Travel

My first Workaway experience – 2 months on the beautiful island of Malta

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Workway.info, they are “the world’s leading community for sustainable travel and cultural exchange.”

As a Workaway member you can contact thousands of hosts all over the world (they currently have placements in 180 countries) and arrange as many exchanges as you wish… offering unlimited travel opportunities!

The Love Statue @ Spinola Bay, Malta

I’m currently 3.5 weeks into my first Workaway placement, so I’ll be here for another 5 weeks. I can’t imagine much will change in those 5 weeks because I’ve learnt the ropes now, but if anything does I’ll be sure to update this post 🙂

How to apply

In a nutshell: you sign up for a yearly fee (this is currently €36 for singles and €48 for a couples/friends account) and then you get access to 38,000 Workaway hosts worldwide. Usually the deal is something like this: you work around 5 hours per day, 5 days a week and in exchange you get free food and accommodation.

NOTE: The projects vary greatly, so you really do have to read each profile/project for the specific details of what you are signing up for! Some don’t offer food for example, others might be 6 days a week, and other projects might be less hours. Don’t be lazy… the only way you’re going to get a brilliant Workaway placement is by spending time researching and then contacting your favourite hosts with specific dates and a personalised message telling them why you’d be perfect for the job. Yes, it is a job – kinda!

Workaway strongly advise copying/pasting generic messages to multiple hosts (they get so many messages and it’s *SO* obvious if you do this!) You will also need to give as much detail on your profile as possible, so that potential hosts can get an idea of who you are and what you can offer.

I personally spent at least 2 hours creating our joint account and then countless hours researching different placements all over the world. The reviews are key – hosts can leave reviews for Workawayers and vice versa, so reading the reviews of previous Workawayers will give you a good feel for if they are a good host or not.

 

My Workaway Project

I’m literally living in paradise. No joke.

As I say, I spent hours researching, so it wasn’t luck that I came across this specific exchange.

I liked the sound of the work I would be doing: “looking for someone who loves the outdoors and animals to help our family in Gharghur, Malta”, the work was only 3 hours per day, 6 days a week (the profile says 5 days a week but I usually do about 1-2 hours work on Saturdays) and in exchange I would get “a large double room with an en-suite bathroom and washing machine. Own entrance and own kitchen and living area. Food will not be provided but an allowance of €25 per week is given for food, €50 if it’s a couple.”

I was expecting like a little granny annex or something.

What I actually have is a 3 bedroom house all to myself – it’s massive! There’s an open-plan lounge, fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with bath, shower and washing machine, a massive double bedroom and a walk-in wardrobe! Needless to say I’m VERY comfortable here 🙂

I’ve checked with my hosts and they’re happy for me to write about my experiences and share photos. But I’m not going to post any pictures of their house or anything because I feel like that’s an invasion of their privacy. But here’s a picture of their cheeky sheep:

I’m mainly looking after the family’s menagerie of animals: 2 horses, 4 dogs, a couple of stray cats (one of them just had kittens!!), a sheep, chickens, 2 ducks and a parrot!

And, yes, looking after animals does mean picking up poo! No princesses need apply 😉 But the dogs are sooooooooo cute, so what’s a bit of dog shit between friends, eh?

I also do some light cleaning duties: mostly hoovering, sweeping and mopping. Sometimes I have to make beds, change beds, rearrange closets, put items into storage, that kind of thing. Basically whatever the family require at that specific time. It’s very fair for what I get in return!

 

The nitty gritty

The times I work vary – most of the time I can choose my own hours, sometimes my hosts request I work at specific times but it’s generally very flexible!

This particular exchange is also really good for me because I can cook my own food! €25 a week really isn’t a lot (especially with food intolerance) but I supplement that with my own savings. If you can eat pasta, bread and beans I’m sure €25 will do you just fine!

 

The Downsides

They’re aren’t many!! But I do have to be honest!

1. I have to feed the animals every single morning (including Sunday – my only day off!) but it literally only takes 10-15 mins. This particular placement isn’t for you if you can’t get up early in the morning.

2. I’m on my own a lot. I thought I would see more of the family/animals than I actually do. But they’re very busy people so…

3. Being attacked by a cock!! Hahahahaha! I can laugh about it now, but it certainly wasn’t funny at the time!

 

Some advice before starting a Workaway project

  • Don’t be a dick. If you want a decent placement, you have to put the work in. Write a detailed profile and add at least a handful of photos.
  • Research, research, research. Read the profiles and reviews carefully for any potential hosts you like, these are like gold dust!
  • Get as much information from the host as possible before starting your placement. If there’s something you want to know that isn’t listed in the profile – just ask! If they’re a decent host they will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
  • Work out how you’re going to get there. Will they pick you up or do you need to take a bus/taxi/train etc etc? Plan your route in advance, no one wants to start off with a panicky phone call that they’re lost…
  • Are you happy to work alone? Or do you want to work with other volunteers/Workawayers? If you’re in a couple or with a friend, this probably won’t be an issue, but if you’re a solo traveller (like me) then you will need to consider this.
  • Have fun! Cheesy but true! You are working but it’s working holiday… so enjoy it!!
  • Lastly, here are some tips on how to be a good guest from Workaway themselves!

 

Future exchanges

This is my first official Workaway – but it certainly won’t be my last! I plan on doing at least a couple of different Workaway projects while I’m in Asia… plus I’m going to volunteer at LASSie Langkawi and Elephant Nature Park again! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Have you ever done a Workaway placement? Or if not… will you in the future?

Hayley x

 

Last updated: May 2019

 

 

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The Malta Diaries: Week 3

Hello!

I’m late as usual… what’s new?

BUT… it is a bumper post as promised, so grab a cup of tea, or a glass of wine and let’s dive straight in!!

Saturday (Day 13):

My first visitor arrived on Saturday for a long weekend and since Sunday is my only day off, we bit the bullet and jumped straight into a pub crawl!

We pretty much did the same route as I walked on day 9 (so St George’s Bay, Portomaso Marina, Spinola Bay, St Julian’s and Sliema) but then with stops along the way in Happy Dayz (Spinola Bay), Paradise Exiles, Surfside, Hole in the Wall (all Sliema) and Good Thaimes in Gzira. The weather was absolutely glorious, about 23 degrees and in between bar hopping we walked just over 17km!

St Georges Bay, Malta

Happy Dayz, Spinola Bay

Hole in the Wall, Sliema

That’s not us btw. 2 random hipster women.

Sunday (Day 14):

The weather wasn’t as kind to us on Sunday, so we stayed local-ish visiting: Naxxar, Mosta, Gharghur and Top of the World. Thankfully we were both hangover free (how we managed that I have no idea!) but slightly jaded, so it was probably for the best that we didn’t venture too far.

Although somehow we still ended up doing shots of a prickly pear liqueur from Gozo when we got ‘home’. The Ukrainians who had been doing a Workaway previously had left it in the fridge… they had the right idea. Ugh.

Pretty door and window in Mosta, Malta

Monday (Day 15):

YAY! The sun came out again so on Monday we visited Bugibba and Mellieha. After walking the entire length of coast from Bugibba to Qwara Point (and back) we hopped on a bus to Mellieha.

Mellieha Parish Church

We stopped at Sea View Cafe for Aperol Spritzes and a Maltese platter (yum!!) and then headed to One80 for happy hour 🙂 Can you see a theme here…?

Aperol Spritz at Sea View Cafe, Mellieha

Tuesday (Day 16): 

Following my action-packed long weekend with my friend, I decided to give myself Tuesday off. Which for me meant: I worked for 3 hours, journalled, did some shopping and cooking, walked 20k steps and watched Dead to Me on Netflix 🙂

Wednesday (Day 17):

Wednesday morning wasn’t the best start. One of the dogs was in a weird mood and being an absolute dick. Another did a shit on the door mat. Two of the cats were following me around moaning and getting in my way and the Tony the parrot was squawking like crazy. No idea why everyone chose to have a problem the same day 🤷 realities of travel I suppose! It’s not all Aperol spritz and fairy tales!

