Travelling to Lithuania: Medieval Cities And Stunning Scenery.

A castle on a lake, a mountain of crosses and a museum dedicated to the devil. You will wonder why you didn’t consider travelling to Lithuania sooner.

When you tell someone that you are travelling to Lithuania you may get a questionable look! ‘Where is that? and What is there to do?’ You’ll probably be asked. Well, there is plenty to discover in this less visited Baltic country. Do you want to know more about discovering Lithuania? Read on.

Check out Trakai castle when travelling to Lithuania.

Where is Lithuania?

Lithuania sits between Latvia, Poland and Belarus and has a small coastline along the Baltic sea. You may be surprised to hear that there’s a Scandinavian influence here! This is due to Sweden and Denmark being easily reached from the coastal town of Klaipėda.

The capital, Vilnius is found very close to the Belarus border and home to its medieval old town which gives Prague a run for its money.

The old and the new in Vilnius.

Vilnius is a great starting point when travelling to Lithuania

Boasting the largest old town in Eastern Europe you won’t want to miss a trip to the historic centre of this city. In 1994 Vilnius was added to the World Heritage list and whilst exploring this magnificent place you will notice a mix of architectural styles including Gothic, renaissance and baroque.

Top sights to see:

  • Gediminas tower and the castle. Climb to the top for lovely views across the city.
  • The Gates of Dawn. A city gate adorned with a painting of the blessed mother Mary.
  • The Cathedral and Cathedral square. A great meeting place outside this very large decorated Cathedral.
  • The Church of St Anne. A stunning Gothic brick church.
  • The Three Crosses. A large statue topping the hill opposite the castle and a bit of a hike to reach the top!

Not into architecture? Vilnius has much more to offer. With a range of restaurants, bars and clubs, you will find something here that suits your taste. The craft beer scene is really taking off too in addition to a bit of a foodie culture. Lithuanians want to be known for their modern statement restaurants just as well as their local traditional food.

If you are used to very busy European cities, such as Lisbon, then Vilnius will seem relatively quiet. Much like its neighbour Latvia, the towns in Lithuania are not as populated as they could be since many young Lithuanians are migrating. However, with increased tourism, the government hopes to change this.

Vilnius is a great starting point when travelling to Lithuania since it has good transport links, helping you to explore the rest of the Country easily.

Trakai Castle – a day trip from Vilnius

You may not believe in fairy-tales but this beautiful castle, set in the middle of a lake might change your mind. The picturesque Lake Galve is home to twenty small islands and on one of these islands stands Trakai Castle and history museum.

Walking along the bridges over the lakes, you will feel like you are stepping back in time. The Castle walls sprawl out in front of you and the open gates await. You won’t regret taking a walk up to the top of one of the towers for the stunning views of the natural surroundings.

You can get to the small old town of Trakai easily by train or by bus directly from Vilnius. The castle is then only a short walk away. Free maps are usually available at your hotel (if you are not fond of using your phone for directions!)

If you want the place virtually to yourself then visiting in the winter/spring months is the best option. The summer months bring the better weather and more activity options but also many more tourists! Whenever you visit Trakai castle should not be missed if travelling to Lithuania.

The Legendary Hill of Crosses.

The spectacle known as the hill of crosses is the most popular tourist attraction in Lithuania. Situated near the city of Šiauliai, the historic landmark is forever growing as visitors leave their own crosses behind. You can guide your way through more than 100,000 crosses of all shapes and sizes and marvel at some of the beautiful intricate designs as well as the simple.

The Hill of crosses is a symbol of faith and resistance. Even during the soviet rule people risked their lives to plant their crosses on the hill.

It can take you around three hours to reach Šiauliai by car from Vilnius. From there you can take a tour, public transport or drive to the Hill. Remember to take your own cross with you and plant a memory in this eerie but beautiful place.

Kaunas, the city on the river.

Devils in the Devils museum in Kaunas. Add this to your list when travelling in Lithuania.

