Tag Archives: beautiful

Our Etna Experience

Each holiday has at least one big highlight, and while we were in Sicily, one of the highlights was visiting Etna. I admit, it was long overdue – in fact, visiting Sicily was long overdue! I bet not many Maltese people can say that they have not been to Sicily by the age of thirty. The thing is, that I am fascinated with the UK, and I mostly ignored all other countries for a big chunk of my life. It was in 2016 that I started exploring properly and I have not looked back ever since.

We left Etna for our very last day, it being so close to Catania airport. We arrived at around 9:30AM after a two hours drive from where we were staying. The Etna car park, by the cable cars was almost full. It happened to be May the 1st, which is a bank holiday in most countries, so there were a lot of tourists there.

Steffi enjoying Etna, Sicily!

We bought our tickets and made our way to the queue for the cable cars. Once we were at a reasonable height, we queued again for 4×4-style buses. Most of the tourists were laughing hard while we made our way on what we could only describe as a bumpy ride!  It took us to almost to the top of the volcano in no time. It was rather astonishing seeing people walking all the way up from ground level, seeing that Etna is 3,500 meters high up. I bet it takes most of the day going up and then down. We thought it was money well spent as this way we could enjoy walking around and inside the craters for a longer time.

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As you set foot out of the bus, you realise that the temperature changed drastically. From almost 20 degrees to around 2 degrees! Once you get accustomed to the change of weather, you start to embrace the surroundings. The view is breathtaking, the colour of the gravel varies from black to red to yellow. I have never seen so many colours on such a huge stretch of mountain-like land. It was simply amazing being there. No words were enough to describe what we saw, what we felt being so high up, on such a clear day. You could see steam coming out, touching the floor underneath your feet feels warm. You could tell you are walking on top of an active volcano. A bit scary and risky, but it’s an experience I will never forget.

We spent roughly two hours walking and exploring, and around three hours in total including the transport. The souvenir shop comes highly recommended. While we were there we tried several liquors and the famous mandorla wine. We ended up buying some, as well as lava made statues and decor, adding onto the issue we already had since we traveled with just a hand-luggage for a five day long holiday! On the way down to the car-park, there is a restaurant which in our opinion had the best arancini in Sicily. Do give them a try if you feel peckish!

Best Castles in Germany

I have quite a soft-spot for Germany. My fascination started way back when I was barely a teenager. At that time, I was supporting the German National Football Club, better known as Die Mannschaft. Since then, I discovered another love – Castles. After exhausting my travels in the UK, in 2016 I started traveling to Germany. So far, I have visited between 30 to 40 castles in Germany and based on my experience, I would like to write about my favourite 5 castles (so far!) in Deutschland!

Burg Hohenzollern

Located on top of Mount Hohenzollern, one can find a very distinguished castle.  What I would also call distinguished is the view from the castle onto the surroundings; the mesmerizing view of the Black Forest. Upon entering this castle, one would realise that no expense was spared in building and maintaining this castle.

The first mention of the castle was in 1267, however the mentioned castle was completely destroyed in 1423. Roughly 30 years later, the second Hohenzollern Castle was built – now bigger than ever. The fortification around it is a testimony of several conversions the castle has endured during its lifetime. To this day, the structure is sound and in perfect condition thanks to all the tourists who have visited and will visit in the years to come. Personally, I appreciate it when admission fees are used for the maintenance and renovation of the castle I visited.

 

Burg Eltz

Located along the Mosel Valley, one finds a breathtaking castle by the name of Eltz. Remembering the first time I visited this castle, I was unaware of the long (and pleasant) walk in the forest to reach it. We were puzzled; How is it that we are visiting a castle so out of sight? Trust me, the fifteen minute walk is worthwhile. If you find this as an obstacle, you can always take the shuttle bus however! English tours are available in this castle which is kind of expected considering how popular this castle is.

The castle is still owned by the same family who around 33 generation ago lived there. Eltz is one of the only three castles on the left bank of River Rhine which has never been destroyed. Construction started prior to 1157. Another house within the castle was built in the 1400s, whilst the third part of the castle was considered finished in the 1530s. The upside of this last construction is the fact that each room was heated, unlike the remaining parts of the castle which were partly heated only. The Eltz family is still considered noble to this day.

Schloss Drachenburg

Although Shloss Drachenburg looks like a castle, in fact to me, it looks very similar to Disney Castle, this is considered as a villa. What is unbelievable about it is that it was built in just two years between 1882 and 1884. It belonged to a banker who initially planned to make it a home, but then he didn’t. It was later donated to the State Foundation and is now open for the public. The western facade of the palace was heavily damaged in WW2. The restoration took many years to fulfill as even roofs needed to be replaced.