At least Bono was being cute.

Bono

Thursday (Day 18): 

My day started badly again, I cut my thumb (whilst cutting cheese of all things)!! I then got attacked by the cock. I wish I was joking. It bit and scratched my leg and I actually drew blood. ACTUAL FUCKING COCK!

Once again, Bono looked cute though. Especially with his new haircut as the dog groomer had been in again!

Bono after the dog groomer had been let loose on him!

Once I finished work my plans were rained off! FFS. Though I did manage to get my 20k steps in later in the evening when the rain had finally stopped. (20k steps per day is my goal for the entire trip… I’m smashing it so far!)

Friday (Day 19):

Sun! YAY!

Belgian fries in Sliema

My plan had been to walk all along the coast from Sliema to Ta’ Xbiex, Pieta, Hamrun and then all the way round to the 3 cities (Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua) however since I walked from Gharghur to Sliema already, I was knackered and so only made it as far as Hamrun. The 3 cities will have to wait for another day!

So I abandoned that plan and walked from Hamrun to Valletta via Floriana and then got a bus back from there, with a quick stop in The Pub (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) for a cheeky glass of wine.

Street scene Valletta

Saturday and Sunday (Days 20 & 21):

I had to work (extra) on Saturday and Sunday. Well, I didn’t have to, but my hosts asked me nicely so I happily obliged 🙂 So not a lot happened those days. On Sunday I did take a little walk to Bahar Ic-Caghaq via Swieqi.

I’m glad I went there, because it’s walkable from Gharghur, but definitely not a must-see and I wouldn’t take visitors there. It was popular with the locals and on my walk home I went past a huge caravan park which looked a bit like a shanty town. I’m sure people actually live there! And also some random abandoned buildings covered in graffiti. It was the first time I’ve felt slightly uncomfortable in Malta, so I got outta there as fast as my long limbs would carry me! It was all uphill, so not bloody fast enough!

Salt pans at Bahar Ic-Caghaq

Bahar Ic-Caghaq, Malta

Hope you’ve had a good week?

The Dutchie arrives in 2 days!! Woop woop! So the week 4 post won’t happen this Sunday. It’ll probably be Monday (or Tuesday) 🙄

 

Week 3 stats (Saturday until the following Sunday): 

Photos taken: 112 (9 of which were of Aperol spritz!)

Distance covered on foot: 132.5 km (average of 14.7 km per day)

Steps: 205k (average 22.7k per day)

Bus rides taken: 5

NEW Destinations visited: Ta’ Xbiex, Pieta, Hamrun, Bahar Ic-Caghaq, Swieqi

Lowlights: Being attacked by a cock.

Things I have learned about Malta this week:  

  • Maltese people are quite into keeping fit! Especially walking, hiking and running.
  • Maltese women are super glamorous!!
  • Lots of people put 2 bottles of water outside their houses – weird! I’ve Googled this and apparently it’s to deter dogs… but no one seems to know why! *Shrugs*

Hayley x

 

The Malta Diaries: Week 2

Hi! Happy Friday!

So, my plan had been to post every Sunday as that’s my day off, but exciting news!! I have my first visitor arriving tomorrow 🙂 🙂

I’m VERY excited to have my lovely friend C here, but it puts a bit of a spanner in the works blog-wise, hence why I’m posting today. So this week’s post will cover Sunday-Friday… and I guess next week will be a bit of a bumper edition!

 

A quick re-cap of Sunday (Day 7): 

So last week I left off that I was going to a festa in Floriana. Go I did, but it wasn’t really my thing tbh. It felt a bit like King’s Day in Amsterdam but with people wearing green instead of orange and I was pretty much the only sober person! 😂😂 (Which NEVER happens on King’s Day I might add!)

I stayed for a bit and watched the festivities which mainly involved lots of drinking, very loud, very bad music and people chucking free stuff out of their windows. Random. 

Anyway, it might’ve been a different experience with friends, but it wasn’t really working on my own… so I went to Valletta again as it’s so close by and had a wander there instead!

 

Monday (Day 8):

I don’t dread Mondays anymore!! Yay! And this was a particularly good shift as I was outside the whole time in the sunshine! 😎 I racked up 8k steps before I’d even left the property!

Aaaaaaaaaaand I get to look after these little cuties ❤ what’s not to love!?

After debating for ages about what to do I bit the bullet and got on the bus to Mellieha!

Mellieha bay

Mellieha bay

It probably wasn’t the best day to go to the beach, as it was a bit windy!! But I still very much enjoyed my windy walk 😉 I visited the parish church and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieħa.

According to Mellieha.com: “The Parish Church of Mellieha is dedicated to the Birth of Our Lady, and was built between 1881 and 1898. All the stone was cut from a nearby quarry at l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha and transported up to Mellieha by the local peasants, who worked laboriously to see their wish of having a new church come true.”

Grounds of the Sanctuary of Our Lady, Mellieha

Grounds of the Sanctuary of Our Lady, Mellieha

Mellieha Parish Church

Beautiful, huh?

I also stopped at One80 bar, which is somewhere I’ve been a few times before and was very sad to see that octopus carpaccio wasn’t on the menu anymore! Or maybe it’s just the time of year… but chips with parmesan and truffle did the trick instead. It was also happy hour 4-6pm (Monday to Friday) so all drinks were half price! (Soft drinks, cocktails, local beer and wine etc.)

 

Tuesday (Day 9): 

I’m having a bit of an aversion to buses at the moment. Partly because my Tallinja card still hasn’t turned up (which means I have to pay every time, even though I ordered my card a week ago – I’m being Dutch!!) and partly because the buses here drive me bonkers!

So… I walked to St George’s Bay (around 4 km), hoping to find a little undiscovered gem to add to the collection. But nope. Cranes, overcrowding and chain restaurants. Not my kinda place, so I abandoned that idea and walked all along the coast to Portomaso Marina, Spinola Bay, St Julian’s and Sliema (6 km+ in total).

The Love Statue @ Spinola Bay

I popped into Hole in the Wall which is a bar I’d spotted on Instagram. It didn’t disappoint! Great music, friendly personnel, hipster-esque decor and a deep-rooted passion for Chuck Norris. I’m sold! Pretty sure my friend and I will end up there at some point this weekend… 😀

 

Wednesday (Day 10):

In all honesty I was having a bit of a meh kinda day on Wednesday. I am missing the Dutchie a lot (what a sap!) and I was just feeling a bit tired and lazy. Netflix and my bed were calling, but fuck that shit – I’m in Malta – so I forced myself to go out for a walk!

Top Of The World, Għargħur

I went to good old Top of the World again but continued on a bit further on this time and found a path along the cliff edge. That certainly woke me up I can tell you! 😉

I also found this very pretty door in Gharghur 🙂

 

Thursday (Day 11):

On Thursday I decided to walk to San Anton Gardens, which has rave reviews on Trip Advisor. I’m not sure why, but I guess if you like gardens then it’s probably a good one…? Not really my thing, but hey – it was free and a 1.5 hour round trip on foot, so I got my steps in for the day!

San Anton Gardens

San Anton Gardens

Oh, and there were also some turtles which were cute:

Turtles at San Anton Gardens

 

Friday (Day 12):

Today I played assistant to the dog groomer on my morning shift! That’s one to scratch off the ‘potential new career’ list… I definitely do not want to be a dog groomer! Although I’m sure not all dogs are as uncooperative as Winnie (yes, as in the Pooh)! 😉 But the end result was worth it!

Winnie – so fresh and so clean!

I swear I still smell like dog! 😦

This afternoon I went to Bugibba. Upon arriving I realised that I have actually been before, last Jan, but it was cold and really windy at the time and I felt ill so we didn’t stay long. This time however, I walked the whole stretch of coast from Qawra Point to St Paul’s Bay. I racked up 28k steps today, that’s my record so far on this trip!!

