Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Culloden, Benromach Distillery and Cannich


One of the reasons for going to the Highlands was to visit Culloden Moor – the site of the battle that ended the Jacobite uprising of 1745. The battle of Culloden  Moor took place on April 16, 1746. It was the last battle to be fought on British soil.Culloden Moor

Culloden Moor 2

It was a bright, sunny day when we visited Culloden Moor. Perhaps it would have been more in keeping with the atmosphere of the place if the sky had been grey and the rain fell – but it wasn’t and it didn’t. Yet the sapphire blue sky did nothing to detract from the sombreness of the place.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Loch Ness, Inverness and a clootie well

Loch Ness

I was around 8 years old when I first heard about Nessie and Loch Ness in a book I was reading called ‘Greatest Mysteries’. To an eight-year old, the possibility of a primeval creature living in the dark waters of a loch in Scotland sounded like the perfect recipe for an adventure. I never made it to Loch Ness at an age when I still believed in the possibility of mythical creatures. Nonetheless, our visit in early September brought some type of closure to the whole mystery. Even without Nessie’s allure, Loch Ness is stunningly beautiful.
Loch Ness 2Loch Ness

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The road to Inverness: the Kelpies, Pitlochry and a beach in Nairn

Chessels Court
On our fourth day in Scotland we left our cute apartment in Chessels Court (that we called ‘the apartment with a heart’ on account of an ivy plant trimmed into the shape of a heart just outside the front door) and started our drive to  Inverness. About 15-20 minutes out of Edinburgh we came across the Kelpies. These 30 metre-high stainless steel horsehead sculptures loom over the motorway and are impossible to miss. We decided not to visit the park where they are located but stopped the car on the shoulder of the motorway to snap a few photos.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Edinburgh Day 3: Holyrood House, Holyrood Abbey and Mary King’s Close

The Palace of Holyrood House is the official residence of the Monarchy in Scotland. Before The kingdoms of England and Scotland were joined in 1603 by the accession to the throne of King James I of England and VI of Scotland, Holyrood House was the home of the Scottish royal family.
Palace of Holyrood House 1
Palace of Holyrood House 2Palace of Holyrood House 3
Holyrood House started off as an Augustinian Abbey in 1128. The oldest part of the palace, the north-west tower (on the left hand side of the photos below), dates back to 1501.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Edinburgh Day 2: Dean Village and New Town

Dean Village is a haven of tranquillity in the midst of a bustling city.It is within walking distance of Edinburgh’s New Town. Although we were staying further afield, a leisurely hour’s walk got us there without a problem.

Dean Village

Dean Village 6

Dean Village is situated along a river known as the Water of Leith. Due to the river’s strong currents the village was a successful grain milling area for more than 800 years. At one time there were eleven working mills in this part of Edinburgh. The village is low-lying and the arches of Dean Bridge span the river about 100 feet above it.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Edinburgh Day 1: Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle 2

Edinburgh Castle sits atop an extinct volcano at the highest point of the Royal Mile. For nine centuries it defended the city from its enemies, with the Scots taking full advantage of the unobstructed views that stretch for miles to the Firth of Forth and the distant hills to counter any potential attack.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Snapshots of Scotland

It was my dad who first instilled a love for Scotland in me. I was very young, not more than six, and he would hitch me up on his shoulders and march around our basement to the, sometimes uplifting and sometimes mournful, tunes of the pipes and drums of the Black Watch. Eventually, I started to immerse myself in Scottish history,reading about famous battles like Bannockburn and Culloden, and learning about the exploits of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace and Bonnie Prince Charlie and that most tragic of queens, Mary Stuart.
Scotland 7
So you see, visiting Scotland has been on my bucket list from an age before I even knew what a bucket list was and, now that I’ve visited, I should probably cross it off my list and move on. But something tells me that I have only just started exploring Scotland and that, before too long, I will return.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Malta in a Minute: Santo Spirito Hospital

Santo Spirito hospital, located in Rabat next to the Church of St Francis, was the first hospital on the island. It was already functioning in 1372. At the time, Mdina was Malta’s capital city and this hospital was just minutes away from its gates. When the Knights of St John established Valletta as Malta’s new capital city, they built two hospitals (one for men and the other for women) there. From then on, Santo Spirito served the rural central region, especially poor patients and foundlings.