Aside from the beautiful views of Bonn and the river from the very top of the castle, one must admire the interiors who have been hand-painted all these years ago and are to this day so well maintained. I also remember huge stained glass windows, with details I have never witnessed before; and even after visiting several other castles in other countries, still remain unbeatable…

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

Pfalzgrafenstein – such a big name, for such a small castle! One can find this little gem in the middle of River Rhine. In fact, to gain access to it, you’d have to ride a short boat trip. Once we arrived on Falkenau island we started by admiring the river from a different angle. We also noticed that from a certain level, this castle looks like a ship. Since the river’s depth varies due to seasonality, the castle had to be built in such a way that it did not flood when the water rises.

Built between 1326 and 1327, its function was as a toll-collecting station. A chain across the river forced ships to stop and pay the fee. If they did not cooperate, they were kept in the castle’s dungeon until a ransom was received. Although the castle was restored to its glory, to this day one does not find neither electricity nor a lavatory. The area is a World Heritage site.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Possibly the more popular castle not only in Germany but worldwide. What many do not know, is the sad story behind it. Back in the 1800s, the King Ludwig II, started to build this most magnificent and luxurious castle, only he died before it was completely finished. In fact, the king only lived in the castle for 172 years (in his private headquarters, whilst it was still being built), and it was opened for public viewing shortly after he died in the year 1886.

It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pöllat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day […]; you know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world…

— Ludwig II, Letter to Richard Wagner, May 1868[14]

 

Most of the photos above are my own (apart from interior photos of Neuschwanstein, Eltz and Hohenzollern for the simple reason that it was not allowed). Kindly seek permission before re-using.

5 Simple Ways to Wow Your Wedding Guests

You’d like to think that simply looking your stunning best will be enough to make your wedding guests say ‘wow,’ and it will! But it’s also true that every bride looks amazing on their special day. If you want to make yours stand out from the crowd, then you’ll want to go the extra mile to make it memorable. Below, we take a look at five ways you can make your guests feel the love – and have a day they’ll always remember.

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Pick a Unique Venue

You could pick a venue that’s close to where you live, but where’s the fun in that? There are a million and one unique, beautiful venues across Europe, and with inexpensive flights available to and from many countries, it’s not that much of a hassle to ask your friends and family to travel overseas. If you’re not of an overly traditional bent, then you might want to consider getting married away from the church. A beautiful ceremony set among lush woodlands, with fairy lights making the space look extra magical, for example, is guaranteed to impress your guests.

Make a Strong First Impression

Of course, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to wow your wedding guests before they reach the ceremony. You can make a strong first impression by investing in beautiful wedding invitations, and by asking your guests to RSVP with added details – such as a song they’d like to hear at the wedding party. You may even ‘wow’ your guests by simply asking that they don’t bring anything other than themselves – that means no gifts – to the wedding, which is a touching detail if the ceremony is taking place overseas. Get creative with your invites, and you’ll have people keenly anticipating the fun days to come!

Riding in Style

The ceremony and the party rarely take place at the same place, so how are your guests going to get from one place to the other? Normally, this will involve a series of taxis, but there’s not going to be anything normal about your wedding! Instead, put on some funky transport, such as a themed party coach, or limos, or – if it’s not too far – a series of horse carriages for everyone. It’ll be much more exciting than having everyone patiently queuing for the next series of taxis to turn up.

Extra Touches

You’re going to have people from all walks of life attending your wedding; relatives, old friends, work colleagues, and so on, and they’re not all going to know one another. So why not help them up by adding a “who’s who” to the seating plan? You can show everyone how they know each other through six degrees of separation. It’s a great way to move past small talk and onto the fun times!

And Relax

You’ve got a dance-floor; how about a place to relax? Some people don’t want to dance all night but do want to be involved. Create a space that allows them to be involved and also unwind. They’ll love you for it.

Don’t Assume A Girl Wants A White Wedding When You Can Have This Much Fun

Just Married

Any avid fans of this blog out there may well remember a blog I did about assumptions you should never make about a girl. There were things on there about how pink isn’t every girls favourite colour, how every girl doesn’t love wearing heels, how some girls love football and that the only genre of films we want to watch are chick flicks. It’s nonsense, as is the belief that all girls want to have a white wedding.

We don’t.

Sure, white weddings are beautiful and elegant and timeless, but that doesn’t mean the classic white wedding is every girl’s cup of tea. Nah ah. Not when there are so many ways to dot some personality around and add a splash of pizzazz and have some fun with the one day that will be remembered forever.

And with that in mind, we have pulled together a list of impossibly fun wedding ideas for all those girls that want to step away from the white wedding thing:

  1. Pre-Wedding Sports Day Party

A lot of the time, the big day will be the first time your guests have met one another and that means there will be a lot of shaking hands, air kisses and testing the waters before people get really loose. Well, why not get past all of this by having pre-wedding sports day party where your bridesmaids and groomsmen can get to know each other in the most fun environment possible.

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  1. Request A Dance Floor Classic

Another great way to make your big day the best kind of riot is to have space on your wedding RSVP cards for song requests. But don’t just let them have free reign, specify that their choices have to be from the naughties. That way you will get some real dancefloor fillers. We’re talking Snow Patrol “Chasing Cars” and Rihanna “Disturbia” and “It’s my Life” by Bon Jovi.

  1. Break Invitation Convention

When it comes to wedding invites, most people think they have to choose a white card with silver writing and then a pretty flower illustration. But that’s nonsense. You can do what you want. You could pick blue wedding invitations if you fancy, or have a scratch card sort of thing where the date gets revealed, or you could invite everyone to a multi-storey car park and then chuck the invites down the stairwell like you would an American house party.

  1. Flower Girls From A Different Generation

Think of a flower girl and you probably imagine your cousin’s daughter’s wearing pretty frocks as they sprinkle petals down the aisle. But just imagine how amazing it would be to break convention and have your grandma’s play the role instead, skipping along with baskets on their arm. Amazing.

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  1. Hand Out Them Sparklers

Okay, so this modern trend is fast becoming a wedding mainstay, and for good reason. The sparkler exit is just the most epic way to leave your own bash; each of your friends waving sparklers in front of the night sky as you and your love leave for your new life together. Trust us, this will be the photo you cherish more than any other.

  1. Midnight Feasts, Yes Please

Everyone tends to get a little peckish late in the night (when those signature cocktails of yours start to kick in). Well, instead of having cheese and biscuits or whatever else, you should hire a food truck to come and save the day. Come on, how cool would it be to have a burger van show up as everyone starts to feel hunger rumble away in their bellies.

  1. Liquid Confidence

There are two things that will get most people on the dancefloor; great music and a glass of wine. That tends to do the trick. If, however, there are still people that aren’t quite feeling confident enough, you should give the classic chalkboard a makeover using some quotes like, “Trust me, you can dance” – Vodka. You’ll be amazed at how much it works.

  1. Colourful Bridesmaids

Traditionally speaking, bridesmaids all wear the same dress in the same colour. And it looks nice. But we would much prefer to be supported by an array of friends rocking different shades. Have them look stunning in the same dress, just let them rock different colours. It looks soooo good. It really-really does.

  1. Order Of Service

We love how personal people get with their order of service programs. They have a so and so is going to speak and such and such a hymn is going to play and then this poem will be read. But why not just keep it short and simple. “Music will play. We will get married. The party kicks off.” Done.

Of Cornish Beaches

I know, that in Malta, we have some breathtakingly gorgeous beaches, but they are crowded with Maltese and foreigners. So much so, that if you are not a proper beach-lover, you do not step foot on any of the beaches during the peak Summer months. In fact, this year, I have only been to the beach once, and this was in September, and only because it was an event which I could not miss – My father’s birthday.

When I mention my love towards the UK, I more often than not are told that in England there aren’t any attractive beaches. Today, I am going to attempt to prove you wrong. This year, in June my partner and I spent some memorable days in Cornwall. We both fell in love with this place, and one of the reasons is the gorgeous seasides.

Lands End
This was quite high in our priority for the very reason that it is the southern-most part of the UK. The coastal views are spectacular and it would make a lovely day out, taking in the surroundings, the wildlife, and why not… a picnic by the sea, listening to the waves, blissfully.

Kynance Cove
If white sandy beaches and turquoise coloured seas are on your list, this beach is just what you are looking for. To top it off, during our visit towards the end of June, there was almost no one around. This makes your swimming experience just a little bit more special. By the way, at low tide, you are able to explore the caves. Sadly, this was not the case when we visited!