When you hear words like quaint and pretty used to describe Kaunas you may be surprised to learn that it is Lithuania’s second city.  You can easily and cheaply reach Kaunas from other European countries thanks to the rise of low-cost airlines flying to this destination. The old town here is really a lovely town square and a few surrounding streets. However small the town it is also very nice. If you want to see the local way of life and still have things to do whilst travelling in Lithuania then Kaunas is for you.

Top sights to see:

  • Kaunas castle. Mostly restored today, yet this castle is the oldest stone castle in Lithuania.
  • The Devils museum. A strange and interesting museum and would you believe it, the only museum of its kind in the world!
  • The Kaunas town hall city museum. Dominating the town square a place for weddings and perusing the small museum inside.
  • Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. You will find this Cathedral beautiful inside and out.

When it comes to eating out you will find a small variety of bars and restaurants within and near to the old town.When travelling to Lithuania you won’t go hungry! Prices are cheaper in Kaunas than Vilnius too so you can get a good meal for your money!

Some other things you might want to know when travelling to Lithuania …

Lithuania is part of the European Union and its currency is the Euro. Yes, that’s right, no need to exchange currency if you are travelling through Europe. The weather here is pretty moderate. Temperatures can drop quite low in the winter and summers tend to be mild, though can be wet too. But I doubt you’ll be visiting for the weather!

Well, that’s it! With all of this to offer you would be mad not to consider adding Lithuania to your bucket list. Have you been to Lithuania? I would love to hear what you think and where you are planning to visit next?

Originally posted on Pre-Travels.com

Lisbon – our first family trip abroad

First family trip abroad to Lisbon

This trip to Lisbon was the first time in another country with our baby daughter. We knew it would be different to our previous trips, however we had a wonderful time and managed to do more than we expected.

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Getting from Lisbon airport to the centre was easy. The metro line runs straight to the centre, so within 40 minutes we were at our apartment.

We chose an apartment in the Amoreiras Garden district  Casa Amora. Perfectly located within walking or short Metro ride from the sights but in a quiet enough neighbourhood for a family visit. The great thing about choosing an apartment when travelling with a young baby is that sterilising and heating bottles is easier with a kitchen area!

The metro and tram system are a great way to get around even with a child. Although avoid the rush hour times and you will be more comfortable.

Lisbon is a city of many levels, and with viewpoints accessible by elevators and funiculars there is always a way to a fantastic view.

On our first day we visited the castle which was at the top of my agenda. There was a beautiful view across the city from the top and also home to a family of peacocks! (Which I love).

There were plenty of bars and restaurants to stop at whilst exploring the city. We took our time, relaxed and enjoyed our surroundings.

During our trip we also grabbed a tuk-tuk ride to Belem. We tried the famous pastry dessert and explored the river front gardens before heading to the tower. There was quite a queue to get into the tower without an advanced ticket, however it gave us time to enjoy the view of the tower from the outside.

The bus journey back from Belem to Lisbon centre was pretty eventful. A very full bus and a roadworks re-route meant some very unhappy passengers.. But we made it back in one piece.

We also visited Carmo convent, Parque Eduardo VII as well as some spectacular squares and viewpoints. Lisbon is a lovely city to walk around but there can be a lot of steps and hills!

My first experience of travelling abroad with our baby was actually pretty great. We had a lovely time as a family as it was surprisingly relaxed. I have to admit we visited less bars of an evening than we used to, we ate and had a beer earlier in the day before enjoying Netflix and a bottle of wine back at our apartment.

We grabbed a taxi through cabify back to the airport  (as referred by the lovely apartment owners). It’s similar to Uber so our referral meant a free trip and they also provide child seats upon request!

Overall an amazing start to our family travel in Lisbon.

Here’s to many more family holidays in the future! 🙂

 

Vilnius – Top things to do

Exploring Vilnius – What are the top things to do?

We spent a few days in Lithuania in March and Vilnius was our main base to explore from. Being the largest city and the capitol, there are plenty of things to see and do.  Here are my highlights  🙂

Castle Hill and Gedimina’s Tower

Vilnius
Castle Hill – Vilnius.

The top of the hill is reached by either walking a sloping path or the easier and cheap funicular. Most of the buildings have been reconstructed however there is a stunning view over the city. To climb a little higher, pay 4 euros to enter the tower for 360 views from the top. Inside the tower there are some interesting exhibits including suits of armour and other historic pieces. The stairs of the spiral staircase are a little steep but worth it!

The Hill of Three Crosses.

Vilnius
Hill of Three Crosses – Vilnius.

The crosses stand on the old site of the crooked castle and are believed to have been erected in the 17th Century. The climb is a steep one, entering through Kalnų Park. Climbing up the slopes and steps you will reach a plateau where the crosses stand. Another great view across the city and also castle hill.

Vilnius Cathedral and Cathedral square.

Vilnius
Cathedral Square Vilnius.

This great open space is full of interesting architecture. The Cathedral itself is French Classicist style and mostly dates from the late 18th century. Built on the site of an original pagan temple . It has had various uses throughout its life, including being used by the Soviets as a garage for truck repairs. Today the chapels, sculptures and paintings are to be enjoyed by its visitors.

The old town and Pilies street.

Vilnius
Vilnius Old Town.

With one of the largest old towns in Europe, there are many streets to explore. In contrast to Cathedral square, Pilies and the surrounding streets are narrow and winding. Get lost within the souvenir and local craft stores, coffee shops and restaurants. Especially popular for its local Amber-ware.

The Gates of Dawn

Vilnius
Gates of Dawn Vilnius.

The Madonna of Mercy is the focus of this classical chapel. Following the custom of having a chapel or religious image in gateways to protect leaving travellers and guard from enemies. This is the only gateway to have survived from the early 16th Century. Entrance is from the outside, steps lead up from a door in the street below.

Vilnius.
Gates of Dawn Vilnius.

These are just a few of the main sights to see in here. More top attractions worth visiting are.. The Presidential Palace. St Johns church. Vilnius picture gallery and The Church of St Anne.

Find more information here Vilnius tourism.

Fort George Grenada – photo story

Fort George

A morning exploring Fort George Grenada.

Fort George
Fort George Grenada

The first stop on our cruise was Grenada and in the short time we had on the island I wanted to visit Fort George.

The fort was built in 1706 by the French and originally named Fort Royal. When the British took over the island in 1763 it was renamed Fort George in honour of King George the third.

Fort George
Walking to the fort




Close to the harbour, Fort George towers over the town. It is a steep climb to reach the top but the view is worth it. The courtyard is the first part we reached. It was interesting to stand here and soak up the history, 300 years of changing hands and executions.

Fort George.
Courtyard area.
Fort George.
An area full of history.
Fort George.
A plague remembering the Bishop executed at the fort in 1983.

As we discovered, the weather here is pretty changeable and we were caught in a downpour. Luckily we were allowed to stand in one of the buildings to shelter whilst the rains passed.

Fort George.
The view of St Georges town before the storm rolled in.


Thomson

The cannons are still in place and are a favourite with visitors. Providing some great photo opportunities across the town and out to sea.

Fort George.
Cannons pointing out to sea.
Fort George.
Single cannon overlooking the Caribbean sea.

Today, as well as being a tourist attraction some Fort George buildings are also used by the local Police. Here we saw uniform and boots being made and mended, and there was also a gym in one of the rooms.

Other parts of the area have clearly been left to fall into disrepair. Nature slowly taking over the brick and stone.

Fort George.
Parts of the building being taken over by nature.
Fort George.
Peeking at the cannon from the other side of the fort.
Fort George.
The flag pole at the top of the fort.

I think Fort George is definitely worth a visit whilst in Grenada. The views are beautiful and it gives visitors an insight to the islands varied history.




Travel memories with El Camino Bracelets

Collecting travel memories – El Camino bracelets review

El Camino Bracelets Travel memories

When exploring countries, continents or historic sites every travel geek wants a way to collect their travel memories. A friend of mine who also loves her travelling told me about El Camino bracelets and I decided to check them out. (Thanks Gemma!)

The concept of these bracelets is to represent the individual path you have taken around the world. Wearing your bracelet tells own travel story and grows with you. I thought wow this is a great idea and wanted to document my own story.

The lovely people at El Camino, Candace Kellough  and Tom Lane  (see their story here) sent me my very own purple bracelet and two steps to start my collection. 🙂 .

I received my bracelet within two days packaged in a lovely canvas bag and my steps were sealed in their own small packets. I loved the personal touches in the packaging too.

travel memories
Single purple bracelet.

The bracelet itself was sturdier than I expected. The clasp was easy to use and the handmade cord is very strong but also really light. They come in different sizes. (In cm). But information on the website makes it really easy to measure and find out which size you need.

Travel Memories
Croatia step.
Travel memories
Thailand step.

I chose the Thailand and Croatia steps to start my travel memories collection. They were easy to put onto the bracelet and the shape of the cord means they don’t fall off the end. I was pleased to find that a coconut spacer came with the steps too!

I am excited about adding more steps to my bracelet. Catching up with places I have been and adding new ones as I continue with my travels. What a great way to commemorate my travels.

Travel memories.
Collecting my travel memories with my very own El Camino bracelet.

There are 240 different country steps to choose from, small steps which include popular cities and region steps too. (Which add a bit of colour to your collection). Start your collection here.

If you are interested in purchasing your own bracelet and collecting your own travel memories check out the El Camino website. Bracelets start from as little as £21.99.

Make sure you check out their Facebook page this weekend for your chance to win from El Camino.  www.facebook.com/ElCaminoBracelets/.

www.facebook.com/ElCaminoBracelets.

My first cruise experience

My first cruise

My thoughts about cruising my first cruise December 2015

My first cruise
Thomson celebration My first cruise.

If you read my posts regularly you will know that I had planned to spend the Christmas period in Egypt. However as we were due to fly into Sharm El Sheikh, the recent problems there meant we could no longer go on our trip as planned. (Why we cancelled Sharm El Sheikh). This gave us little time to exchange our holiday and at Christmas time things were especially busy and being booked up fast.

Having never been to the Caribbean before, a cruise sounded like a good idea. Relaxing, no manic planning and having something to cater for everyone in our family party of 6.

We booked the Thomson Celebration and to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. I try not to book package holidays but in this case it was necessary, I wasn’t very impressed with Thomson but my review will come in a different post.

Flying into Barbados we boarded the boat on a coach that was boarded directly from the plane. We had opted for a basic cabin, so no balcony or window. Again I had no idea what to expect but it was just like a hotel room with some curtains to cover a fake window which I found quite amusing.

I am used to planning my own trips so it was quite strange to have an itinerary laid out for me. In hindsight I wish I had done more research about the islands before travelling. With such a short period of time in each place it was difficult to know what I wanted to do and to prioritise.

Each day we exited the boat after docking, which could be between 7am and 11am. Then we did what we could with the time we had before having to get back on board at a certain time so we weren’t left behind! As most dockings were similar times we were only exploring places at the same times as everyone else. This meant the main attractions were relatively busy when we were there.


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We did manage to find some secluded beaches and see some of the sights but with a tight schedule not everything was possible!

My first cruise.
My thoughts on my first cruise experience.

When travelling I love to try the local food and drinks. I was quite disappointed that breakfast, lunch  and dinner on the ship were catered to English tastes and pretty bland at that! I missed having the evenings to explore local bars and restaurants and try the local cuisine.

Spending two weeks staying and sleeping on a boat eventually gave me cabin fever. I was glad to get home and sleep in my own bed which is unusual for me!

In conclusion I don’t think cruising is for me. You don’t get to really see  and explore the places that you visit fully and have to stick to tight schedules.

I think a cruise is a great for people who are immobile or have health problems, who don’t really want to spend the time planning their trips or just want to tick off countries/places quickly and easily.  For me I prefer getting to know and exploring my destinations a little more.

All that being said I’m glad my first cruise was around the Caribbean. I really enjoyed it here when on dry land. To be honest a cruise is the best way to see many Islands, inexpensively and in a short period of time. If I ever get back on a cruise ship again, it will probably be to see more of the Caribbean. Only it will not be for as long as two weeks, and maybe on a bigger ship!