Qwara point

Bugibba

 

Week 2 stats (Sunday-Friday): 

Photos taken: 125

Distance covered on foot: 85 km

Steps: 134k

Bus rides taken: 7

Destinations visited: Floriana, Mellieha, St George’s Bay, Portomaso, Spinola Bay, St Julian’s and Sliema, Attard, San Anton Gardens, Bugibba

Lowlights: Maltese drivers. I must utter “what a dick” at least once every time I leave the house! Getting a bit lonely on Wednesday – but I have a friend coming so… YAY!

Things I have learned about Malta this week:  

  • The best day to go walking is Sunday as there are way less cars on the road.
  • There are (free) public toilets everywhere, including most big supermarkets (speaking of toilets – most of them are Asia stylie – as in don’t throw toilet paper in. Use the bin instead.) 
  • Everyone names their businesses after themselves or a loved one here: Charlie’s Bar, Billy’s, Ronnie’s, Hugo’s, Nora’s, Becky’s. You name it. Literally. 
  • About 90% of elderly Maltese people are grumpy.*

 

So that’s it for week 2! What else would you like to know about Malta? I have a few ideas up my sleeve, for example: the best bars in Malta, Being gluten free in Malta… that kind of thing… plus a dedicated post about my Workaway experience.

But what else would you like? Free/cheap stuff to do in Malta, details of my spending budget, my favourite places after 2 months… etc etc. Please let me know! 🙂

Hayley x

*Not scientifically proven.

 

 

The Malta Diaries: Week 1

You remember how I told you I love Malta, right? Well now I’m here – for 2 months!! (I quit my job, but that’s a story for another time…)

St Julians, Malta

I’m on a Workaway project close to Sliema and St Julian’s and I’d like to document my trip, more for myself than anything. And as I’m flying solo (except for a weekend visit from the Dutchie, halfway into my trip) I should actually have time to write… so here goes!

Day 1

I arrived at Luqa airport on Monday, so it was one of the least Mondayish Mondays I’ve ever had. God it feels good to be free!

In case you don’t know, buses in Malta are shit! I mean they’re cheap and all and the network is pretty decent, but they’re almost never on time. (My first bus was 15 mins late, therefore cue missing my connecting bus – which only runs ever hour – and so I had to take 3 buses instead of 2. Then the 3rd bus was over 10 mins late.)

But you have to laugh. Patience is a virtue and all that…

So after spending almost 2 hours to get to my accommodation (it was supposed to take an hour) I realised that it didn’t matter anymore… OH. MY. GOD.

I’m literally living in paradise. No joke. I’ve checked with my hosts and they’re happy for me to write about my experiences and share photos – except of the kids. But I’m not going to post any pictures of their house or anything because I feel like that’s an invasion of their privacy. But here’s a picture of their cheeky sheep:

In the Workaway advert it said I’d get my own double bedroom, with a private entrance, bathroom, kitchen and washing machine. I was expecting like a little granny annex or something.

What I actually have is a 3 bedroom house all to myself – it’s massive! There’s an open-plan lounge, fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with bath, shower and washing machine, a massive double bedroom and a walk-in wardrobe! Needless to say I’m VERY comfortable here 🙂

I have to work for 3 hours per day, Monday – Saturday in exchange for accommodation plus money for food. (*More details about my Workaway position at the end of this post…*)

So this means there’s plenty of time left for exploring!

Day 2

After my first 3 hour shift and learning the ropes I wanted to explore the surrounding area on foot.

I went to The Top of the World, Gharghur. It’s a lovely hike and the views are amazing if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t bother making a special trip or anything. However I’m really happy I have this relatively close by – being the nature girl that I am!! And as I’m travelling solo I can sit on cliff edges without the Dutchie freaking out! 😉 (Sorry not sorry, dear husband…)

Top of The World, Gharghur

Top of The World, Gharghur

Day 3

On Wednesday, after completing my duties, including looking after a parrot (that’s one to add to the CV, eh?) I headed to Sliema, hoping to get my bus card (the Tallinja card) sorted. No such luck, I’d recommend just doing it online. (My card finally worked after about 5 times of trying! It’s a very frustrating website. Good luck!)

Sliema was much busier than when I visited 4 years ago and there’s loads of construction going on (that applies to pretty much everywhere on the island actually!) but I’m still glad I went for nostalgic reasons ❤ (The Dutchie and I spent our first wedding anniversary on holiday in Sliema.)

Sliema promenade, Malta

Sliema promenade, Malta

I then walked to St Julian’s and Spinola Bay! OMG… the water is just SO BLUE! I also went for a cheeky drink in the sunshine and I can confirm that G&Ts are still cheap as chips on Malta!! €2.50!!

St Julians, Malta

Day 4

I fancied staying a bit closer to ‘home’ so I took a bus to Mosta on Thursday. The Rotunda of Mosta (also known as Mosta Dome) is really beautiful, as are the streets and I ended up walking round for hours and taking pictures. It’s a really nice city, but probably not a must-see in Malta to be completely honest.

Mosta Dome

Mosta Dome

Streets of Mosta

Streets of Mosta

Day 5

Day 5 was supposed host my first outing to Mellieha… my favourite place on Malta! Maar helaas niet. But unfortunately not. I missed my bus (doh!!) and the next one wasn’t for another hour, so I just jumped on the next bus and ended up in Valletta.

I wasn’t overly enamoured with Valletta the first time I went there (again, 4 years ago). But this time I liked it WAY more. On my bus journey over there, I checked my Trip Advisor App and saw that I’d saved a couple of gluten free cafes in my list, and as I was starving I headed straight to Piadina Caffe. (Yes, two ffs). One diet Kinnie and a gluten free focaccia later, I was a very happy girl and ready to explore! (At the end of the trip I’ll probably do a dedicated post about being GF in Malta if anyone is interested!)

Piadina Caffe, Valletta

Piadina Caffe, Valletta

I then did what I do best: wandered round aimlessly for hours on end, taking in the city… and lots of photos obviously!!

I stumbled upon this one street, which I’m pretty sure is Insta-famous, and took probably one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken:

Valletta street scene

Valletta street scene

Instagram clearly agrees because it’s got about 200 likes 🙂

Day 6

Yesterday I decided I couldn’t be dealing with buses (!!) so I explored Naxxar (prounounced something like nash-ar) on foot. I also visited the Top of the World again and racked up over 20k steps!

Pretty street in Naxxar, Malta

Pretty street in Naxxar, Malta

Day 7

Today I’m off to Floriana, near Valletta, because they’re holding a ‘festa’ there! The Maltese festa is a (religious) village feast – the Maltese love their patron saints and so a party is held in their honour every year – some villages even celebrate multiple times per year! According to MaltaUncovered.com I should expect “Lots of colours, lots of sound and lots of locals for starters…” And fireworks… don’t forget the fireworks!!

Happy Sunday everyone, hope you’ve had a great week!

Hayley x

 

Week 1 stats (up to Sunday): 

Photos taken: 137

Distance covered on foot: 76 km

Steps: 117k

Bus rides taken: 6

Destinations visited: Top of the World, Gharghur, Naxxar, Mosta, Sliema, St Julian’s, Spinola Bay, Valletta, Floriana

Lowlights: the buses!!

Things I have learned about Malta this week:  

  • Walking anywhere outside the main tourist areas feels like dancing with death! There are rarely any footpaths. Ever seen Italians drive? Same.
  • There are cranes everywhere 😦
  • Dead cactus smells like wet dog.

 

Workaway.info

For anyone wanting more info about this Workaway position:

I’m mainly looking after the family’s menagerie of animals: 2 horses, 4 dogs, countless stray cats, a sheep, chickens, 2 ducks and a parrot! Plus some light cleaning duties: mostly hoovering, sweeping and mopping.

It’s very fair. They’re actually looking for someone to replace me at the end of June, preferably for 3 months as they’re away a lot in the “summer” (it’s 20-22 degrees at present! So summer enough for me!!) it’s mostly going to be house sitting / looking after the animals. If you’re interested and can stay for 3 months, please contact Rachel via their Workaway advert 🙂 You won’t regret it!!

