Mini-Break in Sicily – Day 1

We were quite lucky this December as Thursday 8th and Tuesday 13th, which are Maltese national holidays, made it possible for us to take a 6-day break from work without taking too many days off. Since people don’t work during National Holidays we just needed to take Friday 9th and Monday 12th as Vacation Leave off from work and off we went for a 4-night mini break to the nearby island of Sicily!

Thanks to Ryanair the flight was only 30euro each – yes with the return flight included! And we only needed hand luggage for those few days so we didn’t even need to pay for extra luggage.

I just love Sicily. Had already visited twice, once during the first year with my boyfriend (it was our first holiday together) and the second time was just last June! Thing is flights there are so cheap and there is so much to see and experience that I never tire of going there to relax and explore!

We usually take the flight to the Airport in Trapani and stay in the Western side of Sicily. This time we took a flight to the Airport of Catania on the Eastern part of the island instead so we visited an entirely different region.

The flight from Malta only took 35 minutes – yes we are THAT close! We arrived in the afternoon and there was enough time to visit the Christmas market in Catania itself before heading to the self catering apartment we had rented in the historical city of Noto, which is approximately an hour away by car from Catania.

I admit, the Christmas open market was smaller than I thought it would be, yet its charm was that everything was handmade and so very cute and original! Loved those stalls!

After a quick trip to a local supermarket for milk, cereal and other needful things, off we went to discover our new apartment which we had only seen in photos. Needless to be said we were charmed – wouldn’t you be? Look at my pics!

That night we decided on a quite eve in. We wanted to enjoy some time alone plus the excitement had tired us out. We cooked some burgers and chips and cuddled while planning what to do on day Number 2… not to mention enjoying that big TV!

More about Day 2 in a future post!

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Different but Exciting!

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So, here I am again on the brink of another adventure. In another two hours I will be on a plane off to the Italian island of Sicily for a much needed break. Goodbye stressful everyday life, hello sunny beach, ancient ruins, beautiful nature reserves and mysterious mystic monasteries!

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This holiday will be a bit different from the ones I usually enjoy with my other half. This is because, for once, it will be a SUMMER holiday. Usually we tend to travel more during Autumn/Winter because, let’s face it, travelling and accomodation rates are cheaper at that time of the year. This will also be the first time I will be swimming abroad! Sure, it will still be the Mediterranean sea… and yet, I still feel as excited as a ten year old!

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Yes, we still plan on visiting cultural sites (I just love walking amidst hundred year old ruins) BUT the apartment I booked is located just up the road from two major beaches – so we will definitely be using that swimwear too!

That’s another first by the way – usually my bf books for everything (no need for any feminists here to get on their high horses yet – we DO split the costs ofc). However THIS time the flight to Sicily itself + the apartment we are staying in were found and booked by me, as this was a birthday gift for my bf. His bday was last May, but it was nice giving him the printed bookings in his bday card and telling him we had another travelling adventure to look forward to this year. The next one, I admit, will be bigger and better – we’ll be going for a ten-day trip to Scotland next September.

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Four holidays abroad in 1 year – not bad for someone who has just bought and re-furbished a house if I may say so! *feels proud of her monetary-management skills*

Ok, no more patting myself on the back! To be sure, my bf/bae has gifted me with a number of voyages to unknown (for me) countries too, so I just took a leaf out of his book, so to speak.

Anyways, I plan on sunbathing, swimming, taking lots of pics, sampling the local food/drinks, and generally rocking it all the way! It’s not the first time we went to Sicily, in fact our first holiday togather, 4 years ago, was in Sicily. Ahh the memories… well the only thing better than having amazing memories is making new ones! So… on we go!

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By the way – the pics I pasted on here are from our first trip to Sicily – obviously it’s Winter too haha, so I bet the next photos I take will be quite more colorful!

 

New article BY MOI – Online Shopping: Is it really Safe?

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Have you ever sold something or bought something online? I’m guessing that most people have – either because the item in question is cheaper, not found in Malta, more to our taste, or for any other reason, buying and selling things on the world wide web has become something common and for many, even a pastime.

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One must be very careful when dealing with monetary transactions online however, since obviously, there are traps and pitfalls one can encounter on the internet, which are quite different from the ones present when you buy an item from someone face to face.

Just the other day for example, I was browsing through Maltapark.com and came across something which I thought would make a good anniversary present for my other half. I contacted the seller, asking more information about the item, however the seller refused to give this information, telling me to contact him on his mobile phone instead. While I understand that it is easier to communicate on the phone than through email or chat, I decided to wait a couple of days, until I perused more websites as well as a couple of stores for the same item, in order to compare prices. I also dislike giving my mobile number to strangers, which is another deterrent when buying something from Maltapark.com (websites like ebay.co.uk or amazon.com are more comfortable in this regard, since they do not need your mobile number, just your address for shipping purposes). I sent an email thanking the seller for his help, and that was that.

