Charming #Bratislava & a quick trip to #Vienna

Christmas day, I was in bed with a fever. Two days later, I was travelling to Bratislava, Slovakia. Call me crazy but looking back, I’d do it all over again.

The outbound flight was the worst part. Have you ever been sick or even had nasal congestion on board a plane? It just gets worse. I used to work as a flight attendant with a local airline some years back, so I got used to everything on board. But ear pain is one thing that scares me to date.

For the whole duration of our mini-vacation, warm water with lemon and honey became my best friend. Thankfully, soup was on every menu; it seemed to be a hot item (an unintentional pun) in the city. So I detoxed for a couple of days with soup and Bratislavan ox-tail broth; which is extremely good even though it doesn’t sound appetizing. Not your usual holiday food where you stuff mouth with brioches and pastries at breakfast and get your hands on local sweets and chocolates everytime you get. I’m a sweet tooth, so those were the things I missed the most.

BUT, the fresh air did me good. Despite the icy cold weather, I felt better each time I stepped outside. A couple of days later, I was almost as good as new (almost).

Bratislava. To be completely honest, it was never really on my travel list. But it should be on yours. Two days, I think, are all that you need. Compared to other cities, it’s small. You can easily walk around the centre.

Plus, if you’re a coffee lover, you’re in for a treat. The city is littered with quaint little cake shops and the prices are not expensive (unlike Vienna).

I also visited Devín Castle; which is less than 40 mins away by bus (Bus 28) from the city centre. It’s really easy to get there and if you appreciate history and natural beauty, it’s worth the visit.

After roaming around Bratislava for two days, we hopped on the train to Vienna. It’s just an hour away but you can spot the difference. It’s busier. The streets, the squares, the shops. Everywhere.

Usually, I do a little research before travelling somewhere. But both places being in Europe and the hectic month that was December, I didn’t have the time. For a change, it was nice to just go out and about without a care in the world. We googled the best places to visit whilst at the hotel in the evening and that was it.

Cafés in Vienna are quite the thing as well. They really do love their coffee. It’s quite the culture. They also have their own version of a cappuccino – Melange.

But alas, all the coffee shops had endless queues. Everywhere we went was packed. Visiting during peak season doesn’t help. Shamefully, the only place where we managed to find two available seats (literally just two seats) was McCafe. I hate myself for writing this and even more for going in but it was windy, raining and freezing cold. I couldn’t feel my extremities any longer, so we had to get inside, somewhere. And that, unfortunately, was the last resort.

The following day we encountered the same problem. Only this time with restaurants. But, we found, and totally by chance too, this amazingly good Hummus bar in the inner city. We had the best snack there 👌 👇

Tripadvisor: https://goo.gl/kgbuHX

Maybe that picture doesn’t give the place enough credit. You just have to take my word for it.

One of the many reasons I loved spending the last days of the year in Vienna were the markets. Having researched only a little during our stay, I came across a site stating that Christmas markets open to the public on 23 November until 26 December. What I didn’t know was that they also have New Year’s eve markets. Oh, the goodness! Sad thing though, I couldn’t try everything.

But what I did do, was enjoying a nice mug of hot chocolate in that cold weather whilst roaming around the palace. It was heavenly.

On a side note: It’s better to return the mug to the stall (they refund you for it) if you don’t want it as a keepsake. Otherwise, you’ll end up like I did, awkwardly holding a chocolate-stained mug in hand around the city, underground stations and on trains. Or else, carry a bigger bag (didn’t fit in my small one)!

Until next time, Amanda x

Christmas: Staying vs. Leaving

Celebrating Christmas means different things to different people. For most, it’s the right opportunity to spend time with their loved ones. Where I come from, Christmas is the pure definition of family time. The first time I suggested travelling during the holidays, the air went still at home. 

If you come from a family who never missed one single family Christmas gathering, I believe you can easily relate.

The option of travelling against staying at home during the holidays is a constant internal battle. It’s something we start debating once we realise that summer is almost over and we still need to plan out our remaining leave days […]

New article @timesofmalta

Get the e-paper to read more: Click here

[Christmas Supplement, 2 December 2018]

Travelling to #Porto?

Porto - amandalia

Porto was added to my travel list the minute I saw this ⬆️  ⬆️  I was doing some research on Portugal 🇵🇹 at the time and inevitably came across this charming port city.

It was late June when I arrived there and as expected, the city was flooded with tourists. Next time, I’d probably go during a less popular month (there will definitely be a next time). Thing is, the main reason for this mini-holiday was to finally see Muse play live @Rock in Rio.

