Rhodes: Greek ruins, astronomy, springs & waterfalls

It’s currently a very rainy day in England and it’s safe to say that Autumn is officially here. Although part of me is looking forward to snuggling up indoors, another part of me is already reminiscing over my recent holiday to the sunny island of Rhodes in Greece! I was lucky enough to fit in a third holiday abroad this year and the countdown to this one was particularly exciting after only booking it three weeks before we went.

Faliraki

We were pretty spoilt for choice as there are clearly many places you can stay in Rhodes which will offer good nightlife, beautiful beaches and plenty of history on your doorstep, but we opted to stay in Faliraki so we could easily walk to bars and restaurants in the evenings and travel out to other cities in the day time. Faliraki is undoubtedly a tourist town and it doesn’t offer as much of a rich Greek history and culture as the other towns. However, there are a lot of nice beaches around and if you’re looking for good nightlife, this is definitely the spot with roads such as Bar Street offering a whole strip of bars.

A particularly good find for us in Faliraki was the Astronomy Cafe. This was such a unique experience and was completely different to anything I’ve ever experienced before. If you pay to do the tour, you get to go into the observatory and take turns looking through the telescope at the moon, Jupiter and Saturn. Our tour guide was so informative and it was really fascinating to learn more about these planets and the moon. You also get a beautiful view of Faliraki as it’s quite a walk up the hill!

Rhodes Old Town

We took a day trip to Rhodes Town quite early and ended up staying until the last bus home because there was so much to do. As much as everyone raves about Lindos, I have to say that Rhodes Town is probably my favourite. The Old Town has some beautiful architecture and there are so many great shops and restaurants to explore. We walked around the old moat and city walls before buying the combined ticket to visit the Archaeological Museum and the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. Both of these were really interesting and take about a couple of hours to look around. I particularly liked the gardens in the museum as they were a bit quieter and really pretty to look around. There are a lot of artifacts to look at and you learn a lot about the history of Rhodes Old Town.

Another highlight in Rhodes Town for me had to be the vegetarian/vegan restaurant called To Marouli. Being vegan can be a little tricky in Greece so it was fantastic to find a place where there were so many options I could eat! We also stumbled across plenty of bars with live music such as Legends Rock Bar and a nearby bar with traditional Greek music. I think if I visited Rhodes again, I would definitely stay closer to Rhodes Town!

Lindos

Now I don’t think a trip to Rhodes is complete without visiting Lindos. When you picture a traditional Greek town, Lindos is probably what comes to mind. With beautiful white buildings and cobbled streets, I half expected the cast of Mamma Mia to come singing and dancing around the corner. Lindos is a lot smaller than I expected, and other than visiting the beaches or Acropolis, the town consists of just restaurants, bars and shops. Because it’s so small, it did feel quite crowded at time – I imagine it’s the case even more so during the peak months. However, I did really enjoy wandering around the shops for trinkets and the stunning views at the top of the town.

The must-do tourist attraction in Lindos is of course the acropolis at the top of the cliff. It’s quite a walk to reach (sadly a lot of tourists were still choosing to ride donkeys up there which I found appalling), and it is quite expensive to visit in my opinion. However, the Greek ruins are pretty amazing and the views at the top are very picturesque. There are lots of information boards around which tell you what the completed acropolis used to look like, however the remaining ruins are still impressively intact. If you’re wanting to see some proper Greek ruins, the acropolis is definitely worth a visit.

Seven Springs

Beaches aren’t the only thing Rhodes has to offer either; there are a few national parks nearby. We were keen to visit the Butterfly Valley, however with the journey being quite far from Faliraki and several buses, we decided to visit the Seven Springs instead. Seven Springs offers a really pretty walk through the springs, a valley and a waterfall. It’s nice and shaded at times which offers a refreshing break from the hot weather. The springs themselves are close together, and you can only paddle in them, however you can walk through the valley up to knee height and even swim in the waterfall. I even managed to face my claustrophobic fears here and walked through a very narrow, dark tunnel (something I DEFINITELY won’t be doing again!)

