Remembering Notre Dame Cathedral

It was shocking this week to open the news pages and see that this beloved and majestic cathedral went up in flames. So much history…ruined in just a few hours. I couldn’t help not writing something about this holy place where I spent many a Sundays.

Nearly six years ago I was living in Paris as part of my studies. I spent three months living the Parisian life, had the opportunity to visit most of the landmarks and museums in Paris and obviously one cannot say that they were in Paris if they did not visit this iconic building. The first time I visited was actually eleven years ago when I was on holiday in Paris with my parents but I was too young to appreciate the beauty of this cathedral.

During those three months I spent living in Paris, I attended a number of mass services at Notre Dame. I remember one particular Sunday, this father with two children was sitting in front of me. The kids weren’t very interested in the mass going on but they had two pictures they were filling in with colours. They reminded me of my brother and I when we were young. It also made me think about the innocence we lose when we grow up, especially when a tragedy such as this fire happens.

It is a relief to know that most art pieces are safe and that the French Government will be rebuilding this cathedral. It is a part of history that is important for future generations to inherit.

I hope that tragedies like this one are not in the near future. Until next time dear readers, stay safe and appreciate each place you visit (even if there is a long line) as you do not know if it will stand till your next visit.

Spring in Malta

The cold season is gone and it’s time to start taking off some of the layers of clothes we need to wear to keep warm during the cold months. But…hold your horses…Malta is not warm enough yet.

Spring Weather in Malta

This year, as well as last year if I recall correctly, Spring started with a storm. It has been grey here for two days with some intervals of rain as well as small tornados (quite rare here in Malta). But do not be discouraged to visit us because Spring is beautiful here and the best time to visit. It is usually sunny and warm with clear, blue skies. Later on, in mid Spring, you can go out without a jacket and be comfortable.

Easter Time

Spring is quite eventful here in Malta. There are a lot more events one can attend. Easter time is very popular here with numerous exhibitions and plays representing the final hours of Our Lord and His triumphant return. Every weekend during the five weeks of Lent, one can find one play or another in various localities. There are also many art and statue exhibitions, both privately set up by enthusiasts as well as the local parishes. Many localities also organise a procession with people dressing up as biblical personalities to commemorate Jesus’ death.

You do not have to be religious to enjoy this part of our culture. Our traditions make us who we are and if you want to feel Maltese, Easter time is a good place to start. On Easter Sunday, many localities celebrate the Risen Lord with a cheerful procession including the blessing of Easter eggs and the traditional Figolla.

So…start planning your Easter break and I might be biased but I suggest you consider coming here for a different holiday. And do not worry, you can bring your bathing suit as well as it would be hot enough to visit the beach.

Until next time, stay safe and treat yourself to a relaxing trip.

Michelle

The Beauty of a Place

Hi everyone. I know you haven’t heard from me for a while but it’s been a hectic few weeks. However this morning I wanted to share with you all my thoughts.

I woke up earlier than usual this morning, due to some works being done at my new house. As I got there I had a few minutes to myself and I got thinking. The view from my balcony was breath-taking. I am surrounded by buildings but as the sun rises, you can see it reflecting off the sea.

Marsaskala skyline #earlymorning #seaview #countryview

Sometimes, unfortunately, we do not appreciate the beauty we are surrounded by. When you think about your surroundings, you will notice how beautiful the world is. Each spot has its own charm.

When you travel and go to a new place, you take time to absorb the scenery but we usually take our home for granted. I know…life is too fast…but it only takes a minute and it will definitely make your day better.

Until next time dear followers. Stay safe and I wish that you can take a few minutes to appreciate the beauty around you.

Michelle

Saving Money for More Travelling

Let’s face it, travelling is a bit expensive when you have many other financial commitments. You have to pay for food, somewhere to live in, clothes, car expenses, personal care products, amenities etc. Well, what if I tell you that there is a way to at least lower your water bill? It might not be that much but, as they say, a penny saved is a penny earned.

You can learn more about how you can do this by reading about the MiniBle S on: https://style.plus/new-products/minible-s-the-most-powerful-nanobubble-faucet-aerator/

Check it out to find a way to reduce your water bill without giving up the luxury of pressurized water with added benefits for your health.

Until next time dear readers, stay safe and save those pennies.

Michelle

Holidays in Malta

‘Tis the season to be jolly everyone. Christmas is here and the end of the year is with us as well. Looking back at this year, it makes you think about all the changes you did to your life, all the new experiences that you went through that made you grow up. I think a personal development I went through this year is that I became more aware that I need to appreciate more the people around you. Anyways, I wanted to write something about how we celebrate the holidays here in Malta.

