Giana Spiteri

Giana Spiteri has 15 articles published.

10 Good habits for 2023

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1. Make realistic resolutions

I personally didn’t participate in dry January because I knew I had my work leaving do, and two birthdays that I wanted to celebrate with my friends and champagne! I did however decide that I would limit my drinks to just the weekend instead of catching up with a friend over wine on a Wednesday for example. 

2. Learn to say no 

I’ve learnt that just because you have a free day in your diary, doesn’t mean you should automatically consider yourself ‘available’. I’m often guilty of having things planned for almost every day of the week, and it can get tiring when you don’t give yourself enough time to do nothing.  Personally, I’m trying to keep Mondays free so I know I can just come home and relax for the rest of the evening. 

3. Perfect a meal

Instead of promising yourself that you’re going to become the next Gordon Ramsay this year, start small by perfecting a dish. On my trip to Thailand last year, we attended a cooking class and we all said we would come back home and make everything we learnt. It took me about 5 months before I actually got round to making a thai green curry. That being said, I’ve made it a few times now and can confidently say, I make a good one!

4. Do more things
independently 

If you look back on your 2022, how many things do you think you missed out on because no one wanted to do it with you? Whether it’s trying out a new restaurant or going to the cinema for a new movie only you’re interested in, try and find comfort in doing things alone. I actually went to a gig on my own a few years back and I had a blast. 

5. Make a positive change in your diet 

If you started the year by telling yourself that you’re not going to eat any more chocolate, will never order a takeaway and will only eat keto, then you’re setting yourself up for failure by restricting yourself too much. Try and implement one thing at a time and that way it will become more of a lifestyle than a diet. One thing that I started doing again the last few months is intermittent fasting, where I keep my eating window between 12pm – 8pm. There are lots of benefits to doing this, but I suggest you do your own research on it to see if it is right for you! 

 6. Make a positive change for the world 

Whether this means taking the bus to work instead of driving, or cutting down your use of plastic, implementing just one good habit can make a lot of difference. If you feel like you’re already doing your bit for the environment, maybe focus on a different way you can help. Try volunteering for a charity or join the corporate social responsibility team in your company, if this is available. 

7. Practice gratitude

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and it really does help you see the positives in even the most mundane days. I have a note on my phone called ‘365 days of happiness’ and at the end of each day, I write down the hghlight of my day. Sometimes this could be something as simple as the french toast I made myself for breakfast, or something funny my boyfriend said. 

8. Save more money than you did last year. 

Last year I did the ‘penny challenge’ where you put 1 extra penny a day to a vault or savings account and by the end of the year you would have £674 saved. This is great for saving for Christmas presents or just to treat yourself at the end of the year. This year I’m trying a new challenge where you add in 1 extra pound at the end of the week. As an example, on week 1 you would add £1, week 2 you would add £2 and so on. 

9. Invest in your relationships 

Sometimes we take for granted the people we have in our lives, and I know we are all busy but there’s always time to check-in. Spend more time with your family, call your grandparents more often and don’t forget to ask your friends from time to time how they’re doing. If you’re in a relationship, one thing I also recommend doing together is finding out what your love languages are (there’s plenty of tests online that will be able to do this for you). This is a great way to bring you closer together and understand each other better. As one person might prefer quality interrupted time and another might require more words of affirmation in the relationship. 

10. Practice self-reflection 

Finally, use this time to look back at how you have grown as a person over the last 12 months, and areas that you think you could improve on. If you’re brave enough, you could also ask the people closest around you. How could I be a better partner? What do you think are my best personality traits? When do I seem my happiest? Are all questions you could be asking. 

Gift Ideas For Frequent Travellers

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‘What do you want for Christmas?’ is a question I find myself asking some of my family and friends every year. As we get older you start to realise there’s not many things that people ‘need’ but some presents can always be useful. I remember when I went travelling for a year I got a number of practical presents that I still use to this day. If you have someone in your life who is constantly travelling, here are some gift ideas they’ll enjoy! 

1. Suitcase

Depending on what your budget is – then a matching set of suitcases would be a perfect gift for someone who travels often. I purchased the American Tourister Bon Air Spinner case and found that I actually prefer a hard shell case. It’s lasted me 4 years so far! I like the number of compartments, the 4 wheel function and that it has a built in code lock. 

2. Gift experience

If you know your friend has a holiday coming up, take a look on a tour website like GetYourGuide and see if there is a fun experience or activity you could surprise them with. My friend bought me a ‘flower bath’ experience when I went to Bali a few years ago and I loved it. My mum also bought me a bungy jumping activity for my time in New Zealand which I had mentioned I wanted to try. Make sure you find out if your friend is the adventurous type before booking something like that though! 

3. Packing Cubes

These have been a game changer for my trips and I have a number of friends and family members who now use these too. They’re essentially ‘cubes’ or zipper bags of different sizes that can be used to store all your travel items. They’re great for keeping all your items organised, and if they often travel with a backpack it will definitely make finding things 100 times easier. 

4. Luxury hotel

This could be a great present for yourself too if you’re planning a trip with a significant other or friend. One experience that I’ve been recommended and I’m hoping to go myself next year, is the Nomading Camping in Ronda. You essentially sleep in a ‘bubble’ dome under the stars, and have your own private area too. If my boyfriend is reading this, take this hint! 

5. iPad Cover

Because what good is taking your Ipad to entertain yourself on a 4 hour flight when you can’t get it to sit properly on the tray table? I made the mistake of not checking the reviews when I bought my cover two years ago and the flap doesn’t actually hold the weight of the iPad, so I end up having to balance it awkwardly and hope the passenger in front doesn’t move his seat too often. The ‘Moko Ipad Cases’ (£12.99) are available on Amazon and will hold your iPad up so you can watch your shows on any surface!

6. Backpack

If you’re looking for a gift for someone who likes to travel hands free then these are always useful, and this one in particular is very practical and inexpensive. Cabin Max’s (£30) backpacks come in over 20 colours and are designed to maximise hand luggage allowance on most airlines with its size of 55x40x20cm (44L). It features 3 main lockable zipped compartments, and an organisational pocket featuring 2 zipped internal compartments.

7. Eye-Mask

Especially for long-haul flights, it can be hard to fall asleep if the passenger next to you wants to pull an all-nighter on the flight and get through a whole season of The Crown. This would make a great stocking filler or for a secret santa present. 

8. Travel Journal

If like me you know someone who likes to document their trips in one way or another, then the Travel Listography (£20) book which you can purchase on Amazon or Urban Outfitters, is a great gift idea. It features over 100 pages of travel related prompts such as ‘interesting people you’ve met whilst travelling’ to ‘places in Europe I’d like to visit’ to ‘lakes, rivers and oceans that I’ve swam in’. 

9. Kindle 

I’ve been known to take two books with me when travelling because I’m worried I’m going to finish one and then have nothing else to read on the flight. That’s the beauty of a Kindle (£69.99) – you can read as many books as you like and they’re all kept in one compact device. These range from the original Kindle, to the Paperwhite and Kindle Fire – depending on what your needs are. 

10. Flight voucher

With most airlines charging you for your overhead luggage now, even a gift voucher of £25 would come in handy to take away the frustration of all the added flight expenses. I recommend choosing an airline like Ryanair or Easyjet that fly quite frequently from Malaga. If you want to go the extra mile, you could even include some flight destinations that you’d recommend! 

My winter wardrobe staples

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October time is usually when we say goodbye to all our sun dresses and t-shirts and say hello to hoodies and jeans. This year I feel like that keeps getting prolonged because the warm weather doesn’t seem to be leaving us just yet! Living in Gibraltar means that we don’t get such a drastic change in our wardrobes from one month to the next as people in the United Kingdom. Meaning that layering clothes is usually the first transition for us before we commit to sweaters and polo necks. That being said, I have purchased a number of items for the season that I know I will be making a lot of use of over the next few months. Here are some of the staple items that you should have in your wardrobe this winter. 

Cargos

These have come full circle from the early 2000s and have come back into fashion the last couple of years, and it’s easy to see why! They’re comfy and are perfect for a casual weekend brunch or to go shopping in Main Street. I’ve had a black pair for a few years and this year have added to my collection with a beige pair from Zara. 

Gilet

Growing up I never saw much use for these as I always thought to myself, wouldn’t your arms get cold? However in Gibraltar, these kind of make a lot of sense. They’re perfect for when it’s too cold to wear a denim jacket, but not cold enough to wear a puffer coat. Neutral colours are best for these as well to make sure they go with most of your outfits. 

White staple trainers 

I remember when I lived in London and would see people on the tube wearing trainers with anything just to get to work and then they would switch into their heels before getting to the office. Now these have become more athleisure wear than just to wear to the gym. Not only are they comfy, but they can sometimes be the statement piece if you’re wearing a simple outfit. Some of my favourite trainers at the moment are the ‘Nike Air Force 1 Shadow trainers in soft pink and pastel mix’ and the ‘Nike Zoom Air Fire trainers in pearl white and lilac’

Leather flares

Flares of any material have been part of my wardrobe for years now, so it was only a matter of time before I added some leather ones into the mix. Low rise leather flares have been on trend this season, but if that’s not for you there are more high waisted options you can find in stores like ASOS. They’re perfect to wear for a night out with a crop top and some chunky boots with a leather jacket. 

Chunky ankle boots 

I learnt my lesson last winter that suede boots weren’t as ideal to wear to work when there are high chances of rain. Some leather chunky ankle boots are perfect to dress up any outfit when you don’t want to wear heels or have your toes out on a night out. 

Suit trousers

These are perfect for when you need to go straight to after work drinks from the office and don’t fancy changing. When I think of suit trousers the first thing that would come to mind would be grey striped office trousers that you would see in the movies at corporate of•Oversized Blazers

These can be perfectly paired with your suit trousers or for a more casual look, with your denim jeans. If you want to be a bit more daring, then choosing a bold block colour like blue or green will add more boldness to your outfit (as long as you keep the rest of the look relatively neutral!)

Crusing

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This summer I embarked on my second cruise with Royal Caribbean, and I can say my experience visiting as a teenager and as an adult were very different but both very memorable. A cruise is a great way to explore different cities/countries in a short space of time, and due to there being no coverage, also a great family bonding experience. If you still haven’t embarked on a cruise or are in the process of planning one for 2023, here are some of my tips. 

Book in advance

We booked our Royal Caribbean cruise a year and a half in advance of our sail date, and we managed to save £400 with an ‘early bird’ discount. We did take a bit of a risk as we didn’t know what the travel situation with covid was going to be like, but it worked out in the end! Booking in advance means you also get a larger choice of staterooms, and if you get seasick you’ll want to ensure you bag one of the top deck rooms. 

Look at the port terminal before you book your flights 

Our cruise departed from ‘Venice’, but what they really meant was a port that was two hours away from Venice airport and in the town of Ravenna. Make sure you research your terminal ports first, as you may need to give yourself more time to travel. If you arrive a day before it’s also a great way to explore another city! 

See which stops you can do at your own leisure

It’s no secret that cruise tours are usually double the price of those you can get via other agencies or from the tourist office when you arrive at one of your stops. There will be times where it’s worth booking a tour with your cruise as it will include transport and all the highlights a place has to offer. If you’re stopping at a smaller city or a beach town then it’s easier and more cost effective to do so at your own leisure. 

Take advantage of the drinks package

Cocktails on most cruise lines are expensive, so if you’re really looking to splurge on your first day at sea it might be worth purchasing a drinks package. On Royal Caribbean a drink package of unlimited cocktails, soft drinks and speciality coffees was around £45. Which would just about get you 4 or 5 cocktails otherwise. The only thing to note was that this offer was only available the first two days of our cruise. 

Pack your swimsuit in your carry-on bag

Just like in the airport, you will go through a check-in process before you’re allowed to board. The cruise staff will keep your suitcases and then throughout the day they will have them taken to your stateroom. This means that you might get on the ship at midday, but won’t be reunited with your luggage until 5pm. So bring your swimsuit, towel and other essentials in your carry-on luggage! 

Make the most of the drinks allowance

As mentioned above, alcoholic drinks onboard aren’t the cheapest. Most cruise lines allow you to bring two bottles of wine per stateroom with you, which is great if you want to enjoy a glass or two on your balcony as you’re watching the sunset! You are also allowed to buy drinks in the port stops but the staff might keep this aside and give it to you when you check-out on your last day. 

Keep your phone in aeroplane mode 

Even if you’re embarking on a Mediterranean cruise, there is a chance you will sail past non-EU countries where you will be charged for data roaming. My brother learnt this the hard way when he woke up and saw a ‘welcome to Albania!’ text message. Wi-Fi on the ship usually starts around £20 a day, so in my opinion it’s not really worth it. You’ll still get coverage when the ship is docked, and chances are the people who you really need to speak to will be on the cruise with you! 

Download the cruise app

Most cruise lines will have a dedicated app to make your journey a lot smoother. On our Royal Caribbean app we were able to check-in, book excursions, see how much we’d spent onboard, and see all the daily activities taking place. We also got the full menu for evening dining for the whole week, and obviously we couldn’t help ourselves in looking beforehand. The app is also a great way to plan your day as you can add activities to your calendar. 

Opt to pay for the tips beforehand 

I remember the first time we went on a cruise my parents had to dish out tips left right and centre at the end of our trip, which usually amounts to hundreds. Some cruises now give you the option to pay for the gratuities when you pay for your remaining balance before the cruise, and I believe this was around £120 per person. 

Dining vs Buffet 

On your cruise you will usually have two options for dinner each night included in your package. You can opt for a more formal dinner in the dining room, where there is usually one or two gala nights and you are given a 3 course menu every night. The other option is to eat in the buffet restaurant which usually has themed nights too. It’s worth checking on the app beforehand to see which menu appeals to you more! 

Everyone loves a Summer holiday

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Naples, Italy 

Naples is great for many reasons. It’s where pizza was born, it’s cheap, and you can get to the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Capri easily from here. Flights from Malaga are usually less than £100 too. I recommend making Naples your base, spending 1 day here and then exploring from here. You’ll definitely want to do Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius when the weather is cooler! 

In Naples I recommend visiting the Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara and trying local delicacies like Baba and Sfogliatelle. Baba is a sponge cake soaked in a citrus rum syrup, and Sfogliatelle is a cone shaped pastry with lots of layers, and can be found with various fillings. You can also have a Michelin star experience without the price tag at Sorbillo for arguably the best pizza in the city. Just expect a queue to get a table here. If not, head to Pizzeria Imperatore 1906 for pizza equally as tasty. 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is beautiful throughout the whole year, but temperatures are more bearable just after the summer months. Budapest is actually made up of two parts, ‘Buda’ being the more hilly area whereas ‘Pest’ makes up two-thirds of the city and is where you will find most of the tourist attractions.

To get around I definitely recommend taking advantage of one of the Hop On, Hop Off buses. This will take you to the most famous landmarks including Heroes Square, Fisherman’s Bastion and the ‘Shoes on the Danube’ memorial. I also recommend taking a river cruise in the evening to the Parliament lit up, it’s truly beautiful. Make sure you also try a bowl of goulash stew before you leave! 

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona generally has a good climate, I remember visiting in December and being in a t-shirt when we were starting our trek up to Park Guell. Even if the weather is still hot in September, you can always cool down at Barceloneta beach. I find that every time you visit Barcelona there are new places to discover (and little progress on the Sagrada Familia). Other sites of interest are the Picasso museum, Parc de la Ciutadella and Arco de Triumfo. You can also marvel at Gaudi’s work around the city, including the Casa Battlo and Casa Mila. 

If you’re travelling in a group and want to please everyone, head to El Nacional food court where you will find a selection of everything. For delicious burgers head to Pim Pom burgers. Of course if it’s some good tapas you’re after, head to Ciudad Condal. This is quite a popular spot so make sure you get here early to avoid long queues. 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia is the perfect summer destination, but can be too hot for some people in July and August. We visited at the end of September and got perfect weather. Dubrovnik is quite a small city, so you can always combine this with other places in Croatia such as Split and Zagreb. You can also take day trips to the neighbouring countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. 

During your time in Dubrovnik, start your day by walking the city walls in the morning. This will take you between 1.5 – 2 hours to walk, depending how often you stop to take pictures! If you prefer being on the sea, you can also take a kayaking tour around the walls. You can also take a 20 minute boat to the island of Lokrum. Here you will see peacocks, an Iron Throne replica and a lake that you can sunbathe by and swim in. Game of Thrones fans will also find plenty of tours here that take you around all the filming spots! In Dubrovnik, you can never go wrong with seafood. My top recommendation has to be Gradska Kavana Arsenal, Dubrovnik, make sure to try the black seafood risotto. 

Krakow, Poland 

If you love the cold, then Krakow is beautiful in December because you also get to experience the Christmas markets. However if like me your fingers still suffer with gloves on, then September is the best time to visit. Krakow has the best of everything – cheap eats, great nightlife, rich in history and plenty of instagram photo spots. Here you can see the medieval Wawel Royal Castle, St Mary’s Basilica and the renaissance-feeling Cloth hall. The most popular tours to take from Krakow is visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the Wieliczka Salt Mine and visiting Schindler’s Factory, 

You will also find some of the best restaurants in the Jewish Quarter. I recommend trying the dumplings and bread bowl stews at the restaurant Ariel. Fun fact, a scene from Schindler’s List was filmed here! 

10 Things to experience in Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is the perfect choice for a weekend break, or for a hen or stag-do from the looks of things when we arrived at Schiphol airport! A lot of tourists travel to the dutch city for their ‘coffee shops’ and relaxed laws. However if that is not your scene, there are still plenty of things to experience in the dutch capital. Here are my 10 recommendations.

Visit the Anne Frank house

This is definitely a moving experience and it actually feels quite surreal to be standing in the house and rooms where Anne Frank, her family and other jewish people were living in hiding for two years. Be sure to buy your tickets online, as they don’t sell tickets at the door and allow people in based on half hour time slots. This did however mean that we weren’t queuing for long to get in. 

Experience the MOCO museum

This museum features a range of modern and contemporary art including the likes of Banksy and Andy Warhol. There was also a range of immersive rooms that make for a great backdrop for your photos for the gram. If you’re into the recent NFT hype, they also had a whole gallery dedicated to this. 

