My favorite places in: Sydney, Australia

The following guest post is by Roshan Lewis, @RoshansRamblings on Twitter,

a travel blogger, movie lover and has been bitten by the travel bug!

View, Sydney, Sydney Opera House, Australia, Roshan Lewis

Below are my favorite places to go in Sydney, Australia. Some of them may seem cliché, but there is a reason that certain places are deemed tourism worthy.

My number one place in Sydney is Taronga Zoo.

I love animals and will go to any zoo at any given opportunity. The Zoo is special because you can take a ferry to get there and it has the best views of the city from its grounds. You can even take a gondola from the ferry terminal to the zoo entrance and back again.

I also like Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour for an animal fix. It has great shark tank viewing tunnels and they also have dugongs!

The Botanic Gardens is the place to go for its iconic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I am lucky because I work close enough to the gardens to go for lunch time walks there.  I always enjoy seeing the tourists stopping to take pictures along the way as it reminds me what a lovely city I live in. In summer they have open air theatre shows for kids and they always seem to be setting up for a festival or opera on the harbour side.

The Opera House is the best place to catch a show and it needs no further explanation. It is an unforgettable experience! My favorite bar, Opera Bar, is also there.

It’s often crowded and hard to get a drink, but you can’t beat being under the stunning architectural marvel and admiring the view while you sip your pre-show cocktail.

Cocktail, Opera Bar, Sydney, Australia, Roshan Lewis

For a more old school pub, I also like The London in Balmain. Rustic and sturdy, they have a large selection of beer on tap and decent food. Plus, how can you not love a pub that welcomes dogs?!

My favorite restaurant is at The Deck at Luna Park.

The Deck, Restaurant, Sydney, Australia, Roshan Lewis

It has great Spanish style seafood share platters and is not too expensive. It’s also located in my favorite suburb, Kirribilli.

Lavender Bay, Kirribilli, Sydney, Australia, Roshan Lewis

I was fortunate enough to live here for a while and there is no place quite like it in Sydney.

Lavender Bay is beautiful, the Bridge is above you and the city is just across the water. You also can’t beat walking to work and cross the city’s most famous and recognized bridge.

Lavender Bay, Kirribilli, Sydney, Australia, Roshan Lewis

The European clothing brands have finally landed in Australia! So my new favorite place to shop is the brand new H & M at Macquarie Centre. It is the first store and I must admit that I am a little addicted.

But the best way to see the city is to be on the harbor in a boat, preferably at the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race.

Sydney truly is special and beautiful, so if you ever come here make sure you get out on the water!

Boats, The Spit,Sydney,Australia

I hope you enjoyed reading My Favorite Places.

Now over to you!

Tell us,

 

Have you ever been to Sydney, Australia?

If so what did you like the most?

If you haven’t, would you like to visit?

 

Let us know.

Until next time!

Happy Travels :)

Following the Ruta Artesanal in Ilobasco, El Salvador

Whenever I travel to a destination, I make sure I do some proper research and create a list of places I want to visit because they have historical, cultural or artistic value that I want to experience and share later.

Last time I went back to my roots, to my home country of El Salvador, I discovered that it truly has so much for to offer and it is well worth exploring!

There are so many attractions like wonders of nature, mountain ranges and cloud forests, impressive and breathtaking lakes, spectacular black and golden sand beaches, historical towns, frequently visited religious sites, Mayan Temples and also towns dedicated to creating beautiful and colorful art.

One particular area in the country drew my attention and it is the city of Ilobasco. Located about 55 km away from the capital, San Salvador, Ilobasco is renowned for its ceramic production and creation of handcrafts made from clay.

As the locals told us, their history goes back to the Spanish colonization era in the 1700’s.

The knowledge of pottery making, ceramic painting and clay handling has been passed on from generation to generation and family businesses have been around for many years!

All kinds of unique crafts are created such as pots, flower vases, wall décor, coffee mugs, religious statues and images molded after local inhabitants and many more.

I was there with my family and since they know that I am obsessed (I really am) with art in all its forms, they allowed me to take some time away from them and went into one of the family businesses and trust me I felt like a kid in a candy store! Wow, just wow.