Christmas is a very popular holiday here in Malta. Some people start from very early on to buy their Christmas presents. The very enthusiastic people decorate their home with lights and tinsels which you can probably see from outer space.

Christmas afternoon tea at home

We love our decorations and many towns put up Christmas lights. We put up a crib in our roundabouts so that one can really feel the Christmas spirit everywhere.

We are quite religious as a country with traditions going back for decades. A lot of people attend the Mass celebrated at midnight. Before it starts, most churches organize an hour of events such as carol singing, short plays with a particular message appropriate to the season.

Credits to my cousin Audrey Rose Mizzi at https://www.facebook.com/audreyrosephotography/

The highlight of the event is the boy’s sermon where a young boy or girl speak to the congregation passing on an important message.

We Maltese love our food therefore Christmas lunch is a huge event. Most families get together of Christmas lunch which involves a lot of food. Traditionally the main course is a turkey in any form but usually you are already too full to eat it (but we still force it down because it is so good!).

Traditional Christmas sweets include the usual Christmas log and mince pies (yes not very Maltese). There is also the more Maltese honey ring and the Imbuljuta which is a hot drink with a base of chestnuts drunk after the midnight mass.

If you’re around during the Christmas holidays, be sure to try these delicious delicacies and do go round the decorated streets of Valletta. And make sure that you know where you are going to eat on Christmas day as restaurants are booked from early on.

Until next time dear readers, Happy Holidays and please stay safe especially if you are going to be drinking (also very popular here).

Michelle

Amsterdam Holiday

As I told you a few weeks ago, I was on holiday in Amsterdam with some friends, and boy did I need the break! And Amsterdam itself was very helpful in getting me back to my usual, calm self. I was very impressed by how relaxed the whole place is. First of all, we were staying in a resort on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The small apartment we were staying in was cozy, functional and it had the best view especially in the morning. I used to wake up first and have a good 15 minutes to myself just having a coffee and staring and the view (part of it can be seen in the picture below). We had a 25-minute walk to the nearest station at which we could catch the sprinter to the city center. It was a nice walk but in the cold evening after a day of exploring, it becomes a nuisance.

Amsterdam center is amazing. Even though you are in a city center, people seem to move so relaxed, going on with life in such a peaceful way that you tend to do the same. We were terrified of the bikes because we are not used to so many people using bikes but they are just beautiful to watch. It is like a well-oiled machine, all of them cycling in a systematic way creating this beautiful dance of bicycles. We tried to visit as many of the places of interest as we could but for us, it was too cold to function so we spent a lot of time in restaurants and drinking coffee but through the window, one could still admire the different life going on outside.

One of the highlights of the trip was Vondelpark. The splendid park is a great place to admire nature. The lake, the green areas, the bikes….all like something out of a postcard. We also visited the zoo, Anne Frank house and A’DAM lookout. The zoo was impressive, with animals roaming around in big semi-enclosures where they can get very close to you but we picked a wrong day to visit as the rain hinders the fun a little bit. Anne Frank house is another impressive landmark. I had already read her diary but being there, live in the place she was describing brings it all to life and makes you realize how horrible that period in history was. The A’DAM lookout and swing was a well worth it adrenaline rush. I suggest doing it even though you might be terrified of heights. You get to kill two birds with one stone (figuratively of course). You get to see the amazing view from the highest point of the tower and you get to conquer your fear of heights. If you are not up to it, you can still admire the view from the outside deck or the inside lounge on the lower level.

This has been a short description of what we did in our week-long holiday in Amsterdam. On the whole, it was a very good, relaxing trip in a beautiful, relatively calm city. We spent some extra money but there are definitely ways that one can go there with less as on the whole, it cost around €500 per person including lodging and travelling. Later on, I will write down in more detail on certain aspects of the trip but for a few pointers on where to go, you should definitively visit the following places:

  • Vondelpark
  • A’DAM Lookout
  • Anne Frank house
  • Dam square (for shopping)
  • Zoo

 

If you have time to spare, some other places are:

  • Sex museum
  • Heineken experience
  • Canal tour
  • Believe it or Not museum

Until next time dear friends, stay safe and let’s start planning the next trip.

