I mostly talk about all things finance on my blog. Today, I thought I would take a little break and dedicate this post to something else instead. You have probably guessed by now that it will be about my travel adventures!
Since I am not taking any more holidays until my big trip in February next year, I thought I would reminisce about the places I had visited in the last 12 months. I will do this in 3 parts as there is so much I want to tell and so many pictures I want to show (I realise this is not a travel blog, so I promise I will try to not get carried away). I just like the idea of talking about something else from time to time. I will post the second part sometime in August and the third part in September.
Okay, are you ready?
Travelling has always been one of my top priorities. My first job was with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines where I worked as ground staff at the busy European airport. I used to travel around for business to attend various training courses as well as for leisure to explore the world in my own time. After four wonderful years (perhaps the best years so far in my professional career), I left my job at the airport and moved to an office job.
Although years have passed since then, I still miss the airport buzz. It is a very special place where so many precious moments are created every second in people’s lives: the tears of joy in the arrivals hall where loved ones reunite often after months or years of separation; the tears of sorrow in the departure lounge where mothers and wives say goodbyes to their sons and husbands headed to serve their country, and where young couples in love hold each other tightly knowing they will soon be separated by thousands of miles and perhaps an ocean. It is weird how complete strangers can suddenly become so close when you get to see their joy and sorrow, even if just for a split second. As much as it was difficult for me to leave this behind, I felt that it was time for me to move on. So I did, but these memories will always be tucked away safely in my heart, and I will always think of an airport as a magical place.
Last summer I made travelling my top priority. I gave up on the idea of waiting around for my friends to join me on my wonderful adventures and started planning my getaways. My first solo trip was to Malta in August last year where I spent one week in the +40C heat! Technically, I travelled solo to Israel when I was 18 but since I was staying with friends who also met me at the airport, I am not entirely sure this was a solo trip. I guess my classification of a solo trip is more along the lines of “travelling somewhere on your own where you do not know anyone”.
MALTA (August 2012)
After weeks of rainy weather in London (we didn’t have a proper summer last year), it was a blessing to land in Malta where the air temperature was above +40C. I quickly changed (a summer dress was more appropriate than a trench coat) and headed for my hotel in Bugibba, my home for the next 7 nights. I spent my first days in Malta by the pool soaking up the sun, eating fresh fruit and reading gossip magazines (also, this was where I read all three books of Fifty Shades of Grey and I am not ashamed to admit it!). This was exactly what I needed as it had been ages since my last holiday and all I wanted to do was to lie flat in the sun and do absolutely nothing.
After 3 lazy days, I decided it was time to do some exploring regardless of the heat. The next morning I jumped on a bus headed for Valetta for the day. Now, I know that some people find Valetta a bit boring and say there is not much to do. I respectfully disagree. I absolutely loved Valetta, and to this day I am in love with its historical charm.
Valetta is the smallest European capital and you can walk it in one day. You are also bound to find something interesting to look at on every corner.
During my stay in Malta I travelled around the island some more and visited Sliema, St Julian’s Bay and Mellieha Bay. As I had breakfast and dinner included in my hotel package, I did not get to eat out once. Also, trust me, when it’s over +40C, you will probably not want to eat anyway. Maltese cuisine has Mediterranean influence (Italian in particular); therefore, seafood is very popular.
SICILY (September 2012)
After one month spent in London, it was time to pack my suitcase once again (I travel with hand luggage only around Europe). This time I was going to the island of Sicily for 8 blissful days. I had heard Sicily was beautiful, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience. There are no words to describe the beauty of Taormina, which became my home for the first 6 days of my stay in Sicily.
I landed in Palermo, and I have to say logistics wise it was not my smartest decision (Catania is the closest airport to Taormina). All in all, it took me 7 hours to get from Palermo airport to Taormina. I took a bus from Palermo airport to Palermo centre where I boarded another bus to Catania. I then changed buses in Catania once again to get to Taormina. It was a long and tiring journey and I arrived at about 5 pm after the whole day of travelling. When I got off my bus and looked around, all my tiredness disappeared. I was in heaven.
My hotel was on the hill which had the most breathtaking views over Taormina, the sea and the Mount Etna – one of the most active volcanoes in the world. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming – wherever I looked the views were mesmerising. After dinner (I got some local food from the supermarket nearby) I decided to go to bed early and start exploring the following day after I regained my energy. I spent the next morning by the pool admiring the views and went down a million stairs in the afternoon to reach Taormina city centre.
In the evening of my second day I met 3 Russian girls in Taormina city centre, and we became inseparable for the rest of my stay there. (I am still friends with the girls. Actually, I took a trip to Venice in February with N, and O is coming to stay with me in London in October this year). There were trips to the picturesque beach of Isola Bella, gelato in the afternoon, local food in restaurants all over town in the evening and cocktails in local night clubs under the palm trees (I may have had one alcoholic cocktail while in Sicily. Okay, maybe two!). Yes, I blew all my money holidaying in Sicily and I could not wait to be paid upon my return. I was not familiar with the word “budget” back then.
After 6 unforgettable days it was time for me to head back to Palermo and explore the city.
I arrived in Palermo late at night and after checking into my hotel, I went straight to bed. I woke up early the next day and went up to the hotel’s rooftop restaurant where they were serving breakfast. The views of the city from the rooftop were beautiful which meant long and enjoyable breakfasts.
I spent the whole day exploring Palermo on foot, marvelling at the beautiful architecture, strolling along city’s narrow streets and soaking up the sun. I took a bus to Mondello, a stunning beach resort 20 minutes drive away from central Palermo, and spent the whole day there lying on the beach. Perfection! I returned back to Palermo and went out for dinner to a traditional Sicilian restaurant that I was recommended by my Sicilian friend. The next morning it was time to say goodbye. I knew I would come back to Sicily one day as my love for this sunny island will never die.
Phew! I think I will stop here. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings on one of my favourite subjects. More of my travel stories to follow. Note: All my holidays in the last 12 months have been paid for in cash.
Have you ever been to Malta or Sicily? What places did you get to visit in the last 12 months? I’d like to know.