 

 

Volunteering at LASSie animal shelter and sanctuary in Langkawi – Everything you need to know

Langkawi LASSie

Langkawi LASSie (which stands for Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary Foundation) is a non-profit animal shelter which was set up to receive, rehabilitate and care for animals that are neglected, abused and in need. It is located at the Bon Ton resort in Langkawi, Malaysia, close to Pentai Cenang beach.

Langkawi LASSie

LASSie a privately funded, small-scale operation (aided and supported by the Bon Ton and Temple Tree resorts) therefore they are always in need of volunteers to help out. We volunteered in Jan 2019 and had the most brilliant time, but when trying to plan our visit I couldn’t find much information online other than LASSie’s own website, so I’m here to rectify that now 🙂

So if you’re planning a visit… here’s all you need to know:

Langkawi LASSie

There are currently about 150 dogs on the property, we looked after about 50 and the rest are looked after by staff. I didn’t count all of the cats but I would guess at about 50-60! Some of the cats are free roaming so it adds a friendly feel to the resort, you might make some furry mates along the way!

Unlike other sanctuaries, for example Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Chiang Mai and Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW) on Koh Lanta, Thailand, it’s completely free to volunteer here. This is because LASSie is small and not as “developed” as the other sanctuaries I have visited. It’s all about the animals, which I love!

Langkawi LASSie

How long can you volunteer for?

The minimum period for volunteering is 2 weeks, working 6 days a week with one day off – so if you’re able to commit to that – in return you get to spend a couple of weeks with some fantastic cats and dogs. Of course they prefer longer stays if you have the time! 🙂 We’d love to go back for 2 months if we can! LASSie currently welcomes up to four live-in volunteers at a time.

Langkawi LASSie

Are there other ways to help out? 

If you can’t dedicate that much time, you can come and help walk the dogs in the morning, from 10am – 12 noon. Unfortunately this is only for people aged 16+ as a lot of the dogs are quite large and strong! Kids are welcome, but they won’t be able to walk the dogs themselves.

You can also spend some time socialising with the cats. Again, I’d recommend coming between 10am – noon as there will be more volunteers around at that time to help you.

Playing aka socalising with the cats

Playing aka socalising with the cats

Multi-tasking :)

Multi-tasking 🙂

You could adopt a pet (!!) or donate toys, treats, medicine, building materials, food, or money. The best thing to do is send an email via the website to see what is needed at that time. (For example when I was there, the dogs had loads of balls, but they didn’t really like to play with them, they preferred squeaky toys and ropes.) If you’re looking to adopt it’s probably best to make an appointment.

Cats at Langkawi LASSie

Cats at Langkawi LASSie

Volunteer Accommodation

Free staff accommodation is included. (No, you won’t be staying at the Bon Ton resort… hahahaha!!) It’s basic and very rustic, but has everything you need including mosquito nets, air co, fridge, kettle, toaster, shower and a flushing toilet (sometimes 🙃). You’ll have a few flatmates; we had geckos, centipedes and a beetle! (I swear it was a cockroach but the Dutchie maintains it was a beetle…) We also had 2 dogs on our front porch: Rosie and Gizzy ❤️❤️ they’re absolutely adorable!!

Staff accommodation at Langkawi LASSie

Staff accommodation at Langkawi LASSie

Rosie <3

Rosie ❤️

Gizzy

Gizzy ❤️

Staff Food

You get free staff meals: breakfast is milk, bread, butter and jam. Then lunch and dinner changes on a daily basis but is generally rice, one type of protein, lots of veggies and sometimes noodles. It’s good hearty Malaysian food and will fill you up after a hard days work.

Food at Langkawi LASSie

When eating, you sit in the staff ‘restaurant’ – which is a actually a store room – with a few furry friends! There are fans and wifi, so no complaints here! Once you’ve finished eating, you need to wash up your own plate, cutlery and glass. Remember: you’re a staff member so no one is cleaning up after you.

One staff drink per day is included for example tea, coffee, soft drinks, fresh juices etc. And the cherry on the cake is that once a week you get to enjoy a 3 course meal at the Bon Ton restaurant which is superb!!!

Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi

Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi

But a volunteer isn’t in it for the free stuff, right? The main focus here is the cats and dogs.

What do the volunteers do?

The day starts at around 9.45am when you walk your “own” dog(s). We looked after Rosie and Gizzy, the volunteer next to us also had his “own” dog called Jon Jon. Then you start walking the rest of the dogs at 10am.

Dog walking at Langkawi LASSie

Walking Happy and Peaches

Walking Happy and Peaches

All of the dogs are walked in their “packs” to avoid fights and all “packs” are kept at a safe distance from each other. Each day follows the same routine so that the dogs all know roughly when they’re going to be walked.

Depending on how many volunteers there are, the walking finishes between 12 and 12.45pm. If you finish early you can play with the cats until lunchtime.

Cat heaven!

Cat heaven!

Between 12.45 and 1pm the dogs are all fed and it’s the volunteers duty to help with the feeding, pick up empty bowls and then wash them all ready for the next feed. Once this is all done, the humans get to eat!! Yum!!

We generally finished eating around 2pm so we’d go back to our bedroom and cool off in the airco / lie down ready for the afternoon shift!

‘Rotation’ starts at 3pm where dogs are let out in a large yard to have a run around off the lead. Again they are let out in their individual “packs” and get around 10-20 mins to play, get flea and tick checked and depending on the day some of the dogs have a shower under the hose. Rotation follows the same pattern every time, again so that the dogs get into a routine (it also makes it easier to remember for the humans too!)

Poppy enjoying the run

Poppy enjoying the run

Rotation at Langkawi LASSie

Rotation at Langkawi LASSie

Playing with Jack during rotation

Playing with Jack during rotation

Once all of the dogs have had their allotted time, been flea and tick checked and are all safely back in their cages for the evening… the last job is… you guessed it… picking up all the poo!! You’re done by about 6pm!

Poo duty!

Poo duty! (That’s paint on his shorts… don’t worry!)

Is it difficult working at LASSie?

Generally the work is really easy if you love animals and don’t mind getting dirty!!

Excited for walkies!!

Excited for walkies!!

Occasionally there will be a difficult situation, for example dogs fighting… but never try to break it up with your hands!! We used loud noises such as clapping or if they were really naughty… spraying them with water!

We also experienced a few animals dying. At the beginning of one week someone had dumped 6 kittens, unfortunately by the end of the week there were only 4 left. There was also a cat dropped off in a polystyrene box one day, it looked like she’d been in a road traffic accident and we didn’t see her again so I don’t think she made it either 😢

If you can’t handle situations like this, I wouldn’t encourage you to volunteer. LASSie are doing an amazing job, but as with anything, they can only do their best.

Kittens at Langkawi LASSie

Kittens at Langkawi LASSie

Kitten at Langkawi LASSie

Kitten at Langkawi LASSie

Would you recommend volunteering at LASSie?

Wholeheartedly, YES!!!! It was only my second ever volunteering experience but now I’m totally hooked. The Dutchie and I both absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s hard at times but it’s 100% worth it. The work is just so rewarding and you go to bed feeling like you’ve really helped with something! So if you get the chance: JUST DO IT!!

Group photo!!

Group photo!!

Dog walking with a view!

Dog walking with a view!

YOLO

YOLO

Is there anything else I need to know?

Cenang Supermarket is 10 mins walk away, apparently so is the beach (but we didn’t walk there directly from LASSie).

There’s a washing machine on site, behind the volunteer housing. (We didn’t know this and ended up paying to wash our clothes at a local launderette!)

To get around the island, you can either hire a moped or download the Grab app and take cheap taxis. (It’s the Asian version of Uber, except much less expensive!)

Recommended things to bring:

Travel towel (towels are not provided)

Extra pillow (your travel pillow will do!) and a sheet if you have enough room in your luggage

Refillable water bottle (you can fill your water bottles at the bar for free)

Coffee and / or tea if you like specific brands (otherwise you can buy tea / coffee in Cenang supermarket)

Recommended things to buy when you’re there:

Toilet roll (if needed… otherwise there is a bum gun… hahaha!)