 

Michelle

Travelling in Big Groups – Amsterdam

In a month’s time I will be on my next adventure. I am going to Amsterdam for the first time and we are going to be ten individuals in our group. We have already settled our flight tickets and our lodging however we are still discussing which attractions we want to do. We have some places in mind but there is still no definite itinerary. We have two different types of people in our group, the ones like myself who want to wing it and the others who want to schedule everything to the minute if possible. Some of us have already started packing (I haven’t)!

Travelling in a big group is both fun as well as a challenge. Each of us have different lifestyles, interests and opinions, therefore deciding on something that everyone likes is very hard. The key is to always remember that you are going there to have fun and relax. If everyone gives a little, the adventure would be an amazing one. Decide beforehand which attractions are interesting for everyone and which ones you might want to do alone. It is true that you are going as a group, however it is also a good idea to have some time on your own or with less people in the group.

Not everyone’s budget is the same therefore one has to know his/her own budget and not go over it as well as to understand that the others might afford less than you do. It is important that we try and not make someone who cannot pay left out. In any place, there are free activities one can do which will most probably be more fun than some attractions you have to pay for.

I will let you in on other plans we make in other posts later on. For now we know that we will be in Amsterdam for the last week of November, we are going to stay at a resort around 1 hour outside of the city center and we are going to be ten individuals. We are also going to be joined by other friends during some days. If you are going to be around, do feel free to contact us and we can meet up… I like to make new friends 🙂

 

Until next time, stay safe and start planning (or not).

 

Michelle

 

 

A Day in Paris

My birthday is coming up at the end of the week and I was reminiscing about previous birthday celebrations I’ve had during my lifetime. I wanted to share with you one of those experiences. Don’t worry, it is still related to travelling as I was abroad that year and believe me it was one of the best birthday ever. 5 years ago I was on an Erasmus program for three months in Paris. It was just me and a friend from university for three months in the French capital on a very limited budget. They were a great 3 months in which I learned a lot about what it feels like to be away from family. Here in Malta we usually live with our parents till we get married or at least very late in life (like when you’re nearly 30!) therefore this was a very challenging experience for me. In hind sight, I do believe I should have done a lot more but that time is gone now and I can do nothing about that now. However I still cherish my time there and I love Paris as a second home.

21/10/2013

My brother and my fiance came to visit me in Paris the week of my birthday. I remember being as excited as a child on Christmas Day to see them again after a month and a half. I remember that day we decided to go sight seeing in the morning. I showed them some of Paris’ interesting sites. We went to see L’Opera de Paris (a surprise for my fiance as we are big fans of The Phantom of the Opera) and we walked around near the Louvre and the Seine just looking around at the beauty surrounding us. In the afternoon we decided to go freshen up a bit as well as to prepare for the evening. We bought two baguettes and a bottle of wine so that we could have a picnic in the evening.

 

At around 6 we went to see the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero and then we queued for about an hour to go up. It was well worth the wait. The view from both levels of the tower is mesmerizing. I remember it started raining lightly as soon as we reached the third level but it was still enjoyable. When we got down from there we found a bench under some trees so that we could eat our dinner. I remember that baguette was delicious and the wine was a perfect match (I don’t remember what the wine was exactly but it was a delicious French one for sure). It was the perfect birthday celebration, simple and different.

I know it’s a short post but I wanted to tell you about this memory of a simpler time. Later on I will post about places I’ve been to in Paris but for today, I wanted to share with you this special day.

 

Until next time, stay safe and travel.

 

Michelle

Saving Money on a Trip

Lets face it, travelling is expensive when you have so many stuff you have to pay for on a day to day basis (food, rent, car, insurance, drinks, clothes, toiletries, beauty products,, etc.). Plane tickets, lodging and bus/train tickets seem like extra expenses even though you’re sure that your mind is close to shutting down and is in dire need of a break. But, despair not, because you can travel with little money and still get a good relaxing holiday. Below are some tips on how to save money when travelling.

