Sicily – Exploring Castles!

Castles, be they medieval, Norman, military fortresses, well-kept luxurious palaces, or ruined keeps – I’m in love with them all. No matter which country I travel to, I am never tired of exploring and discovering these architectural recipients of historical happenings! By the way, should you like to read some of my articles on a number of castles I’ve visited, please don’t hesitate to visit http://castles.today/ which is a Polish website I contribute to regularly (take a look at my uptake on Welsh, Scottish, Irish and Maltese historical castles amongst others… more coming soon!)

Obviously, taking my interest in castles into account, I couldn’t NOT visit Sicily, one of my favorite vacation-spots, without also exploring a number of castles and palaces there.

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There are many beautiful Castles in Sicily, some of which I’ve already written about, such as the Castle of Venere in Erice (been there twice) or the Castle of Castelmola, however this time round, during my last trip to Sicily I visited a Castle which is less well known, though no less amazing.

The last castle I visited in Sicily, is in fact also the largest to be found on this Mediterranean island, that is, the Castle and Citadel of Milazzo. Found in the small town of Milazzo, in the southern part of Sicily, the Castle is resplendently obvious as it is situated on a hill, majestically lording it over the nearby countryside and port.

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When we arrived, the local old guy selling tickets immediately befriended us and launched into the history of the castle, boasting about it as though it was his own home. He told us how the site itself had first been fortified in the Neolithic era, then manned by the Greeks, and later conquered and enlarged by the Normans, the Romans, and later the Aragonese (Spanish). Actually, it’s me the guy latched on to, since my boyfriend does not understand Italian, however I obviously couldn’t stand there bantering all day, so we excused ourselves and went into the castle itself.

And it was HUGE. First of all, let me be clear, when I say ‘castle’, I mean the whole citadel of course, that is the castle, grounds, and surrounding buildings. The grounds are quite big, though overgrown with local plants and wild flowers, which was part of their charm. There was an old but well kept church sporting some crumbling frescoes, as well as a number of buildings hosting a museum, a children’s area, and a number of rooms dedicated to the Second World War.

The real wonder of the site however were the medieval ramparts, where one could delightfully gaze at the spectacular panorama of town, port, sea, and countryside simultaneously. 360 degrees of paradise!

Yes please!

P.S All photos are originals taken by me on site 🙂

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Places to visit for FREE in Malta!

When people start thinking about going abroad on vacation, one of the first things they generally ask about, is whether the country they are interested in is ‘expensive’ or not. What they are referring to of course, is not the normal cost of living, since they will probably only be there for a week or two at the most, but whether tickets to interesting places and/or events are worth it, how much can dinner cost, and whether you have to break the bank every time you go out, if you really want to enjoy yourself.

Fortunately, many natural attractions and amazing places and events in our islands are either free of charge, or else very cheap to visit. Where you go and what you do depends, of course, on your own personal inclinations and preferences, however I feel quite safe in saying that there are places which no one can but appreciate.

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1. Go to the beach – whether it’s summer, spring, winter or fall, Maltese beaches are always there free to be enjoyed by anyone. You can swim, snorkel, jog, have a picnic (making sure to take any litter with you), or even just enjoy a quick coffee while you look at the waves and meditate. No costs involved.

2. Visit the fish market at Marsaxlokk – taking place each Sunday morning, the Marsaxlokk market, though most famous for its freshly caught fish, offers many other treasures to be found by the intrepid explorer, within its quirky traditional stalls which meander around Marsaxlokk Bay. This is an open-air market, and therefore free to visit. Beware however, although most items are quite cheap, you may find yourself buying more than you bargained for!

3. Stroll around Valletta – rich in Baroque architecture, medieval heritage and photo opportunities, Valletta is perfect for those who wish to ‘look around’ without having to buy anything. Admire the Grand Harbor from the Upper Barrakka Gardens, visit Saint John’s Co-Cathedral and gawk at its artistic masterpieces, and take a look at the newly restored Triton’s Fountain. During 2018, Valletta is hosting the Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture, which basically means that there are a myriad of free exhibitions, events, and open-air performances taking place around the city almost every week. Definitely not to be missed.

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4. Explore San Anton Gardens – if you have children, or just love animals, this is surely the place to go. San Anton Gardens are located in central Attard and form part of the Presidential Palace. This beautiful very well kept botanic garden, houses both flora and fauna, and is interspersed with fountains, walkways, ponds and cosy corners. A very pretty place to go if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city-life.

5. Trekking – instead of spending money on a gym membership, why don’t you walk or hike while exploring the beautiful Maltese countryside? Whether it be Fomm ir-Riħ on Malta’s Western Coast, Dingli Cliffs situated in the Northern region, the South-eastern Delimara Peninsula or Għasri Valley in Gozo, the islands of Malta offer a vast array of natural places where one can stop and breathe the fresh air while taking a relaxing walk, or a more energetic jog.

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6. Nightlife – During the summer, the Maltese islands flourish with the onset of weekly village festas dedicated to different patron saints and showing off the best of what traditional Malta has to offer. The fireworks, the night markets, the stalls, the entertainment, is all free, though of course once you smell a whiff of those freshly baked pastizzi, you’ll probably be tempted to open your wallet (don’t worry, this street food is quite cheap). In winter there are usually no festas, however there’s always Carnival in February and Easter in April, which always include a number of open-air evening activities. There are also a huge number of ‘Wine-fests’, and fairs focusing on particular products pertaining to specific localities throughout the year, such as the ‘Bread Festival’ in Qormi, the Pumpkin Festival in Manikata, the Chocolate Festival in Ħamrun or the Strawberry Festival in Mġarr. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Maltese do love their food!

This article was written by me and originally featured on the magazine LivingInMalta here.

The Mediterranean Island of Gozo – A Real Haven!!

Gozo (‘Għawdex’), which is the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago, is a perfect holiday destination all year round. Although Gozo is found only a few miles away from its sister island of Malta, it is quite a distinctive island, having its own geographical treasures, its own monuments, its own history, and even its own identity.

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Gozo is more rural and unspoilt than Malta, in fact it is well-known for its rolling green hills, beautiful countryside and resplendent sandy beaches. The pace of life in Gozo is more tranquil and peaceful compared to the more modernized Malta. Most of the land is still virgin, which means that one can appreciate a number of picturesque views, especially during the winter season when the fields are cultivated. Here, one can even find some old traditions which are no longer found on Malta. Gozo in fact has its own spate of religious traditional festas, its own unique crafts and artisan products, as well as being famous for its yearly Carnival celebrations and local cuisine. If you want a taste of this, you must surely try out some Gozitan cheeselets (ġbejniet).

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As of early 2014, the island of Gozo hosted a population of around 37,300 people. Gozo has a rich history and one can find a huge number of historical places, ranging from Neolithic to modern times, on this small island. One can hardly fail to mention the megalithic Ġgantija Temples, which, after the Temples of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, are the oldest man-made temples in the world.

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Another important spiritual structure is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu, otherwise known as the Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary, first built in 1545 and then restored in 1730. This Catholic Sanctuary, located in the village of Għarb, is well-known to hold the prayers, vows, and votive offerings given by those who maintain to have been miraculously helped after praying to the Virgin of Ta’ Pinu. This church is in fact linked with many miraculous healings.

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Apart from its deeply spiritual heritage, Gozo also holds some of the Mediterranean’s most breathtaking natural wonders. There’s a number of pristine sandy beaches like Xlendi Bay, Marsalforn Bay, as well as Ramla Bay, just off Xagħra, which according to mythology, is believed to have been the site of the nymph Calypso’s abode. Gozo in fact, is theorized to be the mystic island of Ogygia, which featured prominently in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ as the island where Ulysses was held captive for seven years. Near the beach, one can also visit the so-called Calypso Cave, high up on the cliffs.

Gozo is also home to a large number of medieval coastal towers built by the Order of the Knights of Saint John, like Isopu Tower in Nadur and Xlendi Tower in Xlendi, as well as innumerable tiny churches and chapels which are gems of medieval and baroque architecture. Traditional architecture can also be admired by going to Victoria (ir-Rabat), Gozo’s capital city, and taking a look at the historical buildings, niches, balconies, aqueducts and churches, not to mention the Medieval Citadel, iċ-Ċittadella, which is a unique small fortified town situated on the promontory of Victoria.

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It is easy to arrive in Gozo, one simply has to take the ferry-boat from Ċirkewwa on the north-west side of Malta. The crossing takes approximately 25 minutes and is quite enjoyable. Truly a destination not to miss!

This article was written by me and published on LivinInMalta.com. To view the original article, please go here.

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!

 

Beloved Boyfriend’s Birthday Weekend

Last Saturday was my bf’s birthday. It’s the third one we’ve celebrated togather so far, and it was the big 30, so it actually made quite a visible dent (so to speak).

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I had been maneuvering and negotiating dates and places with our friends for more than a month (5 weeks to be precise), and I finally got what I set out to do. A gem-packed weekend full of diverse activities, and yet still having some ‘private time’ for ourselves.

