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Amalfi Coast Summer. From Salerno to Sorrento

Are you an adventure seeker? Personally me, I’m not. Are you someone who prefers to stay home and cook something delicious to consume it in front of the TV? For sure, not me. But from time to time, I feel like either of these. And then imagine, I have to plan a week of vacations for three so different people! So, I’m going to reveal now how to plan a week of Amalfi coast vacations to please all the different tastes. A ready to use Amalfi itinerary below!

 

Day 0 and Day 1. Where to stay on Amalfi coast – Amalfi, Maiori, Vietri sul Mare or Salerno?

 

What I call ‘day 0’ is the arrival. And in our case, it was really a zero-pleasure day and night. Delayed for almost 3 hours flight to Naples, as a result – a missed shuttle bus. And therefore, a 150 EUR taxi drive instead of 45 for 3 people by airport shuttle. I was calming myself down saying that life will compensate this disappointment for sure. But what happened later is a carsick sister, completely destroyed by hillside driving ‘a la Italiana’. Well, the most important thing is that at the end we happily ended up in our cozy Amalfi Airbnb villa in the middle of nowhere. But, oh dear, how long it took the driver to find it.

 

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view from our Airbnb 🙂

 

Tired of life, finally at home, and all of a sudden, our feet caught that Italian nighty restlessness. So, at 10:30 pm on a dark night we headed to almost nowhere, just because our Airbnb host said: ‘there is a pizzeria in the end of the village, and it might be still open’. And voila here we are after 30 min walking up the hill along the roadway we were rewarded by huge pizzas in one of the few restaurants in our village 😊

 

Next day I promised to be soft and let everyone sleep, without planning anything special for the day. So, the first day of our Amalfi coast vacations was dedicated to walks in the town, gathering information about boats and buses, introduction to the nearby beaches.

 

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Day 2. Amalfi coast hiking routes. Sentiero dei Limoni or the Lemons’ Pathway

 

Now the adventure begins. There are many hiking routes on Amalfi coast, actually you can spend a whole week on Amalfi coast hikes discovering the region by foot. There can’t be anything more beautiful to do in Amalfi. Just have a swimming suit in your backpack to have a beach break – you’ll spot many stairs leading down to beautiful azure waters of Tyrrhenian Sea.

 

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Oh, perhaps if it was a solo trip to costiera Amalfitana I would really do only hiking in Maiori, Minori and Sorrento))

 

Because I didn’t know a lot about the difficulty of routes mentioned on the web, I decided to start from the easiest one. Sentiero dei Limoni is a Maiori to Minori lemon walk. The path lays along the lemon plantations throughout the hills! As you can understand, locals in the old times, before the coastal road was built, used this route to commute on donkeys or by foot, to deliver lemons to the sales spots. It’s one of the most beautiful Maiori walks with lots of ups and downs, and obviously, even more stairs! But we did it to the extremes, really putting ourselves on a place of a typical Italian lemon-grower.

 

I couldn’t find a map of this route, only many recommendations and, actually, happy reviews. It’s easier to begin the route in Maiori, the starting point is clearer.

 

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Sentiero dei Limoni or Lemons’ Pathway guide:

  • Start at the Limonetum in Mairori (or navigate to the tourist office).
  • Take the Scala Santa stairs on Via Pedamentina. Pass the Maria e Mare Collegiate Church and turn right. Here you can fill your bottles with water. Let the route start as you are on the Via Vena!
  • Keep straight and follow the Sentiero dei Limoni waymarks. They are either very noticeable and made of tile, or just tiny lemon stickers on trees or poles.

Writing you directions for the route itself doesn’t make much sense. Advices like ‘turn right at the carob tree’ or ‘pass the huge laurel bush’ didn’t help me. After all, neither the carob, nor the laurel are eternal. Just don’t be afraid to get lost! Then it’s a real adventure, worst case, you’ll just go back and down. And remember: there are many locals, and other travelers you’ll meet on your way. All of the locals will be able to advise you the correct direction. Well, in getting lost I have firsthand experience.

 

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I said before that we really lived a day of an Amalfi lemon-grower. That’s because instead of keeping straight on our lemon way, I was sure that climbing up the stairs is the correct choice. So, we climbed the hill with lemon farms precisely up to the top, until there was nowhere to climb anymore. Then I remembered the farmer we met a bit before on our way, he was with donkeys, carrying lemons. He was my only hope, since going lower and taking another turn didn’t help either and took us to even wilder forest. Luckily, we heard the donkeys’ bells ringing nearby and our farmer wasn’t long in coming. That’s when he impressed me by saying that the plain, flat route much below us is the right one!

 

Everyone who passed the route on their own or with a guide without making our mistake will tell you that it’s an easy hike. I can confirm that if you are going to repeat my mistake, see the most impressive farms which stay hidden away from tourists, you will have a moderate to difficult hike. But that’s your choice, or the destiny’s! Whatever you choose, a hike on your own, without any guides is the real Amalfi lemon experience!

 

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Returning on the right track we finally started seeing the route indicators again, water taps and more stairs where matching the picturesque views in the best way. You will finish the hike in Minori, reaching the centre after overcoming another thousand of stairs down from the hill. That’s why I say it’s better to start in Maiori – the start point is not only clearer to find, but also begins less exhausting keeping your energy for later. And after all, this is where you should stop for a while to taste the famous Minori Limoncello. I’m telling more details regarding Minori and Maiori separately.

 

More hiking routes in Minori, Maiori, Ravello articles.

 

 

 

Day 3 – Cooking workshops in Sorrento. Amalfi – Sorrento bus

 

In this area workshops and any other ‘amalfitano’ experiences are quite pricy comparing to the rest of Italy I’ve been to. For example, a culinary class in Calabria was 35 EUR, here – you won’t find anything for less than 60 EUR. Well, tickets were bought, accommodation paid, I was already hooked by Amalfi, so nothing to do, but going for the other bills as well. And I decided that you haven’t been to Italy, if there was no culinary experience during the trip.

 

After long research I faced a dilemma of either booking via an agency when I wouldn’t know who would do the cooking class, or contacting a restaurant/cook directly, but then there is no organized transfer to the place. Still out of these two I prefer to struggle with the route, rather than a possibility of having a non-Italian as a chef teaching me to make pizza. So, my search got filtered more and at this stage I realized that unless you go to an ‘agriturismo’ (a country house, usually not easily reachable), there are cooking classes only in Sorrento. That’s how we ended up there, in the city of art!

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We booked two classes at Old Taverna Sorrentina – a pastry and a pizza making class. And because you are supposed to eat what you cook I was precautious and placed them on different days. After all, it’s a better idea to pay, learn and eat, rather than just pay and eat as in a restaurant.

 

The organizers of the workshop are a typical Italian couple, where the man is the Chef, but the woman is the strict accountant of his generosity. It was very funny to observe them, felt like watching an old Italian comedy. Guigliermo, the Chef, always tried to cook some more things, use more ingredients, while his wife always had to put him back into effective business running mode. So usual Italian family negotiations 😊

 

 

They have a cafeteria & gelateria on one of the central and touristy streets of Sorrento. And then a kitchen used for their cafeteria is also used for the workshops. Which is also interesting, when else would I end up on a professional restaurant kitchen?

 

The pastry workshop was intense. We learned making the Italian pastry cream, lemon cake, crema Chantilly, sponge cake, a lot of information about how & when to add lemon to your pastries, and, of course, tiramisu. It was a simple one with lady fingers in a martini glass. But again, masterpiece is in details, which we now know! Afterwards, as expected, we had to consume all prepared and even managed to take a lemon cake with us home 😊

 

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What about Sorrento? If you decide to go on holidays here, you will end up shopping every single day. There are too many shops of all kinds, both touristic with souvenirs and also designer boutiques. Staying at a secluded location helped us avoid spending on stuff. And guess what, 80% of the souvenirs and presents I bought during this day trip to Sorrento.

 

 

Day 4 – Amalfi – Salerno ferry. Pizza in Salerno. Amalfi Coast Boat Tour on a budget

 

I’d call it a relax by the sea. Of course, it didn’t go that smooth and plans always get adjusted on the way. But not all is simple here. The only way of commuting had to be sea transport. So, I checked out Travelmar and the furthest destination to the East was Salerno. After a few hours there I planned to get a boat to Cetara (a traditional fishermen village on the coast). Then from Cetara either a stop in Maiori or Minori or getting a boat directly to Amalfi. The initial plan as following:

 

  • Amalfi to Salerno ferry arriving to Porto Turistico, next to Concordia train station. Obviously the boats are always full of people with suitcases going mostly to Naples by train from Salerno.
  • Salerno to Cetara boat
  • Cetara to Maiori or Cetara to Amalfi boat

 

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All schedules here and of course you can just simply take a Salerno Amalfi ferry to shorten the way back. I consider it as a budget version of a boat tour on Amalfi coast 🙂 All the real ‘tours’ would start at a 100 EUR price pp. With TravelMar, I guess, I didn’t spend more than 20 EUR per person.

 

Obviously, I planned to fry ourselves a bit on a beach in Salerno, but… Salerno appeared to be out of beach destinations. To clarify your doubts about this city I have to say it’s not worth staying here at all. Salerno is an industrial port, as a result, it’s more dangerous walking along the promenade at night, and even day time I felt some looks and intentions. The beach is industrial as well, you wouldn’t want to swim in that unclear water and non-romantic scenery. And besides that, going a bit more to the East, we found another public beach which wasn’t swimmable because of the stormy waves. That’s right, I have to mention that the sea in Salerno is always full of high waves. Which is the reason surfing being popular around, but not the beach life.

 

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At the same time, I discovered a beautiful beach just next to Salerno in Vietri sul Mare. But I already spoke about it in the beginning. So, if you are looking for beaches in Salerno, just take a boat or bus to Vietri!

 

Because of this we decided to use our time wisely and spend it on lunch. And another surprise was on its’ way. For the first time in our consumer lives we had a pizza with croquettes. Literally, 4 large croquettes on a pizza dough. The restaurant would be nice, but everything including my tuna salad was over salted. If you like salty, try it out – Pizzeria Saporito.

 

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A positive aspect of Salerno is its’ empty streets. I mean, you won’t have a problem taking a photo in front of its’ cathedral, trying to wake up early before other tourists do, so you have the stairs empty. Not this city. All the streets and cathedrals are yours. We even entered the Salerno cathedral with an ongoing wedding.

 

From Salerno we bought tickets for a boat to Cetara. It’s around 15 min. Getting closer to the little port of this village my cousin made a facial expression of the most unsatisfied person in the world, since she saw a small and crowded beach, which was additionally serving as a port. So, I did something very criminal. Knowing that the boat continues to Maiori and then to Amalfi, I told them to sit and act as we go to Maiori. At least I knew what beach to expect there! The difference in price is 2 EUR, so I don’t consider it as a big sin, bearing in mind how much I donated to the maritime business of the region during our Amalfi coast vacations in total.

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The evening finished on our much-loved beach in Maiori. With sunbeds and umbrellas being 3 EUR only. And a dinner in a hidden restaurant – for the first time here, my phone felt lost and couldn’t locate a place. The restaurant was La Tana del Luppolo and while the food was really good, I hated the service with all my heart. They had waiters which could only take an order, or the ones which were only supposed to take your empty plates away. This led me asking for something from a person who’s taking my plate and never getting what I asked for, so waiting for that one and only waiter who can take orders. Then we had to wait some 20 min to finally get the check, and basically the waiters were just rude.

 

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Again, the food made it worth visiting, all the meals were creative, and the plating was well done. The only remark I have is that shrimps fried in their shell were impossible to eat, I constantly had to clean them which made the dining experience less and less enjoyable.

 

Info:

 

More about restaurants in Maiori here.

 

Day 5 – The most beautiful town on Amalfi Coast. Ravello. Villa Rufolo. Frozen yoghurt and Ravello-Amalfi walk

 

I heard a lot about Ravello, and not from touristic sources. For people coming from the IT industry Ravello is related to a cloud-based software, which is named after the place where it was developed. In Ravello. After seeing a few photos of the town it’s easy to understand how people come up with industry changing ideas. Ravello is inspiring, perhaps in that blooming heaven your mind gets a better connection to the Universe to source creativity.

 

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So, we had a free day which I had to fill in with a nice town. It was either Ravello or Positano. Considering the vicinity of the first one, and the fact that’s it’s not a coastal location, we headed towards Ravello.

 

Once you find yourself in that bus going up and up to the hills through little, secluded countryside locations, green and shady, you literally want to press the stop button and say you go by foot, whatever it takes. Actually, at the end that’s what we did once we found out about the Ravello to Amalfi walk.

 

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I don’t like those Amalfi coast must sees, but despite the fact it being very touristy, Villa Rufolo in Ravello is a not to miss while on the coast. We didn’t take a tour, so I know little about the villa itself, besides the info on the brochure. Although its’ most charming part is far not the architecture, but the garden, maintained all through the long history by descendants of the original gardeners. Well, these famous Ravello gardens, such a colourful piece of land, inspired Wagner for the setting of the Klingsor in Parsifal. No surprise that everyone is in love with the garden ever since. By the way, for classical music lovers, the villa hosts a Wagnerian concert every year and generally impresses by the many artistic venues. More about Ravello events below 😉

 

Eating in Ravello & the secret Ravello – Amalfi walking path

Talking about Ravello as a town. I would live here, perhaps 😊 But, it would take a while to understand the decent places to eat – I’m not looking for expensive and posh places, just good food for reasonable price. I had some nice restaurants and cafeterias saved in my list for Ravello, but since it was Sunday, everything was closed, or didn’t exist anymore in this world. So, we ended up on the main square in Duomo Café Ravello. Their pastry looks very attractive, so maybe I ordered the wrong thing. But this was the worst tuna salad in my life so far. When you order a tuna salad you imagine it having some vegetables, corn, in Spain even boiled eggs and asparagus. Here it was plain salad leaves cut on small pieces and tuna, which was incredibly salty. And, of course, the price of this salad was something like 10 EUR. But I had a positive culinary experience in Ravello as well, about it below.

 

Ravello to Amalfi walk

 

From the top of the villa’s garden you’ll see an eye-catching cobblestone route. Find the starting point of this path when exiting the villa and turning on the left. There will be an amazing frozen yogurt shop (I recommend the plain one, without toppings) and following the path down the hill you’ll find those cobblestones. Where does it lead? Almost wherever you want! Amalfi, Atrani, Maiori, Minori, Scala, Castiglione. All these depending where you turn – left or right.

 

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We went to the right towards Amalfi, crossing Atrani. Just like the Lemons’ Path this is the old route connecting the towns, with stairs and lots of ups and downs. And again, as the previous staircase hike we took, this also opens unbelievable views in front of you. The sea always impresses more when you look from the top.

 

We walked along beautiful villas, cafeterias located in the middle of nowhere waiting for god knows whom to buy a coffee, abandoned houses and then we were disappointed by getting out on the roadway. Luckily if you cross the road you’ll find more route indicators taking you down the stairs, so we didn’t have to walk along the cars even for five minutes! At some point the path will take you to Atrani, where you can maybe have a longer break than we did. A beautiful little town, very similar to others on the coast of course, but choosing your favourite città is always a matter of taste. Our evening finished at the main square of Amalfi though with some aperol and prosecco. And then a late-night pizza in Pogerola at La Capannina, which I already mentioned above. This time we were impressed by a pizza covered with French fries on top of it.

 

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Useful info:

 

More about things to do in Ravello, restaurants and hotels here.

 

Day 6 – pizza cooking class in Sorrento. Recipes!

 

As promised we returned to Sorrento one more time before leaving the coast. This time a pizza cooking class waited for us in Sorrento and since we learned from our mistakes the last time, we had only a small breakfast before it. So first the chef explained us that there are only 2 types of pizza – good pizza and fast pizza.

 

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Pizza Toppings a la Napoletana

 

 

 

This mouthwatering feast was the last day of our trip. On our way back on the next day we had some troubles in the airport with Ryanair who charged us 100 EUR for exceeding 2 cabin bag sizes. I’ve never seen an airline checking your luggage in such a disgusting way. All of us had standard sized hardcase suitcases, so they couldn’t increase by us pushing in more things (actually we didn’t bough anything which would make our bags increase comparing to the flight to Napoli). However, as it happens with me second year in a raw, somehow, they let you fly in Italy without any checks, but once you are leaving, the importance of checking not only the height but also width of your bag somehow grows to extremes. You buy the priority ticket to have that small clutch hanging on you, you buy a seat, so you can stay together with your friends/relatives, and then they decide to charge another 100 EUR because such a ‘why not’.

Despite Ryanair flies to so many tempting destinations I promised never ever again get on board of their plane.

 

Useful info:

 

 

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banner main post final 1 1 - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

How to explore the best of Bordeaux in 4 days, from a local slow traveller

 

When one thinks about Bordeaux, he or she immediately thinks wine. We are so lucky to have these incredible vineyards around the city. However, did you know:

  • It is the location of the highest dune in Europe?
  • Rue Sainte Catherine is a 1.2 km long shopping street?
  • Bordeaux was under English ownership for 300 years
  • The city is classified UNESCO World Heritage
  • Bordeaux used to be nicknamed “the Sleeping Beauty”
  • Bordeaux has a submarine base

 

Yes, there are lots of fun facts to discover! It is what a slow traveller loves, would you agree?

So, come and accompany me in a visit of Bordeaux and the region…

 

The city of Bordeaux

La ville de Bordeaux 1 - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

I would recommend at least one day to visit the city.

 

Suggestion of itinerary:

Go out and explore the city freely, at your own rhythm. Go to the Place de la Comédie, le Monument des Girondins, Pey Berland square ; the old town: place Saint-Pierre, place du Parlement, place du Palais, la grosse cloche.

 

These are must see and touristy but should not be missed. On your way stop over to a “la Toque Cuivrée” shop and try a “canelé”, a typical sweet pastry from Bordeaux made from egg yolks. It is a must!

 

Make your way up to a borough named Saint-Michel, visit the local food market “les capucins” (closed on Monday). There will be plenty of spots for you to experience local food such as cheeses, meat platter, seafood, dunes blanches (cream pastry).

 

After lunch:

Make your way to the Basilique Saint-Michel and the river banks. Walk your way back to Place de la Bourse and the water mirror (miroir d’eau) where you may take pictures of the buildings reflecting on the water.

 

Thereafter, take a “batcub”, a public boat allowing you to cross town via the river, from the Ponton d’Honneur near Place de la Bourse to the wine musuem (Cité du Vin). Allow yourself at least 3 hours for the visit.

 

Then, either take the tram back to the centre, or if you still have some energy left, you may explore the borough named “Les Chartrons” or walk by the bank to enjoy the scenery of the city.

 

Don’t care much for the food market? Then make your way to visit and lunch in Darwin

 

Located on old military grounds, Darwin is an ecosystem that gathers professionals, entrepreneurs and artists who focus on developing a sustainable (green and economical) and socially responsible future. There is an urban farm, an organic supermarket, a skatepark, street art, a garage where you can repair your bike…

 

Darwin has a different vibe from the rest of Bordeaux and is definitely worth a visit. If you enjoy street art then you are in the right place. On that note, once in Bordeaux, you will notice a lot of street art in the city. For the last few years, street artists have realised many murals in places such as Darwin, les bassins à flots (near the submarine base), by the train station… places and sites off the beaten path.

 

In the evening, how about trying out some of the many wine bars in Bordeaux?

 

The bar à vin located 3 cours du XXX Juillet in front of the tourism office will  enable you, for a small budget, to taste various wines from Bordeaux.

 

Further information

 

Off the beaten paths

  • The submarine base, the borough of les bassins à flots, near the wine museum
  • For art lovers: les vivres de l’art
  • The borough of Sainte Croix
  • The borough of Saint-Seurin and its basilique
  • The Borough of les Chartrons
  • The Ermitage park in Lormont (other side of the river)
  • The park “Bordelais” and “jardin des remparts”

 

Transportation in Bordeaux

  • Bikes: traveling by bike is easy in Bordeaux. The city provides bikes names VCUB. There are comfortable and easy to handle. Throughout the city, you will encounter many bike parks where you may rent and leave your bikes. You will need a credit card to access a bike.

 

  • Second option: INDIGO, a mobile app, is slightly cheaper than the VCUB. Download the app, create an account and the app will locate the nearest bikes according to your location.

 

  • Tram and bus: easy to hop in and out, it covers most parts of the city. If you purchase a ticket, then you can use it for a whole hour but you do have to scan it every time you take transportation.

 

  • Batcub: the boat that takes you from one side of the river to the other. I strongly recommend it as you will discover the city in, yet another angle, and the best thing is that it will cost you a tram ticket!

 

 

Saint-Emilion, UNESCO World Heritage

Le vignoble de Saint Emilion et Fronsac - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

Simply, a must see in the region.

 

Suggestion of itinerary:

 

Take the train from Bordeaux to the village. It takes about 45 minutes. Then, go up to the picturesque village.

 

Make sure you visit the underground monuments and the monolith church. You may purchase your tickets in advance on the tourism office website.

 

Thereafter, how about going to the “Clos des Cordeliers” where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly known as “Crémant de Bordeaux” and made exactly how they would in Champagne. They have underground cellars that you can visit as well.

 

If you fancy a picnic, you may purchase a basket and have a picnic in their park.

 

There are lots of restaurants and wine bars in the village. There is also a wine school. Depending on how you wish to spend your time, you will find activities related to wine ?

For dessert, try the almond macaroons: they are a typical local produce since 1620 and they are yummy!

 

After lunch:

 

After your visit how about exploring the vineyards? The choice is yours: by bike or on foot. The tourism office proposes many itineraries and activities that you can download from their website. If you do pick a bike tour, make sure you reserve it ahead of time.

 

There are many wineries worth visiting in Saint-Emilion. Pomerol is another wine appellation where wines are known worldwide.

 

2 châteaux near the village that you could visit.

  • Château Beauséjour Bécot: first growth (premier grand cru classé) family led winery with underground cellars.
  • Château Coutet: 400 years old family led organic winery

 

*booking visits in advance is strongly recommended.

 

Further information

 

The Arcachon bay

Le bassin dArcachon - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

The amazing Arcachon bay: another must see when visiting the region. You may easily spend, at the very least, one day there. Please note that during the season, the area is very very busy.

 

Suggestion of itinerary:

Early morning arrival in Arcachon by bus or train from Bordeaux.

 

Visit of the city, walk by the seaside, visit a borough called the “Winter town” (la ville d’hiver) where you will see villas with beautiful architecture.

 

From there plenty of options are available for you:

  • Take the boat up to the Cap Ferret where you may have a seafood lunch. Again, explore, discover this untouched area, the natural heritage, go to the beach or up to the light house.

 

  • Or, participate in a boat tour of the bay and admire the bird island (Île aux oiseaux), huts on stilts (cabanes tchanquées) and the oyster parks (parcs à huîtres).

 

  • Or, you may wish to rent a bike. There are bike paths from Arcachon to the Cap Ferret which pass by small fishermen’s villages that are definitely very local and untouched.

 

 

Do not leave the bay without visiting the Dune du Pilat, the highest in Europe (which you can reach by bus from Arcachon). Prepare yourself to climb about 150 stairs to reach the top. Boy is it worth it. The view is outstanding especially at sunrise or sunset. Yes, how about planning to watch the sunset there with a bottle of Crémant de Bordeaux (a bubbly) and a picnic of local produce?

 

La Teste de Buch, a village nearby, is worth a stopover. Go to the harbour. Walk by local oyster shops. If you like them, settle down in one of the huts (cabane) for a tasting of oysters and a nice dry white from the Entre-Deux-Mers region. A lovely pairing. Feeling adventurous? Try out the whelks (bulots), winkles (bigorneaux).

 

Further information

*Some sites are just in French and not in English…

 

The Médoc, land of grands crus classés

Le Médoc - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

The land of grands crus classés, magnificent striking architectural châteaux… But also, family run wineries!

 

It is not as easy to discover the Médoc without a car. What is nice when discovering the Médoc is to go from villages to villages, from appellations to appellations. I do not recommend doing it by bike as the main road for instance, from the villages of Margaux to Saint-Julien is a busy one.

 

From a slowtourism perspective, I would suggest selecting a village and exploring its surroundings. You may reach the village by train or bus.

 

Suggestion of itinerary in and near the village of Margaux:                      

  • Hike : Margaux wineries, (Boucle des Châteaux de Margaux) : 4.9 kms.

 

Throughout the hike, you will discover classified top growths wineries (grands crus classés) such as Château Lascombes, Château Palmer… Fairytale looking castles.

 

You will pass by the tiny harbor of Issan where you can take a picnic. (you may be able to purchase in advance a picnic basket at Château Desmirail in the village of Margaux).

 

If you fancy a wine and tasting: Château Marquis de Terme proposes a bike visit of their vineyards.

 

Suggestion of itinerary in and near the village of Ludon Médoc:

  • Hike named “boucle des graves”: 5.25 kms

 

This path will take you to a small lake and the following wineries: Château Paloumey, Château Cantemerle, Château La Lagune.

 

You will also pass by a barrel maker. If you are in the Médoc on a morning weekday, then you can schedule (in advance) a visit of the shop. You will see a barrel being made. It is very interesting. They also have a winery and a restaurant if you fancy lunch. You can only do the visit on a morning weekday when they make the barrels.

 

The French itineraries of these hikes (not in English):

 

On the above website, you will also find hiking itineraries that focus more on the nature and the biodiversity or horseriding.

 

 

 

Conclusion

Bordeaux 2 - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

These are just sample ideas to give you an idea of what a trip may be like in Bordeaux. Of course, there are many more things you can do: for instance, you may want to rent a private boat and enjoy a seafood platter in front of the Dune. Or, you may want to go fishing with the local fishermen in the Arcachon bay. Participate in a cooking class, a winemaking workshop, a tasting…

  • If you are planning a trip to Bordeaux, I recommend planning ahead: wineries, restaurants, transportation. The region and the city do welcome many tourists and I would prefer reserving in advance then being disappointed.
  • In France, many restaurants are not open all day. They have opening hours for lunch and for dinner: usually from 12 pm till 1.30/2 pm and from 7 pm to 9.30, 10pm. Check the timings out beforehand. If you are after all day serving food, then “brasseries” will respond your needs.
  • It is worth checking out local events as well, as they could propose activities (hiking, exhibition…) that interest you. Bordeaux and the region always have events big or local going on.

This year, there will be the renowned Bordeaux Wine Festival that takes place every two years in the city. Wine professionals welcome you for 5 days for tastings and activities on the banks (2 kms) by the river. 80 appellations from the South West of France which gives you the opportunity to taste many different wines. It is very popular. There are evening shows, fireworks, beautiful sail ships… The whole city celebrates wines.

 

For further information:

Bordeaux Wine Festival

 


 

 

What I love to do

Diverses - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

 

Here is a list of some of the activities I love to do in the region:

 

In Bordeaux

  • Go up the bell tower next to the Basilica Saint-Michel, the view is unforgettable
  • Taking the river boat to cross the river and admire the XVIIIe century buildings by the bank
  • Go, dine and listen to music at “Chez Alriq” near Darwin, there is an outdoor restaurant located by the river. It is very casual and easy-going. Perfect for friends, families, couples

 

Around Bordeaux

  • Take my bike on the Roger Lapébie bike path and go to the country side, enjoy the historical heritage of small villages I cross.
  • Go the vineyards of Fronsac and take a hike
  • Go and visit Blaye and its citadel. Take the road between Blaye and Bourg which follow the esturary. The view is striking. There are houses on one side of the road and their respective garden on the other side by the water.
  • Go way up north to Jau Dignac et Loirac, visit the lighthouse and take a stroll admiring the typical fishermen’s house and their square fish net.
  • Go and take a swim at “le Porge” beach which is untouched and family friendly
  • Stand paddle in the lake of Hourtin, about 18 kms long
  • Enjoy a picnic in one of the small harbour of the Médoc such as “le port d’Issan”
  • Visit the natural park “le Teich”, birdwatch
  • Canoeing on the Leyre delta nicknamed the little Amazonia.

 

About the Author

fleur 1 - Bordeaux in 4 days (by a local traveller)

When I was 18 years old, I moved to London to work on my English. I thought I’d stay 2 years… I ended up living there over 10. I studied travel and tourism management and specialized in ecotourism.

After I obtained my BA, I came back to France, I was eager to live in the Gironde region because this is where my roots are.

 

In Bordeaux, I quickly found a job in the wine tourism sector. What a beautiful niche to work in! I am such an epicurean at heart. I fell in love with a job where you get to share and discover your region. I created and organised trips for amateurs or wine professionals.

 

I was lucky to participate in the Wine and Spirit Education trust course. Today, I am studying for level 3.

There is a lot to cover! Every single vineyards in the world and many tastings!

 

I now focus on slowtourism or slow travel: discovering places without rushing, seizing the environment, nature, the local life, wines…

 

I want to share ideas about walks and inspire you to practice slowtourism.

I want to create connections between people and a community of epicureans who love local life, wines, nature and taking it slow on travels…

 

***

Visit Fleur’s blog (English version here) to find out more about Bordeaux or just ask us to tailor a customised tour for you here

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Everest Base Camp Trekking

The Everest Base Camp Trekking itinerary is kindly provided by Home of Treks & Extreme Expedition – our partner for extreme vacations and peak climbing in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India 🙂

You can book any of their holiday packages via our Customised Tours page and get a 5% Haveneverbeenthere fan discount from us!

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Everest Base Camp Trekking is one of the most popular trekking destinations among the trekkers who would opt for an incredible trekking experience while enjoying its natural splendor. Trek to Everest Base Camp is one the most renowned trekking trail in the world. Four of the world’s six tallest peaks namely Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Makalu and Mt. Cho Oyu are situated in this beautiful region. Everest Base Camp Trek is popular amongst the trekkers since the first trekking endeavor in the year 1953, that was when Sir. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first triumphed over the highest peak of Mount Everest. The Everest Base Camp Trekking trail is luring the increasing number of expeditors who are seeking to enjoy the unique blend of both adventure and cultural / natural sightseeing.

The trail also encounters you with courageous and hospitable locals. The amiable traditions and unique cultures of Sherpa people who are always eager to welcome you with their arms wide open. Sherpa’s are yet another interesting part of the Everest Base Camp Trek. Trekking through the Everest region takes you to the world of Himalayan beauty where you get to witness the beautiful Himalayas, wonderful Sherpa culture and exquisite traditions of the people living in the Himalayas. The trek further enhances your adventure while sightseeing in Sagarmatha National Park which is a habitat for different varieties of floras and faunas. The region is also embellished with ancient Buddhist monasteries, beautiful glaciers, rivers and most of all the breathtaking beauty of the Himalayan range.

 

Highlights of Everest Base Camp Trek

• Sightseeing tour to various historical/natural/cultural world heritage sites in Kathmandu
• Step inside and experience the lifestyle and traditions of people living in the Himalayas (esp. Sherpa)
• Trekking in Sagarmatha National Park (Listed in UNESCO world heritage natural site)
• Discover numerous Buddhist monasteries and other cultural monuments.
• Visit to Sir Edmund Hillary memorials (Sir Edmund Hillary School in Khumjung and Sir Edmund Hillary Hospital in Khunde Valley)
• Explore Everest Base Camp and a decent walk on the Khumbu Glacier.
• Ascend Kala Patthar, a rockey hill at the height of 5550m for the view of Mt. Everest (8848m), Mt. Lhotse (8516m), Mt. Cho Oyu (8201m), Mt. Thamserku (6623m), Mt. Nuptse (7816m) etc.

 

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Trip Facts:

Grade: Challenging

Trekking Duration: 4 to 6 hours daily.

Start point: Kathmandu.

End Point: Kathmandu.

Lowest altitude: 1300 meters.

Highest Altitude: 5550 meters.

Modes Of Transport: Private Car, Jeep, Van and Domestic Flight;

Accommodation: Hotels in city and Guest Houses during trekking.

 

 

Itinerary For The Standard Route:

 

Day 01:  Arrival

Day 02: Trek Preparation and rest day

Day 03: Fly to Lukla, Trek to Phakding

Day 04: Trek to Namche

Day 05: Acclimatization and rest in Namche

Day 06: Trek to Diuche

Day 07: Trek to Dingboche

Day 08: Trek to Lobuche

Day 09: Trek to Gorakshep, Explore Base camp

Day 10:  Explore Kala patthar, Trek back to pangbuche

Day 11: Trek to Namche

Day 12: Trek to Lukla

Day 13: Fly to KTM

Day 14: Departure or End of this Package.

 

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This article is kindly provided by Home of Treks & Extreme Expedition – our partner for extreme vacations and peak climbing in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India 🙂

You can book any of their tour packages via our Customised Tours page or just filling in the form below and get a 5% Haveneverbeenthere fan discount on the tour price!

 

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Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in Finland

It’s been a while since I planned to start exploring the North, and finally it happened, after I found a very valid reason to dare visiting one of the coldest parts of Earth in January, dedicate time & money for planning and execution 🙂 Guess what was the reason for all this buzz? A birthday of a Very Important Person! Have you ever impressed someone with a trip gift? If you did please share your experience, if not maybe we can plan it together?

I was always dreaming to be surprised by someone packing my suitcase, buying the tickets and planning the adventures, and then kidnapping me to the airport. Well, so far it never happened (so I have to be my own Santa), but at least I’m getting the excitement when planning these birthdays for others, and wish there were more occasions to impress with these purely emotional, and zero materialistic gifts! Is your birthday soon?

40120011711 df5142a7c5 z - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in Finland

 

 

Objective – See the Northern Lights. Destination – Rovaniemi Lapland. Duration – too short 🙂

I started by checking out all the airports in the Arctic Circle area, and researching about chances for Aurora. Well, you need 3 things for seeing it:

  • Clear sky
  • Dark nights
  • Solar activity

 

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Auroras occur from August to April, but there is no precise forecast to predict it well in advance, so you can book your flights and accommodation at a good rate 😉 The only thing we all do when coming to the North is relying on our good luck, because nights should be the darkest in winter, sky should be the clearest in case it’s cold (what can be colder than January), and the solar activity – … well, this is the ‘hope for the best’ part of planning.

 

I was choosing between Norway and Finland, and somehow comparing the beauty of accommodation types (because the other parameters are more or less the same), I ended up with the Finnish Lapland, more specifically with Rovaniemi. And neither I, nor the VIP birthday guest, were disappointed, even though we couldn’t see the Aurora.

This brings back to my mind another important thing to share with you: Auroras are pure luck (do your best and hope for the best), but be sure to choose a place where you’ll get other attractions and activities to enjoy. You can stay in the middle of nowhere waiting for Aurora Borealis, but they may just not come, and you’ll be very depressed for spending your time passively waiting.

The North is much more than just the greenish-pinkish sky full of solar activity. It’s huskies, reindeers, cuisine, ice & snow (and ice hotels), endless safari ideas and just cozy wooden and warm houses where you feel yourself so Lappish that even start understanding their language while having the local TV on the background.

 

It’s been only 3 full days in Lapland, and almost 3 days on the road! But it was definitely worth it!

 

Day #1. Aurora hunt at the camp fire in Rovaniemi Lapland

 

I was very optimistic and was sure that the right hunt will take you to auroras, whatever the sky above your house is! Well, we arrived the night before and saw impressive snow-white forest along the dark road, and an equally white sky, predicting a lot more snow, but auroras above us 🙂

But the Aurora hunt was scheduled and we didn’t regret that joined!

 

So the idea of northern lights hunts is:

  • Experienced in Aurora locals take you to the most far from civilization places, where no city lights can disturb the darkness of the sky
  • They usually take you to approx. 3 different spots in order to find Aurora
  • Whether you see it or not, you’ll most probably end up with a camp fire, sausages, tea and coffee (Finnish people drink more coffee than any other nation in the world)

 

Well, the Aurora hunt I booked was smoother, less active, I wasn’t sure if my guest would like running around with a bus in order to see (and then maybe not see after all these) the Auroras. So I chose an aurora evening, with an ‘educational’ forest walk, a camp fire and sausages to wait for the northern lights well equipped 😉

 

It looked the following way:

  • There were a few pick up points in the most popular places – the Santa Claus Village (close to the airport) or the Santa Claus Hotel in the centre of Rovaniemi.
  • Once we were on board of the mini bus with the rest of the group (another 4 people, generally their tours are open to public, but you can request a private activity) we headed towards the cottage of Happy Fox, put on extra overalls on top of our owns, got some rhubarb candies and went out to the wild 🙂
  • We started from making the camp fire (or actually our guide did) and then entered the forest and started my favourite walk – deep snow, fire trees, and silence of a night in a forest
  • The rest of the activity until midnight we spent at the camp fire speaking about life in Lapland, the nature, the legends, and of course enjoying the slightly burnt on fire sausages and Karelian pie

 

IMG 1763 1 454x605 - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in FinlandIMG 1782 1 - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in FinlandIMG 1789 1 - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in FinlandIMG 1810 454x605 - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in FinlandIMG 1807 1 454x605 - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in Finland

Let me come back a bit to the forest part. It is really a-mazing! You see so many of footprints on the snow, it’s so hard to believe that this quiet, sleeping forest can be as lively as Turkish bazar. Then you’ll see how fire trees got used to the Lappish conditions – because of tons of snow on their branches, they don’t grow high and wide. Fire trees of the same age but growing in southern Finland can be twice higher, and much more wider in branches.

 

Our guides showed us huge anthills, can you imagine that the first thing the Polar bear does after waking up in spring, is taking a handful of the anthill, for ants being a great source of pure protein for a bear!

 

Then we walked down to the frozen river where in summer they have a sauna floating on water, do boat trips, fishing, next to the river have berry safaris and even gold panning (the soil here is famous to be full of gold).

 

We enjoyed the night a lot, and kept many memories for us. For not seeing the auroras we were rewarded by meeting a wild reindeer next to the road, who was digging in the snow to get some roots for dinner. Actually this is not a surprise for locals, since next to the road is always the forest, so reindeers, bears, squirrels, elves and other residents 🙂

 

IMG 1822 e1518546185796 - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in Finland

 

Talking about the organizer – you can’t believe how many offers of Aurora hunts there are in the web! And most of my time was spent on comparing the offered services vs prices, and then the communication with the organizing company. That’s how I chose Happy Fox 🙂 Weird name? Not at all!

 

The legend says that the Auroras are caused by a magical fire fox Tulikko running so fast, that once it’s feet touch the snow, it sends sparkles to the sky. The aurora itself is called ‘Fox Fire’ in Finnish (‘Revontulet’). And let’s be honest the company got a point from me for naming themselves after the Fire Fox, sounds so good!

 

Kristina and Mika were very responsive (believe me or not, but I still have those never answered emails, when booking an activity).  I clarified everything via email, and could pay online by card. To compare, there was a company asking to pay by transfer – why would anyone ever make an international transfer when there are others offering the same but with 0% commission paying by card or paypal? And I get really angry when such small companies which should fight for every client, don’t fight for their chance by starting a paypal account…

 

But that’s another story, the main point is that I was very happy with the choice and we even promised the hosts to come back in spring when the ice breaks on rivers 🙂

 

IMG 1729 - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in Finland

 

Turning back from night to day – since the activity started in the evening (9 pm), we had time to do some self-discoveries and visited the Santa Claus Village. And there are a few important things for you to know before going there:

 

  • Don’t stay in Santa Claus Village – it might seem as the best and most authentic place when visiting their website, but in fact they offer some very small wooden cottages or tree houses located just next to each other, so you’ll have zero privacy for enjoying the nature.
  • It’s a very crowded place and just next to the road, you won’t have a quiet night here.
  • It’s enough for coming for a few hours for seeing Santa (actually in the area there are 3 of them – 2 in the village and 1 in the Santa Claus Park)
  • Be careful entering the shops with your children – every little toy starts at minimum of 20 EUR, and if your children are a bit like me, they’ll want many, many toys from there
  • Reindeer and husky safaris in Santa Claus Village – if you are tight on time and budget you may do these here. But! A 20 min husky safari will cost you 40 EUR (hope I remember the figures right), and you’ll ride around people, cars, tourists etc. On the other hand, you can pay 125 EUR, ride 2 hours in a wild forest, disconnect from civilization and just wow to the view every single second. And you’ll ride your own sleigh on your own, all the 2 hours! But I’ll let you know more details on Day #3 🙂

 

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Don’t get it wrong – go to the Santa Claus Village, once you are in Rovaniemi, but don’t choose it as your base point for accommodation and activities. The authentic Lapland is so close, just a few kilometers away, so why would you waste your chance exploring it?

 

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Day #2 Overnight stay in the Arctic Snow Hotel and ice fishing in Lapland

 

I saw many times hotels made of ice and snow on TV, and never ever considered it as an option for me to stay. In fact, before the trip to Lapland, I realized that it would be a loss not to try out! When and where else if not here and now 😉

 

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The Arctic Snow Hotel is impressive just by understanding that it melts every year, and then gets constructed again by December. Everything is made of either ice, or snow, even the bar & restaurants inside. By the way, none of these works full day – the bar opens from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, and then around 10:30 to 11:30, the restaurants – only for dinner, and by prior reservation. There is no human being ready to stay there in ice all day long.

