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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The Weirdest Things About Armenia

The article is kindly provided by Armenia Discovery – our partner for vacations in Armenia 🙂

***

 

Like all foreign countries, Armenia has some unique quirks that visitors can have fun experiencing, there are definitely some odd occurrences one will be sure to write home about!

 

Public Transportation

First of all, minus the nicely laid out, single line metro in Yerevan, there is no map or time schedule of Armenia’s public transportation. With over 100 marshrutkas (Soviet-style minibuses) and buses, this can be a bit overwhelming, but it is easy to make friends with people waiting at the numerous bus stops around the city who will be happy to help you determine which bus will take you where you need to go.

 

bus - The Weirdest Things About Armenia
After boarding the bus, be prepared to be jammed into the tiniest standing space available as there are no capacity limits for the number of people that can board a bus. The standard rule is, if you can fit, you can ride! When it comes to payment, bus rides are 100 AMD = 0.20 € and the strangest thing about the whole public transit situation is customers pay when getting off the bus instead of getting on! Of course, we also have new modern buses with wifi but they don’t astonish seeing that than seeing minibuses or marshrutkas.

 

Food and Drink

Scattered generously around cities throughout Armenia are major sources of drink: drinking fountains․ These drinking fountains, called pulpulaks, provide a constant stream of fresh, cold, drinking water to passersby and the occasional dog.

 

fountains - The Weirdest Things About Armenia

 

The water in Armenia is something of a miracle and is rumored to be the tastiest, sweetest drinking water in the world. Perhaps the best place to start your Armenian water tasting tour is in the capital city, Yerevan. On the anniversary of Yerevan’s 2750th birthday, the city was gifted 2750 drinking fountains which provide endless streams of cold, fresh, delicious water for free to all who pass by. How the city survived its hot, dry summers for 2,750 years without these fountains is impossible to imagine.

Unfortunately, there are no such food dispensers aside from the standard vending machine, but the “tonir” is a famous Armenian oven that cannot be overlooked. The traditional tonir is a cylindrical oven dug into the ground, where the opening of the oven is in line with the ground level.

 

lavash e1521552878589 - The Weirdest Things About Armenia

 

There is a second, above ground version, of this oven which looks like a mound of bricks with a circular opening at the top. These ovens are primarily used for baking bread and the raw dough is slapped onto the sides of the oven to be scooped out via a metal hook once baked. To get the dough into the oven, the baker must reach deep into the oven opening. What looks like a precarious dive into the tonir, unlikely for a hope of returning without major burns, is actually an age-old technique that has been passed down from generation to generation!

 

Driving

If the public transportation situation seems a bit overwhelming, taxis are an excellent choice for traveling around Armenia (rates at about 100 AMD = 0.20 € per kilometer), but even taxis are not exempt from oddities!

 

 

driving - The Weirdest Things About Armenia

Cars drive on the right side of the road in Armenia, but steering wheels can be found on the right or left side of cars, so check twice before you pop into the passenger’s seat, you might just find yourself opening the driver’s door!

Generally, Armenia is known for its wide open roads, with no traffic jams, but there is one sort of roadblock that is quite common: sheep or cows!

 

kuzu e1521554269459 - The Weirdest Things About Armenia
© Hendo Grigoryan

 

Many roads pass through pastures and farms, so cows and sheep often find themselves hanging out in the middle of the road. Not to worry, though, honking a few times is certain to have them moving on their way. Last, but not least, bright red Coca-Cola tents at every gas station. Gas stations often are equipped with two things: the above-mentioned coffee machines and Coca-Cola tents filled with plastic furniture, available for travelers to rest in while their cars are being filled with gas!

 

Cleanliness

In many cities in Armenia, especially Yerevan, visitors are taken aback by the extreme cleanliness. In the early morning and late evening, it is common to come across ladies with brooms sweeping dust and leaves from sidewalks and park paths. In the Yerevan metro, one will find not even a single scrap of trash and the escalators leading from the street to the metro tracks are constantly polished and clean. Especially in the summers, to follow up with the work of the sweeping ladies, shop and restaurant owners “wash” the sidewalks in front of their stores. Either with hoses or buckets, the sidewalk is sprayed clean of any remaining particles.

Lexicon

Do you know which word Armenians like to use most?

The answer to this question is clear. “Djan”. A word that has no translation in any language.

djan e1521552721508 - The Weirdest Things About ArmeniaWe use that word after calling someone’s name showing our warm gratitude towards that person, even if we speak with a stranger. Thus if you are Michael and here Armenians will call you Michael Jan, don’t be surprised. Just enjoy, because they welcome you warmly.

 

Hospitality

The first rule, Don’t be surprised if your new stranger friend invites you his house either for having dinner or drinking black coffee. No other purpose, or something bad in that invitation.

 

armenians - The Weirdest Things About Armenia

 

Just Armenians are very hospitable and it is not a secret for the world. We love to treat our national foods to others. You will make sure in that when you would be out of the capital. In every village you will find guest houses, where you will be accepted as a member of a family, they will offer you a tasty dinner with an overnight stay.

 

We don’t smile to everyone

In a lot of European countries, you will meet strangers who will smile you while passing. Remember you will not see it in Armenia. Maybe, many of you will be astonished by that fact, but it is a normal phenomenon for us.

Not smiling to the strangers doesn’t mean that we don’t like them or accept you. But be sure if you approach someone and ask something, that, not smiling Armenian, will do his best to help you, even not knowing the language.

Maybe this is enough. Have you ever been in Armenia? If yes, tell us what kind of weird things you noticed here.

Now, all that is left is to come to Armenia and see these odd phenomenon first hand and discover even more curious spectacles!

 

The article is kindly provided by Armenia Discovery – our partner for vacations in Armenia 🙂

 

Book your customised dream holiday here!

 

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getting from nice airport

French Riviera and Provence

girl person child summer dress 159175 compressor - French Riviera and Provence

 

 

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.

 

 

soap 2726387 1920 compressor - French Riviera and Provence

 

 

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…

 

lavender field 1595559 1920 compressor - French Riviera and Provence

 

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

 

⇓ ⇓ ⇓

Other than that …

 

⇒ 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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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:

 

 

malta where to go 72 - Malta

 

  • 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!

 

malta where to go 52 - Malta

 

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….⠀

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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!

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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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Larnaka banner main post final - Larnaca, Cyprus

Larnaca, Cyprus


I didn’t want to go to Cyprus. But I was forced to)) Where would you go if someone asked you to choose between Vienna and Larnaca? I always go for seaside places, even though I wasn’t interested in swimming at all.

 

However, this trip proved me a lot:

  • A 3-day escape can feel like a real holiday (one of those when after arrival back home you don’t know where you usually keep the dishes).
  • Always rely on locals, especially those who speak poor English. Indeed those are the real helpful people, who will save you in the most unexpected situations.
  • Don’t believe official reviews, trust your own experience and intuition (this is how I ended up staying in a hotel without a single review on booking or wherever, and it was the best hotel I’ve ever been to!)

 

So let’s see how much is too much, because how I felt was definitely too much in Cyprus (but in the very best meaning of this word).

 

Day 1

Loulla Efthymiou’s Halloumi Workshop

in Choirokitia (Khirokitia – another spelling)

 

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One of the most amazing things I did when in Larnaca, and in fact, the reason why my day went so crazy!

 

When making my travel plan in a hurry (I found out about the trip a day before departure), I was sure I can cover all those villages by taxi – yes, expensive, but a good solution when you have limited time, no driving license and want to see it all.

 

However the taxi app I downloaded was hopeless, so I came back to my senses and checked the bus timetables. Which was nice – Choirokitia, the one I planned to visit first, had a direct bus connection with Larnaca, and the rest of them … I preferred to check afterwards, not to lose my positive attitude from the start.

 

I called Loulla a day before to agree about my arrival. Unfortunately, she doesn’t speak English, so she could only say: ‘Come to my house’. I checked the village – 600 inhabitants, won’t I find the famous woman cooking halloumi!

 

Getting out of the bus in the middle of nowhere – a few roadside restaurants, besides me only an afro guy left at this stop, the normal people continued their way to Limassol. I asked a butcher where should I go to reach the village itself, he showed and said up, to the mountains, along the roadway. So I decided I can manage to walk on a roadway for some ten minutes.

 

The road is over, the village is there, some houses but all dead, meaning empty, no one around. Then on my right side I see: ‘Nature Trail’ and stairs, and an ancient settlement up on the hills. So I could even believe that the halloumi lady is somewhere there in the ancient settlements)) I’m really living in Wonderland, I know. We climbed up the hill with Tavşan Surat, took some photos, and went back down. That’s a Neolithic site, worth visiting if you are a history lover.

 

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From the top I notice a sign ‘Choirokitia 2km’, so calmed down Tavşan and we went ahead. And what was ahead? Some more houses, but still no sign of halloumi.

 

It was hot (noon in August in south Cyprus), so I gave up with this village and decided to go to the next one – Skarinou. On my way back we stopped at a corner bar/shop with some lively people to ask where is the bus stop which goes to Skarinou.

 

The super kind lady inside said it’s impossible, it’s the next village, but you can get there directly only by car… Me, desperate, persistent, asking with a half-live hope… maybe a taxi??? She went out to the terrace and when returned asked me to wait saying that the taxi will come in 10 min. Happy with the result, I didn’t want to think too much ahead or too much behind, but the lady asked what am I doing in Choirokitia 🙂 So I told her the story about looking for halloumi. She confirmed it’s here, but far away in the mountains, and suggested that the taxi which is coming would take me to Loulla, wait (she said it’s not more than 15 min) and take then to Skarinou 🙂 Am I not lucky? And they even explained him all this))

 

So Loulla. Finally there, she took us to the workshop where anari cheese (something like Italian ricotta) is sweating in hot brine. And then bags with halloumi thrown again to the brine and kept for an hour. And it’s ready! She explained (better to say showed) the microflora she’s using for fermentation, the press which she puts when the soft cheese is done. How she rolls it (that’s why halloumi has a tiny hole in the middle), and, finally, how is it kept – easy, in a 5l bottle with brine for a year without any refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

Since she didn’t take any money for the workshop, I wanted to contribute somehow. Despite having a long day of travelling ahead I said I want to buy a piece of halloumi. She let me to choose, packed it in a vacuum and gave it for free 🙂 No common language, no benefit for her (she didn’t know I would write here), just pure enthusiasm which you can find only in places not spoiled by tourists.

 

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Places & contacts:

 

  • Bus Larnaca – Choirokitia – departs from Finnikoudes bus stop, next to the Finnikoudes beach. The schedule can be found here (that’s an online bus route planner, not a smart one, but helped me out a lot). Search for Finnikoudes (not Larnaca) and Chirokitia. It’s an intercity bus going to Limassol. The price is 4 EUR (whether you go to Chirokitia or Limassol), duration – approx. 30-40 min. It will drop you outside the village at some roadside restaurants, you’ll have to go under the bridge and continue up and right towards Chirokitia – around 10 min.
  • Loulla’s Halloumi workshop – there is no address to give you. Just stop at Chirokitia and ask locals, even without too much of English knowledge they’ll be able to explain you where to go. It’s actually up in the mountains, not too much of civilisation around.
  • Taxi from Chirokitia to Loulla’s workshop, waiting time and then the way to Skarinou Golden Donkey farm – 20 EUR. The contact tel. of the driver (he lives in that area, but doesn’t speak English, just really a bit) +357 99 676 460
  • Taxi from Larnaca to Khirokitia and other villages & cities in Cyprus – in fact, to order a taxi in Larnaca you have to go to a taxi kiosk, they offer trip around all the island and will give you a quote and make a reservation for you. I found this out only on my last day.

 

Golden Donkey Farm, Skarinou

– feeling already very confident in my new vehicle, I told the driver that after Skarinou I would go to Vavla and maybe he could take me and give his number to call. He did (that’s why you have it above:)

 

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The donkey farm is definitely a great place for children – hens, donkeys, horses, mules. For their parents – souvenir shop at the starting point where you can buy liquors and cosmetics from donkey milk, olive oil from the farm’s olives, soaps, magnets, bags, t-shirts etc. I entered saying that I want to see it all! So they gave me a ticket for the museum and one for the donkey ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The museum wasn’t something very special – demonstration of villagers’ life in the area, basket weaving, silversmithing, farming, olive mill, wine press and so on. Then you actually get to the donkeys (adorable animals) and ask a guy to take you for a ride. Which I did 🙂 It takes about 15 min, but a nice experience if you have never done it before. We had a chat with the guy taking care of animals, he told me about the Safari nights which they organize – the owner shows how to milk a donkey, they do riding all together, dance sertaki, eat & drink 🙂

 

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It was still early, so I went to drink some lemonade in the bar-restaurant they have there. I’ve noticed the owner – it was obvious it’s him. In the meantime I decided to call my driver, even though it was still early (I was booked at the next place for 5 pm), but what to do.

 

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I had to wait for him for 30 min, spending my time in their souvenir shop. That’s when I met the owner, who tried to entertain me in my waiting time. Talking about plans & present, I was invited for the Safari night as his guest, so I really decided to finish now with the next village asap and come back.

 

However, it all happened in a very different way 🙂

 

Place & price:

 

  • Golden Donkey Farm, Skarinou – the entrance + donkey ride in the farm I paid 16 EUR. You can also purchase a certificate with your photo on a donkey, kinda donkey driving license. Besides that they always have some fun activities, like Safari Night, Dionysos Night, Gurmet Master Chef workshops – just call them at +357 996 20 736 and ask what’s going on!
  • The taxi from Skarinou to Kato Drys (my next stop) was 15 EUR, it’s about a 20 min ride.

 

 

Kato Drys medieval village

 

IMAG3682 compressor - Larnaca, Cyprus

So a day before my trip I contacted Ecophysis – a family business offering eco tours and educational programs with a focus on bee farming. They are located in Vavla village and would have a ‘Bee keeping day’ starting at 5 pm on that Saturday.

 

However, it was only 2 pm when I left the Golden Donkey Farm. I  thought to come and finish there earlier, and still have time to return to Donkeys. But life always makes fun of my planning.

 

From the taxi I called Georgia (the owner of Ecophysis, along with her husband) and asked to give directions to my driver. Since it was too early, she told the driver to take me to another neighbour-village, let me walk around & eat, and then she would pick me up before the bee keeping activity. So bye-bye donkeys 🙁

 

That’s how I’ve seen a village, which was more of a museum, than anything inhabited by humans. Especially in siesta hours (don’t know how they call it in Greek).

 

 

 

From the roadside restaurant where I’ve seen my driver for the last time, I found my way to the village itself. All doors and shutters closed, only sometimes you hear TV noise behind the walls – the only proof there are live people in this place.

 

Imagine walking on empty streets of a village, every single house of which is constructed around 300 years ago, and remained the same, without the air-conditioning adds-on, repainting, metal-plastic windows and so on. There is no new construction in Kato Drys.

 

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So I really enjoyed walking and taking photos, there are some signs on the streets, which lead you to a church, or to a museum… And then was very suspicious to notice a Bee & Embroidery museum here, just before I’m going to have a bee keeping day. Maybe I can do it all here?…

 

Bee & Embroidery Museum

– a quite interesting house covered with intense pink climbing flowers appeared in front of us. The door was open, the sign on it stating ‘We are open’, so I said to Tavşan Surat ‘Haydi Bakalim’ and we went.

 

I looked around and entered the house where some locals were spending the hottest hours of the year in a cool room at the table. Asked where am I and if I can look around 🙂 So a handsome Cypriot showed me the so called museum. I say so called, because, in fact, it’s not a typical museum, it’s one of the ancient houses in this village, where everything stayed in its original condition – household items, kitchen, bedroom, stove, zivania making press. Imagine a parrot cage hanging from the ceiling, which is not for birds, but against – so actually a ‘fridge’ where you keep the cheese and avoid birds steeling it 🙂

 

A room was dedicated to beekeeping history in the region, and generally, throughout human history. He proved me that the symbiosis of people & bees is indeed beneficial for both parties. In nature bees consume all the honey they produce, they eat more and produce less, because their life is shorter and the conditions of survival are more difficult. Being a part of human husbandry they live longer, need less food, and produce more. People don’t take the honey bees produce as their own food, but they put another beehive on top of the first one (where they produce their food-honey), where bees store honey, when the first one is full. People only use the honey from the top beehive.

 

 

 

Then Michalis showed me a ‘new’ part of the house – the place where his grandparents used to live. Actually, all the museum is created because of his father’s addiction to aged things. And I understood this passion only after realizing the past of this family.

 

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The first embroidery merchant

 

Women in this village were always (since long long years) making embroidery. But only for their own usage. One day there was a woman who lost her husband and stayed with children alone, without having any chance for income. Then a local school teacher asked why not trying to sell the embroidery she makes. Locals were sure that everyone all around the globe is making the same embroidery 🙂

 

But the widow was desperate and she took a donkey, and went up to the mountains, where, surprisingly, she sold quite successfully to foreigners. So let’s say she was lucky that Cyprus was part of British Empire!

 

Villagers found out about it and started to sell embroidery massively – women were responsible for the handicraft, men were travelling abroad, selling the goods and taking orders.

 

That’s how money and new fashions reached the village – after long sailing trips they even started to design ornaments on walls imitating cabin windows.

 

I could compare myself the village life before and after this ‘merchant revolution’ – Michalis showed me two houses – some 20 years of difference between them, but your eyes will say it’s at least a hundred of years path from stone floor and walls to a very well-designed interior.

 

 

 

 

 

IMAG3791 compressor - Larnaca, Cyprus
The present to Queen Elisabeth II coronation made by Michalis’ grandma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what about Michalis’ family? His grandma prepared an embroidery present for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, but the queen refused to accept it with an excuse that it’s not an official present from Cyprus island. In fact, the relationship was very tough because of the separatist movement, so Her Majesty just found a way to express her feelings, probably.

 

The new part of the house belonging to Michalis’ grandparents is full of embroidery and old photos, including the first lace merchant lady’s picture.

 

Besides that – a garden in bloom and fruits, a country house which they are renting out for tourists, and then a desert called ‘shoefig’ made out of cactus flowers.

 

 

Thank you, Michalis for making these hours in Kato Drys one of the most colourful ones in Cyprus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch in Kato Drys – restaurant Platanos – it is the place where Georgia from Ecophysis asked the driver to drop me and advised to have lunch. So after my adventures in the medieval village I returned to the roadside restaurant – a huge terrace under a more than a hundred years old Platan tree. I took a table, but since there was no one in a hurry to serve me I started to write notes about my day so far for sharing with you here on this page. I guess the restaurant manager/owner got panicked, he served me politely, asking twice what am I writing and then all the staff was passing by occasionally to ask if all is good 🙂 From now on I go dining with notepads!

 

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The food wasn’t very good. Unfortunately the dolma (stuffed vine leaves, I don’t remember the Greek name) was old, you can detect it by the leaves – they are getting dark, full of holes, and thin after multiple heating. Additionally I ordered a Greek salad (which had no cheese for some reason) and grilled halloumi – which was dry and tough, so I’m not sure if it was grilled now or just warmed up.

 

Although I recommend you to go there– the place is lovely, green and with small lanterns hanging above you. It has a parking and obviously it’s comfortable to stop by when you are on your way to somewhere else. The food might be better on Sundays (I’ve read the choice is better on Sundays, than on Saturdays).

 

 

Places & Prices:

 

 

 

Ecophysis

– Georgia promised to pick me up from the restaurant at 4:30 pm. When I was about to call her, Kostas – her lovely husband entered the restaurant and took me to Vavla, to their eco  business!

 

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Besides me they had four other guests – all Greek-speaking. The couple showed us a movie about bees, one of them was always translating for me, did a honey tasting & let us try the creams made of honey.

 

After that we put on the beekeepers’ protective suits and went towards the beehives – they have 4 beehives for demonstrations.

 

It’s just next to the house where the initial presentation is done. They of course have much more beehives in a different location for the honey production Ecophysis does.

 

Their honey is great! I received a small jar as a present from Georgia & Kostas – it was 120 ml, but to feel covered during the airport security check, I asked them for a ‘best before sticker’ to hide the 120 ml marking. Criminal. I know. But the honey was worth it!

 

 

Our hosts explained that we shouldn’t stay directly in front of them (it might cause aggression from the bees’ side), they took out the frames one by one, showed how they store honey and lay eggs, and we even found the Queen.

 

Smoking in the bees is not anything they suffer a lot from. On the other hand, it was a pleasure seeing that the owners take care of every single bee, carefully closing the beehive, paying attention not to smash a tiny creature.

 

Beekeeping suits are important only in case you are allergic, and an accidentally gone crazy bee can cause major health issues for you. Other than that, there was no bee even touching my cloths.

 

 

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When we proved ourselves as beekeepers the chill part began– Georgia and Kostas served lemonades, coffee, cheese, honey, toasts. Unfortunately, I had to miss this (I only managed to buy some creams and received a jar of honey as a gift), as I was in a hurry to catch the bus back home, to Larnaca. I always call hotels home, I feel so cozy there 🙂

 

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Georgia took me to the station in Khirokitia and just when the car stopped a bus arrived – it was not mine, but the one going to Limassol, so we kept staying for a while.

 

More than half an hour passed, the bus is not coming, I’m worried we missed it and really eager to call a cab. Instead of it Georgia called the bus company and they ensured that the bus is on its way.

 

Indeed in 5 min it arrived, but just as in Spain, if it’s full, he won’t let you in. Georgia really did her best, asking him to let ‘just a wee little girl’ L He said another bus is coming because he left a lot of people on his way… I told my kind host that it’s already late she should go home, but also asked to call the bus company again to check if there is really a bus coming. She did, they confirmed, she left. I stayed alone with a guy who’s waiting for his bus to Nicosia for more than an hour already. I waited for half an hour under the dark Cypriot sky and then magic happened.

 

A taxi driver stopped just near me and went upstairs to the restaurant – I looked at him like a hungry lion seen a gazelle. Please understand me – the taxi app is not working here, I already knew that. The taxi driver I got daytime was a courtesy from the Khirokitia villagers. Now at night, alone with a rabbit in my bag, no civilization (don’t count that restaurant behind – I didn’t know what to expect, and if they understand English enough to call me a cab), and a taxi, like an angel stops next to me.

 

I decided if the bus doesn’t come before he returns from the restaurant, I’ll ask him to take me to Larnaca. And of course the bus didn’t come)) In order to get a quote for me he had to call the office and was very straightforward in saying that he doesn’t know Larnaca and if I don’t know the place we don’t go anywhere))

 

Google help!

 

That’s how I arrived back home on my first day, and to finish it appropriately, I got stuck on the emergency exit’s stairs of my hotel 🙂 Yes, I wanted to go and check out the jacuzzi upstairs, but really wanted to go by foot, not elevator. So I’ve chosen the wrong stairs – the ones you can enter from inside, but can’t get into the hotel once you are out. I hoped to get to the jacuzzi and find a secret door leading to the elevator – so I was lucky again and didn’t have to call the reception asking ‘Let me in, pleeeeease!’

 

Places & Price:

 

  • Ecophysis beekeeping day – the cost depends on the quantity of participants and on the activity. For example, they also do tracking days, they pick up mushrooms, learn about plants etc. We were 5 people and payed 40 EUR/person
  • Taxi – Khirokitia to Larnaca – 40 EUR again … The bus cost would be 4 EUR…

 

 

Day 2

 

Pano Lefkara

 

The night before (that hard day’s night!) I decided that I’ll go to Lefkara only if there is a direct connection – bus, easily catchable taxi, whatever. I asked my favourite receptionist in the hotel and he showed me on the map where to find a bus station which has direct connections. Hardly, but I found it and when asking the lovely Greek moustached man in the ticket office about the desired bus line, he said: ‘Run! This is it! Be quick!’. So I jumped in the bus and told I need a ticket to Pano Lefkara, the driver looked a bit confused, but who cares – we are on our way to a new adventure, tavşan & me!

 

Being a smart blond I knew it won’t be easy to detect the needed stop without a preparation, so I was regularly checking google maps to see where we are and how much left to Lefkara.

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…and again he sneaked into a bus without a ticket!

 

But it can’t be that smooth in my life, can it?! We arrived to Kofinou (I knew it’s the place where you have to change in order to get to smaller villages), the bus driver looked at me and said ‘Lefkara’, so I understood it’s time to get out and find another bus…

 

The drivers are very friendly there, surprisingly. Well, maybe because I’m too cute 🙂

 

I hopped on a microbus and was the only passenger in it. Tried to pay, but the driver explained that ‘there is no ticket in this bus’. Later on I realised these microbuses were really free of charge, connecting villages and financed by the government.

 

By the way, talking about Kofinou. It’s an important point not only because the majority of busses to tiny villages start there, but also because there is a large refugee camp with refugees from Africa and the Middle East. I didn’t know it back then, when passing the village, otherwise I guess I would try to get in to see it. If you are interested, I found an article which really makes you feel like been there.

 

That’s how we reached Pano Lefkara.

 

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I didn’t really know where to go in Lefkara, meaning that I knew there is a loukkoumi factory, a silversmith workshop, embroidery, a handicraft center, but I couldn’t find any direction or address. In this kind of situations, I need a break – a lemonade, shadow and sitting time to search the web.

 

We went to a great place – a terrace with ripening grape bunches above our heads, they have lemonade & smiley staff. Still I couldn’t find any information online, so I asked at the counter if they know the  loukkoumi place, and, luckily, it was just 50 m ahead of us 🙂

 

Places & Prices:

 

  • Bus Larnaca – Kofinou – departs from the Central Bus Station which comes after the Marina (it’s not the Finkoudes stop!). Price – 1,5 EUR/person, schedule can be found here, as well as other bus options.
  • Kofinou – Pano Lefkara – free of charge, departs exactly where the previous bus leaves you and arrives to the center of Lefkara. Schedule can be found here.

 

Loukkoumi Factory

 

So I was lucky to find another great place – the  loukkoumi factory is a family business founded in 1895 and still remains within the Kramvidis family. I met the current owner, unfortunately it was Sunday and there was no production in progress, but I’ve seen the machines and bought some award-winning  loukkoumi from him. Come there during the week and see how is the Cypriot delight produced live!

 

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Michalakis Christou Silversmith Workshop

 

We continued our way – Lefkara is a picturesque place for a couple of hours of walk, until you discover and shoot every blooming corner of it. By chance I see a silversmith workshop on the corner. The owner – name of silversmith – did a very skilled marketing job – in front of the workshop & shop you can see written: ‘One of the last famous workshops. Free to take photos. Free engraving. You can order things in silver. Workshop prices.’ Don’t you feel good once you know that it’s free to take photos, and you don’t have to get embarrassed by secretly shooting someone’s silvesmithing tools?

 

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The owner – Michalakis – is a very welcoming man. I had enough time for photos whilst he was busy with some customers, after which, of course, I continued to the shop (second part of the house), because there is no girl who’d ignore those shinny decorations 🙂 And then of course he came to me offering discounts, and I actually would buy even without them – the most glowing silver I’ve ever seen!

 

 

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Michalakis told me that it’s their family business – he and his son are working with silver, his wife, Nina, is making embroidery (I also met her), and his daughter-in-law is also a needlewoman, I guess. I’m always happy to meet families which are creating business for generations and doing it all together, as it should be within a family. So I was more than happy to spot this workshop.

 

Michalakis Christou has 40 years of silversmith experience. After walking all along Lefkara I realised that he has the right to say this being the last real silversmith workshop – the others around are only selling or reselling silver.

 

They advised me to visit the Handicraft center, which I actually was looking for…

 

Staying on a street next to those numerous embroidery shops and checking the center’s brochure the silversmith family gave me, a woman with lace in her hands asked if I need some help. I asked about the place, but she answered that it’s far away, outside the village, I can go there only by car, and, by the way, why do I need to go there if she can show it all herself, in her shop 🙂 Am I a fish to get caught on this obvious hook?! Politely I left, promising to come back & shop before my bus.

 

 

Lefkara Handicraft Center

 

I walked a lot in Lefkara, and very satisfied because the biggest part of my Cypriot portfolio was taken there. In the end, I’ve seen a sign ‘Lefkara handicraft center’ and followed it – Voilà!, and it’s just next street to the shop where I was tried to be convinced it’s been far away…

 

Rely on locals, but stay vigilant!

 

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The center is a very nice place where no one is trying to sell you anything 🙂 It consists of showrooms with separate entrances each belonging to a craftsman – some have paintings, some – sculptures, others – embroidery and so on. You can’t buy anything and you won’t meet there shop-assistants, just two ladies observing you behave 🙂 But you can take business cards of the craftsmen and order. The place where I actually felt sorry they don’t sell lace, because I really liked their collection (anyways, I have nowhere to put it at home)

 

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Places & Prices:

 

 

 

 

Lefkara to Kato Drys Walking Trail

 

It was around 2 pm, the bus is at 3:30, and everything in the village is very close of course, so I don’t have to go towards the station well in advance. I’ve seen everything in Lefkara (never used to say that about places), besides of course sites which are outside the village and can be reached only by car. By the way, an interesting activity in Lefkara if you have some spare hours – a walking trail from Lefkara to Kato Drys. The walk is approx. 1 hour, low difficulty, the views are promised to be spectacular! Here you have the map 🙂

 

 

Lefkara Coffee Yard

 

In the remaining time I decided to have lunch and found the entrance which said something about being a restaurant with a garden. In fact, it was just another entrance to the terrace I’ve been to in the beginning of my trip in Lefkara – so the terrace with juicy grapes hanging above the heads of customers.

 

IMAG3815 compressor - Larnaca, Cyprus

 

A had a club sandwich which came with a big portion of chips (which I never eat). Their lemonade is very good, and if I came again I would definitely go for a carrot cake from their menu!

 

We returned back with the same bus drivers, both Lefkara and Kofinou buses, and they were so friendly like if we know each other for years

 

 

So back in Larnaca around 4:30 pm, cooling down in the hotel, I tried to decide what to do the rest of the day. Sorry, I was tired, couldn’t find anything better than laying on a sunbed on the Castila beach. Taking into account that I came there around 6, they didn’t take money for the sunbed, so if you are an evening sealover just like me, keep this in mind 😉

 

IMAG3838 compressor - Larnaca, Cyprus

 

Souvlaki.gr

 

Late at night I had dinner in one of the top restaurants in Larnaca. Firstly, I had in mind To Kazani Traditional Tavern – the #1 in tripadvisor, however, they are closed on Sundays L Out of the remaining ones I was attracted only by Souvlaki.gr –  it’s a Greek fast-foodish tavern. Imagine, coming there I saw three similar taverns, out of three – Souvlaki.gr is full without any table available, the other two are completely empty. The staff is very welcoming and responsive, the food is very well prepared and the prices are hard to believe – I had a Greek salad, souvlaki, grilled halloumi and water, all this costed less than 10 EUR. The most expensive part was Perrier (I would do cheaper drinking wine).

 

Another restaurant I paid attention to was Militzis Tavern – overlooking the beach, with a very traditional Greek design and blue palette, it felt like they not only look local, but also taste! Once you go there, please let me know if I was right 🙂

 

Places & Prices:

 

 

Day 3

Larnaca

 

My last day and believe me, I was tired! As a plan for Larnaca discovery I decided:

 

IMAG3876 compressor 634x470 469x470 - Larnaca, CyprusIMAG3879 compressor 634x470 469x470 - Larnaca, Cyprus

 

  • Wake up early and check all the beaches – by checking I mean swim at each of them, evaluate the facilities and sandiness, take photos

 

  • Go for a city tour and find something interesting in a place which completely transformed into a tourist base

 

 

Before the trip I really wanted to have a gastro tour this day, combining eating and discovering Larnaca, but the organizing company rejected my request, because they can do it for at least two people, rabbits don’t count!

 

So talking about beaches in Larnaca:

 

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Here you can find the official list of beaches in Larnaca, and Cyprus in general.

 

Then for sophisticated ones, list of Blue Flag beaches in Cyprus.

 

The main city-beaches are: Finnikoudes, Castela, Mackenzie

 

They all have very shallow sea – good for children, and actually not a problem to swim a bit away to get deeper – and as I understood, all the coastline around Larnaca region is shallow.

 

Not the most beautiful surroundings – road behind it, ships, oil depots, hotels and even planes landing just behind Mackenzie beach (why did I pay 20 EUR for a taxi if I could just go along the beach ?)

 

The boat trips are starting from the Larnaca Marina, just behind Finnikoudes. I didn’t find them too exciting to join, very typical trips offered at every seaside resort – fishing & dining on board, boat trip to Agia Napa, shipwreck watching from glass bottom boat etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Finnikoudes beach – the central beach, named after the palm trees. It’s very large and has all the facilities (one of the Blue Flag beaches in the town), suitable for families with children, it has a playground, a volleyball net, and a bus stop behind taking you to nice places as Paphos, Limassol, Nicosia, and my small villages in between 🙂

 

  • Flamingo beach – usually not marked as a separate beach, but you can find it on maps. It’s not nice as a beach place at all, but that’s where you should go if you are in to paddle board surfing, beach tennis, surfing, diving etc.

 

  • Kastela beach – comes afterwards, my favourite one. I liked the sunbeds, the service and the beach bar. Comes just 1km after the castle, it has a parking, and all the facilities, marked as Blue Flag beach.

 

  • Mackenzie beach – the most developed place in terms of beach clubs, restaurants, taverns. If I wasn’t with Tavşan Surat , but with a handsome tanned guy, I would go for one of their beach clubs with lovely sunbeds & cocktails. Mackenzie is a place where you can meet the sunset and wait for the sunrise, some of the beach clubs don’t close until the very morning.

 

The most complete beach-review I found here, besides that, they also mention the hotels located at every particular beach.

 

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I wouldn’t recommend going to Larnaca for a beach holiday, maybe I’m too demanding, but I really don’t enjoy staying on a beach and seeing oil depots. And the water (obvious, isn’t it?) is not as clear as it could be. If you go a bit north, you’ll end up sharing your beach with cargo ships and factories.

 

In case you are already there, go at least 8 km from Larnaca to the north – to the Oroklini area with Yannathes beach and Orkolini village restored to its original style in blue with some local tavernas.

 

Another option is in the south – Kiti village, another traditional place with folk festivals going on all summer long and a less crowded and more natural beach.

 

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Cat family on Mckenzie beach

I was done with the beaches, and I was so desperate about Larnaca having nothing authentic, that I downgraded to a simple tourist – I went to the tourist office to ask for help.

 

They weren’t very kind & helpful though (and I didn’t expect the worse customer service in Cyprus in a Cyprus Tourist Information office). I asked where can I go from Larnaca to return back by 5 pm. First of all, she became angry: ‘So you don’t want to see Larnaca, you are not interested in it!’, then she kept giving me the bus timetable, saying that I can go everywhere – Nicosia, Paphos etc. Every time I was pointing out I have to return by 5, she insisted on going everywhere, but pointed out that it’s all about how much time do I need to look around once I’m there :)))

 

So I got the Larnaca city walking map, which was actually zero, nothing worth. I wouldn’t recommend going to the CTO in Larnaca – you’ll waste your time for getting a walking map. In fact, better ask at your hotel reception – you might receive more valuable information.

 

Until a point I tried to follow the map – I wanted to prove I’m wrong and these tourist info-points are helpful. But no, impossible. You’ll die of boredom having this kind of city-walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I gave up following the map I went to the mosque – they give ropes you have to wear. A very nice place indeed. With taps and benches for cleaning yourself, shadow, drinking water – I really enjoyed.

 

There were three men inside – two were praying, one – whatsapping))) I felt I can go wherever I want and none of them wouldn’t even pay attention at me, I felt completely safe and in peace there.

 

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Next doors was the Larnaca castle – a fort which used to be a prison and an old time police station where people sentenced to death were executed by hanging. Not the best atmosphere actually. The good thing about the fort is that they have some old pine trees in the garden with chairs underneath – it’s a popular place for summer concerts, so I enjoyed staying for half an hour in the shadow. It was priceless on a hot Cypriot day in August!

 

IMAG3891 compressor 634x470 469x470 - Larnaca, CyprusIMAG3894 compressor 634x415 415x415 - Larnaca, CyprusIMAG3893 compressor 634x470 469x470 - Larnaca, Cyprus

 

The map indicated the Turkish quarter been close, they call it handicraft quarter. So I got excited and prepared to see authenticity. Well, there are no Turkish guys hanging there around, only the street names are very Ottoman-style. And there are only three pottery workshops I knew about, out of which I spotted two:

 

  • Efthymios Symeou Ceramic Artist– a very nice workshop with, I would say, exclusive products, the pottery really look unique. Well, I came around lunch time and the owner was about to leave, I really wanted to come back at 4, but another pottery workshop took me over!

 

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  • Emira Pottery – I received a very warm welcome, from both the son and the father. I was almost leaving when the guy turned my attention back by offering me to see the workshop/production area. I saw the stove, a hundred of shelves filled with various pottery, the potter’s wheel, and then, when I was ready to buy it all, the guy said that I can try to create a piece of art on my own! Of course she said yeeaah 🙂

 

 

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The class was at 4 pm when his father arrived. And, just to remind, my taxi to the airport was scheduled for 7. Normally people leave their pottery creations for a week in the workshop, during this time it dries and gets baked under 1000 C for 9 hours! Me – as always – no time, let me take it raw)))  So they asked me to leave my jar for at least 2h.

 

 

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To sum up, it was a great experience – I did it all on my own, even though having zero talent to handicraft (my teacher didn’t comment and was very polite about my skills). Then I took this raw jar, packed into my suitcase, passed the security control which checked every inch of my bag, and my pottery creation kept its perfect shape despite it all!

 

 

That’s how my day & trip ended – in a very artistic way!

 

 

My accommodation in Cyprus

 

It was really hard to book a stay for the weekend in Cyprus: August, you are in Thursday, arriving on Friday, 98 % of the properties booked… Either I take something disgusting, or something suspicious with negative reviews, or something too expensive for a girl and a Tavşan … or a real miracle! That’s what I’ve chosen 🙂

 

Qbic City Hotel Larnaca

– a suspiciously good looking place for a price of 90 EUR/night in Cyprus , in August. But I risked, and won!

 

IMAG3825 compressor - Larnaca, Cyprus

 

Even the correspondence with the manager was on highest level – the free shuttle they offer wasn’t available at late hours of my arrival, so they ordered me a taxi, and the price wasn’t higher than the official rate:

 

20 EUR to/from the airport in late hours

15 EUR to/from the airport in working hours

 

I entered the hotel and felt in wonderland – so new, so well-kept, perfect colour range, and service! The receptionist like an angel in the entrance to the heaven, I never felt that welcomed in any hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though I was tired, I had to take photos of the room – it’s designed in a very eco-smart style. The mirror transforms to a TV, the lights are managed by a touchscreen.

It was a single-room, but a very spacious bed and room in general. I had a kettle with a couple of cups, some tea-begs and instant coffee – well, this is the most important for me, a midnight tea drinker. Even in hotels with room service, I sometimes get embarrassed of ordering two cups of tea (both for me) at night, and nothing else. What can I do sometimes, I avoid eating sweets in those late hours, and tea actually has nothing to do with any kind of food for me.

 

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Besides that I was recommended to visit the open-air jacuzzi on the rooftop. Which I haven’t had time to try, but it looks great! And clean (which is crucial).

 

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On the next day  after arrival I was stroke down by the breakfast. A beautiful lobby full of light, wooden furnishings & traditional blue elements, very ‘zen’ music, and last but not least a buffet full of delicacies! Can I wish for more? Yes! Little glass bottles with freshly squeezed orange juice and a waiter coming to my table asking if they can prepare me eggs and some coffee… My mornings were never that peaceful and light!

 

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The location is also great – 5 min to the sea and you are actually located in the center, talking about shops and going out.

 

So why didn’t they have any glorifying reviews? Because they opened just on the day of my arrival and I was one of the first customers)) So they were trying their hospitality skills on me and the task was completed with excellent results! Well, nowadays they already have their 10 out of 10 at booking.com 🙂

 

P.S. Remember the plugs in Cyprus are British Standard. So either take an adaptor with you, or ask at the reception (or buy at any store nearby – which I did!)

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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!)

 

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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

 

 

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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.