Malaysian sim card (there is wifi but it only works in the restaurant)

Langkawi LASSie

Getting licked by Elvis!

Ok, I think that’s it!! I’ve tried to be as detailed as I possibly can, but if there’s anything I’ve missed or you have any questions, please fire away! And if you’re going to LASSie… lucky you! I’m jealous! Please say hi from me 🙂

Hayley x

www.langkawilassie.org.my

Update 9th Feb 2019: LASSie are currently trying to raise €6,000 to save 6 abandoned puppies, if you’d like to donate you can do so here. Thanks for your support!

 

 

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour: a detailed review

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

I recently went to Chiang Mai for 2 weeks and as I was staying for a decent period of time I fancied doing some kind of tour or activity, in addition to my week volunteering at Elephant Nature Park (a separate post will follow on that asap). In the past I’ve really enjoyed all of the tours I’ve done on holiday: a Jeep Tour in Antalya, Turkey; Bat Caves in Battambang, Cambodia; a Mekong Delta Tour in Vietnam and countless other boat tours for that matter (!) plus various cooking classes in Thailand, Bali and Cambodia. Seeing as I’ve done lots of cooking classes already, I ruled that out, but I still fancied something food-related. Either that or a boat tour, so I looked up some options on Trip Advisor and found ‘Chiang Mai Street Food Tours’ with rave reviews! Sold!

I was picked up promptly from my hotel by our driver and host, Sonny. (He was actually even a few minutes early!! Quite a rarity in Thailand! AND the best driver I’ve experienced in Thailand so far… most taxi drivers seem to have a death wish!) I was joined by two Americans, a woman around my age and an older American guy. Having such a small group was great as we got more time with Sonny and he was able to answer any questions we had and we also had plenty of time to chat in between ‘courses’.

We started off in a little side-street restaurant with 3 pork dishes which we had to order ourselves in Thai 😊 We were given a ‘cheat sheet’ and Sonny helped us with our pronunciation. In addition to useful words and phrases, our handout also included a list of the most common street food dishes, in English and Thai along with pictures and a description of the ingredients. Super handy! I’ll be keeping hold of this for future trips!

We tried Grilled Pork with Dressing (Nam Tok Moo), Minced Pork Salad (Laap Moo) and some BBQed Pork (Moogata – BBQ). I can’t tell you which was my favourite as they were all so tasty! The four of us polished off the lot! I liked the fact that Sonny ate with us so he felt part of the group than a ‘guide’. The grilled pork was served with sticky rice which Sonny showed us how to ball up and eat with our fingers.

Next we walked a short distance to our first street food market where we tried a local Chiang Mai sausage (Sai Ua). Delicious! With a good kick of spice too!

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

We then sat down at a street food stall with plastic seating and had the famous local dish Khao Soi alongside a pork and noodle broth dish, I forgot to write the name down (doh) but here’s a pic:

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Khao Soi is a northern Thai dish with influences from Burma, which consists of flat egg noodles topped in a rich creamy coconut curry. It’s usually served with deep fried egg noodles on top, for texture, plus picked mustard greens, red onions and a wedge of lime.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Khao Soi

Next up was a sweet treat in the form of Coconut Dumplings (Khanom Krok) made with rice flour! Yum! Very moreish and not too sweet either which was perfect for me as I’m not really into super-sweet things.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Coconut Rice Dumplings

We then hopped back into Sonny’s pickup truck and headed to the other side of Old Town where we had Soy Sauce Pork (Khao Ka Moo) which is slow cooked pork knuckle, Fried Chicken and Morning Glory! (Tee hee!) The Thai name for Morning Glory is Pad Pak Bung.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Morning Glory, Soy Sauce Pork and Fried Chicken

Because I’m gluten intolerant I only tried a teeny bit of the pork and I skipped the fried chicken, so Sonny went and got me some plain grilled chicken – without me asking! What a sweetie! This is a good point to note that they’re very happy to accommodate any dietary requirements… when we were first picked up he asked if we had any restrictions and was well versed in gluten and wheat as well as lactose.

To round off a superb evening the plan was to end with Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niew Ma Muang)… however the stall had out of rice! Haha! So we just had mango and coconut milk instead… still delicious! And actually, we were all pretty full, so maybe skipping the rice wasn’t a bad thing! It was topped with some mung beans which were yummy and added a nice crunch to the dish!

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Mango Sticky Rice (without the rice!)

I was dropped back to my hotel at around 10.30pm, so it was quite a long evening. Online it said the tour lasted 2 – 2.5 hours so we overran somewhat. (My pick up time was 7pm).

Overall, the Chiang Mai Street Food Tour was fantastic tour and I’d highly recommend it. I also wrote a short review on Trip Advisor and gave it 4 stars there, simply because of the price.

At €25 EUR / $29 USD / £23 GBP I did find it slightly expensive, especially for Chiang Mai! I roughly totted up the price of the dishes in my head and that comes to around 300-350 baht p.p. which is about €10. I realise that other costs also need to be taken into account – admin, Trip Advisor commission, fuel and tour guide fee… but still… it’s a little on the pricey side so I wouldn’t recommend it for budget travellers.

FYI: I paid for the tour myself and am writing this review because I loved it 😊

 

THE LOWDOWN

Cost:

€25 via Trip Advisor (Roughly $29 USD / £23 GBP / 1,000 baht.) Prices correct as of November 2018.

Transport:

Includes pick up and drop off to/from your hotel in Chiang Mai Old Town.

Stuff to bring:

Mosquito repellent, comfy shoes and clothes (I wouldn’t recommend wearing a dress/skirt as you have to clamber in and out of the truck) and a tip for the tour guide (if you are so inclined… my fellow tour mates and I agreed on 200 baht each – about €5 – which is about 20%. I’m sure 100 baht would suffice though!) Plus an umbrella / jacket if the weather calls for it.

What not to bring:

No need to bring water as this is provided for you.

 

Please do let me know if you take the tour! Would be interested to hear what you think!

Hayley x

 

 

The best flexible work spots in Hilversum for freelancers

Freelancer? Remote worker? Me too! (The latter.) I often work from my office at home, but sometimes you need to get out of the house! Maybe you need some human interaction… or even just a good coffee! Enter the coffee shop… no, not that kind!! We’re in the Netherlands but I’m talking beverages here!!

Freelancers need a good cafe where they can hang out and work… somewhere with strong wifi and equally strong coffee…

I’ve visited A LOT of cafes in Hilversum over my 4 years of working from home, so let me share my favourite spots with you:

1. MOUT

Mout Hilversum

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I’m here, A LOT. And why? Because it’s so damn good. Food halls are fantastic concepts in general but here it’s done really well. Drinks are ordered at your table by waiting staff, and food is ordered at each individual food stall using your table number. A lot of food halls require queuing and waiting for your food, but here they will bring it to your table as soon as it’s ready. Simple and effective.

The choice is massive, from Vietnamese food to salads, Italian to fish and chips, to Latin American food and Dim Sum. They really have it all. My personal tip: the sweet potato fries with Parmesan and basil mayo are THE ONE!!

Oh and there’s free, open wifi, a water dispenser, and the place is massive so there’s loads of seating to choose from, inside and out. (They also do bitterballen, but not very good ones unfortunately… )

Mouthilversum.nl | Naarderstraat 8

 

2. Bagels & Beans

It can get a little noisy in here, so it depends what kind of work you’re doing. I can’t go here when I’m working on spreadsheets!! But other than that, it’s a good bet. The food is delicious, the wifi works and it’s split on 3 levels so you’ll almost always find a place to sit.

The best thing on the menu is without a doubt the Paddo burger (mushroom burger). They have gluten free and low gluten bagels and there are lactose free options too. Everyone’s a winner.