 

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The bed in your room is made of ice, then covered with reindeer hide, there is a small ‘coffee table’ made of ice, 2 plugs for your freezing phones, and a curtain instead of a door covering the entrance to a standard double room. The cost was 220 EUR/night

 

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Then there are suites – more spacious, with carvings on walls, larger beds. These are 350 EUR. Besides that you can find a family room, a triple, or even larger one.

 

So how was it?

A-mazing!

  • Check in starts at 3 pm, at that time or approx. every hour the hotel arranges a tour for all the arrived guests. This is when they’ll show you the facilities of the hotel – your room, the lockers, restaurants & bar, the eateries outside the hotel (not made of ice), ice sauna and standard Finnish sauna.
  • The building with the reception – is the place for breakfast next morning, and there is a room which is open all night long in case you are cold in your ice hotel (but that room was already cold at midnight, since they turned off the heating when closed the reception)
  • How to survive in an ice hotel? The locker room in the hotel has lockers for your personal belongings (we didn’t use it), sleeping bags and liners from fleece, and beds where you can sleep in warm if you are too cold in your ice room. The lockers is in something like a truck connected to the hotel, but not made of ice, so it has heating.

During the tour you’ll get an instruction on how to wrap yourself up at night, but I didn’t like it, because it wasn’t clear and the English of our guide wasn’t the best.

 

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So here you go! How to survive a night in a snow hotel:

#1 Don’t go for the sleeping bag and put yourself in bed unless you are sure to fall asleep within the next half an hour – your room in the ice hotel is not a place where you just lay down to relax on your bed!

#2 Once you’re sure, take your sleeping bag and the liner from lockers, but don’t get undressed there (recommended to undress by the guide). Your room might be at the other end of the hotel, and you don’t want to waste your body warmth on the way.

#3 Take of your jacket, trousers, sweaters, shoes – and stay in your thermal underwear (if you don’t have one, stay in sweater and tights). Put your cloths to the sleeping bag’s bottom, for warming up you, and having the cloths warm in the morning.

#4 Put on a pair of woolen socks, keep your hat on.

#5 Put your liner inside the sleeping bag, and then crawl into it. Keep the reindeer hides under the sleeping bag.

#6 Pull up the zippers, tighten the top part of the sleeping bag around your head.

 

 

That’s it! This way you won’t be cold, even on the contrary. If you are from a very southern place, and your nose gets cold at night (nose and eyes are the only things uncovered), try to use a knitted scarf, to cover your face. It will let the air circulate but keeps your breathing warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waking up in the snow hotel

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By default the guides will wake you up at 7:30, you can change this time to anything until 10 am – that’s the check-out time.  And can you believe, when the guides asked if anyone wants other time than 7:30, no one was against this early hour. And in the morning many of them even woke up before this hour!

 

Who knows maybe I was the only one sleeping sweet and deep in an ice hotel? I generally sleep very well in places with fresh, cool air 😉

 

Important to know: there is no reason to stay more than 1 night in the snow hotel, unless you are an Eskimo. Even the hotel recommends it for an overnight stay only.

 

 

Besides that, if you don’t want to stay in the ice hotel, but want to see it and take photos – please, you are more than welcome! Just park your car and walk in the ice hotel – the door is open, there is no receptionist to check if you have a room or not. Finland is a very very safe country and no one would ever had an idea that it might be dangerous. I received the key to my locker and went to check it out, however on my way I got too excited by the rooms having no doors, being empty and very welcoming, so I never arrived to the locker room, but kept taking photos of their various bedrooms.

But tsssss! It wasn’t me planting this idea in your mind, okay?

 

 

 

Other accommodation offered by the Snow Hotel:

40167692652 8fde45e0d0 z 1 - Rovaniemi Lapland. Winter in FinlandThe also offer the famous glass igloos, which are obviously made of glass, to facilitate the Aurora observation. I really wanted to stay here, but the price was painful – 600 EUR/night! But when I saw them live, I actually didn’t regret and realized how happier is the stay in our Airbnb house

Actually only the roof is made of ice, there are plenty of igloos and all very close to each other, and they are small, tiny. It’s not like a house or hotel room where you feel comfortable to spend time during the day, not only once asleep.

 

Besides that, the biggest disappointment would be to book a stay in glass igloo for all 5 nights, so 3000 EUR, and see zero auroras just because the sky is cloudy)) Remember the northern lights are pure luck!

 

 

Ice fishing in Lapland

As I mentioned above, there are different activities in the ice hotel area. One of them is ice fishing – thanks to the huge frozen lake just next to the hotel, you don’t have to walk a lot. If you always wanted to try it out – do it! But keep in mind that if it’s just cold outside, it will be extremely cold on the lake, and not only cold, but very windy.

Whatever your overalls are, you won’t stay there more than 20 min, unless ice fishing was your one and only dream since childhood. The chances to catch a fish in January, in the evening are low, very low. The morning session is more promising, but even if you succeed, don’t forget that the rule is to let the fish go afterwards (live).

 

I joined an evening session just to take photos and videos, but didn’t resist even for 5 minutes.

By the way, I told nothing so far about food? Did we eat these days and what? Restaurants are not so much spread around the Lappish forests 😀 Find out about what to eat in Lapland here

 

Day #3 Husky park in Rovaniemi. The best creatures in Lapland

 

There are so many things to do in Lapland, that till the end I couldn’t decide what will we do on our last day. Reindeers and huskies won as the most authentic creatures in the Lappish forest. Just as most of you I thought that 2 hours ride is too much – how can you stay outdoors that long if it’s anything in between 0 and -25 C ? But since the only short (touristic) rides were provided by the Santa village, and didn’t require prior reservation, I didn’t book anything and hoped for the best.

 

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On the other hand, I never stop researching, even when all is planned, there is always a chance to find something omitted before. That’s how it was with huskies!

Raitola – is perhaps the best husky and reindeer park in Rovaniemi. It looks just as good as anything seen by me in the area. And since it was just 3-4 min further than the Santa village, we didn’t mind checking out.

First you’ll see the reindeer part – a cottage and lots of reindeers behind the wooden fence, relaxing and laying on the snow (I could never believe that these creatures are okay with sleeping directly on the snow!). Then if you continue to the next wooden cottage you’ll see a huge dog area with many dog houses, puppies and adult huskies. Don’t worry, it’s not a zoo or circus – the animals here are very happy, healthy and perfectly taken care of.

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Now what to choose if you have no time for both (we were sure we’ll do both, but huskies were in priority). Huskies are more fun, they are very active, lively, sometimes unpredictable, and you’ll ride your sleigh on your own. Reindeers are for slower walks, and the only thing you’ll do is sitting in the sleigh covered with reindeer hides (although they raise their speed at the end of the ride once close to home).

So we entered the building belonging to the husky part and asked if we can have a husky ride. The girl we asked passed us to her colleague, who came and said that we should go upstairs for the overalls to put on top of our cloths, as well as shoes, jackets, gloves, and even goggles.

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After dressing up as much as possible, we went to wait outside and one of the Raitola guides asked if we are the part of the group coming for the 2-h safari. We said we are not, but we’d like to join. The answer sounded like ‘anyways it will be the 2-h safari’.

 

Trying to avoid the long safari, indeed we ended up there waiting for the other part of our group 😀 and no one didn’t even told us the price (of course I checked while waiting).

 

When the group arrived, I was sure they are all professional skiers from Switzerland)) They looked athletic and very accustomed to cold temperatures, and to be honest this made me afraid – what will I do if get cold during the ride in the middle of the forest, 20 people won’t turn back because of me!

 

It became even worse when the guide started explaining how to ride the sleigh – the explanation how to break, keep distance between the sleigh and dogs, that if you hit the huskies by chance with the sleigh they might refuse continuing, it all sounded so serious, that me, with my navigation skills, is not someone suitable to control these very smart dogs.

But what to do? Once there, there is no way back. And guess what? They put us into the first sleigh, leading the group (and all those ‘Swiss skiers’ stayed behind!).

 

 

Each sleigh had 6 huskies, and let me tell you a bit about their hierarchy:

 

  • The hardest physically job is done by the dogs closest to the sleigh, they are actually the ones carrying you
  • The hardest psychologically done by the two dogs in front – they have to deal with the feeling that all other dogs behind are chasing them. These dogs are leading the others, they are barking before the start to spread the word to the ones behind to prepare for the run. If they stop, all the group will do the same.
  • During our ride the guide changed the leading dogs in our sleigh, because the husky who was leading it in the beginning, didn’t feel like doing it that day (by the way, the guides are very strict with the dogs, but as soon as a dog performs well, you see how much the guide loves the huskies, and paying back for the good job by petting and saying many encouraging words in Finnish))
  • There are two guides during the safari – one in front, one in the back, both on snowmobiles.

 

During the 2 hour ride you have a stop in the middle of the safari for photos – the guide will take photos of you then, and you can change with your partner from ‘passenger’ to ‘driver’, if you want. Generally, it’s 1 h of sitting in the sleigh and being a passenger (and photographer of all the surroundings!), and 1 h of riding and encouraging the dogs to run (maybe they don’t pay attention to you too much, but if you shout, you feel like contributing to their speed).

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…and you can clearly see the dogs’ diverse personalities!

 

There are no words to describe how impressive was the snow-white forest, the communication with huskies, the excitement you get when the dogs from the sleigh behind start getting closer and try overcoming you)) I’m very thankful for the destiny to bring us here to Raitola in the correct time, just before their scheduled safari was about to start, and extremely happy that it was 2 hours, not half an hour or so.

I would definitely recommend to make reservations (relying on luck doesn’t work 24/7), and choose either a 2 hour, or not less than 1 hour rides.

Our guide made a Q&A session after the safari and brought a husky puppy inside the cottage to socialize. During this session I really learned some amazing things:

 

  • The Alaskan huskies have very different appearance. The reason is that during the Klondike Gold Rush people needed lots of dogs for transportation, so all the foreigners arriving to America from Europe were pairing their dogs with the local ones. They didn’t care about appearance, but payed a lot of attention to selecting the huskies by physical capabilities, resistance and friendly attitude towards people. That’s why all the huskies you’ll meet in Raitola look different.
  • Huskies consume 9000 calories a day! And all this comes from very specialized food for working dogs, which is protein and fat full.
  • Huskies run around 50 km a day (our safari was around 17 km, and some of them already worked in the morning ride, and will do a night ride as well), and 3000 km per season.
  • These dogs have the longest holiday ever – 4 months. They don’t train, just socialize and enjoy the mild summer weather. Huskies start training in autumn to get back in shape.
  • The puppies spend the first year of their life just socializing, because being human friendly is a very important part of their CVs.
  • All the dogs are born outdoors and sleep outdoors in their dog houses, they don’t feel comfortable inside the cottage.

 

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So what happened to the reindeers? Well, after the first safari we were exhausted and it was already dark. And although there was a night reindeer ride, we felt like it would be something extra.

It was the third day of our activities in Rovaniemi, and what remained was dinner and packing suitcases (for 3 days we took a checked in and a cabin bag, that much of ‘wrapping’ you need).

 

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Talking about the dinner – the house I rented on Airbnb was not only well done till the last detail, not only smart, but also very authentic, made in a traditional Finnish style, but as a bonus had a private sauna inside and a separate cabin with a grill! So guess what was the dinner during all the stay here?

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French Riviera and Provence

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I’ve been to French Riviera and Provence in the past. For me it seems like it was during a completely different life, in fact, it couldn’t be more than 4 years ago. Me wasn’t me, the one I know today. I had no idea about how to plan holidays, how to do research, I only knew (thanks to Coco Chanel’s biography) that there is a magical town in the hills above Cote d’Azur. It’s called Grasse (amongst other melodious French town names, not the most attractive one, isn’t it?), and that’s the place where Chanel №5 was created by Ernest Beaux. That’s where the capital of world perfumery is located, since the town has the best natural resources for scent creation.

 

That’s why after landing in Grenoble, and spending there a short day, I was absolutely sure that I want to visit Grasse 🙂 Do you have these insane moments when a tiny, needle sized detail makes you sure that there is a place where you should be. And there is no other option rather than accomplishing.

 

 

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Those years I had no clue about ‘activities’, I didn’t know about workshops around, cool local places, authentic things to do. What I knew is that I can create my own perfume in one of the perfumery factories in Grasse. Which I did and that’s how my ‘Liberté’ was born in Galimard – a perfumery founded by Jean de Galimard Lord of Seranon, who supplied King Luis with essential oils and perfumes.

 

I’m still getting excited remembering Grasse. So I’m planning to repeat my journey to the most beautiful part of Europe – French Riviera. But this time I’ll use all the knowledge gained in lots of previous trips – I’ll cover both mountains and sea, I’ll spend time on local agriculture, but won’t forget about fancy yacht trips, I’ll see the lavender fields in bloom, but I also exctract lavender oil in a small distillery, I’ll go cooking to Nice and visit a 2000 ha lake, maybe I’ll join a painting class in Luberon, but at the end, I’m sure you’ll find me wine-tasting in Chateau Sainte Roseline…

 

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Would you like to join me? At the moment I’m just looking for attractive plane tickets for July/August 2018 🙂

 

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⇒ If you wish to plan your trip on your own – use the menu on the top right corner or just below in the Read More section. You’ll find out about ALL the possible activities in the region, then some authentic places to stay and eat, and also information about Nice Airport.

 

⇒ If you want me to tailor you a Provencal trip which will suit your personality, occassion, mood and purpose of travelling, then leave your note at Customised Tours page. I”ll reply you almost immediately 🙂

 

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Amsterdam, Holland


It’s been a while since my trip to Amsterdam. However, I still remember the conclusion I made during that short city-break. I finally ound a city where I’d happily stay for a while, get settled for some 5 years maybe =)

Since I don’t remember my exact itinerary, and I did it much before I had an idea of creating this website and getting into a partnership with Tavsan Surat, I will just go through the ‘Amsterdam’ folder in my photo library and tell a few words to you about the best places I went to.