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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

 

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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 🙂

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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:

 

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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:

 

 

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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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banner main post final - Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain


Barcelona already impressed me by the diversity of activities available even on the distance, when doing pre-trip research. But that’s half the trouble! Once you are there, you actually understand that you won’t be able to do all planed – because it’s Spain, it’s siesta, it’s mas o menos, and the cava is so sparkling… that even a wine tasting can occupy half of your day!

So my advice to you: regardless the quantity of time you’re going to spend in Barcelona, plan not more than two activities per day. Leave yourself time to follow the Spanish unpredictable nature, to aimlessly walk around the Gothic quarter, to end up in a bar which wasn’t marked in your itinerary and be happy with staying there too long to wake up early in the morning for another scheduled tour.

I believe I am a successful planner and controller, but despite my hard efforts I couldn’t control the whole universe around. Well, let’s see what I managed to accomplish out of my plan and what appeared in my trip as serendipity. Be both, my guest and judge in one.


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Day 1

That’s where I left time for magic on purpose 🙂 However, even this wasn’t enough. Finding ourselves in one of the most famous tapas places/restaurants in Barcelona – Els 4 Gats – and then in a very popular but quite hidden bar which is located on the most unhidden place of the city – Rambla, Boadas cocktail bar – the oldest bar in Barcelona (read about the places below). The night finished for me with a very upset stomach (and I don’t blame any of the places we went to), so there was no way to wake up for the booked Segway Tour starting at 11 am. Luckily I bought it from direct provider and they were understanding enough to take us in the afternoon. And by the way, the tour was private, though it wasn’t mentioned in the description.

 

Places:

 

Els 4 Gats – the restaurant opened in 1897 and became a very popular place of bohemian gatherings, I guess, a tavern, where you must hang out if you consider yourself being artistic. Picasso was a frequent visitor since the age of 17, then, he carried out his first exhibition in the big hall of Els 4 Gats. Big names like Gaudí and Rusiñol were not a surprise to see among the restaurant’s guests. I advise you to read the history of the place before visiting, so you can experience the atmosphere consciously once there.

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Boadas Cocktails – opened in 1933 by a very charismatic person, Miguel Boadas, who was raised up in the bars of Havana and a quiet fishermen town – Lloret de Mar, at the same time (right, Lloret wasn’t a popular tourist destination a hundred of years ago). After settling down in Barcelona and meeting his future wife, Miguel started his own cocktail heaven in a tiny place on the Rambla corner.

 

Visit it – it is a spiritual place, because Miguel, and later on his daughter, they loved it as their home, Miguel died having a vision that all his friends are in the room and said to his daughter: ‘We must make a cocktail for all these people’. He died giving the glass mixer to his daughter and handing the Boadas Cocktail Bar to her hands. Today the bartenders are still wearing tailcoats and serving you a real masterpiece in glass. Average price: 10-15 EUR/cocktail

 

Besides Els 4 Gats we wanted to visit Bar La Plata – one of the oldest tapas place in the city. However, believe me or not (and if you knew me, you would!), there was no way to find it, whatever maps we tried to use. So maybe you’ll be luckier!

 

All the best places to eat you can find below in the section Where to eat in Barcelona

 

 

 

So passo por passo recovering after the night out, we found ourselves near the Arc de Triomf and La Ciudadela Park having a delicious Spanish brunch on the terrace of La Ciudadela Hotel Restaurant.

 

The Segway afterwards was amazing! Luckily I managed to learn it immediately and feel comfortable along all the 90 min (they also have 120 and 180 min tours!) Well, the best thing about it was the riding itself. For those who never tried, let me mention that you don’t have brakes, the eco-vehicle moves and stops based on your body-movements.

 

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Some of the views were quite impressive – I really loved Ciudadela park and especially the fountain – disagree with me, but I’m so convinced that the fountain is much more beautiful as a whole composition than even Di Trevi in Rome. The guide was a good Segway rider, but not a guide – we didn’t get too many explanations about the places, stories behind their creation, local gossips etc. But generally he was a lovely guy performing magic tricks to entertain us. A very nice experience!

 

On our way to Segway we noticed a place with Asian mango ice-cream and other delicacies, so once again good fortune brought us to a worth recommending place – Tasmango Dessert – the visit in general can be called: ‘mango, mango, mango with a hint of coconut’.

 

If these words make you melting like white chocolate, than you are a my type of person! Besides the mango ice-cream (I would rather say sorbet), we had those rice-flour mochi cakes popular in Japanese places. And again – with mango!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places:

 

La Ciudadela Hotel and Restaurant – tapas and wine on a terrace next to Ciudadela Park

Tasmango Dessert – a place to go for something non-Catalan/Spanish, when you want to taste Asia’s best desserts while visiting a single place

 

All the best places to eat you can find below in the section Where to eat in Barcelona

 

In the morning before the Segway ride we bought a voucher for the Barcelona treasure hunt. I’ve chosen the Gaudí secrets in Park Güell. This is where we failed (and it was my fault, not the provider!). So the treasure hunt is a quiz online which leads you through hidden gems of Park Güell (in our case) by asking questions and making you answering them. And we walked up till the park 🙂 Already tired, I realized we need tickets to enter – no problem, I told myself! Trying to buy the tickets directly from the dedicated machine I was stopped by a staff guy, who didn’t let me and said that there are no tickets left for today. We could walk in the park itself – the greenery part, but not in the monumental area – which is the Gaudí-made park Güell! I lost my mood immediately, anger fulfilled me and of course the quiz is taking place in the monumental park, not among the trees.

 

So 15 EUR and an evening plan lost, and my email to the provider proofed that there is a note on their website stating that you’d need admissions for the park to do the treasure hunt. Well, based on this experience I can advise you a couple of things:

 

  • preferably choose any other treasure hunt path, so you won’t be tied to the availability of tickets to Park Güell (besides this they have 5 other routes available)
  • if you still want to do it in the park be sure that you bought the tickets in advance, because the treasure hunt is always available, but the Gaudí masterpiece on the Catalan hills is not
  • and definitely, with the treasure hunt or without you should see the park. The entrance before 8 am and after 9:30 pm is for free (at least the staff said so), normally the tickets costs 7 EUR
  • separately you can purchase tickets for the Gaudí house (5,50 EUR) – which wasn’t too impressive though. I would prefer to visit a house-museum which has all the furnishing left as it’s been in reality, but when it’s 80% empty – that’s not fun at all

 

And even without the monuments the park is lovely. If I lived in Barcelona I would just come here as often as possible in a peaceful hidden green corner, with a dog or a laptop 🙂

 

The day finished for us in a Spanish restaurant with amazing paella, again a not crowded place, located at the very end of the restaurant line in the port, too far for an average tourist to get there without being dragged over to a touristy place with a usually southern-oriental guy screaming about the best ‘cava, paella and whatever’. El Gangrejo Loco was a politely place, as I call them 🙂

 

Price and book:

  • Segway Tour – private tour 90 min – 45 EUR/person – Arc de Triomf – from Eco Moving Rent
  • Unpuzzle Barcelona – Secrets of Gaudí, discover Park Güell – 15 EUR from Unpuzzle BCN
  • Park Güell – 7 EUR/admission or 14 EUR/admission + tour or a private guide on request – buy in advance, online!
  • Casa Museu Gaudí – 5,50 EUR/person (located in the free zone of the park), online purchase
  • El Gangrejo Loco – the restaurant in Port Olimpic where we had a Spanish dinner with seafood paella and cava. Make a reservation online!

 

All the best places to eat you can find below in the section Where to eat in Barcelona

 

Day 2

Second day was supposed to be very saturated – morning pick up of the rented car, then trip to Pubol  – the Gala Dalí Castle, wine-tasting with vineyard, cellars and a castle visit in Perelada, finishing the day with a trip to Port Ligat and Dalí’s house. Grand plans! And I’m so proud I could arrange it all before the trip happened. However, human interaction is always unpredictable, so you never know for sure where you will spend double of the planed time.

 

We found a vintage looking Fiat 500c Cabrio in Europcar’s catalogue. The negative side of the story was that we couldn’t find rental office – we didn’t receive any email confirmation about the rental, so knowing only it’s Barcelona Sants didn’t help too much (maps showed only the parking place). The other problem was that when you are returning the car in non-working hours, you just leave it on the parking with all the documents. We brought it with full tank (and spent half an hour on finding a gas station in the area), however Europcar charged us for refueling, saying that they had to add fuel for 40 EUR. What a lie and unpleasant experience!