Bagelsbeans.nl | Kerkstraat 3

 

3. Presto Coffee & More

This is a cute little place slightly out of the centre. Which is good, because generally it means it’s quieter than the other places I’ve mentioned so far. The wifi is good and the interior is really cool – industrial meets homely. Bag yourself a seat on the turquoise sofa if you can!! There’s also plenty of outside seating but unfortunately not much view to speak of.

They have gluten and lactose free options and a page of specials, so there’s always something new to try. The banana bread (gluten/lactose/sugar free) comes highly recommended! 😀

Presto Facebook page (no website) | Herenstraat 20

 

4. Your Coffee

Your Coffee Hilversum

I think everyone in Hilversum knows this place… hence it’s always packed! But you can usually find a table as there’s loads of seating inside (2 levels) and out. There’s also a section / play area for kids upstairs… but this post is about remote working, so moving swiftly on!!

If you’ve built up an appetite whilst working they do an excellent Buddha bowl and the chicken thighs with spelt bread is also really good!

There’s no service upstairs, but if you can’t be bothered to walk downstairs to order they have these little notes where you can write your order and then put it inside a ball and drop it down a drainpipe-esque chute! A fun way to order and it works!!

Yourcoffeehilversum.nl | Kerkstraat 38A

 

5. Doppio Espresso

I went here this week and had a Bountyccino!! OMG. And it’s lactose free… WIN! There’s a terrace outside and plenty of space to sit inside. It’s actually quite deceptive just how large it is inside, so I doubt you’ll ever struggle to find space. Lots of staff so service is attentive. Recommended!

Doppioespresso.nl | ‘s-Gravelandseweg 14

 

So, those 5 are all in Hilversum but if you fancy going a bit further afield I can also suggest the following:

 

6. Heidezicht

Heidezicht

This place has also featured on my Instagram account a fair few times recently! To be honest I haven’t worked here yet – but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t! The location is great, in the middle of the Hei (heathland) hence the name… and it’s just a lovely, peaceful place to hang out.

Not too many food options on the menu, but the charcuterie platter (pictured above) is pretty good. In terms of borrelhapjes (for once you’ve finished working, as it’s open til 8pm): the garnalenkroketjes are good (8/10), bitterballen are ok (7/10) but unfortunately the groentekroketjes are decidedly average (5/10).

Heidezicht.nl | Randweg 203, Bussum

 

7. Theehuis ‘t Bluk

This place also has a great view. It’s *technically* located in Laren but from Hilversum it’s a nice walk or cycle through the Hei to get to it!

Good wifi and menu – the borrelplanken are very good – especially the cheese one! Service can be a bit hit and miss… but hey, we’re in Holland remember!

Bluk.nl | Zuiderheide 2, Laren

 

8. Brambergen

I’m a sucker for a view!! What can I say!? This place is also located a bit out-of-the-way in ‘s-Graveland. But it’s well worth the drive or cycle as you’re surrounded by nature! I wouldn’t recommend walking from Hilversum because it’s too far, about an hour walk according to Google.

It’s situated right next to the visitor centre for the Natuurmonumenten – “Nature Monuments’ (jeez, how do you translate that?!) Here it is in Dutch anyhoo: Bezoekerscentrum Gooi en Vechtstreek – Natuurmonumenten)

It can get a little busy at times, but usually it’s quiet enough to work. (Tip: avoid Wednesday afternoons as many kids are off school then and it does get rammed!) The kaasstengels are excellent and they also do gluten/lactose/sugar free banana bread!

Brambergen.nl | Noordereinde 54d, ‘s-Graveland

 

I hope you enjoy these work spots! If you try any of them out, please do let me know what you think!

Did I miss one? Please let me know! I’m always looking for cute new hangouts! 🙂

Hayley x

 

My travel plans for 2018 and beyond

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

I’ve been debating about whether to post this or not because I don’t want to appear like I’m boasting. One of my main goals in life is to not be a dick, especially online. So yeah, there’s that.

But maybe online bragging isn’t actually bragging at all. Perhaps we’re all just talking about and sharing what we love most? What we spend most of our time on, and possibly most of our money on.

We all have those friends who post a gazillion baby pictures online. Others share car pics, or fancy food they’re eating in restaurants, or photos of their outfit/shoes/handbags… other friends of mine are having extensions or renovating… so then you get all the interior design posts. Everyone’s got their own thing.

Mine is travel. It’s my true passion. And once my bills are paid – it’s what I spend most of my time dreaming about and therefore what I like to spend my money on.

So this is personal post today because I’ve been a busy little bee. I’ve been booking trips and using our savings to make the next 5 months bloody brilliant! I’m so excited I’m almost beyond words… almost! 😉 And the fact that I’m so excited means I’m telling anyone and everyone who will listen about my plans… and that includes you!

 

Sept 2018 – Lisbon, Portugal

The first trip we have planned is to Portugal for my birthday! We have two sets of friends who live in Portugal, so we’re lucky to be able to stay with them, which reduces our travelling costs significantly! 🙂 (By the way… I’m probably going to write a separate post about how I save money for travelling, as it’s something I get asked all the time!)

We’re going to spend three nights with our friends in Lisbon and then two nights at our other friend’s place which is around an hour away from Lisbon. I’m not sure where it is exactly, but her description is: “in the middle of nowhere” so I’m looking forward to a city trip AND a couple of days to switch off and enjoy the surroundings (or lack thereof). Hiking and nature = my idea of heaven!

 

Oct 2018 – Helsinki, Finland

October sees a visit to my 23rd country with my favourite Finn! (Does it matter that I only know 2 Finnish people!? Haha… oops!) My lovely friend Senja from Het Finse Meisje is going to play tour guide in her hometown of Helsinki for a weekend in October and I can’t think of a better way to explore a new city than with locals! 🙂 Although Senja isn’t a local herself anymore, she knows the city a million times better than I ever could and we’ll be meeting up with some of her friends too, so hopefully they can show us all the new hangouts and hotspots!

 

Nov 2018 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know about this one. I’m sooooooooooooooooooo excited to go back to Thailand!!! Although I’ve been twice before, I’ve never been to Chiang Mai. I’m going on my own for 2 weeks as the Dutchie has run out of holiday, so this will be my second ever solo trip!!

Photo by my friend MA

I’m going to spend a week volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai and the other week I’ll be working remotely (no, *your* boss is a legend!!) and exploring the city.

 

Dec 2018 – UK

It wouldn’t be Christmas without seeing the family would it? We’re off to the UK in mid-December for our annual ‘fake Christmas’ which coincides nicely with my work Christmas conference.

We’re also going to Maastricht in December for the Christmas markets with the Dutchie’s Mum and sister. It’s a tradition we started in 2015 in Koblenz (we missed 2016 as we were in Asia) and then in 2017 we went to Düsseldorf, so this year we want to see how the Dutch Christmas markets compare to their German rivals! This is our Christmas present to his Mum/sister – ‘presence over presents’ and all that 🙂

 

Dec 2018 & Jan 2019 – Malaysia

On 29th Dec we’re flying to KL baby!!! We’ll be spending New Year’s Eve in Kuala Lumpur… woop woop!! Then we have 4 nights in Penang and 11 nights in Langkawi! I absolutely cannot wait… I already have the feeling this is going to be one of the best trips we’ve been on! Fingers crossed!!

We’ve never been to Penang or Langkawi so any tips are – as always – much appreciated!

 

How about you? How are your next 5/6 months looking travel-wise or otherwise?!

Also, which destination(s) would you most like to hear about from my travels?

Hayley x

 

My favourite destinations – Cancale: The Oyster Capital of Brittany

Over the next few months, I’m going to start sharing some of my favourite places on earth, because it’s something that I love to write about. I *almost* want to keep some of them a secret… but Cancale is too good not to share!

Cancale - The Oyster Capital of Brittany

So, if you’re ever in Bretagne (Brittany) in France and you’re a seafood lover – make sure Cancale is top of your ‘to do’ list! It’s dubbed “the oyster capital of Brittany” with very good reason!