Going around is as easy as communicating. The locals are super helpful and friendly. Knowing the local language is always a plus. However, I had only started learning Spanish then. And this, whilst trying to learn Japanese (still a long way to go). So, there wasn’t too much room for Portuguese as well! Even though I could understand the written word (e.g. menus, signs), the spoken language sounded completely different. The only key phrases I managed to master were:

  • Obrigado/a Thank you
  • Bom dia Good morning/day
  • Boa noiteGood evening/night
  • Por favor Please

And that is an extremely sad, short list. Still, I managed to get around just fine  🙌🏼

As a writer and total bookworm, I wanted to visit Livraria Lello. That was high on my list. Experiencing a port wine tasting will also be worth your while, trust me. Portologia is somewhere I highly recommend. And, for a heavenly lunch or dinner, Jimão is the place to go. I wanted to stay there forever.

Pictures below 👇🏼👇🏼

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Amanda x

 

 

 

 

#Lisboa

Entry: 24/06/2018

I’m on a train. That is definitely something I do not get to write every day. Heading to Porto, I decide it’s about time to write something, and, work on some other things as well. The 3 Hour journey allows me to do as much. Although, to be completely honest, having woken up way too early after @RockinRio 🤘 yesterday evening (or rather, early this morning), working is the last thing on my mind.

Lisboa. I think I fell in love with this city as well. It’s fresh, alive.

What about the #Pastéis de Belém? There is this quaint shop in Belem renowned for these custard cream delicacies. They started making the pasteis back in 1983 and follow the original recipe to date. They taste divine, if you were wondering. But they kind of reminded me of our Maltese pastizzi. Only instead of a ricotta filling, it’s custard. Sprinkle a little icing sugar and cinnamon on top and it makes for the perfect breakfast whilst in Lisbon.

Here are some of the best highlights of Lisbon 👇 Porto will soon follow.

I changed my mind; I think I’m going to have a nap now.

Amanda x

amandalia

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#nointernet #canyousurvive?

byamandalia

I did. Survive 10 days without internet, that is. But even so. It doesn’t mean that it was easy. And, come to think of it, it shouldn’t have been difficult either, right?

 

giphy

Remember Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs?☝️☝️ It starts from the bottom level with what we need the most in order to survive; physical needs such as food, air, water and shelter.

However, some wonder whether we should add internet to this list as well. Should we though?

During our stay in Cuba, we went for 10 whole days without any internet access whatsoever. It was amazing to be truly offline and present.

You know how even during lunch or dinner with friends, family or colleagues, everyone is on their smartphones?  We’re either taking a picture of the food, browsing through Facebook, sharing a story on Instagram or checking the latest football score. To mention but a few.

But without smartphones getting in our way, we enjoyed long conversations and debates, and to pass the time in the evenings, even ended up playing charades. The actual thing and not the mobile app game.

My internet-free experience has been a much needed wake up call. It helped me put things into perspective and made me realise how internet-dependant we have become.  True, my work actually does depend on it. Without internet, I wouldn’t even be able to share this with you.

But, just think about it for a minute. How long could you survive without internet? If at all?

Amanda x

 

#cuba #rawbeauty

Cuba byamandalia.png

Before writing about anything else this year, I wanted to first show you Cuba. It’s 12 hours away from home (something like that, by plane) but believe me when I tell you, worth every second.

One word that I would use to describe it? Raw. Does that make any sense? Untouched – that’s another word for it. It’s a different kind of beauty.  Quite different than, say, New Zealand or the Scottish Highlands. And also, there is this laid-back atmosphere I have yet to come across some place else.

Food 🍴: Best if you’re not too picky because there’s a big chance of  having rice and beans for dinner every single day. Pork is their main dish. But you will always, always, have a hearty portion of rice and black beans with your meal.

Stay  🏠: One way of getting an authentic feel of the place is by staying with the locals. One of my best experiences so far is spending New year’s eve eating and drinking with the whole family. Staying in a Casa Particular instead of  a hotel or resort is something I would definitely recommend.

Drinks 🍸: There is a  limited amount of soft drinks available. As for bottled water, Ciego Montero is the only brand that we came across everywhere we went (restaurants, casas and local stores). Like with everything else, choice is quite limited. For instance, ordering e.g. a local beer at a restaurant and being informed that it’s the last can, was quite a normal occurrence.

But, that shouldn’t be disheartening! Why? Because their cocktails do not disappoint. I am not one to fuss but I can honestly say that so far nothing beats their Piña Coladas. They serve it sans Rum and bring a bottle of Havana Club over so you can add as much as you want.

We lived off Mojitos, Cuba libres and Piña Coladas practically for 10 days. There was one time in Viñales (during happy hour – some places do have it) where we got a cocktail for only 1.50 CUC (equivalent to EUR1.25). Usually the price varies from 3 to 5 CUC; depending from where you’re having it.

Internet 🌐: Well, forget it. For starters, you’re on holiday 😄 and Instagram can wait. But really, Internet is not easily accessible. Forget WiFi access at bars, restaurants or even where you’re staying at. There isn’t any. On the plus side, it was quite refreshing to have actual conversations around the table without anyone staring at his or her phone.

There are a couple of places from where you can buy WiFi cards but you can only have access in certain areas for a limited amount of time. You’ll know when you get there. Flocks of people will be sitting around in a given square, on their phones whilst others trying to sell off WiFi cards.

Now, let the pictures speak for themselves.

Amanda x

Habana

Habana, Cuba

Got to love those cars

Got to love those cars. Viñales, Cuba

The Mural

The Mural

On our way to Vinales

On our way to Viñales, Cuba

Ladas and classic cars

Is this another Lada?

Hand rolled Cigar from farms @ Vinales

Freshly hand-rolled cigars from the farm @ Viñales, Cuba

Looks like the Maltese tile, doesn't it

Looks quite like the Maltese tile, doesn’t it?

Varadero

It was supposed to be sunny. Varadero, Cuba.

Tobacco Farm, Vinales

Tobacco farm in Viñales, Cuba

@House of Rum

House of Rum, Habana, Cuba

Hotel sign in Habana

Hotels in Habana, Cuba

The Flag

Well, that’s the flag.

One of the many stray dogs in Habana

One of the many strays roaming the streets of Habana

Driving around Vinales

The sleeping man, laying down. Can you spot it?

Casa @ Vinales

Casa steps. Viñales, Cuba

La Bodeguita del Medio

La Bodeguita del Medio. Famous for their Mojitos

Fruity Breakfast

Fruity breakfast. It’s that and fried eggs.

Horseback riding

That was the only way we could get to the Tobacco farms! Viñales, Cuba

Cuban coffee

Cuban coffee

Cuban billboard

One of the many billboards. Viñales, Cuba

Couple of blocks away from our Casa, Habana

A couple of blocks away from our Casa. Habana, Cuba

Coffee cups

Coffee cups. Lots of them.

Classic car, Cuba

Your classic car, Cuba

@ Vinales

Mornings @ Viñales, Cuba

Churros, churros, churros!

Churros, churros, CHURROS!

You cannot not have a Cuba Libre

You cannot not have a Cuba Libre

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Never-ending beach @ Varadero, Cuba

 

#amsterdam #overtheedge

It was love at first sight. I got lost in the beauty of the place. And there were a couple of times I  got lost – literally (I have no sense of direction whatsoever, a couple of people can vouch for that).

During our stay, it was mostly cloudy and raining. Some might have even grimaced and frowned at the less-than-ideal-holiday weather. But honestly, it was a breath of fresh air. A break from the hot and humid weather August was kind enough to bestow on us back home.

What can I say about Amsterdam? The locals are nice and helpful, the food is good (albeit a bit expensive), transport is super efficient and I felt relatively safe roaming around the streets, even after dark. I’m a bit paranoid, so that’s saying something. Obviously, this heavily depends on the area. But, I give the overall Amsterdam experience two thumbs up. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Definitely.

This blog post will be in pictures <scroll below>. I think they will sum it up quite nicely!

Amanda x

On our way! byamandalia

On our way! Essentials at hand.

Finding our way around Amsterdam. byamandalia

Finding our way around Amsterdam #firstday

When the sun comes out at Zaanse Schans. byamandalia

When the sun comes out at Zaanse Schans.

First, lunch! byamandalia

First, lunch! @ Goos

Flowermarket visit. byamandalia

Flowermarket visit.

Random tile at Zaanse Schans. byamandalia

Random tile at Zaanse Schans.

Cheese from Zaanse Schans. byamandalia

Cheese from Zaanse Schans

Lunch break at Vondelpark. byamandalia

Lunch break at Vondelpark.

Over the edge. byamandalia

Over the edge.

A waffle with stroop. byamandalia

A waffle with stroop.

You cannot not drink beer! byamandalia

You cannot not drink beer!

Rainy day in Amsterdam. byamandalia

Rainy day in Amsterdam.

New best friend at Zaanse Schans. byamandalia

New best friend at Zaanse Schans.

Beautiful Vondelapark. byamandalia

Beautiful Vondelapark.

Mouthwatering almond cake. byamandalia

Mouthwatering almond cake.

Coffee at Anne Frank's House. byamandalia

Coffee at Anne Frank’s House.

Breakfast at Greenwoods Keizersgracht. byamandalia

Breakfast at Greenwoods Keizersgracht.

A must have Starbucks picture. byamandalia

A must have Starbucks picture.