Around the world in Christmas baubles

Today’s post is the perfect combination of travel and Christmas. We have a little tradition that whenever we travel somewhere and we manage to find a Christmas bauble we get…

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3 days in Lisbon, Portugal

One city that I wanted to visit for a long time was Lisbon. Having been there, I can say that I definitely want to go again! In all, we went…

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Weekend trip to Aberdeen from Edinburgh

When: 2 days in June  Stayed: At 2 different Airbnbs. Our initial plan was to stay for one night but then decided to stay for 2 nights so due to…

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5 breakfast places in Malta

1. Giorgio’s Cafeteria, Sliema Enjoying a prime location at Tigne Seafront, Giorgio’s Cafeteria is one of my favourites before spending the day shopping. Depending on the weather and your preferences…

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Biking around Berlin

On our recent trip to Berlin we decided to embrace the nice weather and explore the city by bike. It was easier than we thought and it was quite convenient,…

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24 hour in Blackpool

I had the opportunity to spent my 26th birthday in Blackpool and I must say it was one of the most nicest birthdays I had. First of all, I spent…

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5 brunch places in Edinburgh

Loudons Cafe  Situated in the Fountainbridge area, a short walk away from the city centre. Usually very busy, especially if you go on the weekend (we had to wait around 20…

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Gift guide: traveller in your life

Christmas is round the corner and buying presents can be such a headache. Here’s a gift guide for that person in your life who loves nothing other than travel! Neck…

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Cheese fest Edinburgh ?

When I found out that a touring cheese fest exists in the UK I was delighted. When I found out that Cheese fest UK was coming to Edinburgh in November it was a…

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Baking traditional Maltese puddina in 8 steps

What better way to get baking when it’s all cold and rainy outside? I wanted a piece of puddina for so long so I decided why not bake one on…

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Mid-August Shutdown

During the week of Santa Marija feast (mid-August) it is common that many businesses go on shutdown – this was the case with my work too and Jannik decided to…

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During the week of Santa Marija feast (mid-August) it is common that many businesses go on shutdown – this was the case with my work too and Jannik decided to take the week off as well. Initially we wanted to travel,  but (for various reasons) this would not have been the best idea.  Therefore, we tried to have a nice week on the island. It was the perfect opportunity to do things or visit places that we wanted to visit for ages. Here are some of the things we did (read ate!) –

One evening we had my parents over for dinner – so we wanted to do something special for them. As starters we made bruschetta (pretty easy to do – I mixed some tomatoes with olive oil, garlic powder and vinegar together, toasted the bread on a grill and done!) and focaccia (this one was in Jannik’s hand – which he did from scratch – quite impressive). For the main (again Jannik did most of the cooking – unless you count peeling potatoes as cooking then I cooked too!) we had baked asparagus with pancetta and potatoes. At first I was a bit sceptical about this dish because I had never tried it before but it turned out to be really good! Both my parents liked it very much as well! It was filling but at the same time it was a light dinner. For dessert we weren’t really bothered as we had some ice-cream and (ready-made) cake. This was possibly one of the nicest evenings – because good food and people that really matter are all you need! 🙂


Another day means more food! This time we had some errands to run in the morning so after we decided to combine breakfast and lunch and head to Waffle Bros in Ta’ Xbiex for some yummy waffles. Having lived in Belgium for 5 months, have sort of made me an addict to waffles – so this one was on my list of places to visit. We shared the sweet platter which was delicious. I definetly recommend this place for all those who like me have a sweet tooth.

For another evening we headed to Mammia Mia in Ta’ Xbiex – this time my mother tagged along with us. We had made a reservation in advance knowing that such restaurant is most of the time busy. The service was very good as we were served quickly and the waiters seemed to be very attentive. My mother and I opted for some pasta while Jannik opted for bbq ribs. Again, I would really recommend this restaurant as it has a nice location and is not expensive. A bonus is that parking is not a nightmare as is in most places around the island.

