Malta will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first ever holiday abroad. Although I don't remember much from that first trip because I was only 4, I have revisited the island several times over the years. First of all, the people are so friendly and helpful and will always try to assist you as much as they can. We first found this out when we missed the last bus back to the city after a day looking around a local craft village. We asked inside one of the shops if we could phone for a taxi, however, straight away he offered us a lift. It wasn't just a lift back to the city so we could catch the connecting bus back to our resort, instead he took us the whole hour journey there and wouldn't accept any money for fuel. This was not just a one off, as each visit to the island, somebody has offered to help us in a way that you simply don't get back home.
The island itself is both stunning and full of history, with the capital city of Valletta being one of the most picturesque places I have ever been to. Last year when we visited, we approached the city by water taxi rather than the usual bus or taxi that we had previously used. I have to admit that the views as we entered the city were even more impressive the closer we got. The great thing about Valletta is that although its very easy to get lost in the maze of streets, you can see history in each and every one of them as well as finding hidden gems that you perhaps didn't know were there. For example, on our first visit to Malta, a wrong turn took us down what looked like and was a residential street. Having said this, at the end of that street was a toy museum which nobody had told us was there.
As well as the historical nature of the island, it is also very well used by the film industry. Many a time we have visited the film set of the Disney film Popeye staring the late Robin Williams. Whilst over the years some of the set has changed and been adapted, the outsides of the buildings are very much still the same and its great to be able to have a look around. We usually visit Fort Rinella whilst we are on the island and right next door is the underwater film task which has been used to film the likes of Captain Phillips, Swept Away and Raise The Titanic. Sadly though, I have never met Brad Pitt or Russell Crowe although both Troy and Gladiator were filmed there.
Crete was the very first of the Greek islands I visited where I fell in love with it straight away, returning for my fourth time just a couple of years ago. The island itself is the complete opposite of Malta. The landscapes look wild and overgrown, but that is how they want it to be. The wildlife prosper there, although it has been well known to have bush fires every so often. We have always stayed in a place called Hersonissos and whilst we have visited the capital of Heraklion several times, we soon realised that Hersonissos has everything you could need. The main street consists of a huge variety of shops selling local produce, gifts and trinkets. At one end of the road there is even a 3 storey supermarket where you can pick up almost anything you need at a great price. Up in the village of Koutouloufari you can find taverna's offering a wide range of food and drink as well as Greek nights where you can listen to local bouzouki music and try out a bit of traditional dancing too! Dotted in between is even more little shops offering souvenirs.
If you want to do something a bit more active, head to Star Beach, where you will find plenty of water sports activities as well as several swimming pools, water slides and of course plenty of cocktails. There is even a spa, tattoo parlour and swimwear shop all on site. One thing I would warn you about is that a photographer does go around the site, taking photos, which you can then buy on your way out. It is fair to say that sometimes you don't realise they are being taken and the actions or angles can look shocking, so be warned.
Lastly one place I had to mention was Aquaworld Aquarium which is situated on the road leading off by the large supermarket I mentioned above. If you didn't know it was there you would walk straight past but it is honestly well worth a visit. What looks like a residential building from the outside opens up to house a huge variety of marine life as well as reptiles. Unlike zoos and other establishments, at Aquaworld Aquarium you can get up close and personal with the animals, being able to hold some of them, without any extra charges. John and Judith do an amazing job running the place, rescuing animals and caring for them but they are never too busy to answer any questions you might have. Over the years I have particularly fallen in love with Stephania, the blind turtle. Each time I visit I always make sure I take you some money to sponsor some of the animals, because without those donations, Aquaworld Aquarium wouldn't be able to feed and care for the animals.
If you love flowers and pretty views then Madeira is certainly the place for you. We stayed in the capital Funchal and again found that it had everything you needed. We particularly liked visiting the Lido because the cafe there did the most amazing homemade food. If you take the cable car up the mountains, you can visit the botanical gardens that cover a huge area. Wildlife roam free up here and the views are absolutely stunning. Sadly a few years ago they had awful floods followed by huge bush fires so I'm not sure how much of the gardens have been saved or redone.
Another must is a walk down to the harbour, where lots of benches are situated, so that you can sit and watch the sunset, which again, is a beautiful sight. One thing you should be prepared for is Cristano Ronaldo's face and merchandise EVERYWHERE. The biggest star to come from the island, the locals love him and this can be seen all over Funchal.
Corfu for us is very much a relaxing by the pool kind of holiday. Whilst down in the south is party town, up in the north in a village called San Stefanos is the place you can normally find us. Everyone knows everyone in this village and the locals always remember you when you return year after year. I don't just mean they remember your face, they literally remember your name, as well as anything you might have spoken about previously. For example, we spoke about how my nan wasn't too well and two years later, they still remembered and asked us if she had got better. The village has everything you could want for a relaxing holiday - shops, taverna's, pubs offering evening entertainment, traditional Greek nights, water sports and one of my favourites - a ceramics studio where you can hand paint various items to take home with you. If you want to venture into the city, Corfu Town is only about a forty minute drive away, where the streets are packed full of shops selling handbags, shoes, belts, make up, souvenirs. You can also take various boats trips from the harbour here and can also visit the forts situated at either end of the town. One tip I would say is watch out for when the big cruise ships dock into the harbour because suddenly everything gets just that little bit more expensive. It is an amusing sight to see though, as staff hurry to change the prices on menus as they watch the ships dock.
Isle Of Wight
Although I must have only been about 7 or 8 when I spent the weekend on the Isle of Wight, I have always looked back with fond memories and really want to return one day. This was the one and only time I have ever camped but I enjoyed every minute of it. Whilst I don't remember the names of some of the places we visited, I do remember having a great time at Blackgang Chime as well as enjoying fish and chips on a very chilly Ryde beach (It was the Easter holidays!) The only thing that has stopped me returning is the long drive to the ferry terminal from where we live but I will definitely be returning at some point soon.
I have been really lucky to have visited some great places over the years and here are many more that I could go on about. I love revisiting places, being able to say hello to friends we have made as well as seeing how things have changed over the years but I think its time for me to visit some new places. I think I will follow this post up with some destinations that I would like to visit next so if you have any recommendations then please let me know.
Until next time