Cruise through the canals with with wine and cheese

I’ve done river cruises in cities before that have been quite underwhelming, but this one I’d choose to do again. There are different types of packages you can get for these, and you can choose either a private tour or a group one. The canal cruise takes you through some parts of Amsterdam that you can only access via the canals, and it was very picturesque. Make sure to make the most of the ‘bottomless’ wine on the boat too. 

Fill your belly at Foodhallen

We liked this place so much that we came back twice. Foodhallen is an indoor food court with over 20 different food stalls that offer everything from japanese to mexican cuisine. They also of course have a dutch stand where you can try a variety of ‘bitterballen’. Which are a cross between meatballs and croquettes. 

Scream at the Amsterdam dungeons

The weather in Amsterdam can be quite unpredictable, so if you happen to be there on a rainy day I’d suggest visiting the Amsterdam dungeons. If you’re travelling with a group, this most likely will be a good laugh because the chances of a member of your group getting picked in one of the rooms is high! 

Visit the Van Gogh Museum

This museum houses over 1000 paintings, drawings and letters by Van Gogh. Including his famous ‘sunflowers’ and ‘self portrait’ paintings. A friend recommended that in order to feel fully immersed in this experience, visit the Bulldog ‘coffee’ shop first and watch the colours and textures come to life!  

Get a rush of adrenaline at the A’DAM Lookout Swing

If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, head to the ‘Over the Edge’ swing in Amsterdam where you will dangle 100 metres over the ground. This is actually the highest swing in Europe so that’s something you’ll be able to tick off your bucket list. In order to get here you’ll have to catch a free F3 ferry (to Buiksloterweg) and then take a short walk along the IJ waters. 

Visit the Tulip Fields

If you’d like to see the iconic endless rows of colourful tulips, then plan a day to Keukenhof which is known as the ‘garden of Europe’. You can find a variety of tours available on GetYourGuide. You will get photo opportunities, as well as the chance to visit a typical Dutch town which is famous for its iconic ‘Delftware’ handcrafts. Your guide will also take you to the lively market square of Delft, where you can stroll through the cobblestoned streets. 

Go on a cheese crawl 

You can do this the sophisticated way by purchasing a tour in a cheese shop, where your guide will let you sample several cheeses paired with mustard, dips and red wine. Or you can visit all the cheese shops in the centre of town and try all of the cheese samples. Just make sure you actually buy something so the shop attendants don’t look at you strangely when you leave! My favourites were the smoked gouda, the pesto gouda and the truffle gouda. 

Go on a Red Light Pub Crawl

If you’re travelling on your own or with a small group, a good way to meet people from different countries is by joining a city pub crawl. ‘Ultimate Party Amsterdam’ host a pub crawl every Friday and Saturday, and for 25 euros you will get shots in a number of bars, and entry into Amsterdam’s biggest club ‘AIR’. When you arrive at the meeting point they will give you a Whatsapp message with the pub crawl route and timings, so if you want to stay somewhere a bit longer you’ll know where to end up! 

The best time to visit Amsterdam is between April – May, for light jacket weather and tulip season. We visited in June and the weather contrasted from 30 degree sun on the Friday to light rain and jeans weather on the Sunday! To get around Amsterdam you can rent a bicycle, purchase a 24/48/72 hour tram ticket, or walking is doable too. If you do rent a bicycle, don’t expect this to be a leisurely ride as there are more bikes than cars in the city!

First Time Visitors Guide to Thailand

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Where to go

Thailand has officially removed all of its restrictions for vaccinated tourists, so If you have been itching for a big trip this year, you’re in luck! The great thing about Thailand is that it suits every type of traveller. Whether you’re looking to go with your partner, with a group of friends, with your family or on your own, Thailand has something for everyone. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s my guide on where to consider going on your trip depending on your interests.  

Bangkok

This will no doubt be in your itinerary for the simple fact that it’s the easiest and cheapest airport in Thailand to fly into. People have mixed opinions about Bangkok, and personally I wouldn’t recommend spending more than 2-3 days there, but there are a lot of things to do in the area. Temperatures in Bangkok can soar, so I recommend starting your day early and then relaxing by the pool in the afternoon. If you plan on temple hopping, my top recommendations are The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Muang and Wat Arun. In the evening, head to Cielo rooftop bar for great food, cocktails and amazing views of the Bangkok skyline. To end the night, walk through Khaosan road which is very popular with backpackers. Just expect it to be loud and very crowded! 

Ko Samui

Ko Samui is the second largest island in Thailand, and is a popular choice for families as there are a lot of resorts in the area. Personally I don’t think it’s the nicest island, but we did have the best excursions from Ko Samui and we loved the night market in Chaweng. Who wouldn’t love a pad thai and dumplings for £3? During your time there I recommend a day trip to Mu Ko Ang Thong Park, where you’ll get the chance to snorkel, kayak and visit the blue lagoon. Other sites of interest are the Wat Plai Laem Temple, and the Overlap Stone.  Just make sure your Grab driver fills up the tank before heading up there! 

Koh Phangan

There is one primary reason why people go to Koh Phangan, and that’s for the monthly Full Moon Party. To get here you can get a 30 minute speedboat from Ko Samui, which I recommend buying in advance from 12go asia because the boats do fill up. My advice for the full moon party is not to go with the expectation that it is going to be great music and a sophisticated atmosphere. Buy yourself a famous bucket drink and try to make the most of the experience! In terms of dining, our hotel restaurant Sand & Tan is situated right on Haad Rin beach and has the best Pad Thai I have ever tasted. 

Koh Tao

Koh Tao is the best spot for adventurous travellers who want to have a go at scuba diving. There are plenty of diving schools scattered around the island, but if you would rather just snorkel at your own leisure then I recommend heading to Shark Bay, Freedom Beach or Sairee Beach. You will also find some great viewpoints in Koh Tao, my favourite being the John Suwan Viewpoint. 

Phuket 

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, and arguably the most famous. It is also the gateway to the Phi Phi islands, which was the filming location for The Beach, which Leonardo Dicaprio starred in. When in Phuket, explore the Sunday Walking Street Market for some cheap food and to purchase some buddhas and bracelets to bring back for your friends and family. When you’ve had enough of tanning on Pa Tong beach, you can climb a hill for 5 minutes to see the 45 metre tall White Buddha. 

Chiang Mai

Once you are done exploring the south, fly north to experience a different side of Thailand. Chiang Mai is a great place for street food, and one of the typical dishes in northern Thailand to try here is khao soi. It consists of either chicken or beef, in a coconut curry broth with boiled and fried noodles. Here is where you will also get the chance to visit an Elephant Sanctuary. We gave the elephants a mud bath, fed them tons of bananas and made medicine balls for them. The company we went with were called Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, who have a no riding policy. You could genuinely tell the elephants were happy here. From Chiang Mai you can also take a day trip to the nearby city of Chiang Rai, where you can visit the famous White Temple. 

Pai

From Chiang Mai, you can take a 3 hour minivan ride to the town of Pai for a real authentic Thai experience. Word of warning, I suggest taking an anti sickness tablet because there are more than 750 twists and turns to get there. You won’t need more than two nights in Pai but we loved the fact that you could walk everywhere, and it is also a great place to meet other travellers. Here you can visit the Pai canyon, try ‘tipsy tubing’ down the river, visit the hot springs and swim in the Pam Bok waterfall. Another traditional Thai dish you can try here is the Kaeng Hang Lei, which is a slightly spicy pork curry. 

Thailand is known as ‘The Land of Smiles’ for a reason, and you will find the locals to be so friendly and helpful. It’s definitely a place that I will visit again in the future, and if you have the time and annual leave, you can definitely see all these places in the space of a month! 

Travel Insight

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The fat one

Feeding your belly and your soul in Bologna, Italy’s foodie capital.

When it comes to Italy, different cities and regions of the country are pretty universally “known” for certain things. Milan is known for fashion. Tuscany is known for wine and gorgeous countryside. Venice is known for its romantic canals. Florence for art. Rome for history.

But if you love food? If you love food, you go to Emilia-Romagna.

Emilia-Romagna is a region in northern Italy known for its medieval cities and fertile lands. This part of Italy gives the world delicious things like Parma ham, the best balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Ferrari. 

And at the heart of Emilia-Romagna is the city of Bologna. Known as La Dotta (“the learned one” for its world-renowned university), La Grassa (“the fat one” for its delicious cuisine) and La Rossa (“the red one” for its red rooftops and leftist political views). 

Bologna is one of the larger cities in Italy (7th Largest) – and even though tourism is a fast-growing industry there – it barely ranks in the top 25 cities in Italy in terms of actual tourist numbers. In 2018, more than 60 million tourists visited Italy, but only a little over 2 million of them made their way to Bologna. Another bonus is that the historic city center isn’t all that large. You can walk from one end to the other in less than 45 minutes. Meaning that you can really see (and eat) all the best things in Bologna without feeling too rushed.

Walk the Porticoes

One of Bologna’s most distinctive features are its porticoes – pretty arches that shield the streets from both the sun and rain. There are 666 archways in total (but I certainly didn’t count) built to the height of a man on horseback, and today constitute yet another of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage sights.