Allow me to take you on a photographic tour and enjoy these colorful clay creations!

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

Ilobasco, El Salvador, travel, photography, ruta artesanal, ES impressive, TS76

I really wish I had bought many pieces but hence I had to remember the space & weight of my carry on and also how fragile they are.  Try to guess which ones I got :)

I hoped you enjoyed this artistic tour of Ilobasco in El Salvador!

Now it’s your turn.

Tell me something…

Have you visited a town or city just to buy art?

If so where was it and what did you purchase?

I want to read all about it…better yet see it!

Hasta la proxima, until next time.

Felices viajes, Happy Travels

Karla :)

Reader’s Q & A: How to get more followers on Social Media

I am very fortunate and grateful to receive emails every day from readers and blog fans asking me all types of questions which vary in nature. Some are personal, asking for advice regarding a problem or situation, others are compliments (which make me feel good knowing that what I do is appreciated and liked) and some are more technical.

I’ve already given advice to new and upcoming bloggers and also explained how to get more blog post shares which was well received.

Just recently a few persons contacted me and asked me the same question: How to increase followers on my Social Media Accounts.

Instead of sending an individual message to each person, I thought this would be a great post idea that many more people would be interested in and likely benefit from.

Now I may not be a blogger with millions of followers but I’ve learned quite a few things in the past four years that I have been blogging. The road has not always been easy, a lot of trial and error, but so far so good…I think!

What I am about to share with you is from my personal experience. It is very different from person to person but I believe it is valuable information!

Here are my Top 10 tips on how to get more followers:

 

  • Produce Quality Content

Again this is not something new and you may have read or seen it in many sites. Producing Quality Content will get the attention of a lot of people. Now you don’t have to write in order to win an award, appear in an online magazine or top travel site, if you are then well good for you!

I have tried many different types of writing styles through the years. Some have worked while others not so much. However I always put my own voice and I am incorporating more my sense of humor into it.

I’ve written very short posts around 250 words with photos all the way to around nearly 3000 word posts such as my Zip lining adventure in Costa Rica a few weeks ago. You may or may not know this but I am a writer and can write until my fingers hurt. Well that is the creative side that takes over :) Therefore I’ve had to limit myself not to be long-winded because as you know attention span on the internet is really short.

As long as you have fun writing for your readers, entertain and educate them, that is all that truly matters. Some people write first for the search engines (SEO which is a whole other topic) in order to appear in the top Google results. For me it means that if it flows, then it’s just fine.

As you know I am a photographer, so I add as many photos as I can to accompany the text and sometimes I think I include quite a lot which can make me think if I should add watermarks or just leave them as they are.

Overall, I just say write from the heart and do it because you have fun and are passionate about your subject. If not, people will know and notice it.

You can start working more on that. You will notice that your readership will start increasing.

 

  • Be yourself, everyone else is taken

That is another true statement! Don’t try to imitate someone else; you are special, unique, one of a kind. Incorporate that into your writing, social interactions and just be you.

It takes a lot of energy to imitate another person and frankly, a waste of time and some will take that into account.

Be real, honest, reliable and trustworthy. That alone will speak volumes for you!

 

  • Add personality to your updates

I know that you have to keep your accounts “clean” and be well-behaved because you never know who might be reading your updates.

Adding personality to your updates has a lot to do with what I said above in point number 2.

You can almost imagine what it would be like to meet you in person. At least I speak my mind and WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get). I do add humor and give my two cents except that you don’t hear my laughter.

People will be drawn to you and will remember you. Trust me on that one. I had been speaking with a few people on a regular basis and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet some of those individuals in person in Toronto during TBEX! It was better than I ever imagined.

Just be you! Being different is great :)

 

  • Always be honest, people have instincts and they will pick up on that

Honesty is the best policy correct? It applies both in real life and online. We have a 6th sense and we know who is honest, has good intentions, manners and who is not after something they want or need.

There have been some people only talking to me in order to get information or used me literally. Some have contacted me only when it’s convenient for them or leave thoughtless comments so that I notice them. Like seriously?

