too! It's very eye opening experience, sometimes we should be thankful on what we hAve, sometimes whilst you are there you will find a 5 year old earning his own money by selling beard in the market to make a living whilst we love to complain about how "bad" our lives are! But apart from, Morocco is a beautiful place especially up in the north. I enjoy a walking up the mountains because Chefchaouen is surround by mountains!

20.  Tom - London, England

Living in London, no day is the same - well at least if you're a tourist or have been living here for a year. Having grown up in London I never saw it as this "big wonderful city full of opportunities" but rather a place I called home and I pretty much stuck to the same area (south west London). Now that I'm 22 I'm really appreciating everything London has to offer - culturally and socially. I try not to take my city for granted and spend time on the weekends visiting museums (Tate Modern and The Science Museum being my favourites), hitting up a new bar in central (The Big Easy is great for themed cocktails!) and just generally exploring. I love how there are so many different parts to London and so many different cultures to embrace, you're also never short of a concert or show to go too!

If you're from any other place in the world....I'd love to hear about your city in the comment section! 

♡ GS ♡

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