Now there’s this one thing we and our friends do when there’s a birthday looming up. We never tell the birthday boy or girl that we are meeting or where we are going. We genuinely try to ‘surprise’ them, even though at this point, after years of asking the bday person if they want to ‘go out for a drink’ in a certain area right before, on the day of, or after their birthday, has become a sort of tradition which they can see right through. However it is kind of a long-standing joke, so we still do it.

So, on Friday evening, I asked my love if he felt like ‘going out for a drink’ somewhere in Rabat. With a glint in his eye, he said ‘sure’ and out we went. While we were trying to find parking, we ‘accidentally’ stumbled on two of our friends searching for parking in the same area as well. ‘What a coincidence!’ I exclaimed smiling, ‘Wow, I wonder what they are doing here!’ he replied. Lol.

We found parking somewhere a bit far from where our friends had left their car, so we lost them for a time. I walked towards the restaurant I had booked two weeks before, and as we arrived in front of the entrance asked him if he ‘felt like’ popping in for a drink. ‘Bit weird to pop in for a drink in a Chinese restaurant isn’t it?’, he remarked with a laugh. We went in and lo and behold, there were our friends! It’s obvious that he saw it coming, but he enjoyed it anyways. It was a very relaxing evening and at the end we even finally told our friends something which we had been hinting at, but never actually confirmed – that is, that we have bought a house togather. They were really thrilled for us 🙂

On Saturday morning, which was my bf’s actual birthday date, I took him out for a birthday brunch in a restaurant on the beach, called ‘Apple’s Eye’. I really love that place, the day was sunny, yet terribly windy. It was so windy in fact that my bf’s toast literally blew off the table! It was so funny! We took some photos and afterwards went for a stroll on the beach. There were some people sunbathing but no one was swimming. I guess the water is still too cold.

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In the afternoon, we took a nap and had some time for ourselves. Then in the evening, we started getting ready for an Industrial/Gothic Heavy Metal Party in Paceville, which a friend of ours was hosting and Dj-ing, in honor of those born under the star of Taurus (it was his bday too). My bf’s photo was on the poster ^^ The party was great. We drank, we danced, we freaked out to the beat, we met up with friends, had a laugh, and many cuddles and kisses on the dance-floor too. Afterwards (at around 3am) we took some take-away food. It was glorious. I love eating after booze and excitement.

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We went to sleep at around 4.30, cuddling in the ever enroaching heat. Semi-drunk, full of food and happiness. On Sunday, we woke up late. We played some ps4 (both of us are gamers), cuddled some more, and then in the afternoon I again asked him if he wanted to go out ‘for another drink’. Needless to say, we met some more friends. We went to a restaurant in Mellieha which my bf had been angling at and mentioning for ages. It was a meat-eatery (he loves meat) where we had some really delicious chicken, beef and pork.

What can I say, I am honestly unsure who enjoyed this weekend more, my bf or myself.

A Health Diet which works! Finally!

Almost four weeks ago, I started dieting. It is a healthy diet, unlike the fads I followed when I was younger. What’s more, it genuinely seems to be working, since I lost 4kgs in almost 4 weeks.

Yay me!

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To be honest, I’ve never been so chubby in my whole life. A little bit over two years ago, I finally rented a place of my own, and it was then that I started to get sloppy. I watched my bf eat huge quantities of food, and that sparked on my own appetite… and here we are. Two years and almost 10 kilos later, I was totally FED UP with myself. And I just decided to stop.

Stop eating shit, stop ‘comforting’ myself with food through spells of bad moods (of which I have many), stop giving myself treats, stop eating big portions. Right now, I’m following a fairly simple regime. I eat 100g of proteins (either fish or chicken breast) togather with some carbohydrates, like a wrap or pitta bread, every three hours. The portions are VERY small. I do not eat bread, salami, dairy-food or pasta. I do not eat sweets or snacks. I do not eat any carbs after 6pm (mostly I have a solo piece of chicken or some soup after 6).

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It’s tough. I am very hungry at night, and I’m sleeping earlier to try and forget that. Most of all, I’m getting really sick of chicken breast. And I mean literally sick. To my stomach. Even the smell makes me wants to throw up.

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But here’s the rub – it’s working! 4kgs gone, 6kgs more to go. If I can keep this up for another month and a half, I’ll be right back where I want to be… oh la Dolce Vita – I’ll be able to really enjoy Summer lolling at the beach and strolling half naked everywhere – that is, if I manage to regain my figure.

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So, fingers crossed and teeth clenched! Let’s diet!