Out of the Greek islands I’ve visited, Rhodes definitely has the most to offer in my opinion in terms of culture and history. We did several day trips and still felt like we had loads left to explore. I definitely think that September is a good time to visit to avoid the busy crowds in places like Lindos and Rhodes Old Town. I couldn’t have had a better end to my summer and now I guess it’s time to embrace the cooler months!

 

Belfast: Giants, Escaped Prisoners and Thirsty Goats

Another big city that has always been on my to-do list is Belfast, and in general, Northern Ireland (and that’s not just because of Game of Thrones)! After a very short yet boozy plane ride, we arrived in torrential rain, and after running straight into the nearest taxi,  the driver kindly informed us that we’d better get used to it – as it’s always raining in Belfast. But not to let that put us off, we headed straight to our accommodation before getting ready to go out for food and drinks in the Cathedral Quarter, where we’d be spending the majority of our nights. It’s no secret that the Cathedral Quarter is the heart of Belfast nightlife, and the Dirty Onion and the Thirsty Goat pubs were our particular favourites.

Friday

Waking up to another rainy day, we spent Friday hopping in and out of some of the main central tourist attractions. A visit to Belfast of course isn’t complete without a trip to the Titanic Museum. Having seen the film numerous times, I was keen to find out more about Titanic’s history, and this museum does give you a really in-depth exploration of the creation of Titanic, its voyage, and the resulting disaster. I do think there were interesting parts to the Titanic museum, however I did find the layout confusing and quite awkward for getting around people. Understandably, it was very busy in there, and this made it difficult to get to the information boards to read. I think I would have preferred more of a focus on the disaster too, with more testimonials from survivors. However, the museum is definitely still worth a visit.

After the Titanic museum, we visited Crumlin Road Goal prison, which is the only remaining Victorian era prison in Northern Ireland. The entry price for this includes a guided tour, and our tour guide really made the experience, as she was so knowledgeable and really helped us to imagine just how horrific the prison would have been. Many artifacts are still in place, such as the flogging rack and hanging noose. It shocked me to find out that children as young as seven were imprisoned there, and to see the eerie execution room concealed behind a sliding bookshelf. Alongside the harrowing details, our tour guide did also tell us more humorous stories about escape attempts, including the one prisoner who is the only one to have escaped successfully. I think all in all, this prison was the highlight for me.

Saturday

On Saturday we got up bright and early as we’d booked a full guided tour to Giant’s Causeway, with a few other stop offs in-between. Despite being told that it always rained in Belfast, we were greeted by a beautifully sunny and warm day! I’ve only ever done one guided bus tour on holiday before, and I always thought I wouldn’t enjoy them very much, but it is interesting to hear all the detailed history from a tour guide as you pass the landmarks. I knew a little bit about the Giant’s Causeway having studied a bit about Finn McCool in a Celtic studies module at university. Named one of the greatest natural wonders in the United Kingdom, the Giant’s Causeway consists of ‘basalt columns’, caused by an ancient volcanic eruption. It’s crazy to thing that it’s completely natural, as from a distance, it could almost look like a man-made sculpture. The walk to the causeway itself is also beautiful, and you get some wonderful views of the sea and the cliffs.

Our tour also included a visit to a whiskey brewery where we sampled a whiskey-based cocktail, and a visit to the Carrick-a-Rede, which is a little rope bridge suspended 100 ft above the sea. From the pictures I’d seen of this, I was expecting quite a long rope bridge, especially after I saw the queue to walk it. However, I found it quite anit-climatic! The bridge itself is quite short, although the views on the other side of it are definitely worth the trip. On the way back, we stopped off at a couple of castles, some of which were more intact than the others, and we were even treated to some Irish songs sung by our very own tour guide!

On Sunday, we reluctantly had to head home and I realised that a couple of days just isn’t long enough to explore any big city! As a big Game of Thrones fan, I was gutted I didn’t manage to squeeze in any Game of Thrones sights, or the costume and prop exhibition that is currently on there. I guess it just gives me an excuse to go back very soon!

