How I spent my summer vacation

SPAIN - Madrid

I spent the beginning of my Euro trip in Madrid. July 2017 just happened to be Spain's biggest month of the year with Gay Pride and World Gay Pride. It was sensational. Madrid is a vibrant city with many restaurants and great nightlife. The vibe was fantastic! I could move here in a heart beat.  

Possibly the best, Madrid is one of Europe’s most captivating capitals with its breathtaking, picturesque city and well-preserved buildings. The architecture is mind blowing with dozens of impressive monuments and historic sites. 

My stop in Madrid, however, was not to discover the city and its culture but to reconnect with my family. The luxury of spending an extended amount of time travelling through Spain and Portugal meant I did not have enough time to spend with my family in Madrid. 

Emotions were highly contagious when we caught up! We can all get very emotional about our flesh and blood. The last time I caught up with my family in Madrid was 20 years ago. I had just turned 19, and I was in my final semester of Fashion School. Yes, it's true what they say. Each day has a unique emotional makeup. I spent a beautiful and extensive day roaming the streets of Madrid with my cousins Luis and his sister Paloma. I'm so blessed to have such a loving family on the other side of the world, and I realise more and more just how strong our family bond is even though we live miles away. 

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SPAIN - Barcelona, Sitges

My next stop was Barcelona, another great city with a lovely cosmopolitan feel, and plenty of cultural attractions, many cafes and street entertainers. I've visited Barcelona before so I didn't spend much time sight seeing on this trip. I was only travelling via Barcelona to continue my journey to Sitges, where I would meet up with friends for a 40th birthday celebration, and I wanted a beach vacation where I could just lounge away for hours and enjoy the stunning sunsets. The city is incredibly beautiful and tranquil with a bohemian atmosphere.

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After 30 minutes of hiking up rocky mountains and walking along train tracks, I stopped at XirinGay Beach Lounge for a refreshment before heading to the worlds first gay beach, Playa del Hombre Muerto (Dead Man's Beach) dating back to the 1930''s. 

Playa del Muerto is remote and difficult to get to, but once there you are rewarded double in that there are no crowds and the sea is stunning to swim in. It’s a naturist and gay beach with calm water and a liberal atmosphere. If you are staying in Sitges town, be aware that this is a long stony, rocky walk so don’t wear flip-flops! I took a taxi to L’Atlántida, the most famous club of all time in Sitges on the beach (sadly it closed down in 2013) then hiked over the hill for about 20 minutes. Keep on the railway line to your right. The views are superb. 

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PORTUGAL - Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais 

Lisbon is a very appealing city in many ways. If you've never been to Europe, and if it's your first city, there would be lots of WOW factors! Lisbon is cheaper than many other major European cities. It is also poorer, but it has all the elements I love about Europe at a lesser price. Some of the city is a bit run-down and dirty, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. 

If you're after the European blockbuster sights, then Lisbon is not the first choice. Compared to Paris, London, Madrid, Rome or Berlin, Lisbon has a "small-town feeling". Lisbon has fewer tourists, delicious seafood, and low prices. It doesn't have the architectural diversity of Barcelona or Madrid, nor the grand monuments of Rome, but it has some extraordinary old places and lively squares with great people-watching.

There is lots of buzz around Bairro Alto during sunset. People sitting and drinking from the kiosks and local buskers! I can understand why tourists head back to Portugal. I found that travelling through Lisbon is quite effortless mainly because it's so affordable. You don't really think too much about how much you are spending. You just spend! Lisbon is fabulous value for money. Way too good!

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I stayed in Bairro Alto, Lisbon's cultural and bohemian heart!  A grid of picturesque streets, attractive, colourful graffiti (street art), and a multitude of restaurants, and alternative bars and shops that stay open until late at night. It's quiet during the day but transforms at night into the city's vibrant nightlife quarter.

Oh, and before I forget, a must try in Lisbon is the Portuguese custard tarts. The internet reviews mention Pastéis de Belém are the best. Yes, those are good. However, the tarts at Manteigaria in Bairro Alto are even better! They're also slightly bigger and cheaper than the renowned Belém variety. Delightful! Yummo!