 

Cancale is located on the coast of North-West France, close to Saint-Malo. It is a small, picturesque fishing port, but due to its popularity, it has a large number of bars, cafes and restaurants. Most of the restaurants specialise in – you guessed it – seafood! In other words… mine and the Dutchie’s idea of heaven!! (If it’s possible, I think he even loves Cancale more than I do!!)

Huîtres

Oyster farming is still a major activity in the port and there are oyster beds covering about 7 square kilometres – easily seen from the pier at the harbour. These beds harvest about 25,000 tons of oysters each year. (Source)

Cancale - The Oyster Capital of Brittany

To sample them, you don’t need go to a restaurant, oh no – the way to do it is to have someone from the market stalls shuck them for you and then eat them perched on the wall overlooking the beach. The oyster stalls are located at the far end of the port next to the lighthouse (more details below).

Oysters at Cancale, France

Cancale

See how happy we were with our oysters?!

A fraction of the price and very authentic! Tip: We only had diet coke with us on our last trip, but sensible (and I suspect – French) people brought along a bottle of chilled white wine!

Obviously it has to be good weather to sit on the beach and devour oysters, so plan your trip wisely. But people don’t come to Northern France for the weather! But if it rains, you can always go to a restaurant…

Cancale, France

Crèpes et Coquillages

The only restaurant we’ve been to in Cancale, and therefore the only one I can recommend is: Crèpes et Coquillages. (Other reviewers on Trip Advisor definitely agree with us!) The moules (mussels) with Roquefort sauce were nothing short of amazing… in fact I’ve gone off mussels of late, but these brought the love back. *That’s how good they were!*

We also had the fish soup – a steaming bowl of orange, crabby deliciousness and my Mum had a galette (crèpe) which she said was superb. (As superb as a crèpe can be I guess. Boring imo!)

Bar le Tapecul

We’ve also been to Bar le Tapecul for a drink; it’s a lovely cosy little bar and if you’re lucky you can grab a seat outside! Bliss!

Bar le Tapecul, Cancale

I hope that’s persuaded you to visit Cancale and if so, there’s a bit of logistical info below. Any questions, just shout!

Where’s your favourite place in the world to eat oysters?

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN

Getting to Cancale: 

Public transport: There are no trains to the town, so if you’re using public transport you need to take a bus to / from St-Malo.

By car: Put “Chez Victor, Cancale” into your sat nav. (We use Google maps.) This will send you right to the end of the port – you’ll see the car park on the left. The road is aptly named Rue des Parcs. Cost is around €1.50 per hour.

Oysters:

Prices vary depending on size and quality. You can get #1 oysters (the biggest/best) for around €5.60 for a dozen. You also need to pay extra for napkins and lemon (50 cents each).

 

My personal tips for Malta

Mellieha, Malta

Mellieha, Malta

Hi! The title of this post could’ve been catchier I realise, but what it actually is – is 100% honest. I could’ve called it ‘The Ultimate Guide to Malta’ or ‘Top 10 Things to do in Malta’ or something SEO-y like that (yes, obviously I get why other travel bloggers do it) but I’m calling bullsh*t on people pretending to know everything about a place when they’ve been once!

This is a personal pet peeve of mine because I work in the travel publishing industry and I’m currently working with a lot of bloggers… so the first thing I’ll always check is what posts they have about Amsterdam. Most of them are complete crap (#sorrynotsorry) so it’s a very quick way for me to separate the wheat from the chaff…

Anyway, small industry rant over!

Full disclaimer: I’ve been to Malta three times. Therefore I *do* know more than the average bear… but I’m no expert. Nor do I profess to be. These are my tips for Malta, ones I’d give to family or friends who are going on holiday there. Things I did and thought were awesome, without a side of bs.

You’re welcome!

 

Where to stay in Malta:

I’ve stayed in 3 different places in Malta:

The Waterfront Hotel, Sliema – 4 star (apparently – it’s more like 3 tbh). Great views and cocktails. Rooftop bar / pool, but the pool itself is teeny. Would recommend it if you want to be close to St Julian’s but not stay in St Julian’s… or if you want to be close to Valletta but not stay in Valletta 😉

Cocktails at the Waterfront Hotel, Sliema, Malta

Cocktails at the Waterfront Hotel, Sliema, Malta

db Seabank Resort and Spa, Mellieha – another 4 star but this one probably does deserve 4 (at least it did when we last visited). It’s an all-inclusive resort though, which I DO NOT recommend. The food in Malta is soooooo goooood you do not want to be all inclusive! Good location, very close to Mellieha Bay and Popeye Village (more on those later).

Pergola Hotel and Spa, Mellieha – also 4 star but more like 3. Great location and views, but it’s a very noisy hotel. (Especially where we stayed which was right by reception.) Great full English breakfast in the on-site cafe.

View from Pergola Hotel, Mellieha, Malta

View from Pergola Hotel, Mellieha, Malta

Conclusion: I personally wouldn’t stay in any of these hotels again as I like trying new places, however I do recommend Mellieha as a base. I recently helped my Mum and Dad book a trip to Malta and they’re going to the Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa which looks awesome! (I haven’t stayed there myself but it’s very close to the Pergola hotel, so we walked past it pretty much every day on our last trip. The rooftop restaurant looks ace!)

If you don’t fancy that, there are plenty of other hotels and Airbnb properties in Mellieha! Just make sure you read lots (and lots and lots) of reviews before booking.

 

What to do in Mellieha: 

So, if you’ve listened to my advice 😉 you’ll be basing yourself in the north of the island in Mellieha. Good choice! I’ll start there first, and then give some tips for the rest of the island.

 

Views

As I’ve already mentioned, there are fantastic views from The Pergola Hotel (if you’re a non-resident you can still visit the bar/restaurant), same goes for Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa.

You can also get a fab view from Sea View Café – they do simple food like sandwiches and salads, plus lots of cocktails.

Sea View Cafe, Mellieha, Malta

Sea View Cafe, Mellieha, Malta

 

Food 

One80 Kitchen and Lounge have the most amazing Octopus carpaccio… hands down one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life. I’d go back to Malta just for that tbh. The scallop and prawn dish was also top-notch. I didn’t get a photo of that as I devoured it in about 10 seconds flat!

Octopus Carpaccio at one80 Bar and Kitchen, Mellieha, Malta

Octopus Carpaccio at one80 Bar and Kitchen, Mellieha, Malta

Ocean Bar for the best fish & chips I’ve had in a long time. They have a gluten free version too! The bar looks a bit ropey from the outside, but the owners are really friendly and it’s so worth it for the food!! Very budget friendly too!

Fish & Chips at Ocean Bar, Mellieha, Malta

Fish & Chips at Ocean Bar, Mellieha, Malta

Debbie’s Café is a good bet for brunch if you want an avocado based meal. If you want a full English, the one at the Pergola Hotel and Spa is better.

We also ate at Rebekah’s restaurant… which was a bit stuffy, overpriced and disappointing and at Bouquet Garni (no website) where we had amazing seafood platters which were really reasonably priced… but the lighting was bad so no pictures. Soz.

 

Bars

There’s a bar/restaurant at Mellieha Bay called Munchies, I’ve never eaten there but it’s nice for drinks if you can get a table on the terrace.

We also liked Charlie’s Bar. It’s a bit of a dive bar and it’s popular with local expats, but everyone was really friendly and we loved the pub quiz (every Thursday night). We even won the 90’s pop quiz! Score!!

 

See & Do

Parish Church of Mellieha – also known as The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha is a beautiful highlight of Mellieha. You can’t miss it, literally!

Parish Church of Mellieha

Parish Church of Mellieha

It’ll be in pretty much all of your Mellieha photos, it’s such an iconic building perched on the hilltop. It’s also worth exploring the beautiful gardens for the amazing views. I’ve never been inside the church, but I’m told it’s spectacular so that’s on my to-do list for next time!

 

Popeye Village / Anchor Bay is well worth a visit. (There’s no need to visit Popeye Village itself unless you’re with kids. The film set from the 1980 film has been turned into an open air museum / theme park). Depending on where you’re staying in Mellieha you can either walk here or take the bus. More info on their website.