One of my favourite evenings was when we went to the Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta for afternoon tea. The times for the tea at the Palm Court Lounge are 3pm till 6pm. We had a reservation and we could clearly see that the table was set up for 3 people (it is our custom that afternoon tea = mummy time!). The lounge was very nice and modern (which is to be expected as it has been recently refurbished). Firstly, we selected the tea that we wanted and amazingly it was not a problem that one of us asked for coffee instead of tea. A few minutes after we were served the sandwiches – which included 5 different portions each! After the sandwiches, came the pastries and scones – by this point we were already getting full. We were offered to chose another kind of tea (but we opted for the same selections). To finish, we could choose the cake – by this time all 3 of us could barely move due to the amount of food we ate – but who says no to cake? The experience was a very lovely one and between talking, laughing and munching on our scones we didn’t even realise how fast the time passed by.

One of the evenings on the weekend my best friend (Katya) and her fiance (Daniel) came over to our flat for the first time. We literally sat down for 4 hours just chatting and laughing over a glass of wine. Moments like these make me realise how lucky I am to be surrounded by such amazing people, as the most simple things turn out to be the best memories 🙂

Until the next one! 🙂

 

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Things I learnt about Malta

Summer is progressing and as we slowly get closer to September my stay on Malta is coming close to 1,5 years by now. Considering we recently launched our blog I…

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Summer is progressing and as we slowly get closer to September my stay on Malta is coming close to 1,5 years by now. Considering we recently launched our blog I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about some of the experiences I made on Malta.

I will directly start writing down what comes to my mind, but be aware that I will limit this to a few experiences and rather write another blog post with more.

Also, dear Maltese readers, please don’t take this too serious 🙂 I enjoy being here and still learn new things every other day.

Summer is freakishly hot

Alright, let’s be fair – this is an obvious one. Summers on Malta can be hot, like really really hot. Just recently we had a week long heatwave with (felt) temperatures of up to 44 degrees Celsius. Some people ask why I’m not super brown yet, but the answer is simple: the sun will burn you to death. In August you better not leave the house without sunblock, otherwise you’ll spend the night applying aftersun to your alarmingly red body.

Winter is quite cold

Seems to be a surprising fact for some, but yes, it’s also getting cold on Malta. While the temperatures generally stay above 0 degrees, the high humidity increases the way we feel it’s cold. There’s no heaters in Maltese houses, so when it’s 5 degrees outside chance is high it’s not more than 10 degrees inside. Usually it’s even worse and the inside temperatures feel or are actually lower than those outside. We help ourselves with thick clothes and duvets, tea and hot chocolate.

Spring and Autumn are great

I personally love the months between March-May and October-November. Temperatures vary somewhere in the twenties and there’s some vegetation around here (see the picture – it was taken in March and shows just how green the island is). Also, there isn’t loads of tourists – at least not as much as during July-August.

It’s not a holiday for locals

Usual thing I get to hear when I tell people I live on Malta is: you must be spending hours on the beach or relaxing in the sun. Generally people seem to think living somewhere other people go for their holidays must be relaxing. I’ll tell you: it’s not. During the main season our few beaches are overcrowded, so are all the good restaurants and bars. Traffic generally is increasing and while it’s already bad in winter, during summer it gets even worse. A distance of 8 kilometers, like Zebbug to Valletta, can take 30 minutes and more (and there’s lots of worse areas). Some Maltese flee the country during July and August – and generally that seems like a good idea.

Noise awareness does not exist

One of the things that shocked me quite early on was the (sometimes) complete lack of awareness when it comes to noise. Whether it’s heated arguments on a residential street at 1am or cars honking at 4am – there’s always something.

Fireworks are a favorite summer pastime

Some Maltese go crazy for their village festas (feasts for the village patrons) – and that’s cool. I’m all in for local culture and would never say anything bad about it – but – there’s a huge caveat: fireworks. They are – what it seems – the favorite pastime during these village feasts. Just recently our locality celebrated St. Philip for a whole week and as you probably can’t imagine – they fired fireworks every day at 9am, noon, 6pm and 9pm. Sometimes even between these times. The highlight of the feast was a huge firework display with 1’500 fireworks being fired over the duration of a few hours. Apart from the noise that week I generally enjoy these fireworks, although it’s a little too much during the summer.

The picture on the right side shows the parish church of Siġġiewi decorated with lights during the feast of Saint Nicholas.

Kinnie is the best

When I tried it the first time I wasn’t satisfied, but somehow I became addicted anyway. Nowadays I’m barely drinking any other soft drink. Kinnie for any meal, it’s always the best choice! (Some relatives wouldn’t agree with my statement, but they obviously have no good taste)

Taxation is fairly simple

I was a little scared. Moving to a new country and figuring out taxation and social security isn’t the easiest task. However, the ease of doing your tax return on Malta surprised me quite a bit. The tax return form arrives at your home by mail roughly six weeks before the deadline – usually at the end of May. I was able to fill out the form within minutes and calculate the tax I owe by myself, even though I’m self-employed. A few days later I went to the cash office and paid the outstanding balance in cash (but you can pay online as well), dropped off my tax return at the letter box and was done. Wiiii!

Interested in more details? I will probably write another post about taxation, social security and business in the near future.

Majority of Maltese are friendly to foreigners

Coming to Malta from a country like Germany or Switzerland (where I lived before I moved to Malta) gives you a completely different feeling as a foreigner. While in Switzerland (and if we are honest to some extent in Germany as well) the attitude towards foreigners is generally characterized by negativity (just have a look at the SVP in Switzerland or the AfD in some German states like Saxony), the majority of Maltese are thinking positively of being a EU member and the influx of EU citizens. In contrary to Switzerland I haven’t experienced any racist comments or  different treatment when it comes to my origins, even though Maltese-German history is not the easiest for sure (together with the Italians the Germans besieged and bombed Malta up to a point where the island was close to starvation).

There’s awareness for business needs

The Maltese government considers small and medium sized enterprises as vital for the economy. While the German government tends to make life for freelancers and small enterprises harder by passing laws like those targeting false self-employment (and many others) or setting up new obstacles, the government on Malta (under both parties and over many years) has removed obstacles, reduced bureaucracy and introduced a number of tax schemes to make registering and running your business easier. As someone who was legitimately self-employed in Germany, Switzerland and Malta I can easily say that Malta so far has proven as the business friendliest country. Just one example: when I came here I had to visit three different offices – the social security, the VAT department and the trade licensing unit to apply for different permits and tax / social security numbers. Nowadays you can fill out forms online that will submit all relevant information the the appropriate departments. They also removed the annual fees for trading licenses.

 

I guess that’s it for now, even though there’s plenty more to come. Can you think of anything else? Any similar experiences you’ve made where you live right now? Let us know in the comments 🙂

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Flying “Round The World” for 974,47 EUR

I’m a frequent reader of airliners.net and often get inspiration from trip reports written by other users. A few years back there was a discussion going on whether the uprise…

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I’m a frequent reader of airliners.net and often get inspiration from trip reports written by other users. A few years back there was a discussion going on whether the uprise of low-cost carriers on long-haul routes would make it possible to fly around the world using cheap, most likely tickets without luggage allowance.

There’s two major challenges when planning a low-cost trip around the world: the atlantic ocean and the pacific ocean – the latter one more than the first. Traditionally the long-haul market was dominated by legacy carriers such as Lufthansa or British Airways. The transatlantic long-haul routes (like London-New York) have been the cash-cows of their route networks for many years (and they still are for most of them).

More recently low-cost carriers have been starting to offer long-haul flights. Just to name some: there is Norwegian offering a lot of cheap long-haul flights from London (and other European cities), Eurowings from Cologne (and later in 2018 Munich), as well as Level from Barcelona. On the transpacific routes there’s no huge low-cost market yet, but there is Jin Air flying from Seoul to Honolulu and Jetstar flying from Melbourne to Honolulu. There’s also a massive amount of flights from China to major US cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle – it’s possible to find some cheap flights there but it requires some research.

The route that I worked out for this trip in an overview:

Out of simplicity we start our trip in London, but technically the trip could be planned from anywhere in Europe. As a time frame I decided to use November 2017, which is still a few months away and generally considered low season for most airlines (just before christmas travel kicks in).