Bologna Fact: the porticoes were created during Bologna’s Middle Age, when the city needed extra space for housing. By building over part of the sidewalks, the city avoided narrowing the streets, while creating extra room for living spaces.

Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore is the main square in Bologna and the heart of the historic town. Dating back to 1200, and one of the first squares in Italy built after the fall of the Roman Empire, citizens would once congregate to hear new laws and watch public executions.

Today, the Bolognese come here to eat ice cream, listen to concerts and scoff pizza in the arteries that feed of Piazza Maggiore. It’s a great place to hang out and explore the mishmash of architectural styles that have developed over the years around the square.

San Petronia Basilica

Bologna still feels like a work in progress and there’s no better way to admire the unadorned character of the city than by visiting San Petronio Church. Construction began in 1388 but after a series of complicated amendments, Pope Pius IV deemed it a pipedream and diverted funds to the university instead. As a result, San Petronio remains unfinished with the top decorated in marble and the top half simple old brick.

While the inside is plainly decorated, it contains a meridian line paved into the isle by the astronomer Giovanni Cassini in 1655. With phenomenal precision, the meridian line allowed Cassini to calculate the tilt of the earth axis and the timing of the equinoxes.

Towers of Bologna

Pisa may be more famous, but Bologna has its own leaning towers. In fact, old prints show that the city once had more than a hundred towers, as noble families would compete to build the highest structures.

17 towers remain today, the two most famous of which are the Torre Garisenda and the Torre Asinelli. Built in the 12th century, the Torre Garisenda leans even more dramatically than Pisa and is so famous throughout Italy that Dante mentions it in his Divine Comedy. 

The Torre Asinelli is taller at 90 meters, and is climbable. Pay the entrance fee for a beautiful view over the city – you’ll get a first hand look at the red roofs which give Bologna its nickname La Rossa. 

Taste the Best Gelato in Italy

Gelato lovers, you’re in luck. Homemade gelato in Bologna is an institution and there are several ice cream shops in town that each make delicious sorbets and ice creams.

For those who like to try quirky flavors, we spotted Gorgonzola cheese gelato and even Risotto alla Milanese gelato.

Go Food Shopping in the Quadrilatero

Bologna’s food markets are quite famous and one of the most charming sections is the Quadrilatero. Home to markets and food stalls since the Middle Ages, this grid of narrow streets south of Via Rizzoli is the place to try flaky pastries, aged cheeses, delicious charcuterie and inexpensive but fantastic wine.

Grab a little of this and that to make your own picnic! Or, have lunch at one of the many street side restaurants where you can enjoy a meal on the sidewalk tables.

Santuario della Madonna di San Luca

Saint Luke’s sanctuary is one of the most famous churches in Bologna and occupies a secluded place on its own forested hill southwest of the city center.

The best way to visit is to walk along the long roofed arcade where the annual procession marches but it’s also the most challenging way! 666 arches line the path (about 3.8 km) and you might find yourself cursing the devil as you near the home stretch.

The Motor Valley

If you’re a motorcycle or race car fan, chances are you’ve heard about the Motor Valley – the industrial district situated in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region specialized in the automotive industry. This area, mainly concentrated in Bologna, Modena, Cento and Argenta,  is renowned worldwide for being the birthplace of some of the world’s leading automotive brands: Ducati, Ferrari and Lamborghini.  In addition to the industrial activity, the Motor Valley is also characterized by museums, racetracks, factories and sports competitions, making it an authentic “land of engines”. Which means you can visit the Lamborghini, Ducati and Ferrari museums, racetracks and factories during your stay in Bologna!


There is so much delicious food in Bologna it can feel overwhelming. Especially if you’re there for just a short trip. This list of Bologna foods is quick guide on what to taste while visiting the area. 

TAGLIATELLE AL RAGU (A.K.A. PASTA BOLOGNESE)

When it comes to Bologna food, the famous Bolognese tagliatelle al ragu is a must! And you won’t find spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna. For one, you’re in Bologna, so the sauce will simply be called “ragù.” Second, the Bolognese don’t eat spaghetti, they prefer a thicker, egg-based tagliatelle because it holds the sauce better.

RICOTTA AND FIG GELATO

Bologna has a long history with Italy’s most famous dessert, gelato. Three of Italy’s top-rated gelatarias in Bologna! But if I had to pick one flavor for you to try, it would be ricotta and fig, or “ricotta e fichi.”

TORTELLINI IN BRODO

This pasta dish is another must-taste when it comes to Bolognese Food. Bologna is known for tortellini and tortelloni, the small and large versions of a pasta dumpling that’s shaped a bit like a hat. Tortellini, is typically stuffed with seasoned ground meat and is most commonly served in a broth as a soup.

LASAGNA BOLOGNESE

Lasagna is originally from the Emilia Romagna region, of which Bologna was the center of commerce. But lasagna Bolognese is a little different that what you’re used to. It is layered with a rich and flavorful meat-based ragu, but what makes it different is that it’s typically served with green pasta. 

PASSATELLI

Passatelli is one pasta you typically won’t find back home. This rustic pasta from the Emilia Romagna region is made with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, eggs bread crumbs, and nutmeg. You can find it in a broth or served with a simple sauce.

MORTADELLA

Mortadella is a lunch meat made of cured pork and spiced with black pepper, and sometimes pistachios! Mortadella typically sliced thin and served with other charcuterie or on a piadina. It’s a cured meat you’ll see quite a lot in Bologna.

PIADINA

Piadina is a rustic Italian flatbread made with flour, lard, and salt. Some piadina can be made with olive oil too. You’ll see piadina sandwiches, and torn piadina served with meats on a charcuterie board. You can get Piadina with Nutella for breakfast or your  bambino. If you want a classic then go for Mortadella and fig.

PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

The King of cheeses! Parmigiano Reggiano is a regional cheese you’re probably familiar with. It’s a hard cheese that’s usually grated on pasta, but in Bologna you’ll also find served as bite sized crumbles. Sometimes Parmigiano Reggiano is also served with a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Just a short drive north of Bologna is the town of Modena, known for making balsamic vinegar, or Balsamico di Modena. This balsamic vinegar is the real deal! Balsamico di Modena is aged in wood barrels called a battery and tastes bitter sweet. You’ll often see balsamic vinegar served alongside other Bologna foods as it’s a staple at most dining room tables. The most common way to serve it is drizzled on Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.


How to spend 3 days in Dubrovnik

Day 1 

Breakfast: Cele

Located right at the end of the Stradun (main street), you’ll find Cele. It’s a great spot for people watching and you’ll get quite a range of breakfast options here. I opted for the french toast, my sister went for pancakes and my mother went for eggs benedict.

AM: Walk around the city walls

Here you will find some of the best views of the city and it is a great way to get your steps in. The first thing you’ll notice about Dubrovnik is that 80% of the Old Town is made up of steps, but most of the walk around the city walls is relatively flat. The walls take between 1 – 1.5 hours to walk if you go at a leisurely pace. You can enter from Pile Gate and entry for adults is around 30 euros. 

Lunch: Barba

One place that popped up a few times when looking for ‘best eats’ was the small restaurant Barba, and specifically their octopus burger in a squid ink bun. A local had also recommended this place on our tour so it was definitely worth the hype! You can’t book, but we went for lunch at 2:30pm and managed to get a table by the windowsill.
 

PM: Kayaking Tour

For £21, you can take a 3 hour kayaking tour that takes you around the city walls at sunset and will also take you around the ‘cursed’ island of Lokrum. You’ll also have a guide who will tell you about the history of Dubrovnik and some urban legends. You will also get 30 minutes on a private beach. Informational, relaxing and you’ll also work off that octopus burger! 

Dinner:
Taj Mahal (Bosnian Food)

I definitely recommend reserving your tables in advance for dinner because most of the popular places will be fully booked on the night. Don’t let the name fool you, as Taj Mahal is actually a Bosnian restaurant! If you have any vegetarians travelling in your party then this probably isn’t the restaurant for you as their menu is very meat heavy. We opted for the ‘genghis khan plate’ which consisted of cevapi, chicken kebab, pljeskavica, suđukica, rumsteak and chicken. 

Day 2 

Breakfast: SNEK

This place had a number of healthier options on their menu such as chia pudding and protein pancakes, and it cost us between £5-£10 depending on what you were eating. They also had an extensive cocktail list, so it’s a great place to come back to in the afternoon. 

AM:
Game of Thrones Walking Tour 

If you’re reading this travel guide, chances are you still haven’t got to Dubrovnik. Meaning there is still time to watch the show so you can experience this tour and know your Khaleesi from your Cersei. My mother and sister hadn’t seen GOT but still found the tour entertaining as the guide has plenty of pictures, funny anecdotes and non-GOT related stories about the city to share. 

PM: Visit Lokrum Island

The small island of Lokrum is a 30 minute boat ride away from Dubrovnik, and here you can see some peacocks roaming, an Iron Throne replica and a lake that you can sunbathe by and swim in. You’ll likely spend 2 – 3 hours here.

DINNER:
Gradska Kavana Arsenal

The food here was delicious and moderately priced. They serve a mix of seafood, meat and pasta dishes. I had the fish stew, my mother had squid ink risotto, and my sister had the truffle and mushroom pasta. 