Tintagel Beach
By far my favourite – I’d say I am a bit biased by this because of the myths surrounding this place, as well as the extraordinary weather we had and the view of castle ruins on top of the cliff! I admit, this was the busiest of the beach areas we visited, but this did not stop us from capturing several photos of this very photogenic place. You be the judge!

Gunwalloe Church Cove
Admittedly, this bay made it into our Travel Plan because there’s a very cute church and cemetery close by. In order to get to the beach itself, there’s a rather long wobbly walk. The panoramas made it bearable as well as the serenity the place offered once we got there. We in fact, had this beach for ourselves, which was rather surprising.

Poldark fans, Kynance Cove and Church Cove are two beaches which were used as filming locations. Can you imagine walking the same steps as Aidan Turner? Now you can! 😉

The Places You Likely Haven’t Thought Of Sleeping During Your Vacation

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What is the bedrock of a positive vacation experience? Is it the place you visit? The people you meet? The food you eat? The places you’d stay? Which one of these, if lost, would render the experience unenjoyable? We’d argue the accommodation. Good quality accommodation where you can rest your head well and recharge your batteries for a full additional day of exploration is part and parcel in enjoying a holiday space you can truly call your own.

However, it’s likely that you haven’t particularly thought about this in the past aside from finding a place which looks clean and nice, is sizeable enough, and is cheap. For some people, the location is what matters, and having a safe place to rest their head is simply a nice addition. It’s for this reason that the backpacking and hotel trade is always popular and enjoyable. However, if you’re getting a little more mature in your tastes and the accommodation means as much to you like the place you inhabit, you should try the following ideas:

Ice Hotels

To stay in an ice hotel sounds like a difficult and challenging experience for many people, especially those who don’t like the cold. While they’re obviously not as warm as a room with central heating, they can be immensely beautiful to stay in and inhabit. These hotels are masterpieces of architecture and ice engineering and deserve to be visited. When visiting Lapland, a magical place in its own right, they could serve as a perfect and beautiful way to feel connected to your local and cold environment.

What’s more, is that the hotel is constructed each year, so you never see a new one twice. Over 1,000 tonnes of ice go into the construction, and as a result, the ‘building’ is sizeable and incredible to witness. Not only that, but the ICEHOTEL 365 has recently been released, the world’s first permanent ice hotel which takes advantage of central heating and is truly a sight to witness. If looking for an impressive entry into your vacation journal, this might be the ‘coolest’ set of pictures you take.

Tree Top Hotels

Tree Top hotels can be perfect if you’re looking for a view that can simply rival any other. Aside from camping, there is no better way to feel interconnected with the nature around you. These hideaway suits can truly give you that perspective over the environment that you need, and that can be especially conducive to a reflective and meditative vacation, perfect if you’re simply looking forward to getting away from it all.

Tree Top hotels often have a low carbon footprint too, meaning that an ethical holiday could simply be right around the corner. This could be perfect if you’re trying to become closer to nature and detoxify after years of city living.

Over time, the simple effort taken to experience new methods of resting up can lead to you acquiring new tastes, finding new more like minded people, or giving yourself that celebratory vacation you truly deserve.

 

How To Fill The Time While You’re Traveling

What a lot of people don’t tell you about traveling is that it isn’t all fun. Although you get to explore some incredible cities and see new things every day, there are times when you’re waiting around for a bus or sitting on a dark train through the night or trying to get over jet lag at 3AM in an uncomfortable hostel room bed, and at those times, traveling really doesn’t seem like as much fun as it’s cracked up to be! Here are some tips to help you get through the hardest and loneliest parts of traveling the world…

Start Reading

There’s nothing better than an e-reader to get you through some rough times. Download your favourite books to dive into whenever you feel a little blue – try Harry Potter or the Game of Thrones series for exciting reads that you’ll be able to dip in and out of. Not only will it provide you with something to do, but if you don’t feel like talking to anyone then reading is a surefire way to tell them that you’re busy and to back off.

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Get A Streaming App

Streaming apps can enable you to watch movies and TV shows on your devices, whether that’s your smartphone or your tablet. Being able to watch a half-hour comedy on your tablet with your headphones on underneath your sheets as the hostel you’re staying in will help you feel a little more grounded and it’ll put you in a much better mood. ShowBox is a popular app among Android users – the latest version APK download link is here if you want to check it out. Just remember to take an extra charger so your devices don’t run out of juice too quickly.