  • Cheap plane tickets: plane ticket prices change over time therefore its good to check from time to time however do not leave till the last minute to buy them.
  • Travel light: most cheap airlines allows only a hand luggage for free. Try to fit everything in the carry on luggage so that you don’t have to pay for an extra luggage. For a quick list of what to pack, check out a previous post.
  • Look for lodging: at first sight, lodging might seem very expensive but do research the area for hostels, hotels or B&Bs as you might find good places to stay at low prices.
  • Research restaurants: food is very important for those long exploring trips. Google gives you a lot of options where to go and you can filter what type of food you want to eat and at what price. Asking a local is also a good option as they will know where to go for good food at lower prices than the touristy areas.
  • Train/bus tickets: most places give you the option to buy a ticket for your whole stay. This is usually cheaper than buying tickets daily. I am a big fan of exploring new places on foot as well as that lowers your expenses as well as getting some good exercise.
  • Visiting museums: I believe in online booking as that way you can skip at least one line. Online deals are also a way to make a bargain. Look for tickets for the place you want to visit through Google and you might find discounts only available online. If you are going as a group, most places offer a group discount. In Europe, people under 25 years usually go into museums for free so travel up before you turn 25!
  • Restricting expenditure: Avoid going to places that might make you want to but stuff you don’t need (shopping sprees, promoters who want to show you their products, etc.). Also plan (no need for a ridged plan) where to go so that you can group places that are next to each other instead of travelling by bus/train to areas in the same region at different times (saves money and time).
  • Shopping: avoid buying stuff that you can take with you from home (toiletries, some clothes) unless you find that it is cheaper to do so. If you find that the plane ticket does not include some form of luggage, buying stuff from your destination like clothes and maybe a suitcase might be a better option as you only have to pay for one luggage ticket.
  • Overweight baggage: avoid buying too much stuff that your luggage goes over the weight you have bought. If this is the case, spread your belongings in different bags (your hand luggage, back-pack or small bag and the luggage you are putting in the hold. If you have bulky objects, such as a jacket, wear it even though it might be a 100 degrees outside.

If you have any other ways to save money when on holiday, please leave them in a comment below, I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Until next time, stay safe and start saving the pennies for a good trip.

 

Michelle

 

Travelling with Kids

Kids bring joy to our lives, their innocence, their sense of wonder and their playful attitude towards life. However traveling with kids is a big headache. Taking all their stuff with you, needing to be more vigilant in a new place and having to cut some days short because of illness or tiredness makes it even harder to travel with them. Today I am going to write about a memory of a holiday way back to when I was about 8 years old. Today I realize that I was a nightmare on that day and I want to thank my parents for being patient with me and not leaving me behind (no that they would do that).

A Day in Venice

18 years ago, I went abroad for the first time in my life. For an 8 year old, it was a very exciting prospect (not that it is not exciting now as well)…going on a plane, being somewhere new where people looked and sounded different, being so far away from home (in hind sight, Italy is not that far away from home but anyways). I remember packing my favorite outfits and my favorite shoes, feeling excited because I was going to Italy. We had a whole week planned (thanks to my father) to visit different cities. We were most excited to go to Gardaland, a fun park with a lot of rides and a child’s dream (next to a Disney park). The next day we went to Venice.

What a beautiful city Venice is. The canals, the architecture, the sights, the gondolas! But all of these were lost on two young children who only wanted to play. My brother and I, 6 and 8 respectively, spent almost a whole day in a bad mood, getting on my parents’ nerves. I remember seeing the Duomo Di San Marco and the square in front of it. I remember giving seeds to the pigeons in the middle of the square and walking around the narrow streets of Venice. Looking back, I wish I appreciated more where I was and what I was doing, but a hard-headed 8 year old me decided not to enjoy it. We had lunch under the Rialto bridge with gondolas passing next to us. The 28-year-old me appreciates how magical that must have been. Our mood lightened only after my parents bought us two Toy Story dolls from the Disney store but then it was nearly time to go back to the hotel.

 

Some Tips

Children might not remember everything about a trip but rest assured that they will appreciate travelling when they are older. I think that traveling when very young instills in the child a desire to wander as well as giving them courage to follow other opportunities away from home. Yes it might be some hassle to travel with young children but they will learn that the world is a much bigger place than their home.

Saving money on trips with children is a bit harder than when traveling alone. Some tips for lowering the price and having a more relaxing holiday with kids:

  • Looking for family tickets for attractions you might be visiting
  • If the children are fussy eaters, look for something they like and avoid fancy restaurants as you might end up wasting a whole meal
  • If budget is really tight, try sleeping in one bed
  • Big parks are expensive but they will have family tickets
  • Pack light to avoid paying for extra luggage (stuff you can find abroad and might take a lot of space in your luggage, buy them from there)
  • Do take with you a favorite toy so that the child can share the experience with their prized possession
  • If the child is fussy on the plane because of the pressure, either use a decongestant spray during the flight or ask the flight attendant for a glass of warm water and make the child breathe into it

Until next time, stay safe, relax and plan a trip with your child to show them the world.

 

Michelle