In my opinion (and experience) the best way to connect cheap fares from Europe to Asia is the route via Istanbul and the Middle East. Why Istanbul? Turkey is one of the major holiday destinations for most European countries (yes, even at this moment it still is) and thus can be reached from basically anywhere in Europe. Istanbul itself is also well connected to the Middle East. Countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait are connected multiple times daily. The Middle East on the other hand is served by a number of low-cost airlines flying directly to South East Asia, to India and Sri Lanka.

So, let’s take a look at the first set of flights:

We start in London (Stansted) and go to Istanbul (Sabiha Gökçen). There you could either plan to stay or directly connect to the next flight to Dubai – that probably depends on your personal feeling considering the security situation in Turkey at the moment. Pegasus Airlines is a Turkish low-cost carrier and serves many destinations around Europe and the Middle East. They also offer conveniently connecting flights at their hub in Istanbul.

After stopping in Istanbul our next flight goes to Dubai. On this route there’s potential for further stops – for example in Kuwait (KWI), Doha (DOH) or Bahrain (BAH). You could also plan your route via one of these airports as all of them have further cheap flights in the direction of South East Asia.

Dubai is probably a must-visit for many travellers, however, after a few days it’s also a very convenient location to continue the journey. Dubai is served by a number of low-cost carriers thus giving us different options to continue. Sometimes flying via India is cheaper, but often you’ll find cheap flights via Sri Lanka. flyDubai is a low-cost carrier headquartered in Dubai and they offer flights to many Indian and Middle East destinations. They also fly to Europe and Africa, but at least in Europe coverage is not that high (yet).

There isn’t much to say about Colombo (Sri Lanka). It’s a lovely destination full of culture, history and nature. It’s also served by Air Asia offering two daily flights between Colombo and Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. Air Asia is a low-cost carrier based in Malaysia. They offer an extensive network of routes from their hub in Kuala Lumpur.

Once in Malaysia: take your time. There’s a lot of cheap flights from and to Kuala Lumpur. You might want to explore the neighbouring Thailand or Singapore – or go even further to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos or Indonesia. Also, explore Kuala Lumpur. There’s the magnificent Petronas towers and my personal favorite: the Heli Lounge which offers a spectacular day and night rooftop view of the city.

Now it’s getting a little tricky. We need to pass the pacific ocean and since it’s quite a long stretch the amount of cheap flights is rather limited. Use a tool like Skyscanner and search for cheap flights between Asia (China, Japan, South Korea, etc) and the USA.

When I did that I quickly found a flight from Hangzhou to Los Angeles. Okay, Hangzhou is not a prime destination, but China for sure is. You can easily adjust the route to visit further Chinese cities or even travel by land. Hangzhou can be reached using different ways: either go to any other major Chinese city and book one of the comparably cheap domestic flights – or use the direct route from Kuala Lumpur offered by Air Asia.

The flight I found in this case is operated by Sichuan Airlines. Sichuan is still quite new to the long-haul market. Until 2012 the airline offered regional flights only – and even today Sichuan is just flying to a small number of international destinations. The route to Los Angeles was established in 2016.

Once in Los Angeles to major part of this trip is done. Within the USA there’s a huge amount of possibilities on how to plan your route. I personally would want to visit Chicago and New York, so I looked up the following flights:

You can add as many cities as you like: visit Boston or Washington or maybe even New Orleans or Dallas. There’s really a lot of potential and this bit requires your own thoughts and creativity.

After visiting these cities it seems like it’s about time to head back home. There’s a couple of airports that have a low-cost connections to Europe. New York JFK is among them with Norwegian offering flights to London, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Paris. In case you’re staying close to the west coast: Los Angeles and Oakland also offer a quite decent selection of cheap flights to Europe.

However, I prefer to use a search engine like Kayak anyway to make sure they offer the cheapest flights. On another note: always try to book directly with the airline. It makes rebooking or changing the flight a lot easier when the need arises.

After we arrive back in London it’s time to look at the total costs and the different cities that will be visited with this route.

The total of all flights is 974,47 EUR and they cover a distance of roughly 23,000 miles. Some airlines require additional charges for luggage, as far as I could find out the prices for 20KG of luggage as follows:

  • Pegasus Airlines charges 6 EUR on both flights
  • Air Asia charges 15 EUR for Colombo to Kuala Lumpur and 17 EUR for Kuala Lumpur to Hangzhou
  • Virgin America charges 22 EUR (25 USD)
  • American Airlines charges 22 EUR (25 USD)
  • Norwegian charges 35 EUR

So there’s another 123 EUR for the luggage in case that is needed.

Also note that some of the countries would require a visa depending on your nationality and length of stay. Since these rules differ a lot depending on various factors I can’t and won’t give any information about that.

While this itinerary covers just a “few” destinations, the route easily allows more stops at minimal higher costs. You could add further stops in Asia, the USA or even in the Middle East or Europe.

What do you think about this? Would it be something you’d like to do in the future? Any ideas how to improve the route? Your feedback is very much welcome!

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Our trip to Munich & Coldplay concert

Two months later, I’m finally writing about our adventure. On the 2nd of June, we boarded a plane to Nuremberg followed by an hour train ride which led us to…

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Two months later, I’m finally writing about our adventure.

On the 2nd of June, we boarded a plane to Nuremberg followed by an hour train ride which led us to our final destination – Munich.

For the first day, we decided that we wanted to be typical tourists hence explore the city centre and the main attractions. We headed to Marienplatz – being the core of the city centre and a warm sunny day it was quite busy. In the main square, the stunning architecture of the city hall cannot be missed.

 

 

Marienplatz

We continued by exploring the city on foot before heading to the German Museum. The queue to the ticket booths were unbelievably long however we had the bright idea to buy the tickets online which saved us the trouble of having to wait hours. Personally, as I’m not a big fan of museums, I wasn’t really impressed by this one. For all those that like museums and are interested in science and technology – the German Museum is definetly worth a visit. Having said that, being a big fan of roof-top views, the view from the upper most level was excellent!

View from the Deutsches Museum 

Maximillaneum Building, the State Parliament

On two evenings we’ve been to two different beer gardens. Both places were a few minutes away on foot from our hotel. We (well, mostly me) tried some typical German food (including a dip made of fat – sounds yucky but tastes a bit better!) and beer.

Dinner at Giesinger Bräustüberl

Having rented a car, we were on a mission to visit a castle and a palace. First we drove to Linderhof Palace, which is one hour and half away from Munich by car. The palace was very impressive and it’s surrounding gardens provided for a lovely walk. We then drove for another hour to Neuschwanstein Castle. Before getting to the village of Hohenschwangau where we could park our car, we were met by a lovely typical Bavarian small town. The weather was no longer in our favour and in fact it was windy and it also started to rain! The castle is on a hill and the most convenient way to get to it is by a bus (which was super-packed every time it picked up tourists!). We had to wait for a while in the rain as there was a long queue due to the fact that the bus was not driving very frequently. The perfect spot to see the castle is by walking on a wooden bridge which in the fog, wind and rain didn’t feel very safe! The view of the castle made overcoming the fear of the bridge all worth it as it seemed to be a castle out of a fairytale.

 

View on our way to the castles

Linderhof Palace

 

Neuschwanstein Castle

The day has arrived! We booked the tickets for the concert 8 months before the actual date so it was indeed a long wait for this day! As we still had the car we drove to the Olympiastadium. We decided that the most sensible decision would be to go to the venue super early as to find parking (and I was too excited to do anything else!). Close by the Olympiastadium is the BMW World where we spent some time away from the rain. Due to security reasons we needed to be at the venue well before time because of checks that were going on, before being allowed in the venue. We were quite lucky as we didn’t have to wait at all to be allowed in. The whole process went smoothly – even given the fact that we actually followed the instructions of not bringing any big bags with us and umbrellas.

More waiting and two performers later it was time for Coldplay! The show was incredible – an experience that cannot be explained in words. The whole crowd had a wonderful vibe. It goes without saying that Coldplay themselves were excellent – they gave a brilliant show and connected to the crowd very well. I felt so happy (and very grateful that my boyfriend actually bought us tickets to do this) that at times I wanted to happy-cry. It is certainly an experience I recommend (even though I absolutely hate crowded places!).

By the end of the holiday we were left with amazing memories and one more thing crossed off the bucket list 🙂

 

Coldplay Concert at Olympiastadium

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