Day 3

As I mentioned Dubrovnik is a relatively small city, which means that it gives you the chance to explore neighbouring countries. There are day trips available to Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina. We decided on the latter because it’s somewhere we wouldn’t necessarily do an exclusive trip to. 

Day trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina 

We were picked up at 7:30am and we drove for around an hour and a half before reaching a waterfall where we had an hour of free time, and then we continued on to the city of Mostar. I didn’t have any prior knowledge of Mostar or the Bosnian war in the 90s, so it was interesting to get the perspective from our Croat tour guide, and our bosnian guide in Mostar. You definitely get the sense that people still feel very strongly and divided about what happened. 

Lunch: Restaurant Sadrvan 

This place was recommended to us by our guide, and a plate of meat, pita bread and chips cost us less than a fiver. They had a terrace so we got a great view of the bridge and river. 

Dinner: Mex Cantina 

The tour will have you back in Dubrovnik for dinner time, and if you fancy a change of cuisine then I recommend Mex Cantina. Half the menu was mexican and half was pizza, so we got a bit of everything and thoroughly enjoyed it. 


10 Tips for surviving a long-haul flight

With the world opening up again and more and more countries removing entry restrictions entirely, flying out of the continent is something we can start planning without so much hesitation and anxiety. Even though I have had the chance to take a few trips recently, it has been a long time since I have done a long trip. I can however remember how gruelling they can be if you can’t sleep or if you keep checking the flight tracker on the screen to see only 15 minutes have passed by. I have an 11 hour flight coming up this month to Thailand, so I thought I’d share some of my tips for surviving a long-haul flight

1. Book an evening flight

We all know how time zones and jet lag can mess with our body clock and sometimes even get in the way of our holiday. So the best thing to do is get a flight that departs in the evening so you can have your lovely aeroplane meal, watch an hour or two of Netflix and then sleep through the night like you normally would at home. 

2. Get as comfy as possible 

A lot of fashion brands have pages dedicated to ‘airport attire’ because as you have probably spotted in departure lounges, a lot of people still want to look cool when they are travelling. That being said, when you are going to be spending more than 3 hours on a plane, you want to make sure your bottoms are baggy/stretchy, you have layered a t-shirt and a jumper to adjust to the plane temperatures, and you have got a pair of flip-flops in your hand luggage to switch into. On the contrary, if you are travelling in sandals make sure to keep a pair of socks handy as the plane can get chilly once everyone starts blasting the aircon. 

3. Invest in a good neck pillow 

Most airlines will provide a mini pillow if you are flying long-haul, but I usually use that as a rest for my lower back instead. An innovative pillow I own is the ‘FaceCradle Adjustable Pillow’ which can be altered to suit your napping preferences. 

4.
Save the good Netflix shows for your trip

Even though most airlines will have in-flight entertainment, it is always a good idea to download your own shows and movies on Netflix in case you don’t like the selection, or you have bought a £150 ticket from London – Dubai and this is not even an option. If there is a binge worthy show coming up or that’s on your to-watch list, save it to watch on the plane. 

5.
Take natural sleep
supplements

Melatonin tablets have been a lifesaver for me when doing long coach trips or flights. I even zoned out so hard on my 8 hour coach trip to Sydney that my head was bobbing all over the place. Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone so it is perfectly safe to carry on the plane, and it will allow you to fall asleep easier and adjust to the new timezone. Pair it with a blackout eye mask and you will be good to go. 

6. Have an in-flight book club

One of my favourite airport activities is browsing through books at WHSmith, but now that I have a kindle I just take down the titles I like and purchase one on there. Mostly because it saves space (and money)! If there is a group of you travelling, find a book you can all agree on to read on the plane so you can have something else to discuss in the 10 hour journey. 

7. Choose your seat wisely 

We are lucky that on our upcoming trip, I prefer the window seat, my friend prefers the aisle and my other friend doesn’t mind sitting in the middle. If not I think I would have to sit apart from my friends because I can only sleep on planes if my head is leaning on the window #longneckproblems. On the other hand, my friend likes to get up frequently to walk around and use the bathroom, so the aisle seat is best for her. 

8. Stay hydrated

Flying really dehydrates your skin, so it’s important to drink water, and pack a lip balm and face moisturiser in your bag for the flight. Just make sure to drink in small sips so you’re not running to the toilet every hour!

9. Avoid caffeine 

We all love getting to the airport and buying an eccentric flavoured coffee from Starbucks before our flight. Depending on how hard caffeine hits you, I would leave the caffeinated drinks for when your airline serves you breakfast or else you are going to find it hard to fall asleep. 

10.
Remember to stretch and keep your circulation going!

Not that there is much room for movement on a plane, but making sure that you stretch your legs and back every few hours will do wonders. Use the time whilst you are waiting in the queue for the toilet to do some lunges if the space allows for it! I also recommend taking a pair of compression tights with you for the duration of the flight, especially if you are prone to spider or varicose veins. 

Personally, I enjoy flying as it really gives us time to disconnect from social media and really be present. Whether it’s with your companions, the movie you are watching, the book you are reading or even with your thoughts and emotions. Use this time to actually make it a pleasant journey for yourself!


Cunard

As one of the oldest and most respected names in cruise travel, the three ships of this heritage line offer a classic cruise experience, recreating the golden age of steamship travel.  With their opulent art deco style and unique signatures of afternoon tea, grand gala evenings and White Star service, Cunard’s three Queens guarantee memorable moments at sea.  The entertainment and enrichment programmes onboard are highly prized by their guests who like to return form their travels not only refreshed but also improved in some small way.

Cunard was also the first cruise line to pioneer a world voyage back in 1923 and since then no cruise line has operated more round world voyages or taken more guests on these exotic long sailings.

 The iconic RMS Queen Mary plies the transatlantic route between Southampton and New York.  As the world’s only ocean liner and built specifically for this purpose, she maintains a schedule of seven night crossings from spring to autumn.  The transatlantic crossing is unlike any other experience at sea and one that all dedicated cruisers aspire to do at least once.

Queen Victoria spends her summers sailing from Southampton to all over Europe – the fjords, the Baltic capitals and down into the Mediterranean.  In the winter she embarks on a 101 night westward circumnavigation of the world, carrying her passengers to some of the world’s most remote and exotic destinations.

Queen Elizabeth divides her time between Australasia, Japan and Alaska sailing a series of itineraries in these amazing destinations.  From the majesty of the New Zealand fjords to the exotic culture of Japan during the cherry blossom season to the spectacular beauty of the Alaskan glaciers, the ship will reveal what a truly spectacular and diverse world we inhabit.

For guests choosing a luxury cruise, there is a world of choice but for those seeking a truly
iconic experience at sea, there is but one. 
Cunard – The fine line.

Please contact MHB Travel Services for more details on any Cunard cruise.  See details above.


Visit London

At some point or another, most Gibraltarians have wondered the streets of old London, whether for a nifty weekend break or as part of forging a career in England and the UK’s capital.

Of course, the pandemic did much to disrupt even a simple flight to Heathrow or Gatwick, but now things are easing back to a sense of normality, is it time to tread the Big Smoke’s streets once again?

London, like other global cities, almost feels like it has a life of its own. An inanimate construct of dwelling with a vibe all of its own. During the pandemic, construction continued apace in many areas, and any visit back could take you by surprise. Waterloo, for example, has gleaming new buildings where tired ones once stood.

London, is of course, massive. A core of small settlements/villages foisted together through economic necessity. Everybody knows Covent Garden, Camden and Greenwich, but there are also other wonderful nooks and crannies worth exploring.

For years, “South of the River” was a place frowned down upon, but the area from Waterloo through London Bridge and round the Thames peninsula is not only full of history, it is a delightful walk on a sunny day.

South Bank in particular has an array of quirky pubs, shops and architecture and the Thames Path is one of the best ways to see this. Take this all way round, making sure to check out the many blue plaques, or perhaps download a podcast walking tour. Fascinating gems like the Clink Prison (from which the common use of “clink” was taken) and the replica of the Golden Hind are things that not everyone knows about and well worth a visit. On the road to Tower Bridge from London Bridge, stop and relax in Potters Field Park and take in the views of moreLondon on the left and the Tower of London across the water. Shad Thames, right on the doorstep, is awash with hints of history and movie filming locations. The sense of wonder there can transport your mind back to a distant time.

Beyond Shad Thames, the postcode changes from SE1 to SE16. While the “famous” Docklands in the Isle of Dogs steals the limelight with its bold North American-style skyscrapers, Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks is a much more placid affair and is home to one of the best pubs in London, The Mayflower. It is here that the famous ship’s captain Christopher Jones lived, and he is buried in the churchyard at St Mary’s Church. Expect a rustic feel in the pub with a good atmosphere and excellent dining upstairs. The outer deck/jetty juts out over the Thames where you can take in the other historically significant ale houses on the North side of the river. Some with a darker past than most. The Captain Kidd and The Prospect of Whitby are must-sees.

Taking the tube from Rotherhithe to Wapping is a simple affair underneath the river in the Brunel-engineered Thames Tunnel. In Wapping you will find more of the olde world side of Docklands with throwbacks to previous times. One of the best places to take in more views is in Limehouse. The Narrow is operated by Gordon Ramsay, so the food quality and experience is second-to-none.