Bulgaria: Snowboarding, Raki Shots & Unicorns

Borovets

Last month I embarked on my first ever winter sports holiday – something I always thought I didn’t fancy doing. To me, it always seemed like an overly-expensive holiday, and I was worried I’d get bored doing the same thing every day. However, someone dropped out of the trip my friends had planned, and so a month before, I decided to join. As we were going at the end of the ski season in Bulgaria, the price was actually a lot cheaper than I expected, and I figured as so many people choose to go skiing/snowboarding again, there had to be something to it!

As we arrived in Borovets quite late in the evening, we headed straight out for food and drinks, and with it being the end of the season, everyone was keen to get us in their bars, offering free drinks left, right and centre. We barely walked a few meters when we ended up in Sunny’s Bar drinking his homemade Raki concoction – I knew I was in for some heavy nights and even heavier hangovers!

I was both excited and nervous for my first day of snowboarding, as although I’d skateboarded a bit when I was younger, snowboarding was like nothing I’d ever done before, and I’d already been warned that it was tricky to get the hang of. I definitely spent the first half of the day just trying to stand up on the board and not going flying off everywhere. It’s safe to say, I spent a lot of time on my bum that day! After lunch, we went on our first run, and although I fell over a lot and had to keep ‘leafing’ to control myself, the views were breathtaking and I really did start to feel the thrill when I went a bit faster down the slopes.

It was the first night out after snowboarding that we discovered DJ’s, which became our favourite place to dance every evening, especially with all the free shots! However nothing prepared me for the aches and pain I’d feel the next day – in both my limbs and my head! I’m certainly impressed that people can drink so much every evening and then still get up early to start skiing again the next day!

Having said that, I felt a lot more confident the second day for snowboarding, as I was finally comfortable to just get up and down on the board and stop myself when I needed to. So we started trying to practise turning on the board, as I’d been leafing in order to turn myself around and slow myself down so far. I still found turning quite tricky to get my head around even by the last day, as my nerves just kept getting the better of me as I started going too quickly. On our last day of snowboarding, we decked unicorn onesies for the day, and we certainly got a lot of attention that day!

We only had four days snowboarding in the end, and although my aching body was probably ready to rest, I was a bit gutted as it was by the last day that I was starting to get my head around turning. Hopefully this means if I go again though, I’ll feel much more confident on the board!

Sofia

For our last night in Bulgaria, we headed to Sofia ready to celebrate my friend Stacey’s birthday. Sofia is a lot prettier than I expected it to be; there are so many beautiful parks around and it’s very up-and-coming with all of its trendy bars and cafés. We were lucky to get some really nice sunny weather when we were there, so we spent a full day exploring the city.

Of course, we had to head to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; probably the most popular tourist attraction in Sofia. The architecture both inside and outside of the cathedral is really stunning, as expected. There are many smaller cathedrals and churches dotted about this area in Sofia, many from different religions which is really interesting. Another one I particularly liked is the Russian Church.

Another highlight in Sofia has to be the Monument to the Soviet Army, which is situated in a lovely park. There are a few war memorials dotted about Sofia, but I felt this one was particularly poignant, just for its size alone!

In the evening, we celebrated my friend’s birthday with some drinks, and found a little Irish tavern with live music – not very Bulgarian I know, but fun all the same!

All in all, I’d say my snowboarding holiday was a success, and I can definitely see why people return year after year. I think I’m keen to see what I’ll be like next time I get on a snowboard!

 

Dry January

As you may have seen in my 10 Things I’ve Learnt In 2018 post,  one of my New Year’s resolutions was to complete Dry January, which is a popular resolution for many every year. While I usually have a ‘dryer’ January every year anyway, I’d never officially completed Dry January, and I realised that I probably hadn’t had a month of drinking since I was about 17 years old.

I’ve never have the healthiest relationship with alcohol, and I think this is what motivated me to complete a whole month off drinking to see if I actually struggled to do it. I had my first couple of alcoholic drinks when I was 12 years old at my dad’s 50th birthday party, and I remember getting that buzz of confidence that I’d always longed for. After that, there were occasions at 13 and 14 when I used to drink with my friends in local parks, with one occasion resulting in my friend’s dad carrying me through my front door as I was too drunk to walk. I even tried to sneak a few cans of Strongbow into school because I was desperate to feel that confidence in class that I was always lacking. It’s easy now in hindsight to realise that I was struggling with anxiety throughout school, however until I had counselling in sixth form, alcohol was my only coping mechanism.