Fortunately I have been wise enough to detect that and distanced myself from them. It has to be a two-way street. If not, just move on!

 

  • Never compare yourself with others

This is something that I find truly important as you start in the community. It is very easy to be overwhelmed or get discouraged very easily because you are at the bottom right where we all started!

Some may think: “How in the world am I going to get to where X is?” or “how can I get there faster? Is there a shortcut?”

Well let me tell you that there is no magic recipe for that…from what I know.

One thing I can advise you to do is simply to be PATIENT!  As the old adage goes: “Time makes things happen” and trust me it really does.

Plan your week, month and year in advance if you can, stick to it and work every single day because if you’re in it, you have to dedicate a lot more time than you thought you would. Remember why you started? Well, this is a true passion which will be the fuel necessary to propel you forward.

Sometimes you may think you are sacrificing quite a few important things but in the long run it will all be worthwhile and very necessary.

 

  • Don’t stress about numbers

This is a biggie and most important aspect of blogging don’t you agree?

Numbers is what most people are after because obviously they do speak loud and clear but they do not make or break you.

Both of the persons who wrote me (and I thank them for inspiring me to write this) were asking precisely how I managed to get such a large number of followers on Twitter.

Now let me tell you the story behind it (and bear with me). Back in 2009, when I started being more involved in Social Media, a group of female entrepreneurs, Women 2.0, kept talking about how great it was and we were all invited to follow each other. Back then I had been using Facebook because my old classmates, friends were looking for me, did find me and pulled me in. So I decided to join a few professional groups and they raved about Twitter. So I joined in and didn’t even know how it worked. I started following those brilliant minds and from then on, it just kept growing! Obviously I changed to my love, my passion which is travel and as they say the rest is history!

Now my Facebook travel page does not have the same amount of followers as Twitter which is ok, I do not force anyone to like the page or continuously have pop ups on my blog to drive them nuts! All is fine with me. I’d rather have a small group and know those who are genuinely interested in what I do and share!

The same goes for Instagram or all the other social media accounts. I am very grateful and truly happy that they are always on the rise but I really do not stress about it. Carpe Diem. I simply let things run their natural course!

This leads me to my next point.

 

  • NEVER EVER buy followers

This is something that I find appalling and disturbing. I discovered earlier this year that some people (and I will not name names) have unbelievable numbers and mind you we started at almost the same time.

Having 20 000 followers on Instagram while they find time to like my photos? Hum, how is that possible? How about paying people to view your blog every month so that the numbers are enough to impress companies or PR or Tourism Boards? Oh my gee!

What about Facebook likes that I see are mostly from the same country? It sure gives you something to think about right?

I just don’t approve of any of these but if those people think it’s fine, no harm done, well ok.

Having an engaged audience, whom you know (like their passions, dreams, name of their family members, birthdays, where they live, what kind of coffee they like, where they are going next and asking them how they are of if they need help) means more to me than anything else.

Knowing that if I created a difference, gave them a piece of advice or if I inspired, educated or entertained them by making them laugh is just priceless…Really.

 

  • Share other people’s content

Sharing other people’s content because you really like what they do, write and the way they put it is the best way to build relationships online.

I don’t know if you remember but I wrote about my experience with Triberr and I invite you to read it again if you haven’t.

Being forced to share something is not ideal and frankly it is exhausting.

I made a list of the people I regularly read and share their latest post or if something catches my eye and believe it has a lot of value that you may like, then by all means I will distribute it without anyone twisting my arm or telling me I will be asked to leave a group if I don’t (Triberr once again)

Also I don’t like it when people retweet if you mention them. Serial retweeters should be banned, simple. It’s like if I write a message and I re tweet it or share it again? What’s the point?

If two persons support each other it’s great to continue, however some people are only one-sided and never share any of your posts. I suggest you to stop and give others a chance. Those are my two cents.

 

  • Always respond to your readers, good or not

It goes without saying that your readers are the blog or site’s lifeline, the reason why you do what you do.

Answer them whether it is by replying to their tweet, comment, email, whichever way, simply do it.

They take time of their schedule to come visit and read what you’ve got to offer and the very least they deserve is a response.

As of lately I’m getting a lot of automatic responses from some of the bloggers & writers I’ve been following for years and some never respond which makes me feel like a number and unimportant. It’s very sad that it has become very impersonal and robotic.

Great for them that they are now superstars in their own right but you know humility goes a LONG way.

Ah I’m forgetting my critics or haters.

Yes, believe it or not, the more you grow the more some confused or lost fans, as I call them, come out of nowhere and try to put you down with their cruel words or remarks. Oh I have already a couple of negative persons contact me or sent comments directly and trust me it did hurt at first and wonder what I had done or said to them in the first place!

One travel blogger was so arrogant and made me feel like I didn’t even belong to be in the same room with her, wow. That was quite shocking but its OK; I don’t care if we are not in the same social and economic circles.

Life is a boomerang and whatever you give out will always come back 10 times.

My advice is simple; never forget who was there from the beginning and who believed in you. ALWAYS be kind, nice and helpful!

 

  • Be grateful and always say thank you

As I just said above, remember those persons who were there to support you right from the very beginning, through the good days and others not so good!

I can personally attest that there are still many awesome people who will be looking out for you, help you when you need them and even become some of your best friends in real life (hello Marian a.k.a @travelshopgirl!) They are like unexpected but very welcome blessings :)

It may feel as if everyone is fiercely competing against each other and in reality it is. One will do better, have more, get more opportunities while you are going at a snail pace and may want to throw in the towel.

Well, I am here to tell you what I’ve learned. The only person you have to compete against is you!

We are always evolving and with time you will see that you are the one who decides to change, improve, become disciplined and just be a better version of yourself!

Oh how things change and quite honestly, I prefer what I do now than when I started back in 2011.

I forgot to tell you to always keep learning. Things change incredibly fast and one must stay up to date with all that is happening in the technological world and you know it.

There lots of amazing sites that I’ve subscribed to like

Social Media Examiner

Think Traffic

Mashable

Razor Social

Jeff Bullas

Sandi Krakowski

and so many others. Attend as many free webinars online as you can, download free PDFs loaded with tons of useful and priceless information. There are endless resources and best of all? They are absolutely FREE, so take full advantage of that.

I am already excited and very much looking forward to the next phase in my life and professional career!

I hope you enjoyed reading my Top 10 Tips on Increasing Followers!

As I leave you I say…

 keep calm and keep blogging, quote, truth, blogging, writing, TS76, inspiration, creativity

 

Until next time!

Tashi Delek, All the best,

Karla

 

Do you agree with any of the points?

Did I miss something or what else should I add?

Let me know in the comments :)

No ordinary cab ride in Toronto: Air Transat Holidays’ El Taxi Loco

Have I ever told you that I am a car fanatic? Yes, the kind of person whom you will find browsing auto specs in books, magazines, reading the latest road tests/reviews, auto shows. Yes, I am one such individual!

I don’t like automobiles. I LOVE them, especially old, classic models from the 50’s and 60’s. In fact, if I could, I would gladly own and drive one such as the super cute Fiat 500 :) Whenever I see one I quickly turn my head around!

Travel, travel Quote, Fiat 500, blue Fiat 500, photography

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with my family to ring in the New Year. We spent a fun week in Varadero and La Habana, Cuba.

Beach, Varadero, Cuba, travel, photography, TS76

Karla A.P, TS76, Varadero, Cuba, travel, photography

It was our first time in the Caribbean country and we were quite impressed! Not only it is gorgeous, especially the incredible white sand beaches and turquoise water (see above) but also how you can actually see the real Cuba, the one you don’t really get to see on TV. Reality is completely different. It really deserves to be seen with your own eyes.

country side, Varadero, Cuba, countryside, travel, photography

There is also something else that I noticed right from the moment we set foot on the island and that was seeing so many classic vehicles on the road.

We saw old Chevy’s, Oldsmobile’s, Fords and even some Ladas!

classic cars, old cars, old american cars, La Habana, Cuba, travel, photography, automobiles

classic cars, old cars, old american cars, La Habana, Cuba, travel, photography, automobiles

classic cars, old cars, old american cars, La Habana, Cuba, travel, photography, automobiles

Buick, Cadillac and Ford classic cars in La Habana. Photo Credit: Doris Aguilar

It was simply incredible to me that they were still running and in almost mint condition considering the age of the vehicles, almost half a century after they were originally built!