Do you have any thoughts or experiences of cruising?

My year in review – 2015

My year in review 2015

Travelling and more – 2015 my year in review

My year in review 2015
My year in review 2015.

It’s been a while since I’ve published a new post so I thought I’d start with looking back at the past year and writing my year in review.
I have visited some amazing places and ticked off a whopping 11 new countries!  (Granted most of these are in the Caribbean). I also re-visited one of my favourite places in the world, Venice.
My blogging style has changed a little and any feedback, good or bad is welcome. I have plenty to write about in the next few months so please keep following!

It has been a year of ups and downs. Some amazing times but also some difficult ones.
I struggled for a while this year with anxiety and depression. It’s hard to admit sometimes that these things affect you and it took me a while to realise it wasn’t a sign of weakness but a sign I needed to slow down and look after myself.

I was lucky enough that during this time my wonderful husband arranged a last-minute break in Venice. A destination I absolutely adore. Visiting here helped me to relax and take time for myself. Wandering the beautiful streets and watching the world go by.  It wasn’t a cure by any means but it took me away from normal life and amongst other things has helped me along the way to improving my mental health.

My year in review
Beautiful Venice my year in review July 2015.

Venice wasn’t the first trip we took this year though. In March we headed to New York City, a surprise trip for the hubby’s birthday. Our first time in the city, in fact our first visit to America so there was plenty on the itinerary. Famous sights and iconic locations were all on the list but the craziest day was joining the party on St Patrick’s day! One of the biggest St Patrick’s day parades in the world it was a great experience.. and so was hitting the Irish bars afterwards!

My year in review
Celebrating in random borrowed attire in the Keg New York March 2015.

After Venice I didn’t have to wait long before my next break. In September I travelled to Riga in Latvia and was pleasantly surprised by the city. My favourite parts of the trip were touring the KGB museum, taking a bike tour around the lesser known parts of the city and of course trying the local beer.

My year in review 2015
Bike tour in Riga September 2015.

That brings me onto one of my favourite topics. Beer.. Now those who follow me on social media will know I post a ‘Happy Friday’ beer photo every week. I have been doing this for a while now and has become a regular feature for more than the last 12 months. In October 2015 this changed.. slightly. We discovered that we will be needing an extra ticket on our travels very soon as a mini-geek is expected in June. Sure enough the switch was made to non-alcoholic beers and now my mission is to find the best tasting alcohol free beer!

My year in review
Enjoying a beer on the way to Riga September 2015 – Happy Friday.

Needless to say this new addition to our family will change the ways we travel for a while but we are determined to keep discovering new places and make new memories.

After this life changing news there was nothing better than knowing I was going to spend the end of the year relaxing in the Caribbean. My first time on a cruise and my first time being away on Christmas day.  I will be writing about my experiences and my visits to many Caribbean Islands soon but my favourites were the tiny island of Bequia  and meeting Dolphins in St Kitts.

My year in review .
Meeting Dali the dolphin in St Kitts December 2015.

Well there we have it. That was a brief summary of my travel in 2015 with a couple of personal revelations mixed in for good measure.

2016 is going to be a busy year. With a new baby coming  I will be researching and sharing my findings about travel whilst pregnant and with kids. My next trip is in March where I will be travelling to Lithuania for a city break hop between Kaunas and Vilnius.

Thanks for reading. Happy Travels and Happy New Year wonderful people! 🙂

Stay tuned for new posts about the Caribbean.

Anniversary giveaway

My Anniversary giveaway!

To celebrate my blogs first anniversary I am giving away my ebook free to new  email subscribers this weekend.

Subscribe to email updates for free this weekend (Between 21st and 25th May 2015) and you will receive a free copy of my ebook ‘ A travel geeks little book of wanderlust’ 

I hope you continue to enjoy my posts and the book. 🙂

Anniversary giveaway Thanks for reading! Happy Travels!

After subscribing you will receive your link to the ebook on or just after 25th May