From 15/16, many of us in school were drinking regularly on a Friday night in the park, and it wasn’t until I went to university at 18 that I realised just how young I was when I started drinking. Some people at university were only just starting to get their first taste of going out and drinking, whilst I’d been going to house parties since I was 15 and had been going for nights out in Nottingham with my sister’s ID at 17. University drinking culture of course just helped me to continue using alcohol as a coping mechanism, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the social aspect of drinking. I definitely made many bad decisions whilst I was drunk, and my bank account certainly didn’t thank me for the amount I was spending!

After university, I struggled to get a job for a while, and it certainly brought back old negative feelings that I’d experienced before, but with the financial concerns on top of it all. Even when I got my first admin job, I would still look forward to Friday night when I could go out and enjoy myself, and I was definitely in a bad habit of drinking every Friday to Sunday. This was another factor that swayed me to quit by job and go travelling back in 2016/17. I was fed up of the same routine of going to work for not much money, and counting down the days until I could go out at the weekend. It was a bad habit and I needed a change. I was also starting to dislike the person I would become when I was drunk, often making decisions that I’d never make sober and then waking up full of self-loathing the next day. Travelling really did give me the chance to alleviate a lot of the causes of stress I was experiencing, and while I still enjoyed drinking and some nights out while I was away, it just felt like a sociable thing rather than a way to relieve stress.

Nowadays, I think I’m starting to get a healthier relationship with alcohol. I certainly don’t drink as much as I did during my university days, and while I still may have a bit too much than I intend some nights out, I think I’ve gotten better at recognising when I need to tone it down. I also really enjoyed completing Dry January and I didn’t struggle as much as I thought I would. For me, I love making plans that don’t involve drinking, and I only want a drink when plans involve nights out and things (as I really don’t think I’d be able to handle a sober night of dancing in a nightclub!). If anything, it was my friends who seemed more bothered about me not drinking than I was, which just goes to show how our social plans usually revolve around drinking. Instead, we enjoyed doing some other activities like escape rooms, lots of meals out, and going to London to see the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays.

I’m really pleased that I found Dry January as easy to complete as I did, and it’s reassured me that I can still be a fun person to spend time with, without having alcohol to help me. I think many people, especially in the UK, don’t recognise that they have a slight dependency on alcohol. We all have a judgmental image in our heads of what we picture an alcoholic to be like, however we don’t realise that many of our friends, relatives and coworkers can also be dependent on alcohol. While I’ve only ever drank on social occasions and never by myself at home, I know many people rely on having a glass of wine in the evenings to unwind. It’s taken me a while to admit to myself that I don’t always have a healthy relationship with alcohol, and it’s okay to recognise that and keep working on it. I don’t know if I could ever go full teetotal, as I will always enjoy drinking at certain occasions and the taste of alcoholic drinks, but I’m determined to get to the point where I have a 100% healthy relationship with booze.

10 Things I’ve Learnt In 2018

I know we all say every year that we can’t believe how fast the year has gone, but it really doesn’t feel that long ago since I wrote my last end-of-year blog post! This time last year, I had just moved back to Sheffield to start my new job and everything felt a bit overwhelming, yet exciting. Now, one year on and feeling much more settled, I thought I would reflect on ten things I’ve learnt this year.

1. You are of value at work

I think many twenty-somethings like myself worry about their place at work, and often don’t realise how much value they can bring to a company. As I went through a lot of job rejections last year and then was temporarily made redundant at my current company earlier this year, it can make you feel pretty worthless. However, since getting kept on at my current role, taking on more responsibility and receiving good feedback, I am finally starting to believe that I can be an asset to a company and that I have a lot more useful skills than I realise.

2. You need to let yourself be happy too

All my life I’ve been a serious people-pleaser, and I’ve always worried about people not liking me or not being happy. This falls into my relationships too, where I let myself feel unhappy because I’m so worried about hurting the other person. However, as tough as upsetting someone is, I’ve learnt that you need to be honest with yourself and other people so that you can all move on and be happy.