Now they are not just for us to admire. They are put to work as private taxis by their respective owner and take you anywhere you ask them to!

In our case, we hired one and little did we know how much fun it would be. We asked the driver to take us to a local market to buy some crafts and souvenirs. What a pleasant surprise it was to learn that a ride (regardless of the number of passengers) was only $5 USD one way. We sure didn’t think twice! Our model was a classic white Ford Taurus with black and very comfortable leather seats.

classic cars, old cars, old american cars, La Habana, Cuba, travel, photography, automobiles

Dad sat in the front with the driver Manuel, while my mother, sister and I sat in the back. We really felt as if we went back in time!

We watched the landscape slowly pass by, heard some old Cuban music on the radio (which is still working by the way) and we got to hear some interesting stories! Everyone stared at us and the car obviously, we felt as if we were truly important persons :)

It was definitely the ride of a lifetime. We got a glimpse of what Cuban life was like in a short period of time.

That’s precisely what Air Transat wanted to share with Canadians and decided to bring a bit of the Caribbean flair a few days ago.

A typical and light blue Cuban cab nicknamed El Taxi Loco was put into service in the heart of Canada’s biggest, busiest and most dynamic city, Toronto.  They wanted the locals or visitors to live an unforgettable and fun experience!

Not only did they jump on the opportunity, they also experienced funny situations like sharing the cab with other passengers (as it would have happened on the island).

Now this was no ordinary ride, it became an indoor party! The extra passengers happened to be musicians and they started to sing and the passengers were given musical instruments to keep the merriment going! They even danced and joined a conga line in Kensington Market!

Watch the hilarious and original video filmed during the event:

These very lucky passengers not only had a fun time, they received a gift they sure we not expecting! They received tickets for a week-long, all-inclusive package to sunny Cuba!

Isn’t that a great reason to shake those maracas and smile from all the way from Toronto to Varadero or La Habana?

What a great initiative and way to inspire travelers at heart to book their next Cuba vacation with Air Transat!

I invite you to follow them on:

Website: www.airtransat.ca

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AirTransat

Facebook: https://facebook.com/AirTransatCanada

Instagram: http://instagram.com/airtransat

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+airtransat

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=airtransat

And follow the hashtag #experiencetransat for more stories!

 

Now tell me,

 

Have you been to Cuba? If so, where did you go?

If you haven’t, would you like to?

 

Tell us all about it.

Until next time,

Many Happy Travels!

K :)

 

 

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Made in Blog.

Opinions are and will always be mine.

I could talk about cars and travel until dawn ;)

Travel Theme: Arches

Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves.

Julia Morgan

This week, Ailsa from Where’s My Backpack asked us readers and photographers to showcase arches that we’ve seen and captured.

What an interesting photographic challenge!

As you know, I am an avid photographer who loves architecture, street art and so much more :)

So I went through my photo portfolio and came across some images that I don’t even remember taking them but was greatly surprised and happy to have found them.

I thought of sharing them with you. It sure makes you look at a city with different eyes!

Montreal, Quebec, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Entrance to this local newspaper building in Montreal

Montreal, Quebec, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Entrance of Église St-Pierre, MTL

Montreal, Quebec, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Maisonneuve Public Baths in Montreal

Montreal, Quebec, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Arches on the ceiling at Basilique Marie-Reine du Monde in Montreal

Montreal, Quebec, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Entrance to the Quebec Bank Building in Old Montreal

Path, Toronto, Ontario, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Arches on the PATH in Toronto, Ontario

Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Arches and shadows at Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario

Helsinki, Finland, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Arches on a building façade in Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland, architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Stepping back in time at Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki, Finland

architecture, travel, photography, arches, TS76

Arco Santa Catarina in Antigua Guatemala

I hope you liked this architectural tour around the world!

Do you have any photos of arches?

If you do, share them with us!

Until next time,

Tashi Delek, all the best!

Karla :)