Of course, another reason to head to London is simply for shopping. Westfield in Shepherds Bush remains an excellent all-in-one experience opportunity and the mall has widened its appeal with the addition of new brands such as South African fashion boutique Kingsley Heath. The old BBC HQ over the road on Wood Lane is now home to high-end apartments and dining/bars, as well as a branch of Soho House.

London offers so much so close and it’s definitely worth exploring the road that’s less travelled in a wonderful city. 


Castles & Cathedrals

IF YOU’RE STILL NOT CONFIDENT ABOUT TRAVELLING TO FAR FLUNG DESTINATIONS, THERE ARE NUMEROUS INTERESTING AND CULTURAL DESTINATIONS TO EXPLORE BY CAR.

AS PART OF A TEN DAY ROAD TRIP AROUND PORTUGAL AND SPAIN, WE LEFT PORTO AND HEADED FOR SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA DRIVING PAST BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAINOUS LANDSCAPES, VERDANT VALLEYS AND ALONGSIDE LUSH FORESTS. AS WE DROVE ACROSS THE RÍA DE VIGO ESTUARY WE NOTICED WHAT LOOKED FROM A DISTANCE TO BE HUNDREDS OF BARGES MOORED IN THE WATER, BUT THEY WERE IN FACT MUSSEL FARMS AND FROM THOSE BIG WOODEN PLATFORMS (BATEAS), LINES OF ROPES HUNG FROM WHICH YOUNG MUSSELS ARE SEEDED. AS WELL AS MUSSELS, GALICIA IS FAMOUS FOR ITS OYSTERS AND SCALLOPS.

Santiago de Compostela

Spain is full of walled villages, castles, churches, cathedrals and old squares and our first stop was to visit Santiago de Compostela and the majestic Romanesque style architecture of the Cathedral, one of Spain’s most iconic buildings and also one of the most important religious structures in the whole of Spain. The city, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, was built around the discovery of the remains of the Apostle Saint James which has led it to becoming the final point of the Camino de Santiago and the place to which pilgrims have flocked for centuries to pay their respects to St. James. 

On arrival in Obradoiro Square on a Friday evening we could hear the sound of bagpipes in the distance. This is apparently a traditional welcome from a Galician busker playing the instrument under the Arco de Palacio stone archway for weary Camino pilgrims after their arduous journey.

Gazing up at the impressive western façade of the cathedral and then looking down at the smooth flagstones worn down by the pilgrims who once stood in the same place gives an understanding as to their spiritual connection with this special place that has permeated the atmosphere for more than eleven centuries. 

Obradoiro Square is flanked on three sides by the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos (now the Parador), the Palace of Rajoy currently home to the city council of Santiago and on its left side is the College of San Jeronimo. 

Entry to the Cathedral is free and you will be amazed by the grandeur as you wander through from chapel to chapel, taking in the magnificence of the art and architecture, the gold and silverwork, the detailed sculpture work and the magnificent organs that sit either side in front of the high altar. 

Don’t forget to look for the ‘Botafumeiro’, the famous giant incense burner hanging in the form of a pendulum from the ceiling that has been used since the Middle Ages to clean the air after the pilgrims have completed the Camino de Santiago. 

Not only was this a cultural trip, but it turned into a gastro tour as well and we enjoyed an array of Galician tapas with a seafood focus. The scallop shell is the most well-known and iconic symbol associated with the Camino de Santiago, so it seemed only fitting to taste some delicious scallops with langostinos at one of the many local bars. Breakfast at the historical Casino Café, the oldest and most traditional coffee house in Santiago, once the meeting point of bourgeois and aristocrats, with its original interior from 1873 including dark wood panelling, carvings and Art Deco glass door panes, was an interesting experience. The décor took us back to a bygone age, and the contemporary giant grotesque sculptures were certainly a talking point! A delicious treat found all over the city and beyond in Galicia is Tarta de Santiago, a traditional artisan almond and lemon cake sprinkled generously with icing sugar in which the cross of St. James has been stencilled.

Moving on the next day we drove to the small but charming village of Villafranca del Bierzo where we stayed a night in the Parador, explored the historic quarter of the nearby city of Ponferrada (a twenty minute drive from our hotel) and the imposing and extraordinary Castillo de los Templarios with origins that go back to an ancient Celtic fort, but which it gets its name from the famed Knights Templar who protected the town in the 12th century. As we crossed the moat on the drawbridge and gazed out from the entrance between the two large crenelated towers, we enjoyed stunning views of the snow-capped mountains that surround the municipality. 

Salamanca

Salamanca, home to Europe’s third-oldest university, is a spectacularly beautiful city and it is no wonder that the historic centre is a UNESCO heritage site. We were lucky to have an amazing panoramic view from our room at the Parador that was even better at night when the old and new Cathedrals were lit up in all their glory. The cobbled roads and streets look attractive, but comfy flat shoes are a must when you are sightseeing.  Plaza Mayor, one of the largest squares in Spain, is the first place to stop for a drink, tapas and some people watching, and because it is a university city there is a great atmosphere with plenty of students bustling around amid the tourists.  

Architecturally, Salamanca is full of incredible buildings carved from golden sandstone with many of them displaying intricate carvings. Look out for the frog that is carved into the stonework above the main entrance of the university, or the astronaut carving on the walls of the Catedral Nueva. 

Segovia

Another city and another cathedral and castle to explore within the medieval centre of Segovia which is packed with impressive historic monuments including one of the best-preserved elevated Roman aqueducts. This time we were particularly bowled over by the beautiful Alcazar de Segovia. Built upon a large rock promontory shaped like the bow of a ship, the Castle looks as if it has stepped straight out of a fairy tale and is, in fact, said to have been Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World. To us, with its picturesque turrets, pink hued stone and enchanting spiralling towers the exterior resembled a Bavarian castle and there is no doubt that children will be enthralled as they step inside. Don’t forget to look up at the elaborately carved and painted ceilings, especially the one in the ‘Galley Room’ in the shape of an inverted ship’s hull.

There is no doubt that Spain’s cathedrals, churches and castles are veritable treasure troves full of some of the best art, sculpture, ornately adorned interiors, lavish ornamental woodwork, decorated ceilings, tapestries, and astounding gold and silver work to be found anywhere in the world… and it’s all just a drive away!


Exploring Travel Anxiety

Who among us hasn’t dreamt of travelling? Home grown gems or far away exotic locations. But travel anxiety is also very common. Some people experience a significant amount of anxiety when they travel. Those with persistent generalised anxiety and panic attacks are also prone to travel anxiety simply because travel represents change and distance from comfort. Certain people fear travel but are not completely aware of this fear because they avoid booking their ticket or come up with other excuses in order to not leave their homes.

Whatever the situation, travel anxiety makes it much considerably harder to travel, be it for work or pleasure. 

It is helpful to explore the concept of travel anxiety and discover strategies and techniques as to how to reduce our fear.

Travel anxiety is unlikely to have any single specific cause. Many people experience travel anxiety their entire lives. Others develop the anxiety either because of past experiences relating to travel which were anxiety provoking. Others seem to have travel anxiety for no apparent reason at all. 

You may not even know the exact reasons why your travel anxiety developed. It is possible – and important – to understand what your specific worries are. However, it isn’t always possible to know why you have those worries. Travel anxiety affects many people and it can have a disruptive influence on your life.

Pre-travel anxiety can be helped if you plan for certain scenarios. Most often stems from the “what if” aspect of travelling. While no one can plan for every possible worst-case scenario, it’s possible to have a battle plan for some of the more common ones, such as:

• What if I run out of money? I can always contact a relative or friend. I can bring a credit card for emergencies.

• What if I get lost? I can keep a paper map or guide book and my phone with me.

• What if I get sick while on the trip? I can purchase travel health insurance before I leave or be sure my insurance will cover me. Most insurance policies include access to a list of healthcare providers in different areas of the country or the world.

By preparing for scenarios like these ahead of time, you’ll see that most problems have a solution, even while traveling. 

Karen Dwyer, is a neuro coach, speaker and corporate wellness trainer. Karen is best known for reversing MS and runs an award winning company providing health and well being programs in over 22 countries globally.

Karen believes ‘Anxiety can disrupt daily life anytime, but it is even more frustrating when you have a trip planned and you’d like to enjoy it along with your companions but you are stuck, full of fear and dread. 

I hear a lot of clients as we approach the summer season say ‘Is it even possible to be present and enjoy the holiday?’

As soon as we hit book on that flight or hotel, one expects an excited feeling but right now, this may have an opposite effect with extra concerns about travel and the anxiety that comes with 

Travel anxiety can show up as stomach pain, headache, fatigue, emotional upset, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, trembling or muscle tension/pain. 

Anxiety is the body’s response to stress and stress is not a bad thing if we are in danger, it gives us the fuel we need to take some rapid actions but when this happens in daily life and if our bodies are on high alert more than we need, we need to have some strategies in place that we can practise at a moments notice.