3. You never stop making new friends

One thing I’ve loved most about this year is how many new people I’ve met and become close with. The great thing about starting a new job and moving into a house with new people is making new friendships, and I’ve been so lucky to become close friends already with my housemates and colleagues. It’s mad to thing that the people I spend the most time with these days are people I’ve only known for one year!

4. Veganism is amazing for your mind and body (and the environment!)

One of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to complete Veganuary. Not only did I go vegan for January, but I’ve actually carried on for the entire year. Now, I can’t imagine ever going back, as I’ve enjoyed it so much and I truly feel better knowing that I’m helping the environment and the welfare of animals through just the one simple change. Another huge factor that made me carry on the vegan lifestyle is the fantastic health benefits: my skin is clearer, I’ve got tons more energy, and it’s helped me lose a lot of fat!

5. My goals (however small) are achievable

As well as completing Veganuary, I set myself a few other New Year’s resolutions last year. I’m pleased to say that I’ve achieved them all, which is a great feeling! They included learning to do 1-5 pull-ups (I can now do a couple of sets of  3 at a time), being on my phone less (I’ve certainly been trying to stick to this) and visiting two countries (I ended up visiting 3!) I know a lot of people joke about people never sticking to New Year’s resolutions, but I think the key is to set small, achievable goals which you can measure easily. So for this year, I’ve chosen another health related month-long resolution of taking part in Dry January and another fitness-related resolution of learning to do pistol squats. 

6. It’s okay to hang out with yourself

This is quite an important one for me as growing up, I was always terrified of going to things by myself, even to the point that I would be nervous to pick a certain subject at school because I didn’t want to be in a class without a friend. Of course this has gotten better throughout the years since going away to university by myself, and flying to and from Thailand by myself last year, however I still think it’s something I’m working on. I’m certainly starting to get comfortable being by myself, and I am learning that it’s okay to go to the cinema or to a gig alone, or to even enjoy a meal on your own in public.

7. Everyone else goes through shit too

With everyone’s lives looking so perfect on social media, we forget that everyone else is going through stuff too. I’m  guilty of comparing my life to others and sometimes feeling a bit sorry for myself when me and my family are struggling, but we need to remember that we never know what’s going on behind closed doors. I’ve comforted many friends this year through relationship and job problems, to dealing with the death of loved ones, and it makes you realise that sadly we all go through problems. However, it’s important to turn that around and focus on the friends and family you are still to have around.

8. Exercise and hard work really does pay off

I’ve been documenting my physical journey throughout the year and it’s awesome seeing the progress I’ve made along the way. I’ve had down days where I’ve felt like I’m not seeing much difference in my physique, and then bam, another day you’ll be looking in the mirror and noticing all sorts of changes. It’s pleasing to see that hard work and dedication really does pay off, and I’m excited to continue getting stronger in the new year.

9. There’s no such thing as too many holidays

Of course, money dependent, there probably can be such a thing as too many holidays, but what I mean is that time spent travelling is invaluable experience. I ended up taking three holidays this year to Amsterdam, Malta and Germany, and although it’s stopped me saving as much money as I would have liked to this year, it was money and time well spent. With the cold weather continuing to creep in, I’m already starting to think where I could head to in 2019…

10. 2019 will be a good year

Okay, this isn’t something I’ve learnt, but it’s something I’m positive about. After quite a tough start last year losing my grandad, I’m confident that 2019 will hold good things. I’m finally in a more stable position in life, and I’m excited to see what will happen next. Happy New Year!

Germany: Oktoberfest, Beer Tasting, Castles & Surfing

Having already visited Germany a couple of times, I was really excited to head back to visit Munich and Nuremberg; two cities I hadn’t explored yet. Our main reason for visiting at the end of September was of course, Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival (known as Volkfest).

Oktoberfest

A few of my friends I was travelling with had been to Oktoberfest before, but the closest I’d ever come to it was dancing on a table in Sheffield’s Bierkeller with a stein, so I was very excited to finally experience the real deal!

The main Oktoberfest festival site is in the centre of Munich, and it’s definitely worth going to if you want the full Oktoberfest experience. With several beer halls to choose from, food stalls and fairground rides, it’s easy to spend all day there. On the weekend days, you have to arrive pretty earlier to bag yourself a table (some people spend lots of money reserving them too, but we were happy to just turn up and join someone else’s table). The festival itself shuts about 10pm each night too, so it’s definitely worth getting up early and making a day of it.