Hopefully this photo explains why you should go there:

Popeye Village / Anchor Bay, Mellieha, Malta

Popeye Village / Anchor Bay, Mellieha, Malta

 

Paradise Bay – I’d like to say it does what it says on the tin, but in the interests of remaining 100% honest… it’s not exactly paradise. I mean it’s nice, but if you want paradise beaches you probably need to go to Thailand…

Anyway, it’s still lovely and well worth a visit, even if the name is a bit over-confident 😉 And it’s easy to reach by bus!

Paradise Bay, Malta

Paradise Bay, Malta

Paradise Bay, Malta

Paradise Bay, Malta

 

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay / Golden Bay are next to each other, so if you visit one, you might as well visit t’other! Again, very easy to reach by bus and the views are beautiful…

Ghajn Tuffieha Tower, Mellieha, Malta

Ghajn Tuffieha Tower, Mellieha, Malta

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, Mellieha, Malta

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, Mellieha, Malta

 

Red Tower (St Agatha’s Tower) 

Much like Mellieha Church, you can see the Red Tower from most places in Mellieha. If you like hiking, it’s well worth the climb to see the tower close up. If you plan your visit around the opening times, you can also get a magnificent view from the tower itself.

Red Tower, Mellieha, Malta

Red Tower, Mellieha, Malta

More info on St Agatha’s Tower website. It can also be reached by car or by bus, the closest bus stop is Qammieh.

 

What to do elsewhere on Malta:

There are SO many places to go on the island – so it really depends how much time you have and your priorities. But here are some of my faves:

Comino & Gozo – if you have time, I highly recommend taking a boat trip to Malta’s sister islands. Unfortunately, Gozo’s main tourist attraction, the Azure Window, is no more after severe storms in March 2017. But it’s still worth a visit. Gozo has a lot more going on, however many people still visit the site of the former Azure Window and the nearby Blue Hole. (I’m also making a mental note to explore more of Gozo on my next trip…)

Comino is really all about the Blue Lagoon. It can become really over-crowded in the summer months, so try to go in winter or shoulder season if you can. And if you must go in summer, then at least try to avoid the weekends.

Very happy to be at the Blue Lagoon, Comino on our 1st wedding anniversary

Very happy to be at the Blue Lagoon, Comino on our 1st wedding anniversary

 

Sliema – we loved our first visit to Sliema, but after visiting Mellieha, the north has won our hearts. Sliema is still well worth a visit though. There’s cool street art, some lovely bars and restaurants, plus it’s an ideal location if you want to be close to St Julian’s and/or Valletta. (Tip: for cheap and cheerful Thai food, go to Good Thaimes! Props for the name too…)

Sliema. Malta

Sliema. Malta

 

The best place for lively nightlife is St Julian’s / Paceville… so stay away if you’re not into that! There are also several casinos. It was a little while back, but our favourite place in St Julian’s was Fresco’s Cafe & Restaurant. (Happy to see it still has great reviews on Trip Advisor!)

St Julians, Malta

St Julians, Malta

 

Marsaxlokk is fantastic if you like seafood. There’s a fish market every Sunday, but seriously, who wants to cook when they’re on holiday? A few years back we went to Tartarun Fish Restaurant which is apparently still a good shout (Number 2 of 48 seafood restaurants in Marsaxlokk). Looks like it’s a bit pricier these days, but when we went it was worth every penny. Make sure you book!

If you do go to Marsaxlokk, you might as well also go to St Peter’s Pool too, as it’s close by. It’s not a beach – more like a rocky pool as the name suggests. When we visited loads of people were jumping off the rocks – even the Dutchie had a go! (I’m a wuss, so I did not!!)

St Peters Pool

St Peters Pool

St Peter’s Pool is no secret (unfortunately) so try to avoid the weekends if you can, otherwise it’ll be crazy busy. It’s also a bit of a pain in the arse to get to (we ended up spending a lot on taxis that day!) so if you can I would suggest hiring a car and driving yourself.

 

Mdina also known as the Silent City is Malta’s old capital – it dates back more than 4,000 years! You could spend hours wandering around the narrow, cobbled streets… and we actually did. This ancient walled city is tipped as one of Europe’s finest examples with its stunning mix of Baroque and Medieval architecture. My tip for Mdina is Fontanella Tea Gardens – you will thank me later for the views 🙂 🙂

Fontanella Tea Garden

Fontanella Tea Garden

 

Valletta for the historic stuff… I’ve left Valletta until last when I’m sure most people would’ve put this top of the list. After all it is the European Capital of Culture for 2018 and Malta’s capital city. I wasn’t a massive fan, I found it all a bit samey tbh… but you can’t go to the country without visiting the capital, right?

 

Food & Drink – Maltese specialties

Make sure you try pastizzi on your trip. As Malta’s national snack, they’re widely available at cafes and bakeries. They’re basically filo pastry filled with either ricotta or mushy peas. But which is your favourite? You’ll have to try both! 🙂

A Maltese platter is always a good idea – and it almost always come with bigilla (a broad bean dip) which is surprisingly awesome. I mean, it’s a bean dip. BUT IT’S SO DAMN GOOOOOD.

Maltese Platter

Maltese Platter at Ta Randi, Mellieha

One of the other famous dishes is rabbit. It’s on the menu at most restaurants in some shape or form. I had rabbit pasta twice on my first trip to Malta (ohhhhh, the good old days when I could still eat gluten… *sob*) and it was freaking delicious.

To be fair, all the food in Malta is just bloody amazing… so just go and eat everything! (Ps – I’m jealous!)

The local drinks are Cisk beer (pronounced “chisk”) and Kinnie which is kind of like coke. I say kind of because it’s bittersweet and has an orangy tang. It’s probably not for everyone, but I love it!

Cisk beer, Sliema, Malta

Cisk beer, Sliema, Malta

I can’t eat many desserts, coz y’know, lactose and gluten are in pretty much every dessert…  dammit. But what they do well in Malta is sorbet. Mmmmmm, lemon sorbet. For an extra kick, sometimes I’d also order limoncello liqueur and pour it on over! I got the idea from one80 Kitchen (mentioned earlier) when they served a limoncello slush puppie at the end of the meal. Yum!!

 

Transport:

Car hire: We’ve never hired a car in Malta, but obviously if you want to see and do a lot it’s probably a good idea! Seeing as I have no experience, I’ll let you Google that one for yourself 🙂

Taxis: On our first trip to Malta we took LOTS of taxis. (Tbf it was our 1 year wedding anniversary so we were celebrating!) But they’re flipping expensive and it certainly adds up. Not recommended unless you’re on a Kardashian budget!

Bus: If you don’t mind being a bus w*nker (and if you get that joke – you have very good taste in British TV shows!!) then it is definitely the cheapest way to get around! It costs €1.50 per journey in the winter to any destination, within two hours. So depending on how far you’re going, it can also serve as a return ticket. In the summer it’s €2 per journey for night buses it’s €3. You can find more info on the Malta Public Transport website.

Tour buses: I DO NOT recommend the hop-on-hop-off tourist buses. We did that once in Gozo and had a very bad experience. The driver was a maniac, you couldn’t see any of the sights from the bus – so it was hard to know when and where to get out and the roads are so narrow and unsuitable for buses that we kept getting hit by tree branches etc while on the top deck. Don’t bother!

 

When to visit:

We have visited in August and twice in January. August was waaaaaay too hot for our liking, so I wouldn’t recommend that. Probably the perfect time to visit would be in shoulder season – e.g. April/May or September/October. But we’ve always had a great time visiting in January. Sure, the weather’s not perfect as it’s still technically winter there, but it’s a damn sight better than the winter in Holland or the UK!

Golden Bay, Malta

Golden Bay in January 2018

 

So there you have it: my personal tips for Malta… now if you don’t mind me I’m off to torture myself by looking at flights to Luqa on Skyscanner.

Have you been to Malta? What was your favourite thing to do / eat / drink / see?

Hayley x