Here are some of my most successful travel anxiety tips;

In advance of travelling:

1 – Future pace of your journey – mentally go through what it looks like on your trip. See yourself packing, in the mode of transport, arriving at your destination and feeling that all is well. Rehearse the joy in your head so that it becomes positive and comforting

2 – Download some familiar films and songs or meditations on your phone or device so you can still feel comforted and not have to worry about signals. 

3 – Call and confirm all details before you leave and have a physical print out of confirmations and location. If travelling to a foreign language destination, use google translate for some local phrases and have them printed so you can easily point to them or if your phone dies you are not trying to remember or pronounce.

4 – Feeling in control plays a huge part when travelling. After possibly being out all day, being able to fully charge multiple devices, and maybe even your hair straightener/shaver etc will be important and rather than have to sacrifice one for the other, pack an extension lead with multiple sockets so you only have to use one universal plug adapter.  

5 – IF you are concerned about using packed transport and germs, pack a few KN95 masks. Even just knowing you have them can be comforting. They have a 95% particle filtration system so it keeps you a lot safer from travel germs than most other masks.

6 – Do some box breathing. Breathe in for count if 4. Hold for count if 4, breathe out for count if 4, hold that for count if 4.

Do this for a minute or 2 and feel your heart rate start to regulate to go back to your own normal breathing pattern.

7 – People laugh when I tell them this but it works. If you feel an anxiety attack coming on, clench your butt cheeks. It is a pattern interrupt and will send your concentration elsewhere rather than your anxiety. Try it, might feel strange at first but scientifically prove to interrupt anxiety.’

Beyond these travel anxiety ideas, you’ll also want to focus on reducing your overall anxiety. Anxiety is a cumulative disorder. When you experience anxiety in one area of your life, it can cause more anxiety in other areas of your life. If you have anxiety on a daily basis, reducing that anxiety will provide you with a powerful advantage when it comes to managing your anxiety on the whole.

Karen Dwyer :: www.karenwyer.com

instagram.com/iamkarendwyer/

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Holiday Checklist

Passport, tickets, money, phone – these are most probably the list of things that we check we have with us before we leave home to go on holiday, and unfortunately the older we get the more we seem to have to repeat this mantra!

Once you’ve booked your flights, or whatever mode of travel you have chosen, and your accommodation, there are a few other important items that you should consider before you leave to ensure that your holiday is stress free.  

Passport

It sounds obvious, but you should make sure that your passport is up to date, as well as those of anyone travelling with you. Remember that child passports don’t last as long as an adult one, so check the expiration date. Some countries refuse entry to tourists whose passports are less than six months from expiry. You should also check in advance if you need a visa for your destination and bear in mind that the time it takes to apply and receive a visa can vary, and that in some cases you can’t apply for a tourist visa more than three months before you travel. 

Travel

Insurance

Checking whether you need to renew your travel insurance is another priority. It can provide extra reassurance as it may cover you if you need to cancel or change your trip before you depart, for missed or delayed flights, or for lost or stolen luggage and other belongings such as passports and cash. Most importantly, it may cover your emergency medical costs if you get sick or injured and need attention or hospitalisation while away.

Medication

It is always good to be prepared, so taking a mini travel health kit with you can often be useful if you don’t want to end up searching for a 24 hour pharmacy in a foreign country. Apart from any prescription medicines, consider the following: thermometer, over-the-counter pain relief (such as ibuprofen or paracetamol), antibiotic cream, steroid cream (such as hydrocortisone) to treat rashes, oral antihistamine (to help reduce itchiness and inflammation caused by allergies and insect bites) and anti-diarrhoea medication. Don’t forget to take sunscreen – with an SPF 30 or higher – and after-sun cream to soothe your skin after a day in the sun. Some countries have a list of controlled medicines such as painkillers, so it’s a good idea to consult the embassy website of your destination and to keep any medicine in the original packaging and bring a copy of the prescription.

Documents

A good tip is to make photocopies of all your important documents and paperwork and leave one copy at home, save an electronic copy to your phone and take another paper copy with you. 

Vaccinations

Travel vaccinations can very and are totally specific to wherever you are travelling. Most vaccinations are best started 4-6 weeks before departure. Some countries still require proof of vaccination status or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, so it is best to check beforehand.

Making a holiday checklist and having an organised approach to your packing can help you enjoy a relaxing break, although for peace of mind it doesn’t do any harm to repeat that mantra!


A Quick guide – South Africa

South Africa is open again and if you’ve always dreamed of hiking Table Mountain, diving with Great Whites or ticking off the ‘Big Five’ then now might be one of the best times to visit the rainbow nation. 

With barely a time zone change from the UK (South Africa is GMT+2) there’s no jetlag to speak of, and direct overnight flights with British Airways put Cape Town or Johannesburg within easy reach of a long weekend. Add to this the great exchange rate for travellers with Euros or Pounds and you’ll struggle to find a reason not to book. 

In one South African holiday you can stand in a desert, climb a mountain and relax on a sandy beach backed by tropical forest. Add to this the vast abundance of wildlife to view from land, sea and air, some of the best wine in the world, and a fascinating cultural heritage to discover and you have a country that will change you forever. 

The Mother City – Cape Town

Cape Town boasts an enviable coastal position and holds a reputation for its exceptional food, beautiful scenery and luxurious accommodation. It is home to a number of interesting museums and galleries including District Six and Heart of Cape Town, and you can end the day at one of the high quality restaurants at the V&A Waterfront. Surrounding Cape Town are some of the most dramatic coastlines in Africa. The rugged Cape Point Peninsula, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, lies within the Table Mountain National Park. Although raw and windswept, it’s a pleasure to explore its little tucked away beaches and coves with their spectacular views.

Stand in Mandela’s cell on Robben Island

At Nelson Mandela Gateway catamarans departs for Robben Island. It takes around half an hour and during the journey a video is shown giving an introduction to the history of the penitentiary. The prison museum includes tours, which are conducted by former inmates to give you an unrivalled insight into their harrowing personal experiences. It’s particularly fascinating to see the cell where Nelson Mandela spent much of his incarceration. He was held here between 1964 and 1982, when he was transferred to two further prisons before finally being released in 1990 after serving a total of 27 years behind bars.

View the city from the top of Table Mountain

It’s rare to find a mountain right in the middle of a city, especially one towering to 1,000 metres (over 3,500 feet) as Table Mountain does. In my opinion, no first trip to Cape Town is complete without a visit to the top — either on foot with a guide, or by hopping into the cable car that travels up and down its side. On a clear day, when the ‘table cloth’ (a bank of cloud that sometimes shrouds the summit) dissipates, the view extends across Cape Town and out past the Cape Peninsula.

Feast In the Winlands

The Winelands is a beautifully scenic area around an hour’s drive from Cape Town, with gently rolling green vineyards blanketing the Franschhoek and Stellenbosch valleys. Day trips to the Winelands are easy to really take it all in book a couple of nights. You’ll thanks us when you’re sitting on your room’s private terrace watching the sun go down over the silent vineyards with a cool glass of Cap Classique (a premium South African sparkling wine) before heading out for dinner, you will experience the tranquillity of the area.

The restaurants here are world-class and a three course meal can cost a fraction of the price of a similar dining experience in other countries. The here has a colonial French feel; it is fresh, contemporary cuisine which offers a stark contrast to the meat-heavy, traditional South African fare that you typically find in rural towns and on safari.

Once in the Winelands, if you’re planning on sampling the wines on offer, you can take the vintage wine tram that winds its way through the Franschhoek Valley. For a slightly different experience you could also join a horseback wine tasting trip, or, if you are a real wine connoisseur, take a private tour with an expert wine guide.

Safari in the Eastern Cape Game Reserves

The most famous national park in South Africa is the Kruger, but if you’re visiting Cape Town then I’d suggest the Eastern Cape Game Reserves as a great alternative. They’re easily accessible from Cape Town, have all of the Big Five animals, are non-malarial and also experience their best weather at the same time as Cape Town between October and March. During the height of summer in January and February, when Cape Town is at its warmest, we recommend avoiding the Kruger as it is rainy at this time.

Drive along the Garden Route

The Garden Route stretches between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay on South Africa’s southern coast and is an area of mountain passes, coastal roads, seaside towns, and lush green landscapes. 

Along the Garden Route are two national parks, Wilderness and Tsitsikamma. They boast a combination of coastal landscapes, lush forests and beautiful beaches. 

Highlights include sea kayaking in the Knysna lagoon, hikes around Plettenberg Bay, surfing at J-Bay and bungy jumping at Bloukrans Bridge.  

Whale watch from the clifftops.

Most whale watching requires you to wrap up warm, don waterproofs and board a boat, but in the Cape it’s an entirely different story. At Hermanus the cliffs drop steeply into the ocean, allowing the whales to come within 30 metres of the shore.

The migrating southern right whales use the calm waters and steep shores of False Bay and Walker Bay as sheltered locations to calve and rest up before heading south toward Antarctica with their young. The whales can be seen between of June and October in this area, however September and October are the optimum months to visit.

Spot the Big Five in Kruger National Park safari

The Kruger National Park has a well-deserved reputation for offering an outstanding South African safari. The park is simply huge, covering over 20,000 square kilometres and supporting 147 species of mammal (including the Big Five) and over 500 species of bird.