Let’s start from a fast sightseeing ⇓⇓⇓

 

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W Hotel Amsterdam

 

What can I say? I was lucky to stay in this 5* hotel listed in 10 best boutique hotels of Amsterdam

It’s spilt across two buildings – a former telephone exchange building and a bank. So are they called – Exchange and Bank.

I stayed in W Bank, and imagine, in my 3 days in Amsterdam, I managed to stay in 2 completely different rooms within the W Hotel 🙂

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window view from my room =))

Room #1 – it was either the Fabulous Canal Bank or the Wonderful Canal Bank:

  • A room from 24 to 40 sq.m.
  • Perfectly constructed, I didn’t feel lack of space at all
  • With a round bath tube =))

I loved it, it was the best example of a smart hotel where everything is well thought out, compact, designed with a taste.

Amsterdam 3 - Amsterdam, Holland
oh, i’m still missing that breakfast, especially the raw choco shake…

However, as Platinum SPG guests we were supposed to get the best room they had available (and the hotel got a red card for not providing it to us from the 1st night!), so on the next day we relocated to:

Room #2 – Marvelous Suite Bank

  • A 2-floor suite
  • Living room area + bedroom upstairs
  • We had a gramophone, vinyl records, retro radio, TV, a bar stand, two toilets etc.

It was considered a luxury suite, but I was so disappointed by it. It wasn’t designed that smart – the stairs were very uncomfortable to use, each of them was too high. Perhaps you can use them comfortably only having long Dutch legs))

The duplex had a shower, not the romantic round bath tube like the ‘small room’. And imagine, the first night I was so exhausted that I didn’t use my wonderful bath tube. And on the 2nd, I didn’t have it anymore… 🙁

 

So I would definitely recommend the rooms, against the duplex suite.  Checking out the other rooms in W Bank, I would pay attention to Fantastic Bank, with a terrace and jacuzzi, a WOW Suite Bank, with a round bath tube, or an almost 200 sq. m. Extreme WOW Suite, in case you want the most expensive room they have – from 2400 EUR 😀

We stayed in W Amsterdam as SPG members, but if you are not limited by SPG choice, have a look at the Hotels in Amsterdam. Boutique and budget stays page. I list some authentic accommodation options there.

 

 

Walking along the canals

 

It was more of a relaxing trip, I can even say romantic. The type of trip you’d prefer to get red roses & champagne, not chasing activities.

Amsterdam 4 - Amsterdam, Holland

 

 

So in alco-flower-free time I just recommend some walks along the canals, I didn’t use any maps, guides, I don’t know anything about the buildings on the photos. For me it was just absolutely beautiful, which doesn’t require any information behind it.

 

 

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The Amsterdam Tulip Museum

 

Accidentally I found myself in front of the Tulip Museum. Of course I entered, bought a ticket, and went through the whole thing. After which I can clearly state that it’s a waste of money and time. You’ll see a couple of films about the history of tulip business, some photos on the walls, and basically that’s it. The admission fee is 5 EUR/adults.

 

 

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Well, I found out that tulips came to the Dutch from Ottomans. But I’m sure that most of you already know it, and if not – you can read about it on the web))

 

 

 

 

 

Heinen Delftware & The Royal Delft Experience Amsterdam

 

Located in the very centre, at KalverStraat crosswalk. It’s a shop of the famous Delft pottery and next doors – the Delft Experience Tour. Unluckily during my stay in Amsterdam the experience tour wasn’t running due to restoration works in the building. So I had access only to the shop, where I was happy to spend both time, and money 😉

 

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The Heinen Delftware shop is a great place:

  • To see how it’s done – on the 1st floor you’ll find an artist handpainting pottery
  • To buy souvenirs – anything from 2 EUR till thousands of euros worth items
  • To give your eyes a while of rest – it’s really peaceful to be surrounded by white-blue pottery, even when the shop is full of customers

 

 

Restaurant De Kas

 

It’s definitely a great place, although I have some mixed feelings here:

 

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  • De Kas is a restaurant with greenhouses & garden just on the premises of the restaurant
  • The founder is taking care of the nursery and you can meet him every day while he’s taking care of the vegetables
  • It worth reading the short history of the restaurant, saying how the owner, a top chef, converted an old municipal greenhouse (which was about to be demolished) into a successful restaurant with a revolutionary concept.
  • De Kas serves only organic food, produced either by themselves, or by partner-farmers in Amsterdam area
  • The only disadvantage, for me personally, is the too sophisticated dishes. Well, you might be a fan of them, if you are used to this very organic cuisine, but as for me, it was too much of onions, celery, carrots and whatever else under sometimes weird seasoning 🙂
  • The interior is a WOW-WOW for me!
  • The menu is daily, so you can’t choose specific dishes, only have to decide whether you want a 3 or 4 course lunch menu, and the dinner is always 5 dishes.
  • You can book a table directly in the kitchen and be in the middle of the ongoing masterpiece creation!

 

So as you see, I only have concerns about the cuisine itself, but I know many people who’d say they’d love to eat this kind of food daily.

 

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The restaurant is located outside the city centre, surrounded by private gardens with little summer houses (just for a person, or two), happy Dutch ducks are walking around. Don’t forget to book a table well in advance, we could get one only for lunch, not for dinner.

 

 

Zaanse Schans

 

A typical Dutch village with goats, milk, cheese, windmills and within a 20-min drive from Amsterdam!

 

Be prepared to find many reviews saying that it’s too touristy, and not authentic, and whatever else people in wrong mood might say. In fact, it’s me always looking for non touristy places, zero crowd space and air to breathe. So if I loved Zaanse Schans, I’m sure most of you will.

 

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Things to do & see in Zaanse Schans:

 

  • Clog workshop – see how the traditional Dutch clogs are made, take some clogs with you home, to get your neighbors downstairs relocate =)
  • Cheese workshop – any comments? Watch & learn how the creamy Dutch cheese is prepared (you can also buy plush toys, like goats, in the workshop)
  • Goat & poultry farm – that’s a great fun for kids (and never grown ups like me). Here you can pet, film & feed the animals, they are extremely friends and safe, especially if you give them some food – can be purchased in the farm, for 50 cents, as far as I remember.
  • CacaoLab – a shop with fine chocolate selection from the most ‘choco-countries’, handmade choco bonbons and a chocolate making workshops upstairs, above the shop.
  • Ice-cream – regardless of the weather and time of year, try the best milky ice-cream ever at Zaanse Schans. It’s sold from a caravan, you’ll find it just before turning to the farm.
  • Windmills – various museums and workshops are located inside the windmills, like spice warehouse, oil, paint, cocoa etc.
  • Other workshops & museums – by the time I got to Zaanse, it was almost 5 pm, exactly when the majority of shops & workshops close in the village. Hopefully you’ll get there earlier and manage to visit much more. A great guideline can be found on the official page of Zaanse Schans

 

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The Smallest House in Amsterdam

 

2,02 m wide and 5 m deep, and in fact it has 3 floors where you can find a tea shop and a private tearoom.  We entered the house without knowing that it’s something special, and all we wanted was breakfast. Only after we actually started to have it, step by step, we found out that it’s the smallest house in Amsterdam, dates back to 18th century, or even earlier, you can book the tearoom for breakfast, brunch, lunch or just tea. The room can fit 5 guests.

 

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The Smallest House is a very memorable place hidden in the centre of Amsterdam, and a real must visit, in my opinion!

 

 

Floating Flower Market – Bloemenmarkt

 

Don’t expect it to float =) You can’t feel that unfortunately, since it’s a very stable construction above the Singel canal. However it’s the brightest place in Amsterdam, and a high danger for shopaholics – even if you are not crazy about flowers normally, you’ll get addicted to them here. Some recommendations:

  • I bought a lot of ‘canned flowers’ – you get a tin can with soil and seed(s) to plant back home. I’m not a pro gardener, but there was no plant grown out of those sets ? and I bought around 10 cans))
  • On the other hand simply packed seeds in paper bags were a good investment – I had great cherries & basil on my balcony this summer

 

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Besides that, there are many souvenirs (nice & ugly), so it’s another good place for presents from Amsterdam.

 

 

Old Amsterdam – cheese & wine pairing

 

The very strong flavoured Old Amsterdam cheese is not only a perfect match for a dinner, but also an educational experience in the Dutch capital. During the cheese & wine pairing (you taste 5 cheeses & 3 wines) we learned about the production process of their signature cheese, found out that there is no precise duration of the maturing process (the company’s cheese experts are trying the cheese in aging rooms and give the green light if they taste done), why goat cheese is suitable for lactose intolerant people, and a lot of other things.

 

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After the tasting we had a quiz, and guess who won =)

 

Old Amsterdam has 3 shops in the capital and 3 cheese tasting rooms respectively.

 

 

De Hallen

The best place in Amsterdam for a morning, day and even night out, loved by locals & pro-travellers 😉 And I was so excited, that I didn’t take too many photos, sorry… So photos bellow are credited to: renthouse.nl; citybussexpress.com; asthebirdfliesblog.com; foodhallen.nl; olivemagazine.com; topazandsapphire.com

 

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De Hallen is a food, media, culture, crafts centre located in an old tram depot in the Amsterdam West district.

 

Let me start from FoodHallen – it’s divided in 2 major parts. First with plenty of different restaurants and open space eating table all around (in fact, it’s extremely crowded during dinner time, so come in advance!).

 

The second part is Kanarie Club. It’s less crowded here, but more expensive, and you’ll need a reservation to get a table. Besides the dining area, they have a wine-bar & a pool-bar.

 

Both parts of FoodHallen have DJ nights and special events announced at their web-sites. Additionally, let me mention that the place is great not only for nighty hunger, but also for breakfast, brunch, lunch and any kind of bites.

 

Even though FoodHallen is far from the centre, crowded, requires reservation (in case of Kanarie Club), it’s a must visit in order to feel the impulsive temperament of the city. Amsterdam is here, not in the red lights or cannabis.

 

 

Coming back to other directions of De Hallen centre. Let’s go through some of their ‘tenants’:

  • Kinki Academy – an arty place to get a haircut or learn hairdressing
  • AmsterGem – hand-made jewelry. They also offer a 3h workshop here
  • Filmhallen – a movie theatre with 9 screening rooms
  • Jean School – the world’s first full time denim developer school, exactly: sewing, fitting, washing, designing. The students graduate with a Level 3 diploma in Art & Design
  • House of Denim – in collaboration with the Jean School, the House of Denim hosts denim workshops, mainly focused on recycling & re-using denim
  • The full list of tenants can be found here

 

Accommodation in De Hallen

 

I don’t know if you did, but all the info above ensured me once again that De Hallen is a place to engage you for at least a whole day. But you don’t have to leave when the activities end. The old tram depot offers accommodation options as well:

 

 

Dinner on Boat

 

And let me finish this Amsterdam storytelling with a romantic note – a dinner cruise 🙂

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this cruise is something like – bar on the boat =) there are many different options you can choose from!

 

We booked the cruise through Viator, but since now I know the provider, as usually I would recommend to make a reservation directly. It was the Blue Boat canal cruise company and a great 3-course dinner, wine, a chef onboard, and some light, but not overwhelming commentaries from the captain when passing by a sightseeing spot. Magic two and a half hours, great memories and no photos 😉

 

01 amsterdam dinner cruise dinner on a boat compressor - Amsterdam, Holland
Photo by stromma.nl

 

Am I the only one not having in mind photos when being in the very best company and surroundings? 🙂

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things to do in Malta

Malta


Definitely Malta has its advantages, but let me admit, it’s not my favourite holiday destination. However, I don’t want to be negative – you’ll see my story below and understand, what went wrong. First of all, let’s start from the reasons why Malta is a great holiday place for you, my dear reader:

 

 

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  • If you are a diver – (and excuse me in advance, if I’m saying something stupid now – I’m not even a tiny bit of a diver 🙂 – Malta is a rocky island and the waters around it are deep. By the way, the biggest white shark was caught at Gozo! The ‘pre-African’ shelf is very rich of sea life, in fact, there is a possibility of encountering unexplored ordnance, especially in places like Filfla island, where fishing, because of this reason, was prohibited until 1990.

 

There are plenty of diving clubs offering their services to both beginners and advanced divers, the sea is crystal clear and the topography of the island is so various (you can dive wrecks, caves and tunnels, shallow reefs, drop offs and archways, which are unforgettable due to 20 – 40 meter visibility), that I’m sure there is a lot to explore!

 

 

 

  • If you are learning English – who doesn’t know that there are plenty of English schools & camps where regardless of your age you can combine learning & being on a beautiful holiday island. Malta is not only full of native English expats, at the same time I couldn’t find a Maltese person not speaking English. Therefore you can immerse in English environment without getting the UK weather 🙂
  • If you like been understood on holidays – Italy is great, but it’s so rare to find English-speaking Italians 🙂 This was my first holiday without a language barrier – each and every person I met spoke enough English to communicate. Perhaps, that’s why I had so many interesting conversations with the taxi drivers.
  • If you are a history addict – and especially WW II – I was surprised to find out that the biggest quantity of bombs during World War II where thrown on Malta (over 6000!). This lead to two outcomes: 1) there is a huge quantity of museums dedicated to weapon & WW II; 2) most of the island is destroyed, so don’t expect to walk too much along romantic medieval streets. True, there are places untouched by WW II, like Mdina, but the majority is new construction.

 

Well, that’s it, I guess. Additionally, you may find yourself in Malta because of your cruise stop, or by coming here on a wedding (it is a popular wedding celebration spot).

So in case you happened to be in Malta and you want to know what to do, where to go, what to see and what not, please be my guest 🙂

See my experience below or go directly to What to do in Malta page for the broadest selection of activities.

 

 

 

Day 1

 

I arrived to Malta almost midnight, so we skip the part of airport transportation – you can see it in How to get from the Luqa airport & Transport in Malta – my experience pages, and let’s  start from the early morning next day.

 

6:30 am – taxi from my apartment to Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is a fishermen village with an open market, which mainly sells great fish & seafood, and also other ‘useful’ household items ?

