Italy is always a sure bet with me. If you read my earlier posts, you already know that I have a love-love relationship with this country that started back in 2004, when I did my Erasmus studies there. Now, fast forward to July 2016, when our LO was 8 months and I was in search of a trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday. I looked in particular for a place outside the city, that has its own vineyard in the midst of green scenery. We had a great experience in Apulia with the masseria stays. (you can read about it here) so I was looking for a similar feel in the North of the country. After a few searches on Tripadvisor and local blogs, I found Salvadonica in San Casciano in Val di Pesa. I then booked our flights to Florence.
I travelled to Tirana in December 2017 to participate in a work-related conference. The presentations finished already Friday mid -day and I was left with about 24 h to explore a bit of the city and surroundings before my flight back on Saturday PM.
Tirana itself is nothing too spectacular and similar in look with other former communist capitals from the European Eastern block. The architecture is mainly greyish appartment buildings with falling facades. The only notable exception are a few streets surrounding Skanderbeg Square, now turned a pedestrian zone. In December, a small Christmas market and several carrousels were occupying the square.
On our third day in Georgia, we had our Guide/driver ( see here how we found him) waiting for us at the hotel and started our tour of the Eastern part of the country.
First on the list was a visit to the David Gareji monastery. It is located in a semi-desert area in the South East of the country and close to the border with Azerbaijan 🇦🇿. The drive from Tiblisi will take about 2h30. We stopped in the way at Telliani Valley (an important exporter of Georgian wines) for a quick tour of their factory and some wine sampling.
We followed the concrete road for about 50 km East of Tiblisi and an unpaved road after that, all the way South. If you self drive, you should get a good map and clear indications as there are not many signs once you leave the main road. Do pack water and some snaks as this is going to be a long day hiking in the border area and other than a toilet, there is limited access to food or water once you get there. It was only us and a National Geographic vehicle when we arrived but in Summer it should be quite popular.
In Summer 2017, we were looking for a destination that was not yet firmly on the travel radar of Western Europeans to satisfy our thirst for off-the-beaten-track adventure. It was a trip for me and Mr only, so we were ready to step up the physical activites, be less picky about hotel accomodation as well as cover more ground in a shorter time. As we only had a week of holiday available, we focused the search on the Middle East and Central Asia. Georgia seemed to tick all the right boxes. So, even before we saw Lonely Planet’s list with the top countries to visit in 2018, we had bought plane tickets to Tbilisi.
This was the second long week-end in 2017 spent on a girls trip. The first girls trip of 2017 was in June in Malaga and I loved having the opportunity to visit the Picasso Museum, eat great food and generally have adult conversations with my friends. I hope to share my impressions of Malaga in a future post.
After my return from Malaga, I had a quick look at potential low cost flights from either Brussels or Paris towards another sunny destination that many of my friends recommended: Montenegro. I found Transavia taking off from Paris Orly. I was aiming for an escape in the end September, to avoid the crowds. If you are thinking about going in the same period, keep in mind they only fly directly till Ocotber to Tivat ( part of the Summer schedule). I found a flight for less than 200 Euro and convinced two friends to join in.
I have been to Portugal a few times already. First, about 8 years ago, I travelled with my best friend to Porto and Lisbon. I have then spend a couple of week- ends in Lisbon with friends. And of course, the Azores in 2011. But in the August of 2017, looking for possible destinations for a sort jaunt from Brussels, I stumbled on the coastal town of Sesimbra. It is then that Mr happened to mention he was never to Portugal. The decision was made. He received a trip to Portugal as his birthday present.
As Lisbon was my husband’s treat, I kept it for the end. Upon arrival we rented a car and drove down to Sesimbra, about one hour south of Lisbon. Potuguese colleagues recommended it for the nice, wide beach, fresh seafood and being popular with locals mostly. As we were travelling mid-August, there were bound to be people on holidays, so any tips to less travelled places were well appreciated.
We travelled to Cyprus last year, in September. For residents of the European North, September is the month when we start to become itchy for another break in the Sun. This is especially when summer means two weeks with temperatures above 20 in June and two weeks again in August, if we are lucky. September is also when prices start to get back to more reasonable levels as most of schools holidays draw to a close.
I travelled well into my pregnancy, with the last trip to Puglia when I was about 7 months along. We also had a gorgeous ‘babymoon’ to Sri Lanka and Maldive that I shared on the blog. Still, after giving birth, I was again eager to discover someplace new and I started looking for a destination that we could share as a family in early April 2016. Friends were travelling at the same time to Tenerife so we decided to tag along.
It was not a package holiday but we did take it easy as regards accomodation and went for half board. We did not know how the baby will adapt (4 months at the time of travel) and preferred to make sure there will be some easily reachable food in case he decides to act up just as dinner draws close. We also rented a car (with a car seat) to give us some flexibility to explore the island.
If you are still in search for some sun bathing opportunities and warm weather in September head to the South of Italy, in Apulia region! You will love the food, relax in the true ‘Dolce vita’ style on the Adriatic coast and most importantly, pay half the price of a holiday in August.
I know Bucharest well as I used to study there before moving to Brussels. Now still, I often travel back and forth between the two every other month or so. Living abroad, I learned to appreciate a good Romanian restaurant, not only for surprising the occasional friend after a long sight-seeing day but also to indulge in some tasty cooking myself.
As with many Eastern European capitals the food scene is constantly evolving but there are a few places that have been now around for some time and I consider them to be a reference when looking for a good traditional meal. Spoiler alert, this post will make you hungry and maybe even make you reach for a credit card and book a flight to Bucharest.
So here it is: