Mdina, Malta is a walled, hilltop town on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, which stood as the capital of Malta until the Medieval period. Mdina is commonly known as the “Silent City,” its a UNESCO site, and Mdina is a hugely popular tourist destination in Malta. More importantly, its also Kings Landing from the first season of Game of Thrones!!!!
Prior to planning our trip to Egypt, I hardly knew anything about Abu Simbel. Yes, I had heard of it and I *kind of* knew what it looked like, but nothing more. At all. But, as soon as I dug into Abu Simbel, a visit was absolutely non-negotiable. Planning this “must do” activity turned out to be more work than anticipated, as its a flight from Cairo or Luxor or 6-hour round trip drive from Aswan! In any case, we worked it out and it was one of both Dan and my favorite activities in Egypt, rivaling even the pyramids!
Dan and I were very interested in trying Egyptian food, so in planning our trip to Cairo, we booked a food tour shortly after we booked our flights! For any foodies planning a trip to Cairo, this is a GREAT idea (especially if you are not Egyptian and/or don’t speak Arabic) because it allows you to try really local food from vendors who may not speak English and see the heart of old Cairo (which can be quite overwhelming!). Its also a good idea if you are taking a Nile River cruise, because the food on those cruises is usually not Egyptian!
Being so close to Italy, Italy heavily influences Malta’s cuisine. Pasta, cannoli, and pizza are everywhere in Malta, and we ate a lot of it. However, I kept thinking that it was just not as good as Italian food; a second best so to speak. However, when we dined at Sotto Pizzeria, I was completely blown away and had, by far, the best meal of the entire trip!
Sotto Pizzeria is located in Malta’s capital, Valletta, in a nondescript basement with only a small sign announcing the restaurant.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Dan and I checked off a big bucket list item earlier this year – visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt!! It was truly a 10-year in the making trip (due to safety concerns), and we loved every minute of our holiday! So much, in fact, that we are planning to go back in a couple years when the Great Egyptian Museum finally opens! While everything was fantastic, I was shocked at how difficult it is to find information about visiting the Pyramids, and Egypt generally, online; it was really tough! I put together this guide to help future travelers cut down on the planning stress! Note, this information is as of 2019. Definitely check for updates and more recent information in the future, as Egypt’s tourism industry is only moving forward!
En route back from Malta, Dan and had a little over three hours to kill in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 before flying back to New York via Virgin Atlantic. Since we flew economy class, we had two options for airport lounges via Priority Pass – the Aspire Lounge and the No. 1 Lounge. Since we had visited the Aspire Lounge (albeit in Terminal 5) previously, we decided to check out the No. 1 Lounge this time, as it was new and it gets pretty good reviews.
The No. 1 Lounge is part of a chain of lounges in the UK. The public can buy access to the lounge for 40 Pounds, and the No. 1 Lounge also accepts Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, Diners Club, and Wexas, and acts as a lounge for certain carriers. As such, it can definitely fill up and lock out Priority Pass members. To avoid this, the No. 1 Lounge offers an option for Priority Pass members to purchase guaranteed access for 5 Pounds/person. We did purchase this option, but it ended up being unnecessary.
The No. 1 Lounge is located post-security on the second floor of Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport, just next to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and very close to other airline lounges. It was easy enough to find, just follow signs for airport lounges and don’t get distracted in crazy Terminal 3! There is an elevator and stairs to access the lounge. Entrance was quick and easy with our Priority Pass, and there were no restrictions for entry at 11 AM on a Sunday morning in June.
Upon arrival, you are given a menu with hot meal choices for the day, a bit of general information on the lounge, and the wifi password.
Upon entry, the No. 1 Lounge is quite large with decent airport views (the exact same as the Virgin Clubhouse, only 1 floor higher). Just past checkin is a pretty large bar with bar stool seating. Just past the bar is a small buffet and coffee area with table seating.
Moving around the corner from the buffet area, there is a lot of seating, both nice sofa like chairs, tables, and seating overlooking the runway. While there was a lot of seating, it was pretty crowded. In addition to this area, there are a few private rooms that can apparently be rented out for private groups (or possibly airlines). We ended up in one of these rooms at a large table just in front or a large TV playing BBC. These small side rooms also had small fridges with soda and water.
Since we had limited time in the lounge, we decided to order hot food as soon as we sat down. Dan took our two menus to the bar, where all orders are placed, and placed our orders. The way the hot food works is that your menu is a ticket for one meal. We just missed breakfast, so I ordered the truffle mac and cheese and Dan ordered the bacon sandwich. Our food came out about 15 minutes later and both were quite delicious!! My only complaint is that the dishes were a little small… But we ended up lucking out and our neighbor gave us his menu (he was not eating) and we ordered a third fish wrap, which was served with potato chips and was SO good!! We were definitely plenty full at this point!
Aside from order from the menu, which is a really fun option in an airport lounge, we also visited the little buffet area. We visited just as the lunch portion was going out. When we visited, the buffet consisted of a hot soup, a beet salad, a small lettuce salad with some vegetables, fresh fruit (whole apples, oranges, etc.), and some nuts and dried fruit. The nearby coffee bar doubled as a dessert bar and offered cookies and a couple different types of tea cakes. The desserts were really good and the buffet food was high quality, but I was looking for something a little more unhealthy on my last day of vacation….
While the hot food is understandably limited at the No. 1 Lounge, the drinks (well most) are free flowing (unlike the Aspire lounge). At the No. 1 Lounge, all alcohol beverages come from the main bar, and there are a lot of options. Seriously, Prosecco, numerous types of red and white wines, draft and bottled beer, and cider. There is also Champagne available for purchase. Between Dan and me, we tried the Prosecco, cider, and the Spanish Rioja red wine. I do not recall the brand of wine, but the Spanish Rioja was an excellent wine for a Priority Pass airline lounge.
In addition to alcohol drinks, the No. 1 Lounge offers complimentary bottles of flat and sparkling wine, a variety of sodas, juice, and a large coffee machine making all of the standard espresso beverages. These drinks are all unlimited and are self-serve via several small fridges spread out throughout the lounge.
The No. 1 Lounge has in lounge lavatories, which were clean and large enough to change and freshen up. The No. 1 Lounge also offers showers for 15 Pounds, nap pods for 20 Pounds, and apparently spa services! We did not use these features, nor did I see anyone else using them, but they apparently exist…
All in all, the No. 1 Lounge was a good lounge, and I think that I liked it better than the Aspire Lounge, but only slightly.
STEAL OUR LOUNGE
No. 1 Lounge Heathrow: Post-security in London Heathrow Terminal 3. Follow signs for Lounge F access. Directly above the Virgin Clubhouse. Open daily 4:30 – 22:30. From 34 Pounds in advance, 40 Pounds at the door. Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, Diners Club, and Wexas members have complimentary access. Showers are 10 Pounds extra for patrons with complimentary access. Pass members can also guaranty entrance for 5 Pounds per person online in advance.
As part of our Egypt itinerary in April 2019, Dan and I took a Nile River cruise with Emo Tours Egypt. While we are not cruisers at all (having only cruised once previously), we choose a Nile River cruise because it seemed like the easiest and quickest way to get between Luxor and Aswan, while seeing the sites in between. We very, very much enjoyed our cruise and cruising the Nile is SO GORGEOUS. But, there were certainly some things that surprised us about the cruise, probably because there is not a lot of information online about these cruises except “rah rah, you have to do it!” So, here is my complete review and guide of our cruise down the Nile River!
PROS: Easy way to get from Luxor to Aswan while seeing some sites in between, cruising down the Nile is amazing, generally safe and comfortable, Emo Tours Egypt tour guide was fantastic!
CONS: The food, limited activities on the ship, limited interaction with Egyptian culture.
Ah, Egypt! Dan and I spent 10 days in Egypt in April 2019, and we had the best time! By way of background, we have been wanting to go to Egypt for a long time, since 2008 to be exact, and we almost went in 2010, but opted for Turkey instead. Big mistake. The Egyptian Revolution happened in early 2011, and we have viewed Egypt as a bit too unsafe for Western tourists (or at least us) since. Last year, though, we started reading travel and news articles indicating that Egypt was once again safe. Soooo, we decided to go for it and booked tickets!
Spoiler alert, we had a FABULOUS time and already want to go back (but will wait until the new museum opens in Giza!). The ancient Egyptian monuments are more amazing than imaginable, and we really enjoyed the culture, food, and hospitality! If you have been thinking of booking a trip to Egypt, now is a great time to go and here is information for your booking based on our time there!
If you follow me or Dan on Instagram, you know that we FINALLY made it to Egypt earlier this year, visiting Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, via a Nile River cruise between Luxor and Cairo. I will be posting about our trip and my tips and tricks shortly but, for now, here are some of my favorite pictures of this beautiful country (which you should ALL visit!)!
Dan and my friend, Hugh, is in the wine industry, so when we were in Rome, he sent us over a few dinner/wine bar recommendations to try while we were in town! Usually I am a little picky about people’s restaurant or wine recommendations, but this guy knows his stuff and introduced us to Portuguese wine, which led to our wedding in Portugal! Enter L’Angolo Divino, a wine bar near Campo de’ Fiori, which was definitely our hang out spot when we studied in Rome…. We called and made a reservation same day (and probably did not need a reservation).
Despite it being late December in Rome, we walked to dinner (it was mid 50s F!) and were promptly seated at a cute table next to a window overlooking the street. The restaurant is quite small and when we visited, all of the patrons seemed to be tourists. This was a bit unsettling, but it turned out great.