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Plan Your Trip

One of the best things to do if you feel a little bored and down is to start planning the next phase of your trip. Even if you’re about to head home, why not start a list of the next countries that you plan to visit? If you’re feeling a little lost and you miss your friends and family at home, opening up your guidebook and deciding what attractions and cities you want to visit next will remind you why you wanted to start traveling to begin with. It’s also a good idea to start looking at your budget to make sure that you have a decent money situation – you want to make sure that you can travel in financial comfort.

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Make Friends

Finally, use any moments of loneliness to start making new friends. Other people traveling will be remarkably friendly and could prove to be friends for life – and even if they’re only backpacking friends, that’s okay too. Some people are perfect to have as friends for a certain part of your life before parting with goodwill towards each other. Strike up conversations with people who seem friendly but make sure that you stay on your guard and remember that if any situation makes you feel uncomfortable it’s totally okay to remove yourself from it.

Mistra Bay nature walk

One thing I struggle with in Malta is to choose where to go to enjoy a lovely nature walk. Finding a place which is not crowded proves to be difficult at the very least.

At this time of the year, Malta is at its greenest. It encourages me to go exercise, snap some photos and enjoy a picnic with loved ones or friends.

Recently my boyfriend and I have visited Mistra Bay. Previously, I have only frequented this area in my childhood for swimming and BBQ-ing. This time round, our plan was different, and I was pleasantly surprised by the nice views once you get walking along the cliffs. The shallow water is lovely to look at, the breeze is fresh and clean.

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My excitement was hardly contained when we came across what looked like an abandoned room, with a very panoramic view. Walking into it, and absorbing the scenery… Reading through the graffitti, I found a mark which said that this was a fire-station. We tried to come up with reasons why this was suitable, but seeing that there were no villages or towns close by, it hardly made any sense to have one at this location, on the very edge of the cliffs.

We stopped for tea and snacks further up, facing the breathtaking St.Paul’s islands. I have never looked at them from this angle; gorgeous none the less!

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Seven Incredible Places In Thailand You Just Have To Visit

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Thailand is such an incredibly rich, diverse, and beautiful country. If the food doesn’t make you fall in love with it, the people certainly will. And its history and culture have remained untouched, despite the fact it is one of Asia’s most frequented countries by visitors. If you’re considering a trip to Thailand, or you knew you wanted to visit East Asia, but you couldn’t decide where, let this be all the incentive you need to book your flights to Thailand and have the adventure of the lifetime. Here are seven things you just can’t miss.

  1. The sights of Bangkok

Understandably, the capital city of one of the most beautiful counties in the world is absolutely stunning. Even if you have no interest in a city break, and your holiday is purely for relaxing on a beach or exploring the jungles, don’t miss out on a couple of days in Bangkok. The sights such as the Grand Palace and marketplaces make this a truly unique city, worthy of a day or two of exploration.

  1. Visit the long neck hill tribe villages

The culture of Thailand has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years, and this includes some of the tribes in the rainforests and mountains. The hill tribe villages are still known for their beautiful handmade clothes, traditional crafts, and their original look with long necks, elongated by brass bands wrapped around their necks.

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  1. Explore the Chiang Rai White Temple

The stunning temple was built to symbolise Buddha’s purity, but the style does not follow suit of other more traditional styles of Thai architecture. It’s a visually interesting piece of art and place of worship that is an absolute must for anyone staying in Chiang Rai.

  1. See the Bo Sang umbrella village

Near Chiang Mai, the umbrella village features handmade bamboo umbrellas and parasols, made in the traditional way. It is free to watch the women expertly craft these umbrellas, and visitors can buy them to take home as mementos if they wish, but it’s also just a beautiful place to visit and experiencethailand-3Image Credit

  1. Take a boat at the Damnoen Saduak floating market

East Asia is famous for its many styles of floating market, and Thailand is no different. In particularly watery areas of the country, their markets have been this way for hundreds of years, so there’s no plan to change them yet. They’re visually stunning, vibrant, and exciting places to visit, and the street food is exquisite.

  1. Visit Chiang Mai

The city of Chiang Mai is perfect for a few days exploring, or even a while longer. It’s a popular place for people to volunteer in Thailand teaching English and computer skills, as it’s very traditional, but the locals are friendly and welcoming.

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  1. Explore the Ayutthaya National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage site is full of the mystery of the Orient, with incredible archaeological sites from when it used to be the second capital of Siam. Explore the ruined temples, palaces, and Buddha statues, and the iconic overgrown Buddha head at Mahathat Temple. The whole park is awe-inspiring for people of any age.

Hopefully, you’ve got all the reasons you’ll ever need to visit Thailand, because when you’ve been once, you’ll want to return again and again.