The Hive at Kew Gardens is a unique installation that is connected to a real bee hive. The lights light up based on real interactions taking place in the bee hive. It’s big enough to take a walk inside and really beautiful after sunset. A friend and I went and enjoyed a cocktail and chat on the grass before going to investigate properly. Great for a chillaxed evening.
I love Spain and decided to join the Vaughan Town program for the third time in my life. This time I went to Aranjuez, about an hour away from Madrid.
The aim of Vaughan Town is to teach English to Spaniards, and this week focuses on building fluency in English. There is a group of Spanish students and a group of ‘Anglos’ who are the English speakers. The only rule is to speak English the whole time. Accommodation and meals are covered for all of the English speakers. It also gives the Anglos the opportunity to spend time with Spanish people in a different part of Spain, as well as meet people from around the world. The week is fun and light hearted, with plenty of conversation at meal times and evening entertainment.
I joined the new ‘Fifty Fifty program’ where students have classes for part of the day as well as one-to-one conversation time. The English speakers don’t need any teaching experience, our part is to allow the students to speak English and increase their fluency as well as hone their listening skills. One benefit for the English speakers is more free time compared to the regular program.
Aranjuez is a beautiful place and popular with Spanish people. The palace was right opposite our fabulous hotel, and the gardens and nearby town were perfect for conversational practice. The one-to-ones are low key and informal – some of mine were accompanied with beer or gelato!
Having done the program before, in Gredos and Valdelavilla, I’m still a fan and would certainly consider it again for the future.
Link to Vaughan Town for volunteers: http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com/what-we-do
I decided to attend the three day Landmark Forum course (three and a bit days technically) while I was visiting New York.
Reviews have compared it to a ‘cult’, but I think anyone who has been through it will know that it’s not. It’s just the result of people having major life realisations over a period of just a few days – which makes it pretty exciting stuff so they keep going on about it!! I think the best description, having completed it, is a course in ‘life skills’.
I didn’t really know what to expect, and the decision to actually sign up was in the spur of the moment.
The whole course takes place in a large room with screens and whiteboards at the front and a speaker who leads throughout. The hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are long: 9am – 10pm with a total of approximately 2.5 hours break per day. On Tuesday evening we only needed to attend for a few hours.
I felt exhausted by the end of day 1, but strangely energised at the end of days 2 and 3. We learned SO much, more than I had ever expected. I learned about my own negative patterns with certain people, and as I thought about it longer I was able to spot more patterns with other people, issues that I hadn’t even been aware of. The course encourages you to accept responsibility for your part in negative situations or relationships, and make amends where possible. It also helps you to put the past in the past for all aspects in life and leave you free to move forward. It was wonderful to see people on the stage sharing their ‘breakthroughs’. One person called a parent they hadn’t spoken to in 15 years. Other people finally made their peace with horrible experiences from their childhood or adulthood. Relationships on the brink of breakdown were brought back together. (Sharing is completely optional, and apparently very therapeutic)
I learned a lot and I’m sure it will be having a positive impact on my life and how I deal with people and situations in future. I’m glad I went and it was a great lesson in self improvement that I won’t be forgetting any time soon!
So I can confirm that the joy of being in Costa Rica isn’t necessarily living in the capital San Jose, but more visiting the beautiful beaches and forest areas that Costa Rica is renowned for!
I went to Manuel Antonio last weekend to visit a couple of friends, and had a really wonderful time. It takes about 3.5 hours by bus to get there. I stayed at the hostel where my friend works and met lots of wonderful people. I visited some of my favourite restaurants and bars there (Barba Roja, Salsipuedes, Tiquicia and Z bar) as well as the beach and the Feria market.
Dinner with a view
At the Feria market in Quepos
Manuel Antonio beach
I’m really glad I went and it was a good reminder to get my travelling shoes back on! I’m making plans to visit more of Costa Rica soon…
So far, so good! I feel pretty settled in and comfortable here. Costa Rica is not very cheap, so I’ve come to terms with living on a reasonable budget! I do miss my frivolous ways back in London, but I also feel I have learned some valuable and important life skills again!
It’s a beautiful sunny day as I write, looking out on the mountain view from my bedroom window – the mountains that are beyond the busy main road view 🙂
Teaching is going really well, I enjoy it and I’m always so flattered to get good feedback from my students. I’ve also started teaching online lessons, I’m really enjoying those too!
I do need to make more of an effort to travel around Costa Rica. Most of this country’s beauty lies outside of the capital! My last trip was for New Year’s Eve in Manuel Antonio at the beach. Perhaps I have become too settled in San Jose!
I do love the music here. Reggaeton is really popular and I love dancing to it. As much as I’m enjoying it here, I do find myself wondering what I will do next…
It’s been a month since I moved to San Jose, and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s a loud and busy city. And it doesn’t help that I’ve been having stomach pains for the past two weeks, which is very unusual for me. The doctor tells me I have an inflamed colon! So I am taking medication and taking it easy. Unfortunately, it’s not helping how I feel about being in San Jose!
On the plus side, teaching has been going really well and I was pleased to have positive feedback from my students. I also had a friend come to visit me for a week – the perfect excuse to do some travelling in Costa Rica. That’s one thing that San Jose is great for – it is the travel hub for the country so pretty easy to get to anywhere.
Our first stop was Monteverde for a night, about four hours away by bus. Monteverde is beautiful and famous for its cloud forests. We stayed at Pension Santa Elena hostel, a no frills place. In the afternoon we accidentally joined an adventure zip line tour. My friend and I bailed after the practice lines as it was just too scary! In the evening we went to the serpentorium for a guided tour which was really interesting. They have a number of snakes and frogs that are native to Costa Rica.
Dinner was at the Tree House, a really lovely restaurant with a unique venue. There’s a tree in it.
The next day, we went to Selvatura Park for their hanging bridges in the cloud forest and the hummingbird garden. This was definitely the highlight of the whole week of travel. The bridges were high up in the trees and the views were outstanding. I intend to go back!
We had lunch at a nice place called Amy’s Restaurant before heading back to San Jose.
The next day, which happened to be Christmas day, we went on a tour of Volcan Poas, the Dakota Coffee estate and Sarchi Arts and Crafts. The tour was really brilliant and I recommend it highly. The volcano was covered in cloud when we arrived but fortunately cleared after 20 minutes for some spectacular views.
The Coffee tour was really interesting and full of information. And the Arts and Crafts was really just a big shop full of tourist stuff, but still interesting to see. It was great that they picked us up and dropped us back off at the hotel for the tour.
And finally we went to Manuel Antonio for one night. It takes about four hours by bus from San Jose. Most of the first day was spent at the beach, and the following day we went to Manuel Antonio Park. We rolled up rather foolishly at 10am to find the queue was over an hour long. The wise thing to do is turn up early – say 8am. It was completely worth the wait and we hired a guide so actually got to see some animals like sloths, bats, frogs and monkeys. We stayed at the Cabinas Maria Teresa, which was a really nice treat with air con and a lovely shower.
It was a great week of travelling in Costa Rica, and I’m looking forward to doing some more!