Walking into the first big beer hall was certainly a sight to behold as I hadn’t envisioned quite how many people they could fit; in total, there were around 6,000 people! Inside there are rows of benches, a Bavarian band and thousands of steins clinking together. The best part of these halls is how sociable they are, as you join other people on the benches. We met people from all over the world, and it’s the best atmosphere getting to celebrate together. The highlight of this for me is the tradition of someone having to down their stein if they stand up on the table. While they do this, everyone hurls food at them and chants. I felt like I was stood watching a medieval play or something seeing radishes fly threw the air!

Outfits are another huge part of Oktoberfest, and I was glad we’d purchased lederhosen and dirndls in advance. We bought these for quite cheap online, but many of the locals had beautiful, traditional versions which were certainly something to show off.

My favourite hall inside Oktoberfest had to be Hacker, as the beer is particularly tasty and the rowdy atmosphere was perfect for my friend’s birthday. And yes, he had to down his stein on the table!

Munich

As Saturday was looking to be the busiest day for Oktoberfest, we decided to head explore the centre of Munich for the day. The architecture in Munich is absolutely stunning, and even though a lot of attractions were closed during the festival, it was still enjoyable to explore the city. We visited the Oktoberfest Museum to find out more about the history of Munich’s breweries, before taking part in a beer tasting in the museum’s cellar of all the festival’s featured beers.

If you want to get a good view of the city, the Englischer Garten is a must. The garden itself is huge with a beautiful lake,  a Chinese Tower and a viewing stand on top of the hill. We enjoyed some great street food, steins and Bavarian music in the garden’s marketplace, before heading to the surfing wave. Known as the Eisbach, this river in Munich features a man-made wave which permanently flows throughout Munich. This spot is popular all year round with surfers practising their moves,  and tourists watching in awe.

While I got a great feel for the city, I’m keen to head back to Munich outside of Oktoberfest to explore the museums and other tourist attractions.

Nuremberg

As we were flying back from Nuremberg, we opted to leave Munich on the Sunday morning and head straight to Nuremberg to explore the city. We had an Airbnb apartment booked for the Sunday night, much to our relief after four nights of camping!

Nuremberg felt wonderfully calm and peaceful after the bustle of Munich and Oktoberfest. Like Munich, the architecture is beautiful, and the city looks like a traditional Bavarian town. We walked along the castle walls, enjoying the stunning views of the city and the pretty gardens near the top of the castle. As it was a Sunday and renovation work was taking place, we couldn’t go all the way to the top of the castle, but the views were still great just the same.

We spent the rest of Sunday afternoon grabbing tasty food from Nuremberg’s food market and enjoying yet more steins in some of the bars and beer halls. The permanent beer halls in Munich and Nuremberg are still great options for drinking if you’re wanting a more chilled atmosphere than that of the main Oktoberfest site.

A must-see in Nuremberg has to be the Ehekarussell fountain, which features disturbing statues depicting the poem Bitter-Sweet Married Life by Hans Sachs.  It’s certainly not like anything you will have seen before!

Similarly to Munich, I would like to visit Nuremberg again to visit the numerous museums and cultural attractions it has to offer. All in all, it was fantastic to visit Germany again, although I I think I’ve had enough steins and pretzels  to last me a while!

Malta: Forts, Cathedrals & the Silent City

Admittedly, the island of Malta has never been at the top of my bucket list for travel destinations, and I knew next to nothing about its history, people or culture. This made it evermore exciting to visit however, as I got to travel there with little to no expectations of what to expect. Sometimes this can be a refreshing alternative to planning an itinerary or checklist of what you want to do or explore.

As it’s quite a small island, although not as small as its sister island Gozo, it’s very easy to get around Malta and visit several cities on the island. For just €2 on the bus, you can get around on a budget, whilst taking in the beautiful scenery of the harbours, coastlines and vineyards. However, these buses can get very cramped and do not always show up on time!

