About a six hours drive from San José, there there is a city known for it’s beaches and nightlife called Tamarindo. The city is right on the Pacific Ocean, and has great waves and is a popular destination for people who like to surf. Renting surfboards vary in price, but is usually around 15 to for 24 hours, and sunscreen and all you need can be bought from a small grocery store in the city. The city is also a busy place at night, where a lot of tourists go out to restaurants and the many clubs there are there. The prices in most places are in dollars, and almost everyone speaks English. There is also a national wild life park that costs to enter, and has different animals such as howling monkeys, alligators, turtles, iguanas, crabs, geckos and lots of colorful birds and butterflies. This is a sight worth seeing, as a lot of these animals are hardly seen around tourist places and you get to see them in their natural habitat.
After living in a Costa Rican family for about a week, I am starting to feel like things are becoming more of a routine, and everything is not new anymore. A typical day in a “Tico” family, usually starts with fresh roasted coffee, fresh bread from the bakery and usually two kinds of fruit(everything grown locally in Costa Rica of course). The weather is the same every day, with extremely sunny mornings from 6 in the morning, a couple of hours of heavy rain(usually in the afternoon) and warm and nice evenings. The people in Costa Rica are usually very friendly, but it is sometimes necessary to be a little skeptical if they are too friendly. If you let them carry your stuff, or tell you the directions somewhere, they can ask for a tip afterwards, especially if you wear nice clothes and show that you have money.
When spending half a year living near the border of Canada I felt like it was almost compulsory for me to cross the border at least once, so this weekend that I spent in Minneapolis we took a daytrip over to one of the towns on the other side of the border called Thunder Bay.
The border crossing between the US and Canada was surprisingly quiet (compared to what I think the Mexican border would be at least) and the crossing went hassle free.
My biggest surprise when crossing the border was that there was no left side driving (which I had believed until that very moment), but except from that everything was pretty much the same (especially for me who couldn’t even separate the “American” and the Canadian accent from another). When we were there we spent some time visiting an Indian camp, shopped some souvenirs and had a meal at a local restaurant, and I was surprised that they even accepted US dollar bills every place that we went.
Our visit was too brief for me to have gotten any real impression about Canada, and I feel like I cannot really say that I have been to the country, but some day I will come back to see more about what real Canada has to offer 🙂
First off, I would have to share with you something that I learned just recently: The nickname of Chicago, the Windy City, does not come from the cold winds blowing from Lake Michigan. The Windy City refers to all the wonderful things that were said about Chicago all over the United States at the end of the 1800’s, like it was carried by the wind. The name of the city was also taken in use by the media during the first half of the 20th century, because of the political changes that kept on taking place in Chicago.
Today, Chicago is home of about 9,7 million inhabitants(including the suburbs), which makes it the third biggest city in the United States. Partly because almost half the Chicago burned down in 1871, the city was restructured and rebuilt, with help from famous architects giving the city the reputation of being the most “modern” city in the US. Since then, Chicago has tried to keep this reputation, being home to huge skyscrapers and Grand Park/ Millennium Park, where the world’s biggest bands play for thousands of spectators.
Even though Chicago is a big city, it is very easy to find your way around. The city center is known as the loop, because of the elevated metro going in a loop over the streets downtown. State Street is the Main Street and divides the city in east and west, and Madison Street divides the city in south and north, so if you get lost, you can just walk towards these two streets, navigate from there.
One of the things I would say is a must to see in Chicago is the famous Sears Tower, which is a 110 stores high building for numerous architecture firms, law firms and other big companies. The entrance ticket costs 15$, and gives you a lift up into the top floor, with a view over the city and information about the buildings and things you can see from there. Even for someone who has almost no interest in architecture, it was very interesting to read about the different buildings and the history behind them. The Sears Tower also has four glass boxes that “hang” outside of the building, so that you can get the feeling of standing in mid air 412 meters above the ground.
After about an hour of driving North of Los Angeles, we reached our final destination of our road trip, which was Santa Barbara. Our expectations for the city were high, as we had heard about the great beaches the city had to offer, and the warm weather which made it possible to grow wine grapes and oranges. When we arrived there, it started raining, and the weather did not get much better before we left the next day. We still managed to have a good time walking around in the nice and summery city of Santa Barbara, where they had wireless internet around the street fountains. The shops and restaurants there seemed to have been made for rich people.
The city center of Santa Barbara looked a little bit like a city from Disney’s “Alladin”, with sand colored buildings that looked like they were used to a warm climate. Santa Barbara is a city where a lot of rich people live, and they also have a well known university, UCSB, where we spent the night sleeping in the car and using their power outage, showers, bathrooms and wireless internet. I believe that Santa Barbara was a nice city to rest out before we drove the almost 40 hours long drive to Chicago again.