 

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It’s not worth spending there more than 1-2 hours – but it’s important that you come early morning 7-8 am to 10-11, after 12 the stalls become emptier, and the market will actually close by 2 pm!

 

I arrived early morning when the market was just waking up, and it was great since I could catch the best photo moment – sunrise. Those beautiful fishing boats called in Maltese ‘luzzu’ are worth coming, and the bay looks really cute. Every ‘luzzu’ has two Osiris eyes on it – painted or carved, it was brought here by Phoenicians.

 

Tavsan Surat loved taking selfies in the port ⇓

 

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As a breakfast spot  we recommend the Duncan restaurant just at the church in the centre.  They have pastizzi and serve tea in glass ? They open at 7-7:30 and that’s where I waited for the bright sunrise 🙂

 

After I walked around the village up and down, my taxi arrived and took me to Siggiewi.

 

 

9:00 am – taxi from Marsaxlokk to Malta Falconry Centre in Siggiewi

 

Yeesss! I was really looking forward to this experience. Imagine real falcons all around, you can keep them on your hand, feed or even fly!

 

The Malta Falconry Centre is more of a shelter, rather than a falconry centre where people would learn hunting with birds of prey. It’s a family run project, I can’t call it business, because their intentions don’t concern profit. Doreen – the owner, is like a mother to all their birds. In fact she’s feeding them in her kitchen from their first day of life, it’s not a surprise that these birds feel more like humans, not birds. However, we don’t forget about their instincts!

 

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The centre has a rule – they only keep birds which are grown up been surrounded by humans. They buy birds from people who are not satisfied with their breeding, hunting, appearance characteristics, or find owners which are not taking care of their pets, then Doreen buys them out. The centre also sells birds (some of them enjoy their new life so much, that they give birth quite often!), but only to people from the island, whom they know and can keep an eye on the future of the sold birds.

 

Coming to a place like this and paying for admission or the experiences is more like a donation, supporting the great job the centre does by giving a second life to unwanted pets.

 

I booked a half-day experience which starts at 9:30 and finishes at 12:30. There is also a full-day experience which lasts until 14:30. During the experience you meet all the birds, hear about their ‘life stories’, than prepare them for the flight show which happens at 11:30. By preparing I mean mainly weighting – because birds fly only at a certain weight. Their weight influences their hunting need as well – birds hunt only if they get the ‘hunting weight’. So it happens the following way: the bird reached its flying weight, it flies, gets lighter and reaches the hunting weight.

 

That’s why in order to demonstrate birds flying during the show, it’s important to put them on the scale. And they never reach the hunting weight here in the centre – because we remember about their instincts. A bird with too low weight might fly away and look food on its own.

 

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All these we did with the centre’s falconer – Warren. He is a passionate professional of falconry and regularly joins world falconry expos, competitions and even huntings, as one of the best falconers of Malta.

 

By the end I was so touched by the destiny of these birds, their instincts, behaviour, that I even adopted one 🙂 Of course, only on paper! In the centre you have a possibility to adopt a bird for a year – it costs 50 EUR, and the money goes for the bird’s maintenance. As a reward (but actually knowing they are fed is the biggest reward, isn’t it?) you will get a framed certificate hanging on the wall at the centre’s reception, stating that you adopted a bird for a year. As well you’ll get a certificate by email, together with photos and the story of life of your bird.

 

 

Taxi from Siggiewi to Mdina

 

Now it was time for sightseeing. Everyone in the web says ‘You should definitely visit Mdina’, so even I was hooked.

 

Mdina is a typical medieval town; you can find a looooot like this around Europe. Without even brainstorming I can instantly suggest Girona and Bologna, for similar colour range, and then many more. So that wasn’t too exciting for me… Of course walking along narrow warm terracotta coloured streets is great (especially for instagram), but there are no real experiences to join. I mean there are some museums to visit – some noble houses where you can see how does a Maltese luxury look like, besides that a couple of nice restaurants and that’s it.

 

Being optimistic I planned to spend 2h in Mdina and 1h in Rabat. However, 2 hours for both sites is the most, in my opinion.

 

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So after walking around and taking all the possible photos, I went to a very recommended place. It comes out first if you search for Mdina, check tripadvisor or actually any other travel advisory.

 

‘When in Mdina you should definitely go to Fontanella tea garden. Their view is astonishing and cakes are just a masterpiece’. I’m literally quoting the reviews.

 

So we went.

 

Since many other people read those reviews there was a queue to the terrace with the ‘astonishing view’, yes, exactly, a queue to get a table. At first I also stood in that queue, than I came back to my senses and remembered that I’m never waiting for a table. Still since it was said that the cakes are a masterpiece I decided to get a table in their patio and enjoy the dessert. In the menu you’ll find two categories with cakes – one with normal cakes, the second – something like signature cakes. So of course I ordered from the second one. My strawberry Meringue cake was nothing but sugar. It didn’t have any special flavors to remember. It costed around 6,5 EUR I guess, but the portion was enormous.

 

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Being not interested in the place anymore, I ate some parts of the cake and left very soon. I turned right and saw a ‘public’ observation deck just next to Fontanella offering exactly the same view. And the view actually is not too special, but is available and for free, and is exactly the one I would see from Fontanella.

 

And in case you want sweets & view, let me suggest another scenario. You go to Fior di latte for an ice-cream (it’s just near Fontanella and in front of the observation deck) and eat it under the pine tree at the above mentioned observation deck.

 

Out of local restaurants which caught my eye were:

  • Coogi’s restaurant – a great terrace restaurant & tea garden on St Agatha esplanade, just going right from Fontanella. The street is quiet and the restaurant is known by locals mainly
  • Other restaurants see in Where to eat in Malta

 

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Before heading towards Rabat, I wanted to check out a park which was mentioned as a local spot, not very known by tourists. It’s called il-Foss, Mdina Ditch Gardens, and as you might guess the park is located in a ditch. It’s very stark, spacious and empty, not a shady park for lazy time spending on a bench.

 

However, if you want some peace & silence, that’s a great place to escape to. But beware that the park closes for the night, meaning they will really lock all the entrances, and there were some cases when people were locked in =)

 

Walk to Rabat

 

Now it was time for Rabat, my maps showed it’s around 30 min to go, so I said ‘why not’, after all I’ve spent enough on taxis that day. Exiting Mdina I saw a bus, it’s screen said ‘Rabat’, so happily I asked the driver if he goes there. He was a bit confused and said that Rabat is over there, showing me like if it is just behind the corner.

 

I decided to interpret it as the bus stop is on the other side of the street. So I asked some ladies if the bus from this stop goes to Rabat, and they said they don’t know, but Rabat is here…. So in fact, Rabat starts as soon as you exit Mdina and lasts probably for the next 30 min walking time (as mentioned by my maps).

 

Since I understood that Rabat is actually almost the same as Mdina – a bit less tourists, but the same architecture, I just walked across it and since I was ready to walk, I went for some 30 min till Dingli village, from which it’s only 20 min till the famous cliffs.

 

 

 

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On my way in Rabat I noticed a very cozy looking place to eat & snack:

 

Chalk Café Bar – the have a great exterior, and I guess a matching interior, that’s how they made me stop for a shoot.

 

Besides that on your way from Rabat to Dingli you can enter the famous catacombs – St. Paul’s & St. Agatha’s. These are Christian burial catacombs from the 4th to 9th century AD. I didn’t go there, because: a) I don’t like burial catacombs;  b) it was Sunday and they were closed 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walk to Dingli Cliffs

 

In 30 min I found myself in Dingli village. Unfortunately, there is nothing special to tell you about, I only found a nice church.

 

Although only now, when putting it all into words, I managed to find something out-of-the-box:

 

Diar il-Bniet – is a family run restaurant & estate with a field to fork concept. The estate is located in Dingli, and it’s called Diar il-Bniet, which means ‘House for the Girls’. Some people might scare you saying they still see the mysterious girls-ghosts walking around.

 

 

Today it’s an estate run by a family promoting their grandma’s recipes, the 600 acres of field is religiously ploughed, you’ll find only organic

production there and some of their olive trees date back to 12th century…

 

You can book a table in their restaurant, visit their shop or even join a cooking class & tour around the estate.

 

I wish I found them that day 🙁

 

 

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Dingli Cliffs

 

 

So I’ve spent 20 min more on walking till the cliffs. The Dingli cliffs are the highest point on Malta island – 253m above sea.

 

Definitely you should admire the site’s natural beauty from the sea (which I didn’t manage to do). Just take an ‘around island’ boat trip from Valletta, or other larger ports.

 

Talking about the view from the top ?

 

? If you look down from the cliffs, you’ll see the fields where locals still work (the fields were the reason Dingli village appeared). So it’s very important not to throw stones just for fun from the height ✌

 

? The tiny island in front of the cliffs (you can also see it on the photo) made me very curious – Dingli is on the southern part of the island, so it’s not Gozo, as you might thought.

 

☝The name of the islet is Filfla – it used to be a training field for the British army.

Nowadays uninhabited, possibly was sacred to the ancient inhabitants of Malta – the neolithic temples  Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra are built on the Maltese side precisely in front of Filfla.

 

?that is the island I would definitely visit if I had a boat and a ‘boat driving’ licence

 

? Although keep in mind that you must get a special permission to visit it, since the entrance is allowed only for those with scientific and educational intentions.

 

Blue Grotto Beach

 

I was really tired after this walking all around, my knee was also aching, so I called a taxi and decided to go to a place where I not only see the sea, but also have a chance to get wet!

 

Most of the nice beaches suitable for swimming are located on the north-west & north-east of the island, so just the opposite to where I was… And I really wanted to go towards Valletta – it was late afternoon, no willing for long trips and high cab rates 🙂 So the closest ‘swimmable’ place was the Blue Grotto and actually it’s a ‘must-see spot, so why not?

 

When I entered the taxi the driver said he can’t understand why people come here (to Dingli cliffs): nothing to do, just to look down. Partially, I agreed. So I said that now I’m going to Blue grotto, where I at least can swim. He ignored these words.

 

We arrived to a village and he said it’s here. I asked where is blue, where is grotto, he said it’s over there (again this ‘behind the corner’ saying!), and added ‘there is no beach there’. I left the cab in an angry mood, typed in google Blue Grotto and found out that it’s some 25 min away.

 

In fact the guy brought me to Żurrieq – a town next to the Blue grotto. So I was forced to walk again, but I don’t regret.

 

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Blue Grotto at sunset

 

 

There are boats to the caves around Blue grotto – from April till October 9 am to 5 pm, from November till March – 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. These are the working hours of the kiosk selling tickets to Blue Grotto and the caves, prices are 8 and 4 EUR – adult & child. I heard the most impressive is to visit the caves in the morning!

 

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It must be quite lively here when the boats are departing, but unfortunately and luckily I missed the boat times, so the place was almost empty.

 

 

 

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So I reached the beach which I was told doesn’t exist.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

… but I rely on my research capabilities more than on a taxi driver who picked me up at Dingli and said ‘I’m Maltese, but I’ve never been here’ ? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

So once you get to the Blue Grotto (googlemaps will lead you precisely), just keep going down towards the kiosks selling tickets on boat trips to the caves. Go down till the very end and you’ll see this ‘swimming place’

Correct, this is not a type of beach you can sunbath, let you children play in the sand, take an umbrella….⠀

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But it’s a great place to swim – the water is deep and there are stairs (I felt like in a swimming pool), and after the shallow beaches in Larnaka, and then rocky beaches in Malta, I really enjoyed a swim here. I met there only locals who confirmed they come to swim to this specific place all year round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also met something & someone special. There were 5 kittens and their mother (actually, just like Greece, Malta is full of good-looking street cats), living under a boat. I was sitting there and waiting for my taxi back to Valletta (finally!). A woman came with a pink transportation cage, I was suspicious, and also the people around were. She said she’s feeding them here, and then taking the babies at home for the night, and on the next day morning brings them back to freedom & port life : >

 

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Valletta dinner

 

I found some nice restaurants in Valletta when preparing for my trip and decided to go to restaurant described as ‘small, cozy place with local cuisine’. Unfortunately, I couldn’t check out if it’s true…

 

There is a tiny problem of solo travelers, at least in my case.  When travelling alone I never pack any fine-dining outfits or make-up, I go and spend my time as a simple, natural beauty 🙂

 

Besides that, restaurants are not very happy about dedicating a whole table to one single person (unless they know you well, and know you eat big & leave tips).

 

So after being unsuccessful here and checking out the other recommended places, I was so desperate and tired that I just wanted to order food ‘home’ – Time to Eat Malta (if you find yourself in a similar drama!)

 

At the moment when I was actually half-way to order, I spotted a terrace on my way (just in the middle of Merchant street). It’s called Anglo-Maltese League, and this time the rating (3.1) was very precise. Well, the waiter is very friendly, he gets 5, but the food is far from being even a tiny bit sophisticated, it’s just average home cooking. I ordered rabbit stew and some white wine, and then of course black tea to finish this long day.

 

 

Day 2

 

The plan for this day was impressive. Just have a look to know how great that could be:

 

  • Wake up at 4 am
  • Taxi arrives at 4:45 and takes me to the northernmost part of the island, Cirkewwa port
  • I take a ferry at 5:45 to Gozo island
  • In Gozo I have breakfast and get a taxi to Ramla Bay – the most beautiful beach on the island (my personal opinion)
  • I spend 3 morning hours laying on the red sand & swimming and then get a cab back to the port
  • Boat to Comino islet at 11:30
  • A 90 min segway tour on an island which has only 4 inhabitants, but lots of greenery, caves and the famous Blue Lagoon
  • Boat to Cirkewwa, Malta
  • Bus to Golden Bay & lunch somewhere there
  • A 90 min horse riding tour on the sunset
  • A ‘Malta at night tour’, departure at 18:40, to see the beauty of Maltese sites at night
  • Arrival to Valleta at midnight

 

Oh, I was looking forward to this day soooo much!