St Paul’s Bay / Buġibba

We stayed in St Paul’s Bay, which is a short walk away from the city centre of Buġibba, one of the most popular tourist towns on the island. I’m really happy we stayed here, as you’ve got ample choice of restaurants, bars and cafés to choose from, yet it’s a quieter area for when you want a good night’s sleep. If you’re wanting somewhere more lively, then St Julians/Paceville seems to be the most popular choice. We got the bus to Paceville for a night out on one of the nights, and although it was fun for a night of dancing, I probably wouldn’t choose to stop there!

There’s a nice coast line and rocky beach in Buġibba, which in the evening, looks very beautiful alongside the lit-up restaurants and bars along the seafront. We were told that the best beaches in Malta were in the north, a bit further up from where we were staying, and in particular, the best beaches were Paradise Bay and Golden Bay. So we opted to visit Golden Bay for the day, and I was thrilled to be back in the sea at last! With it being mid-August, the beach was very busy as you’d expect, so I imagine it would be much nicer to visit these beaches during the quieter months.

I was hesitant about finding vegan eating options in Malta, but I was pleasantly surprised to find many restaurants not only having dishes that were accidentally vegan, but actually having vegan listed on the menu. Personal favourites for me in St Paul’s Bay/Buġibba have to be The Chef’s Table, Mezzaluna Pizzeria and SALT Kitchen & Lounge.

Valletta

No trip to Malta would be complete without visiting the capital city of Valletta, where most of the historical tourist attractions are found. Upon arrival, it was clear to see why Valletta gets compared to Italy, with its stunning architecture and narrow streets.

We visited Fort Saint Elmo and the National War Museum, which is a fantastic way to learn about Maltese history, including the Order of St John and Malta’s Independence. You can walk around the fort which still has cannons and giant anchors intact.

If you really want to see some stunning architecture, St John’s Co-Cathedral is an absolute must. We ended up visiting here an hour before closing so it was very busy inside, however, it was worth it to see the beautiful baroque art and architecture inside, including paintings from acclaimed artists such as Caravaggio. I don’t think my picture below does the cathedral justice! With your entry ticket, you’re given a free audio guide which gives you very detailed information about the history behind the paintings and features.

We finished our sightseeing with a trip to the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which overlook the Grand Harbour. The garden itself is quite small, centred around a beautiful fountain, and features a café/bar and some war rooms, which we didn’t pay to visit in the end. The panoramic views from the gardens are breathtaking; you can practically see the whole of Valletta from up there. I’m surprised how quiet the garden was, and it was nice to enjoy an Aperol Spritz while taking in the views of the city.

Valletta is also a great choice for an evening out; there are plenty of restaurants to choose from and lots of bars and cafés offering happy hours. Although the city appeared to quieten down later on,  there are still some great options for evening entertainment, although we didn’t stay late enough to explore these fully.

Mdina

Known as the Silent City, Mdina is a medieval walled city with many of its historical buildings and features still intact. On quieter days, I imagine it feels as though you’ve stepped completely back in time. The city is quite small, and doesn’t take long to look around, and as it’s up on a hilltop, you can enjoy lovely views from various tearooms within the city. It features a few museums, two of which we looked around; the Museum of Torture, which informs you of the many grisly forms of torture that took place throughout history, and the Cathedral Museum, which connects to St Paul’s Cathedral and displays artifacts such as coins, paintings and religious relics. Like St John’s Co-Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral features baroque architecture, but I found this cathedral to be much quieter and more pleasant to look round.

My highlight in Mdina has to be the Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum. The house looks as though it has been frozen in time, with all the rooms and artifacts displayed in their original form. The most recent owner of the Palazzo was Captain Olof Frederick Gollcher, who was a proud collector of art and antiques. The visit includes an audio guide which is very interesting and informative as you explore each room in the large house. The house has been restored and maintained very well, and I particularly liked the pretty outside courtyard pictured below.

There really is something for everyone to do in Malta, whether you’re looking for sandy beaches to lie on, or historic towns to look around, it’s an ideal location for a combined cultural and relaxation holiday. I love how the size of the island allows you to visit so many cities, and I’m definitely keen to come back and explore the even smaller island of Gozo.