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Besides Lisbon, I decided to dedicate one day to venturing just outside of the city, to the world heritage site of Sintra and Cascais. Nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, the town is full of beautiful parks, castles and palaces. The city of Sintra is charming in itself, bursting with colourful romantic architecture, but what made the trip worth it for me was the Pena Palace. WOW! It looks just like the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney. A land of fairytales, sitting high upon a sturdy foundation of rock, deeply nestled in a luscious green forest for 18th-century Portuguese royalty.

I also ventured out to Cabo da Roca so I could see the western edge point of Europe. The windswept cliffs were believed to be the edge of the world up until the late 14th century. Standing on the Edge of Europe is an amazing and humbling experience. I do think that some journeys are specially made for self-examination and can determine new goals to conquer.

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My holiday in Lisbon wouldn't have been complete without a visit to Beach 19 or Praia da Bela Vista (also known as Beach 17).  Beach 19 is Portugal’s most famous gay nude beach and one of Europe’s largest. The beach is magnificent with a very extensive stretch of golden sand known as Costa da Caparica. It is officially a nude beach (by law), but you can opt for being nude or keeping your swimsuit. Beach 19 attracts gay and gay-friendly sun-worshippers, nudists and kite surfers.

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SPAIN - Andalucia, Sevilla, Granada, Malaga, Torremolinos

Surprise! I’m going back to Spain! You see, Spain is where all my family are from long before my parents migrated to Australia, Melbourne. It's true! They are the only two countries in the world that hold such a strong tie to my heart. In some ways, Australia never felt 100% like home to me in the way Spain does, and I still dream of living there one day. What can I say, I'm falling in love with travel and Spain. 

My spirit of adventure pulled me to Andalucia, the most southern region of Spain, the next stop on my journey. A Spanish beauty imprinted with Arab influence over five centuries of the Moorish rule which once made it Europe's centre of learning. The Romans and Greeks left even earlier cultural marks. It may be part of Spain, but my holiday in Andalucía revealed a region in a world very much its own.

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Everywhere I travelled in Spain was great, to be honest. I’ve seen much of Spain these past few weeks, and while I haven’t seen every Spanish city renowned for its beauty, I feel like Andalucia, Sevilla is so much more beautiful than any other city in Spain. Sevilla is just insanely good-looking from every angle. Just walking down the street, you could come across an intricately carved building. Sevilla is a city that oozes with charm, and the Sevillanos are some of the most charming people of Spain.

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It was a short trip, and I had lots to see and photograph, So I booked my ticket to what is probably the most popular site in Granada – the Alhambra. Perched on a hill overlooking the Spanish city of Granada, the Alhambra is one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic architecture. Besides the awe-inspiring structure of the Alhambra Palace, what catches the eye are the stunning Moorish carvings. Southern Spain was once under Arabic rule for some 700 years, between the 8th and 15th centuries. Moorish architecture pop up all over town, particularly in the oldest parts.

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My holiday was slowly coming to an end. I spent my last day in Malaga by the beach. I went to Torremolinos for the day and searched for Eden Beach Club. It was easy to find with the rainbow colours  LOL :)  It reminded me a little of Sitges. I grabbed a chair, umbrella and had an enjoyable, comfortable and effortless final beach day. Cold beer, mojitos and food were excellent quality and price. I know precisely what I'll be doing if I revisit Malaga!

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I do want to say that travelling solo across to the other side of the world has taught me to cherish the highs and learn from the lows. It's been an incredible experience which has given me fun-filled fulfilment, liberty, and a sense of happiness.

To all the single people out there, embrace single life and travel! This vacation has been all about the people you meet along the way and soaking up the atmosphere of ancient villages, among many other things.

The highlight of my Euro trip was the end. I visited Andalucía, Spain. A large region of hills, rivers and farmland bordering Spain’s southern coast. Sevilla, you are so beautiful and so fucking hot! LOL! Granada, Malaga and last of all Torremolinos. I missed out on Cádiz and Marbella. That's ok. I'm so motivated to keep exploring more of Spain. I'm looking forward to coming home and catching up with family, friends and my little treasure, puppy dog, Roxy!

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UPCOMING TRAVEL DATES

CANBERRA
Canberra, ACT
19-August-2017 → 20-August-2017

SYDNEY
Surry Hills, NSW
21-August-2017 → 27-August-2017

BRISBANE
Brisbane City, QLD
28-August-2017 → 30-August-2017

ADELAIDE
Adelaide, SA
31-August-2017 → 3-September-2017