When deciding where to base yourself for your safari you can choose from a huge variety of accommodation options ranging from simple self-catering chalets to some of the most opulent and exclusive safari lodges in Africa.

Before booking your safari to South Africa, it is important to think about the sort of experience that you would enjoy. Some lodges focus on romantic seclusion with private game drive vehicles and dining, whilst others are more sociable, allowing you to share a vehicle with other guests and dine with them in the evenings.

For groups of four to six people it is possible to hire a private safari house, which comes complete with your very own private pool, vehicle and expert guide.

Which ever way you decide to go you will be guaranteed holiday of a life time and memories that will never fade. 

5 cheap European destinations to add to your bucket list

in Features


With most of Europe having already opened their doors to tourists, and a bunch of bank holidays to take advantage of this spring (thanks Lizzie!) now is the perfect time to start planning your next city break. Some of the cities on the list are probably some of my favourite places d’ve ever visited, probably because of their unique architecture and being able to eat like a queen for half of the cost of what it would be back home. df you’re looking to head away soon, these are my top cheap European destinations.

Bratislava, Slovakia

Prior to booking our trip to Bratislava, the only knowledge I had about the city was how it was depicted in the movie Hostel and EuroTrip. Let’s just say both movies painted a very negative picture of the slovakian capital, so much so that tourism dropped 75% after these movies were released. After doing our research, we realised that in fact it’s quite a charming place and has a great selection of brunch spots (which is always a winning factor). I highly recommend trying Urban House and Cafe Mondieu. 

In Gratislava:

• Take a walking tour of the old town with Sandermans

• See St Elisabeth’s Chirch, known as ‘The Blue Church’ 

• Visit the cute stalls and shops in Kapitulska Street

• Check out modern art at the Nedbalka Gallery

• Explore Bratislava Castle, which is often compared to an ‘upside down table’. 

• See the other side of Bratislava with an evening ‘Spooky Legends of Bratislava’ tour

• Try a slovakian three course meal consisting of Kapustnica (sauerkraut soup with sausage) for starters, Haluski (gnocchi with sheep’s cheese and bacon) and Medvedie labky for dessert! ⁣

Krakow, Poland

I wrote an article a couple of months back about how underrated Poland is, and I’ll include it in most lists because it really is one of my favourite European cities. Krakow has the best of everything – cheap eats, great nightlife, rich in history and plenty of instagram photo spots. This would be a great choice to visit in Easter as you’ll also get to see all the Easter markets and stalls in the Rynek Glowny central square. 

In Krakow:

• Take a day trip to the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. ⁣

• Try all of the bread bowl soups – Zurek (sourdough/sausage), Borscht (beetroot) and Berdytchov (meat/honey). ⁣

• Pierogi is also a popular dish of stuffed dumplings/ravioli. ⁣

• Get 140m below ground in the Wieliczka salt mines, where you can actually lick the walls. Not sure if that’s been put a stop to now with Covid and all. 

• Take a ‘7 Deadly Sins’ night tour of Krakow and learn about some infamous locals throughout history. ⁣

• Try local beer and meet fellow travellers on a ‘Krawl Through Krakow’ pub crawl. ⁣

Bucharest, Romania

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Romania, is Dracula. At least it was in my case! You can actually take a day trip from Bucharest to Dracula’s Castle (officially known as Bran’s Castle) which takes you around 2 hours to get to. Aside from that, Bucharest is a place that is full of history and I actually thoroughly enjoyed learning about communism in the country and how things have changed throughout the years. If you’ve ever watched the TV show Killing Eve, some of the scenes were actually shot in Bucharest. 

In Gucharest:

• Get to know the history of the Arcul de Triumf, very closely modelled to Paris’ Arc de Triumf. 

• Take a Rroma Heritage Tour to learn about the minority communities in Romania

• Book a communist tour and learn about what the country was like under the rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife.

• Relax at Therme Bucharest –  which consists of several thermal pools, unique sauna rooms and other wellness treatments, all for 15 euros. 

Sofia, Bulgaria

In Sofia: 

Sofia was the last destination I visited in 2021 and it was quite a spontaneous choice. I had searched for flights from Malaga to ‘Everywhere’ on Skyscanner and saw that Ryanair were doing flights for £40. I was then even more surprised that a 3 night stay in a 4 star hotel would only be setting me back another £50. So it was a no-brainer really! 

• Snap your pics of St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

 • Sit in one of the glasshouse restaurants in Vitosha Street

 • Visit the 7 Rila Lakes

 • Followed by the Rila Monastery

 • Make a day trip to the city of Plovdiv where you’ll also see roman ruins

• Try a Mekitsa (fried dough) with Nutella and banana

• Visit the Red Flat to learn about Communist Bulgaria

• Take a free walking tour to learn about the history of the city

Budapest, Hungary 

Did you know that the city of Budapest is actually split into two parts? ‘Buda’ is the more hilly area whereas ‘Pest’ makes up two-thirds of the city and is where you will find most of the tourist attractions. To get around I definitely recommend taking advantage of one of the Hop On, Hop Off buses. 

In Budapest: 

• Visit the famous landmarks of Heroes Square, Fisherman’s Bastion and the ‘Shoes on the Danube’ memorial

• Take a river cruise in the evening and see Parliament lit up

• Try Hungary’s famous dish, goulash stew

• Eat your way around the Great Market Hall

• Head to the House of Terror museum to find out about the history of facist and communist regimes in Hungary

• Relax at the Széchenyi Baths, or make it more eventful by attending one of their pool parties in the evening. 

Useful New Year’s Resolution Ideas for 2022

in Features

The first thing most of us do after Christmas and New Years Eve is think about all the things we want to achieve or change about our lives in the new year (or run to the gym). More often than not we make these long lists of things that we know we realistically won’t stick to. I for one have accepted that I probably will never run a marathon, because I hate running long distances. I could however see myself pushing 100kg on the squat machine if I stuck to my strength training throughout the year. Whatever your goals and interests are, there are a couple of things we could all benefit from doing more of in 2022. 

1. Have one realistic big goal 

If it were possible, my new year’s resolution would be to save enough money to buy a house, a Fiat 500 and a holiday to the Maldives. Realistically I know that’s not feasible, but I could make it my goal to finally get my drivers license and then get a Fiat 500. Once you have a goal set for the year, think about the steps you’d need to take to get there. It makes it a lot easier to achieve something if you have a clear path on how to get it.

2. Take more care of the planet

This doesn’t mean you have to go around picking up other people’s rubbish, but we can all try and make more of a conscious effort to reduce our carbon footprint and generally be more environmentally friendly. Most supermarkets offer reusable bags now, but try something as simple as remembering to bring your own when you go shopping. 

3. Find a physical activity you enjoy

Not everyone is a fan of going to the gym, and that’s ok. It is kind of important that you are doing some sort of cardiovascular activity – whether that’s running, swimming, playing basketball or even playing an hour of Just Dance on the Nintendo Switch every day. I’ve tried and tested that during lockdown and you’ll be surprised at the amount of calories you burn!

4. Be more selective with your time

We’re a generation that’s obsessed with always being ‘busy’, and more often than not it just leads to being unmotivated, tired and stressed. Time is something that you don’t get back, so next time you’re agreeing to plans that you don’t really want to go to, think to yourself what you’d rather be doing with your time instead. 

5. Learn a new skill.

I’ve tried and failed many times over the last 10 years to learn how to play the guitar (except for perfecting the G chord). So this won’t be on my list for 2022, but something I want to try to experiment more with is baking. If I have any success with it you’ll probably see on my social media accounts. 

6. Save £672

This may seem like a random one, but in 2021 I did this budgeting challenge where everyday from the 1st January to the 31st December you’d add a penny more each day to a savings vault on Revolut (or your bank of choice). So on the 1st January you’d be adding 1p, 2nd January 2p and so on. You won’t notice it daily but it means if you have managed to stick to it for the whole year you’ll be able to buy yourself something nice at the end of the year. For me it bought me an iPhone 13!

7. Spend more time with your family

Sometimes we get so caught up with life that we don’t realise how long it’s been since we last saw a grandparent or other family member. Even something as simple as making time to make one phone call a week or having a weekly family game or movie night at home can go a long way.

8. Focus on self development

As an adult it gets harder to actively learn new skills like we did when we were children or in school. Most of us in Gibraltar are already bilingual so ‘learning a new language’ doesn’t have to be at the top of your list! Reading self-development books on coping with stress, getting rid of negative beliefs or simply improving self-confidence and self-love are all good places to start. 

9. Try and live a more minimalist lifestyle

Shein was probably the worst thing to come into my life, as I am currently struggling to find space in my wardrobe and there’s still probably 20% of stuff in there that I haven’t worn yet. When I lived in Australia and had only brought a suitcase with me, I realised how easy it actually was to live with minimal clothing, accessories and gadgets. Not only will you save money when you realise the difference between needing and wanting something, but you will also save time in the morning looking for what to wear! 

10. Work on your character ‘flaws’ 

The main idea of ‘new year’s resolutions’ is to try and better yourself and to do that requires a bit of self-reflection. There are always things we can do to be a better friend, partner or colleague. Try and recognise what these are, or if you’re brave enough ask someone what they think you could improve on. Start by asking your sibling, they will always give you an honest answer! 

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