 

But there are powers more influential than perfect planning. Mother Nature and weather, for example 🙂

 

Ramla Bay & Gozo

 

I knew it would rain that day, but some light summerish showers don’t hurt. When I woke up that morning I poked my nose into the open window to ‘smell the temperature’, and  came to a conclusion that I don’t even need a jacket! But I took my pareo to use as a beach towel and wore the shortest shorts I have))

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Ramla Bay – early morning, just at sunrise

 

So in fact when I was going by cab to Ramla bay the driver asked if I have an umbrella. I answered that I hope to get one on the beach. He said, it will rain and perhaps he has one… So when we arrived (the weather was getting worse and worse), he gave me a rain umbrella from his trunk! We agreed for pick-up at 11:15

 

So well-equipped I went to the beach.

 

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my unforgettable beach set 🙂

 

 

Black clouds and thunderstorms on the horizon – I decided to swim until I can, because obviously it’s coming here. I had a fast morning swim in this crystal clear water, this beach is just created for light swims – the water isn’t shallow, but at the same time, I can’t call it deep, since the entrance is gradual.

 

Calypso cave on my right, dark black night-coloured storm in front of me, still blue morning shiny sky above my head, and a closed mojito bar behind. Perhaps it was my best beach getaway ever.  It took me a while to relax and feel comfortable one-to-one with the sea, and once I did, I never felt that peaceful. I actually wrapped myself up in my pareo and lied down on the sand. That’s how I’ve spent almost two hours before the storm arrived (and passed!).

 

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I used the closed beach bar to hide away from the rain and sever wind. I changed back to my shorts, and covered myself with the pareo, after some half an hour sitting like that I heard a voice from the closed bar, then a door getting unlocked, and the owner appeared behind me. He greeted the romantic girl sitting in the rain on his plastic chaired terrace, and the girl politely asked when do they open (I actually didn’t mind getting a tea!). He said they won’t. I waited for a while, didn’t want to pick up & run, opened my umbrella and went towards Xaghra – the closest village, so I could at least have some tea & treats.

 

When was the last time you walked on a countryside road, surrounded by a cactus jungle from one side, and vineyards from the other? And almost forgot, with an umbrella in your hand.

 

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So you are just in between Sicily and Africa, the only live creatures you meet on your way are a shepherd and his sheep, and a taxi driver gives you an umbrella for the rain.

 

Every time life embeds some of these cutest surprises into my well-planned schedule, and I love them  <:

 

They become the most remembered moments of travel, but I know that life awards you with these only when you spend enough effort on planning, otherwise you just end up walking around Mdina with other nice tourists.

 

I arrived to Xaghra, had 3 cups of tea and called my driver to pick me up from there.

 

However, the surprises were not over …

 

No Comino.  Segway in Malta

 

During my stay at Ramla bay Sam from Comino Segway called me saying that most probably we won’t be able to make it today, the sea is stormy and the waves get very high, so the boats to Comino won’t go. We agreed to talk again around 11, so I had some weak hopes, but not too much. At the end, it was cancelled, but I really appreciated that Sam even sent me a list of things to do to fulfil the time I allowed for Segway.

 

I started to search for things to do in the northern part of the island – I already asked the driver to bring me to Mgarr port for the ferry, so I will definitely leave, arriving at the northern part of Malta.

 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find too exciting things to do/see – visiting Popeye village was too boring for me, going sightseeing is not my style, and I really wanted to do Segway. So there were two companies I found Segway Malta in Mellieha and Malta Segway Fun Tour. The first said they don’t go today (weather + Monday), the second said they might. So when I arrived to Cirkewwa I got a confirmation call from the Fun Tour, and they advised me the bus which would bring me to Bugibba/Qawra, it’s #221.

 

The Malta Segway Fun Tour is run by a British expat couple, I’m happy I got the segway ride, but Bugibba is definitely not a place where you should go for any kind of tour. It is destroyed, and not by WW II, but because of untidy people, with all my respect to Brits, most of the residents are UK expats and they transformed the place into English breakfast restaurants & Sky sport bars. There are some Brits which I love with all my heart, but most of the times those relocated to southern countries lose the sense of order, cleanliness, discipline. You guys feel like being on year-round holidays, year after year.

 

So our segway stops were at rubbish dumps looking for chameleons, and then the gentleman on the segway introduced me to local flora – pomegranate, lemon, olive, castor trees… And by the way, they promise to take photos of you during the tour and send it to you by email. I still didn’t get them.

 

I would definitely recommend joining a segway tour in Comino, they are really customer friendly even before you actually start the tour, but I wouldn’t recommend you to do a tour with Malta Segway Fun Tour.

 

 

Golden Bay Horse Riding. Restaurants in Golden Bay

 

 

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From Bugibba I took bus #223 to Golden Bay where I was about to have my horse riding evening (I called them in advance to reconfirm if it’s not going to be cancelled). You have to get off at Riviera stop and walk approx. 10 min to Golden Bay, where the big (and 16 y.o.) Radisson Blue stays and a restaurant overlooking the bay. Here I had my fast & light lunch (before horse riding!), the restaurant’s name is Apple’s Eye. The cuisine is not too special, but it’s not bad either, so I’m very happy they have that restaurant in the bay.

 

I arrived to the horse rancho, and was a bit upset with the conditions. The place is too small for the quantity of horses they have, and it’s not too well maintained. Since I was the first and had to wait for the group to come, I’ve spent my time enjoying the spider nets on the ceiling.

 

 

But I have to admit, that the tour is a great experience, especially taking into account that there are not too many things to do in Malta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So horse riding on the sunset at Golden Bay Horse Riding

 

It felt like Malta is created for this way of commuting :)) those rocky hills are good only on a horse back ?

 

I’m convinced that this is the way one should see a very touristy place like Malta – on a horseback in silence, on an empty beach at Ramla, or among falcons…

 

Indeed it was a happy 90-minute tour and a decent part of this crazy day.

 

Before the horse riding started I booked a taxi back to Valletta. I gave up with the idea of the night tour (although I pre-payed it), because I already started to feel exhausted, and I wasn’t sure we would finish in time here with horses.

 

In fact, I was right – the tour finished at 7, not 6:30 as it would if we started at 5 pm sharp.

 

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My taxi was about to come at 8 pm, so by that time I planned to have dinner at the above mentioned and visited restaurant. It was dark already, but everyone said that Malta is a very law-abiding country with almost zero crime.

 

However going back from the rancho to the bay, I just made a single step behind the corner and saw a group of English-speaking men, probably drunk, but definitely very aggressive, screaming god knows what to god knows whom. Thanks to the high greenery and my fast reaction they didn’t notice me; I turned back and with half-running steps took the longest route to the bay, along the roadway.

 

 

Then I was in peace in my restaurant, drinking tea and waiting for my food, when I saw the notification that my cab arrived. The call centre confirmed it’s almost here, so I took my risotto and cake as take-away and hoped to eat it in the very best conditions at ‘home’

 

Funny but the taxi driver had dinner exactly at the same place and exactly at the same time. He finished, left, parked at the entrance of Radisson and sent the notification. Not knowing this I took my take-away bag, stood at the entrance gate of Radisson for 15 min hoping to see him arriving. And only after calling the company we managed to connect and share our experiences 🙂

 

Taxi drivers in Malta are fun people, besides that one who picked me up at Dingli (he’s from another company). I will tell you more about taxi service on the island on Transport in Malta page.

 

So the final disappointment of the day:

 

What most of us expect to have at home when coming back with a piece of chocolate cake? Me personally – TEA!

 

 

malta where to go 29 - Malta

 

 

I booked a studio apartment in a house which had 4 floors, with various types of accommodation, and a kitchen on the ground floor. If you provide a kitchen to your guests, which has all the cooking utensils, salt, pepper, sugar, instant coffee etc., why don’t you have some tea bags? Especially in a country where a great part of residents and tourists are from the UK.

 

I was so desperate… that I couldn’t agree with this unfairness. It was 8:45 pm, and I knew that in my room (floor 3, stairs) I have a list of shops in the area. Running up, finding the list and checking if any is open. Gigi shop closes at 9 pm! I’m running out checking its location – should be behind the corner, but can’t find anything open. Asking a woman passing by the street and she says it’s already closed. But I didn’t give up!

 

I started to check petrol stations; they’re usually 24/7. Well, the closest open one was at Luqa…

 

One more hope left – pharmacies. I was ready to buy chamomile and brew it. But there was no open pharmacy at 9 pm in Valletta.

 

So I warmed up some water in a pot (the electric kettle didn’t work) and imagined I drink tea.

 

That’s how this glorious day finished.

 

 

Day 3

 

This was the final day – in the evening I had to be in the airport. But still I had a lot of plans, why else would you book a night flight 😉

 

  • Valletta sightseeing – I had to see the St. John’s Knights city
  • The Three Cities across the Grand Harbour
  • Ta’ Qali Crafts Village
  • In the meantime – check out at 10, store my luggage at the office of my accommodation company by 5 pm
  • From 5 to 6 pm – stay enjoying some tea at a nice terrace

 

Not bad as for a last day. But the weather got so much worse, that actually I couldn’t complete any of these.

 

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I woke up early to see Valletta on the sunrise and take some photos. Partially I managed to do that and also to understand that Valletta is not worth seeing for a person like me. It’s so over constructed! Once you find a high observation spot you see that it’s full of stone. I don’t really like observing architecture, checking which are ancient buildings, which are built after WW II, going to history museums etc. There was a luxurious yacht entering the port – it was the Indian Express, that was something I liked.

 

malta where to go 16 - Malta

 

 

I went to the famous Upper Barakka Gardens – that wasn’t something special besides the facts that you can see the saluting shooting at 12 and 4 pm, and that there is a lift taking you downstairs to the boats to The Three Cities.

 

malta where to go 23 - Malta

 

 

 

Heavy rain started all of a sudden on my way to the Lower Barakka Gardens. Well, heavy can’t transmit all the essence of the awful weather that day. Luckily I was on the street where my apartment is located, and luckily it was before I checked out not after. So in two minutes getting a good natural wash – both me and my phone, I entered my apartment 45 min before check out and without having a clue about what to do next – where to go, how to go, or even to go or not.

 

What is the best place to stay all rainy day long with your laptop? There is no cafe being happy to have you all day long, and even I can’t drink that much of tea. Then my thoughts turned towards the freelance hubs & coworkings, which wasn’t a bad idea. I found 2 places but didn’t use them – Valletta Hub and Grand Central. I remembered the Maltese glassware I wanted to buy for home in Ta’ Qali and decided to go whatever it looks like outside. So I partially kept the old plan.

 

I dropped my luggage at the company’s office, got my boarding pass printed because my phone’s functionality went very bad after the shower rain, and I felt in danger. I bought an umbrella and my mood went up. I understood the functionality of the bus terminal and found the places to get the Ta’Qali bus and also the airport shuttle.

 

 

 

Ta’ Qali Crafts Village

 

To Ta’ Qali take either bus #56 (get off at Villagg stop) or #53 (this stops only at Qali 1 which is 10 min walk to the crafts village). The crafts village is a great place to go especially if you are by car and have checked in luggage to bring back home all the beautiful things purchased.  You actually shouldn’t buy souvenirs or presents elsewhere; here you can get really authentic crafts!

 

Please do not misunderstand me – far not all the items are nice, some are created for tourists, some are unique for those who can respect the hand-made work of local artists.

 

I was sure it’s a whole market under a single roof, with little shops of craftsmen, one after another. It would make my life easier that rainy day. However, every company has a separate house, so it’s a real crafts village, just as the name says. I wish it didn’t rain, and then I would really go into each of the houses, be in mood to film the glass-blowing, pottery, ceramic, jewelery artists. But I only had patience to walk in the rain towards the Phoenician Glass house, I didn’t even go for visiting the famous Mdina Glass company – it was 10 more minutes of walking.

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Mdina Glass shop in Mdina

 

 

The glassware was great, and since they close their shop for reorganizing I spot some attractive discounts and bought three vases and three tiny candleholders, one of the vases even contains silver.

 

Then I had a smoothie in the Mediterranean Ceramics shop & café and decided that having two bags full of glassware in my hands means that I should go get my luggage and head towards the dry airport with lots of tea. After all, the weather was really encouraging me to get settled down.

 

So I hopped on the bus going back to Valletta, when there called a cab to pick me up from the luggage office and get me asap to the airport. The weather was so bad and my new umbrella got so broken that there was no way to walk around getting back to the terminal for the airport shuttle.

 

That’s how I ended up in the airport 7 hours before the departure 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurants, breakfast places in Valletta. Buying silver in Valletta

 

Oh, and by the way, during my ‘walk’ under the rain in Valletta I found some very good looking and not pompous restaurants:

 

  • Café Volare – I would enjoy having here a breakfast. A simple café with fresh orange juice, coffee, pastries, ice-cream, salads and of course English breakfast))
  • Several restaurants at Triq San Qwann and St. John square – sorry, my phone was already half-dead of humidity, I couldn’t mark the names under the rain, but you’ll definitely find them once there!
  • Reno’s Cafe – pasta, salads, burgers, rolls, fish & chips etc

 

And by the way, the famous Caffe Cordina – I entered to have a breakfast, since everyone recommends it… But it’s just the same story as with Fontanella in Mdina – unfriendly, crowded, nothing special when it comes to food. I left after I saw the unpleasant atmosphere inside, understood that the waiters wouldn’t serve me fast enough and not finding anything appetizing in their menu and display case.

 

I also noted some shops on my way! If you want to buy silverware & jewellery go to Republika street, you’ll find at least three shops which are actually workshops. There you can see the craftsmen in the process of creation, and also get factory prices!

 

Enjoy Malta and tell me if you managed to do the things which I couldn’t!

 

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banner main post final 1 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy


I felt that typical Italian countryside atmosphere already arriving to the airport – what a crazy emotional palette!  And so much more was waiting for me there! Nothing to compare with visiting major Italian cities like Rome or Milano. And I said to myself: ‘This is REAL Italy!’ 🙂 and it was!