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Lo and behold, as soon as I opened my email on Monday morning, I found a very abusive communication from this Maltapark seller, calling me a miser and a time-waster (as well as other unsavoury things) because I hadn’t called him after all. Needless to say I was astounded. Was this the way one treated prospective clients? Of course not. However the fact that this seller was hiding, so to speak, behind his Maltapark username, as well not having to face an actual person ‘in real life’, seemed to have developed the idea that nasty and uncalled for behavior was acceptable. In other words, he felt like he had nothing to loose, so, being anonymous behind his screen, he felt free to vent his frustration at me when he thought that I was not going to buy the item from him. Bad mistake. In fact, I had been about to contact him again, however this episode established that I wouldn’t buy anything from him in a million years for sure, which is what I told him. Thank all the gods I never gave such a person my mobile number, and that Maltapark is not a website which, as such, facilitates such monetary online transactions directly through one’s bank account.

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Even though online sellers and buyers never actually see the person they are doing their deal with, there is still normal civilized etiquette to consider. Just because you don’t meet someone face to face, does not give you the lee-way to transform into a nasty beast. Apart from the fact that a person who hasn’t bought anything from you today, may very well buy something tomorrow, or recommend you to someone else – what about normal human decency? Why do some people feel it’s ok to degenerate into squalid baboons, just because they are hidden behind a screen?

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In the case I mentioned, the transaction (thankfully) never actually took place, so certain problems were destroyed at the root. Things however, can get even worse once one actually pays online and sends the money for an item which, for example, never arrives. How does one get his/her money back? In some cases, like for example when one buys from ebay.co.uk (especially using security websites like paypal.com), there are actual contractual clauses that each seller using the site is forced to adhere to, unless they want to be penalised. However when it comes to other, perhaps less popular or well-known sites, this is not the case at all. What about those sellers or companies which sell you one item, but send you another? How can one complain and enforce their purchase after it’s done, especially if the seller in question lives in another country, and refuses to reply to any emails or calls?

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It is easier for sellers to entrap or misguide buyers, than for buyers to do the same. This is because generally, sellers only post the required item after they have received payment, thereby mitigating any chances of fake transactions or fraud. On the other hand, unless the website used contains the necessary policies and structures, buyers are very much naked amidst the fury of the storm, so to speak, in that they have to trust implicitly that the seller will post the right item at the right address, and not just take the money and run.

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What do you think about buying something online? Have you ever been cheated in an online transaction?

—- A version of this article was published on the online magazine EVE – http://www.eve.com.mt/2015/07/30/are-you-safe-when-shopping-online/

Curious? Wanna come too? Revealing ALL about next week ;-p

Have you ever been to France? Do you know of any great historical or picturesque places, and will you please comment and advise me if there is somewhere important in the area that I’m missing?

Finally, Monday is the BIG DAY. We’ll be going off to Southern France for a whole week! I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, and now that it’s finally here, I can’t begin to assimilate it. So, in order for me to gloss over the particulars (again) and for you to have an idea about where I’m going, I am going to list all the places we have researched, found on the map, inserted in the SatNav and in our day-by-day itinerary (because yes, that is how we roll). However do not think that everything is or will go as planned – we always seem to find ourselves in strange places, exploring stuff we had never heard about, and not just the things we planned.

                                                                      Monday

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   Marseilles
Cathedrale de la Major
Le Fort Saint Jean
Abbaye Saint Victor
Notre Dame de la Garde
Musee des Beaux-Arts

Tuesday

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Chateau de Lastours
Medieval City of Carcassone
Chateau de Montsegur

Wednesday

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Caderousse
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Ancient Roman Theatre
The Triumphal Arch of Orange
Chateau des Adhemar
Chateau de Suze-de-la-Rousse
Chateau de Grignan

Thursday

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Fort de Salses
Chateau de Querbius
Chateau de Peyrepertuse
Beziers
Cathedrale Saint Nazaire

Friday

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Arles Amphitheatre
Abbaye Saine Pierre de Montmajour
Barbedal Aqueduct
Tarascon Chateau
Chateau des Baux de Provence
Chateau de Gordes

Saturday

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Catellum Aquae
Arena of Nimes
Valeinte’s Half-Day Cruise and Lunch on the Rhone River
Papal Palace
Rocher des Doms

Sunday

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Anywhere which takes our fancy
Abbaye de Fontfroide
St Fulcran Cathedral
Saint Michel de Grandmont Priory

Have I missed anything? I DO plan to visit Northern France, Paris, etc in future too :0)