 

NB!:  For some magic reason, the cabrio Fiat can’t be found on the desktop web-site, but is easily found in the Luxury & Fun section of the mobile web-site. Also if you want the pick up to be in Barcelona Sants, the Europcar office is inside the railway station, behind McDonald’s.

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Tavşan Surat – the most optimistic character in my life!

 

Price and book:

 

Europcar – The price depends on the day, we paid approx. 90 EUR with basic insurance included. Book online

 

Let’s leave negativity behind, Tavsan Surat is on a road trip in his little cabrio! We bought some pastry, fresh orange juice, coffee and water in the Sants station near Europcar’s office, so it sweetened our way to Pubol!

 

It took us around 1,3h to get to the Gala Dalí Castle – a beautiful place in a medieval village, far away from civilization even now. Actually, Dalí bought this castle to Gala because she was in need of a refuge and peace. The best part of the castle-museum is the garden with extravagant sculptures, lots of trees and hidden paths and a fountain.

 

Gala is buried in the castle, even though she passed away in Port Ligat. That was the reason Dalí had to get fake documents stating that the place of death was Pubol.

You will visit the bathroom with the dressing room and a fireplace in it, the kitchen, her bedroom and the guest room. Most of the furnishing is there, which makes you much closer to the Dalí couple’s life in their castle. Besides that – retro cars in the garage, the little park where you feel get lost.  And the empty medieval village itself – perhaps, we were lucky to come in rain, so there were no tourist hanging around the streets 😉

 

Price and book:

 

  • Gala Dalí Castle (Castle of Pubol) – you can buy the ticket online – the admission is 8 EUR, admission + tour – 10 EUR

 

So let’s have a walk in Gala Dali Castle!

 

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Another remarkable spot in the village was a medieval cathedral – you will definitely notice it when entering Pubol! We wanted to see it, however – shower-rain, no parking place around the cathedral, so we gave up 🙂 Send us some photos once you get there!

 

So we headed to our next destination – Perelada winery & estate – this is a huge project of a Catalan businessman Miquel Mateu. He bought the Perelada castle from noble inherits; he started a casino there, kept the former monastery transforming it into a museum of his antiques and a library, planted the vineyards and started to produce his own wine. I planned to spend twice less time here, but there was surprisingly too much to see.

 

We had the wine-tasting & visit scheduled at 4 pm, however as we planned to visit the castle and were ready with Pubol, we arrived a bit after 3 pm. We were told that the Perelada castle opens only at 4 (weird, isn’t it?) so we have to visit it after the wine-tasting. Okay, Tavsan Surat didn’t mind having some snacks in the meantime.

 

For the vineyard visit we needed the car – to arrive there from the wine-shop (the starting point). Afterwards our guide took us to the cellars where we’ve seen huge barrels and old dusty bottles with precious wine. By the way, one of the collections was not for sale – that’s Centenary Dalí – wine made of the first harvest from their most precious vineyard finca Garbet in 2000 – all the few bottles are dedicated to the Dalí Association, since Salvador Dalí and Miquel Mateu were good friends.

 

Finalizing the Perelada experience we joined the wine-tasting of 2 red, 1 white and 1 cava, however, unfortunately, the wines didn’t impress us at all. Tastes differ of course, but I guess if they made the tasting more expensive and would serve their best wines, like the ones from Garbet (100-200 EUR/bottle), it would make the visit more special and encourage clients to buy their most expensive wines in the boutique afterwards. Agree?

 

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Coming back to the castle. We bought our tickets at the wine-shop, arrived to the castle and the security guys pointed toward Plaça del Carme, saying that this is not the entrance we need. Okay, arriving to Plaça del Carme we understood that it’s a monastery, not a castle, and even worse it’s closed. I didn’t give up – if the ticket is bought I will enter, I don’t care about locked doors, so I did my best to unlock the entrance door, but failed. However I was so notable, that a guy from the balcony of one of the houses on that Plaça, tried to explain something in Spanish and pointing somewhere right side. Which was a bench with old people, one of which said ‘siete’ – so seven… It was six, I still planned to get to Gaudí’s house in Port Ligat with last admission at 20:10… We tried to decide, Tavsan Surat voted for the monastery (even though not being religious), and I agreed – since we are already here, wasted a lot of time on ‘research’ and the place looks enormous, let’s wait a bit more to see if it was worth. And we had enough of Dalí that day in the Gala castle.

Just imagine my reaction when at 6:55 I saw people leaving the monastery with a guide – I run after the lady asking to let us in!

 

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So now the explanation: the castle itself is a private property which you can’t access, it belongs to Miquel Mateu’s family. Part of the estate now hosts a casino – which you can access, of course. And the monastery also belongs to the family, and is now a museum where you can see one of the biggest antique – glass & ceramic – collections and libraries in the world. The entrance is each hour (so at 4, or 3, or 6, or 7 – or whatever else) – but be precise, otherwise the door is closed! The tour is private – only you and the guide, available in English, Spanish and, I guess, in Russian.

 

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Even though it’s only a museum, it has a history of full castle value! The first fortress was destroyed in the 13th century during a war with France, after which the viscounts of Peralada decided to build something more spacious instead and the land of the destroyed fortress was given to Carmelite friars to build a convent there. And now the fun starts: the Carmelite monks were moved out during the confiscation of church properties in Spain. For twenty years the convent was empty, after which three brothers of the count family relocated there from Paris and faced a medieval, run down, out of fashion estate. Reconstruction, removal of the heavy baroque decoration, the brothers brought the first books to the now renowned library, after which they established a school for children from the village. One of counts was a teacher himself. However the next owner of Peralada didn’t have that progressive mentality and Peralada was waiting for its next wave of prosperity – under Miquel Mateu.

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The glass collection is probably the most special thing about this museum!

A passionate collectionair who finally found a spacious depository for his treasures. Nowadays the most notable part of the museum is the Glass and Ceramics collection – it is, in fact, the most important glass museum of Spain containing more than 2500 pieces. It’s worth to mention the jugs collection – or ‘porro’ in Catalan, which is a traditional wedding present in Catalonia, when the bride and the groom are getting separate ones, a male and female version. Besides that various drinking vessels, perfume (and sometimes opium) bottles, and even milk extractors.

 

The library contains around 100 000 books with the most spectacular collection of Cervantes, one of the best private collections in the world. The library and archive are open for researchers in the mornings and it must be really a once-in-lifetime experience to touch the books ageing back to XVIII century.

It’s definitely worth that one hour you’ll spend in the museum, and especially because you’ll have a guide to lead you through the history of the place. Without the very well-trained guide we had, it would end up being a sightseeing with lots of photos, without any understanding of the story behind those glass & ceramic ‘toys’.

 

Price and book:

  1. Option A: vineyard visit + ageing cellar + tasting of 4 wines – 10 EUR/person, book in advance
  2. Museu Castell Perelada – admission is 6 EUR, prices and tour options here

The original plan for the evening was to visit Dalí’s house-museum in Port Ligat and spend an evening on a beach I found in the internet, named as one of the most non-touristy and beautiful place in Catalunya. Well, being persistent, I wanted to follow the plan and at least get to the beach. In fact, it was a rocky place with many stones in the water and actually no sand. So for security reasons we stayed dry that evening and instead book a local hotel, had a great dinner on the coast and hoped to swim on the next day.  There were a couple of reasons encouraging us to stay, but the most important was that Cadaques (Port Ligat is just nearby) is such an impressive white-blue housed town, all built on hills above a little bay, with many many boats (I guess their quantity is higher than the inhabitants’), that you just can’t resist staying there overnight!

 

 

My experience says that an accidentally opened door leads to uncovered miracles! That is why I’m so obsessed about whatever is closed 🙂

 

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Price and book:

 

Salvador Dalí House – Portlligat – 11 EUR/person for House and Olive garden visit, and the web-site says that it must be always reserved!

 

Platja S’Arenella – not worth going for swimming, but I guess is nice if you have a boat rented. By the way, the island itself – Isla S’Arenella – might be an interesting spot, I found information that you can rent it out!