Go and buy those tickets to Lamezia! And get ready for the perfect holidays by using my tips from the sections below (actually a very hard-earned information after weeks of research & emails!)

 

Tropea italy calabria 15 2 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

 

Why Tropea? Why Lamezia? Why Calabria?

I was looking for flights to Italy from Bucharest to take my sister on holidays and combine her seaside break with my ‘authenticity research’. Spotted a destination which I’ve never met before – Lamezia. Checked out the region – all we needed was seaside and the rest (unique and local things to do) I can find with a detailed research everywhere!

Now checking the flights to Lamezia Terme I understand why the majority of tourists were from Germany 🙂 Surprisingly, it costs less to fly to Lamezia from Germany, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, Spain and UK than from Italy internally!

However my confidence in being able to find unique activities in every single point of the globe encountered high obstacles. After days of research I knew only about some cooking classes and sailing trips. Needless to say that at the end I found what I was looking for: utterly distinctive experiences meeting all your (and my!) expectations.

Have a look at my final itinerary and then check out all the other local activities in Tropea. I would need to stay here for a couple of months to try them all!

 

My trip to Tropea:

Getting from the airport– from 1h to 3h – public transport  (read more in Lamezia Terme airport. How to get to Tropea? section) – 5,7 EUR

Accommodation– double room, Hotel La Perla (read more in Where to stay in Tropea? Accommodation in Tropea & Calabria section) – 208 EUR + 21 EUR city tax /7 nights/2 people

 

 

Tropea italy calabria 1 1 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

 

Restaurants, diners, 2 people (read more about it in Where to eat in Tropea section):

Il Vecchio Granaio  (Tropea) – 47 EUR; 28 EUR

La Cantina Del Giudice (Tropea) – 40 EUR

Il Normanno (Tropea) – 29,5 EUR

La Lamia (Tropea) – 42 EUR

Pizzeria Da Giovanni  (Stromboli) – 32 EUR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local activities, workshops, trips, my own schedule:

 

Day 1: Rubber boat trip – Coast to Coast Transfer – Costa degli Dei sightseeing – 25 EUR

Day 2: Horse riding walk in olive groves – 45 EUR

Day 3: Eolian Islands – Vulcano, Lipari and Stromboli – day trip – 45 EUR + 5 EUR tax

Day 4: Stromboli by Night –  35 EUR + 5 EUR tax

Day 5: Free day! Beach, sunshine and prosecco 🙂 – the best description and location of beaches can be found here. I would really recommend going to  Grotta del Palombaro

Day 6: Cooking class – Fileja preparation at Torre Galli – 50 EUR + 10 EUR transfer

 

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Day 1

The first trip we booked through CST Tropea was with Shark Bay company and the tour was called ‘Coast to Coast’. I couldn’t get the idea even though it had a long explanation on the website and also Kerstin explained in her email (see What to do in Tropea | Aeolian Islands). So in fact it was a sailing trip on a rubber boat without stops – you sail along Costa degli Dei, see the picturesque rocks, the wonderland azure blue sea, turn back after Cabo Vaticano and stop for half an hour for swimming on its most beautiful beach – Grotticelle.

Tropea italy calabria 8 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy
Btw, this is not even Grotticelle, this is normal Tropea :)))

We couldn’t swim – it was too cold for us, since the trip was on our first day and again, we didn’t take anything to cover us from the wind. More Nordic passengers happily swam. The crew offered white wine after getting back on the boat.

Price & book:

Coast to Coast transfer – 25 EUR/person

 

Day 2

Horse riding walking tour through forests, meadows, olive groves, some appetizers & wine with the host family on their terrace – this was the most exciting activity I joined in Tropea! I would do it daily 🙂 Imagine yourself on a horseback riding under blooming olive trees (even if you never did it like my sister, you can manage – Filipe and his son Nunzio will give you the most human-friendly horse). Have you ever smelled the olive flowers scent? From now on, I love it even more than jasmine!

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You’ll see landscapes which are the real Italy for me – green, spacious, under bright blue sky and among oranges peeking out from the leaves. If I was about to choose one activity, it would be this one! You can book it with CST Tropea or directly with Filipe (they are a very responsive family!) The name of the rancho is Cavallieri delle due Sicilie, located in Francica.

Price & book:

Horse riding walk in olive groves – 45 EUR/person

 

Day 3 & Day 4

 

Tropea italy calabria 39 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

I have to start from my favourite  company – Savadori Navigazione. We booked a boat trip called Isole Eolie – Vulcano, Lipari e Stromboli through CST Tropea. These are the volcanic islands in the Tyhrrenian sea between Calabria and Sicily, belonging already to Sicily. One of the islands – Stromboli – is active volcano, Lipari – is the biggest island with descent infrastructure and various trips to minor islands (Panarea and Salina, and also to Sicily – Etna etc.). Vulcano – is the smallest out of the three islands, but it has a lovely mud beach for your revitalization.

 

The price of the sailing trip was 45 EUR/person, exactly the same as if you buy it in the port directly (we booked ours at CST Tropea – see What to do in Tropea | Aeolian Islands at How to book activities in Tropea). It was a whole day trip with boarding at 7:30 AM. Additionally you pay the UNESCO tax for visiting the islands – 2,5 EUR/person or 5 EUR/person from June to September.

 

 

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Really lovely crew – all of them had very distinctive personalities, and the captain was incredibly charismatic. I saw him hugging the boarding bridge while staying at the lower deck area and after that, I officially state: wherever you are going on holidays, if there is a sea nearby you CAN make it a very special trip! And I don’t mean laying on the beach or swimming five meters far from the coast. Go further! See people in love with the deep blue waves, and try to fall in love as well.

We’ve visited Vulcano as our first stop. It’s a tiny island with a volcanic muddy beach where you should definitely take a mud bath, unless you have high scent sensitivity as I do (it smells so ….). The entrance to the muddy beach costs 3 EUR/person, +1 EUR for the shower afterwards (I guess you can’t avoid it!), and if you stay on Vulcano more than a day there are very attractively priced entrance passes.

If your stay is longer than mine, you can also find black sanded beaches which are adorable!

 

And of course, there are some special shops on this islet, read more about it in Shopping in Tropea. What to buy in Tropea

 

After having a glass of prosecco and an ice-cream, we got back on board.

Next stop was Lipari – the biggest island, and there is a lot to see! We decided to leave the group of our co-passengers and get lost. If you turn right from the port you’ll find an old cathedral with a quiet park nearby – pine trees, seagulls and an overlook on the sea, remembering my Spanish days I called it ‘mirador’.

 

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We continued through the centre, met a group of local parents and children coming from their first holy communion and decided to follow them. We went through dark arcades and ended up in front of the municipality building. They entered a restaurant which was booked for all the families; so losing the group of locals, we found two ways to get down to the sea. The one on the right was closed with a comment ‘private entrance’, but the route on the left was a free to go one. Italian cats greeting us (or escaping in panic), pleasant shadow of the old trees along the way and, of course, stairs! Lots of them! But what a place we found! No comments, just photos to describe only the view, but far not the whole atmosphere.

 

My sister was bored, she’s not a person to philosophically sit on an empty beach, so we left. On our way upstairs I noticed a guy who was sitting along the stairs on the fence, watching us taking photos of each other. Italian bastard, had fun for free! He gratefully waved us when we left 🙂 Molto gentile!

 

I kept trying to get lost (poor sis, she always asks to go where people do – sorry, not with me!). Most of the tiny streets are curved and it feels like they’ll bring you to a dead end, but no! They’ll bring you to another turnaround 🙂 And you can endlessly continue this way just like in a labyrinth game.

 

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L’Italiano vero

 

Being tired of sun and heavy begs (I did some shopping on the previous island), we went to have some siesta on the central street in Ciuri Ciuri (read about it in the Where to eat in Tropea | Aeolian Islands). The owner’s dog was entertaining us and then a shop in front of it attracted me by its local delicacies offerings.

 

We tried to get back to the port and being a smart blondie I did two things:

 

I forgot where is the meeting poin

 

I googled in Italian the port from where all the Eolian Islands ships depart

 

So we went to a wrong place 🙂 It’s Italy, dear, and if all the boats to Stromboli depart from the same port, why would your boat leave from it as well? Even though it goes to Stromboli 🙂

Tropea italy calabria 21 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

 

Despite my sister being positively ensured that this is the correct place, I felt it’s wrong. So we went back to the centre, hoping to meet ‘our’ people, from our boat. On the way to the wrong port we met the guy who was taking photos of me onboard (I was staying at the lower deck with the lifebuoy ring behind me, having my dress of exactly the same colour as the ring – unconsciously entertaining everyone, as always), so I was sure he has to help us out! We met him and the whole group 🙂 But after going where they advised us, I turned right and then left, and then it was completely not what it should be. Luckily an old Italian man brought us to the proper port – Corto Marina.

 

NB: in case you get lost like us, dial the number on your ticket, so the boat waits until you get there. I completely forgot about this option!

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Declaration of Love alla Siciliana

All aboard, we continued to the most magnificent island – Stromboli. Black volcanic beaches, only part of the island is inhabited, the other – is too hot! Indeed, it’s not even firm, but quite soft and your shoes will melt if you step on it. The volcano explosions can be seen almost daily, smaller or bigger, you’ll definitely see one at night. It’s magic alive to watch this island.

 

However, we had only 1,5 h for it, and my sister trying to go where people do 🙂 In fact, we got stuck in a shop and afterwards had time only for a very good ice-cream (a gelateria you’ll find if going through the main street up to the hills – can’t remember the name), and to lay a bit on black sand:

 

IMAG2705 1 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy

 

We went back on board, and sailed an hour and a half to the port of Tropea. In fact, the happiest thing about it all was the sailing part. You can take me anywhere, just sail!

 

NB: You can order drinks & snacks on board, so no need to carry.

 

But it’s quite cold and windy on the sundeck area. So take some warm clothes in order to avoid this:

 

 

Tropea Italy Calabria 47 2 - Tropea, Calabria, Aeolian Islands, Italy
even my natural frost resistance didn’t prevent me from getting cold

Stromboli by Night

I loved so much the trip, that I couldn’t stay calm the next day. I convinced my sister to go on a nice evening sailing and see the volcano explosions. ‘And the whole day before it we can spend on the beach!’ – I told her. So when it became too hot to stay on the sun, I advised to go to the port and buy the tickets for the evening. For some unclear surprisingly typical Italian reason hey costed us twenty euros less than it would by their official price-list (if you are a pretty girl, everything can happen in Italy). After buying the ticket we were told to go on board 🙂 Imagine two girls just coming from the beach in swimming suits under their summerly-light dresses! Since it was just an hour and half till Stromboli I didn’t expect them to leave earlier than 5 pm. In reality, it was 2:30. I calmed down my sister telling that we will stay on the beach in Stromboli 🙂

 

So we went! You can read my review of this tour in TripAdvisor

 

Price & book:

 

Isole Eolie – from 7:30 am till 7 pm – 45 EUR/person + 2,5 or 5 EUR UNESCO tax

 

Stromboli by night – from 2:30 pm till 11 pm – 45 EUR/person + 2,5 or 5 EUR UNESCO tax (somehow, we payed 35 EUR)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5

What were we doing on the 5th day? Sleep, swim & eat 🙂

 

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Day 6

As I told you earlier (see Where to stay in Tropea? Accommodation in Tropea & Calabria), we attended a cooking class in Torre Galli resort – a 300 years old country house – under Mariella’s guidance. First of all, she did a tour around the resort (before I mentioned I would write about it 🙂 – showed us the old olive oil & wine presses, the garden, terrace, olive & citrus groves. She has an ‘industrial’ (as she called it) kitchen – so you can have a workshop with a large group there, and a cozy home kitchen ‘for herself’ as she said. Of course, we used the small one and enjoyed all the aged stuff there – cupboards, marble sink, traditional Italian household equipment (numerous gas coffee makers, metal pots, wooden spatulas etc). Mariella offered to cook fileja – the typical pasta of Calabria. The good thing about it is that the base for each pasta is the same, only the shape differs from one region to another. And the recipe is:

1 cup of 000 flour

half cup of semolina

Water – as much as the dough asks for

 

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So we mix the flour and semolina, and slowly, teaspoon by teaspoon add the water, whilst working the dough out.

 

And working it out is the most important part of the process – see photos below 🙂 Mariella’s workman – Mozo (I hope I remembered correctly) helped us with his man power to make the dough perfectly soft. He is from Pakistan and lives in Italy for 3 years, but knows how to position himself in an Italian kitchen!

 

After the dough is done (you might leave it to rest for 10 min), we roll it in long and narrow strings, then cut half of a thumb large pieces. And now we need the special metal / plastic strings for rolling the dough – you put the string on top of the dough piece, press a bit and roll gently to a pipe shape.

 

Put the ready ‘pipes’ on a well-floured tray (we omitted it and had to sort it out afterwards – not a pleasure!), after all are done, cooked in boiling water until they all appear on the surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a sauce we heat up some olive oil with fresh tomato paste (made with garlic and basil), add fresh basil, salt, pepper and the prepared pasta.

Serve with ricotta and parmeggiano!

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Buon appetito!

 

Besides that we cooked some sotte vegetables, fried onions and had some home-made wine.

 

By the way, the wine was made by the father of the local bakery  owners we went to 🙂

 

I really enjoyed meeting the two brothers, born in USA, relocated back to Italy long years ago, running this bakery. A huge wood stove and lots of fresh, hot bread! Thanks Mariella for introducing us!

 

The price for the cooking class was 50 EUR/person + 10 EUR/person transfer from & to Tropea. If you book the activity with Mariella directly she won’t charge you for the transfer 😉

 

Price & book:

Cooking class: Fileja preparation at Torre Galli – 50 EUR + 10 EUR transfer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And let me finish with some foodie photos to tease you a bit more 😉

 

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