 

Hotel Sol ixent – a very beautiful B&B in Cadaques. Imagine you go on your terrace and see (and smell!) lavender all around, it has a great pool with sunbeds, restaurant which we didn’t manage to visit. It was a perfect last minute deal on booking.com – instead of 260 EUR/night price at the hotel’s direct web-site, it was 156 EUR on booking 🙂 So check out all, before you book!

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Hotel Sol Ixent – a lavender field retreat!

Xiringuito la Sal – the beach terrace restaurant where we had our dinner upon arrival to Cadaques. First time in our lives we ate paella with ink (octopus ink), it’s so interesting, not like any other kind of paella at all. Make a reservation, they are quite busy, though we were lucky to get a table!

All the best places to eat you can find below in the section Where to eat in Barcelona

 

Day 3

We couldn’t swim though 🙂 All the so-called beaches in Cadaques are not actually beaches, but slippery stones in the very shallow sea. The only way you should get wet in Cadaques is renting one of those shiny catamarans and deep diving on a solid distance from the town.

Instead of it, let’s go for lunch. But not as obvious as yesterday – somewhere hidden in those tiny-shiny white streets with climbing roses on their walls.

 

Cadaques – my new Catalan love!

 

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I don’t know how, but I swear no google, no tripadvisor, just my 37-sized feet brought us to a restaurant located on the 1st floor of one of those white houses around, with sophisticated fine menu and some tables on their little balcony drowning in rose bloom. And they even run after us when I forgot my famous hat on the chair after we left. Amazing experience, that moment when unplanned impresses more than the whole carefully worked out itinerary (but you know only the one who worked hard deserves to be luckily surprised!)

 

We didn’t give up and tried to get another beach! Led to Bagur – the story says that Costa Brava was baptized on one of its beaches 🙂 I’ve chosen a beach club called Mar I Vente with extremely good reviews. We arrived and while staying in the queue to the public parking, I noticed the beach club’s private parking – which was closed. An A4 sheet on the entrance saying that they won’t open this year, but will be happy to see us in 2018…

 

The public beach downstairs was ‘fully booked’, no space even for a kitten, not to mention us with Tavsan. Both beach-restaurants saying that they are closed (!). Anyways we arrived, so we found a third restaurant, which also didn’t serve food – they started the sentence from saying that they’re closed, but served sangria which was good enough.  So only their kitchen was actually closed.

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Well, the beach was very nice – again a bay in the rocks, but now sandy. But quite small as for me, so you don’t feel spacious enough (if it’s not April, when there are no tourists). Next day we understood, that the best beach is in Barcelona, especially when you have no time for trusting online sources and facing the opposite of what expected. Or when you are not a solo-traveler, but a couple (or family) in need of comfort and hygiene (talking about sunbeds and showers).

 

So we headed to Barcelona, passing the famous Platja d’Aro and I’m sorry we were too exhausted to check it out, but as a bonus I can recommend you a restaurant there, it’s owned by an Armenian lady I know from an expat group 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Price and book:

 

  • Restaurant Es Balconet – the super authentic restaurant we had our early lunch in Cadaques. Unique interior, blooming balconies and fine cuisine – all on a first floor of a hidden house on a tiny street! To get a table on the balcony – book in advance!
  • Mar I Vent, Aiguablava in Bagur – in case you go in 2018, tell me how was it, if it’s a nice place, okay? And call them, not to end up in our shoes!
  • Mediterrani restaurant at Platja d’Aro – owned by an Armenian lady whom I know from a common group. Have never been there, but Armenians cook well)) – Avinguda de s’Agaró, 117, 17250 Platja d’Aro, Girona (no web-site)

All the best places to eat you can find below in the section Where to eat in Barcelona

 

Day 4

The last day in Barcelona. Actually not a full day to enjoy, because the end of it is bittered by the departure time blinking on my phone screen. But still we managed a lot!

 

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Sunday morning we started at Camp Nou with their experience tour. I could never believe we’ll spend there two hours and that’s really something to see if you are not bored by football.

 

Very well thought out tour, a smart environment, just as I like. On each step when you would need guides to lead you – you have them there before you even think. Extremely high tech interactive materials – projectors, screens, touchscreens, headsets with the anthem sang on all the players’ native languages, tour to the pitch, press box, VIP-zone, changing rooms, and all the way long the staff is taking photos of you with a CL cup, at the entrance, with a player at your choice (they photoshop him:)

 

And guess what, the photos are ready and packed in albums when you are exiting – perfect strategy, when it’s in your hands already, packed in FCB album, you should really appear ugly on those pics not to buy it! You can buy the album with 3 photos for 39 EUR, one single photo, no album costs – 20 EUR, or have all the photos with the album for 59 EUR. A great business they do over there!

 

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After the stadium we went for tapas in a nearby restaurant – apparently, where all the fans snack before games. And not only the food was authentic, but we had a bottle of white from Bodegas Iniesta! The blaugrana spirit didn’t leave us alone even outside of Camp Nou.

 

I was obsessed about seeing some more Gaudí places and since it was time to check out, we went to the one closest to the hotel – Palau Güell. I can’t say it wasn’t interesting, but it’s either me being not a fan of architecture and museums at all, or simply too dark and monotonous. Right, you see a couple of flours with rooms (again) where most of the furnishing is gone, only the walls left, then the famous roof with Gaudí chimneys, and yes, the ceiling in the guest room was made of gold (and had special holes to see from upstairs what are the guests doing), but it didn’t catch my attention for too long.

 

Price and book:

 

  • Camp Nou Experience: Tour & Museum – 25 EUR/adult, additionally you can purchase a guide or an audio guide option. Book in advance on the official web-site!
  • Bodegas Iniesta: el Vuit Barcelona – even though we were in another restaurant, I just can’t find it on the maps to advise you. So to continue the FCB experience Tavsan Surat suggests you a Barca fan restaurant with Bodegas Iniesta wines. Check it out and tell us how was it!
  • Palau Güell – the admission on the first Sunday of the month is free, general ticket (includes audio guide) is 12 EUR/adult. Buy online, or keep in mind that you can pay only cash on spot, no cards accepted!

 

All the best places to eat you can find below in the section Where to eat in Barcelona

 

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So we finished with Gaudí and… wanted to go somewhere high!

 

As an option I had the Mirador de Colom – but the weather was greyish and I was upset I wouldn’t take nice shots. Then I’ve seen cable cars – why didn’t I know about them before! Going from Montjuic to the Port Vella they are an always exciting experience wherever I was before. But maps showed too far to get there, which was not completely true – it was shown that you can enter from Montjuic only, but in fact there is an entrance in the Port Vella.

The last option was the sky bar at W Hotel – certainly, one of the most noticeable, remarkable buildings in Barcelona. So we ended up there on the 26th floor with the shower-rain starting behind the windows. But what a beautiful place to watch Barcelona getting wet!

 

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Window view from Eclipse sky bar at W Hotel Barcelona

 

Soon after – waiting in the taxi line in front of the hotel and staying in the traffic on our way to the flamenco show. Yes, I know that Barcelona is not a flamenco place, but it was Tavsan Surat asking for dancing girls. What I loved about staying in traffic in Barcelona is that a car in front of you can be just a motorboat moving from one port to another 😉

 

Even though I lived in Andalusia – the birthplace of flamenco, and used to be kind of a flamenco dancer myself (even a bit performing), I was pleasantly surprised by the level of dancers and the show itself. They started from an introductory movie, then with a flamenco experience – we were asked to stand up and learn some basic steps and claps (golpe and palmas), and only then the show commenced. Sometimes flamenco, sometimes traditional Spanish dance & ballet – I even teared remembering my days on the dance-floor. Definitely recommend!

 

And, of course, as predicted our day ended up in the airport El Prat – on our way back home, to prepare for our next adventures and discoveries (that’s how I call home-staying!).

 

Price and book:

 

  • Mirador de Colom – 5,10 EUR/adult, buy online!
  • Montjuic Cable Car – 11,25 EUR/adult, buy online!
  • Eclipse Barcelona Sky Bar at W Hotel – reserve online
  • Palacio del Flamenco – prices start from 35 EUR/person for ‘Show & Drink’ option, besides that you can purchase dining, tapas and an VIP zone options. Book in advance on their web-site!

 

More sky bars & restaurants you can find in Where to eat in Barcelona section.

 

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