Santo Spirito Hospital Rabat 2

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Rome’s Jewish ghetto

Rome’s Jewish ghetto came into being when Pope Paul IV ordered its construction in 1555. All the Jews living in Rome had to relocate to this small area – hemmed in between the River Tiber and Piazza Venezia - which was very prone to flooding. The ghetto was walled-in and accessed through two gates that were locked at night. The gates were eventually increased to eight and, at one point during the  16th century, 3500 people were crammed into the ghetto’s labyrinth of narrow streets and squalid buildings. Following the unification of Italy, all  Jews were granted Italian citizenship and the requirement for them to live in the ghetto came to an end in 1870. The walls of the ghetto were demolished in 1888, together with a large number of crowded, unsanitary buildings. The Synagogue of Rome and elegant apartment buildings were built instead.
Jewish Ghetto Rome 13

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Summertime, and the living is easy

Or so the song goes. I know there are many people who think that because we live on a sunny island we’re at the beach at all hours of the day. The reality is very different for all those who, like ne, need to be at the office for  8-9 hours every day. That really doesn’t leave much free time for fun and games. Every year I usually make a long list of plans for the summer months and usually end up disappointed and frustrated because very few, if any of them, actually come to fruition. So this year I have decided to err on the side of caution and have made no plans at all. No plans, except to live in the moment and embrace the slow-living concept that I have slowly been trying to adopt since the beginning of the year.
Various 044

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Malta in a Minute: The lighthouse at Delimara

Delimara lighthouse

The Delimara lighthouse is located at the southernmost tip of Malta. It was constructed by the British around 1856 and stayed in operation until 1990. The octagonal tower is 22m high. In recent years the building was restored by Din l-Art Helwaa non-profit organisation that was set up to safegaurd Malta’s heritage. The lighthouse-keeper’s accomodation has been transformed into two apartments that are available for short-term lets.

Thursday, 14 June 2018


It’s been 15 years since my husband and I were married. There are moments when it feels like a lifetime ago and others when it seems like yesterday. There are so many things that are hazy or that I have forgotten but other memories jump out at me like a jack-in-the-box – unexpected ones, seemingly silly things.
Our Wedding 051
I remember the heat; the blazing, skin-scorching, white-hot sun. I remember my mum waking me and my maid-of-honour up one hour too early (it was a morning wedding). I remember the look of surprise on the photographer’s face when I opened the front door for him myself. It seems I was an exception to the general rule as the bride usually kept him waiting. I remember how cool it felt inside the 500 year-old church and how soothing to the eyes the relative dimness was after the mid-morning glare.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A ‘thank you’ and some self-promotion

Some time ago Mary, from A Breath of Fresh Air, hosted a give-away, which I won. At the time, Mary was off to South America, more specifically Argentina and Patagonia and promised the winner of the give-away a little memento from her trip to these faraway lands.
I received her pretty package a few weeks ago but had not yet got round to saying thank you and sharing a few photos of the gifts she sent.
The tea-towel from Argentina, very appropriately, has scenes of a couple dancing the tango. I love seeing people dance the tango. I consider it to be one of the most expressive and beautiful dance forms in the world. The little pill-box is from Chile and will fit in very well with my small collection of pill-boxes that I had started collecting when I graduated as a pharmacist. As for the soap, it smells of a bouquet of roses, a scent I absolutely love. So, thank you, Mary. You truly sent me some pretty things that I will cherish.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Book Talk: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

The Shoemaker’s Wife was gifted to me by my mother-in-law and since I had not heard or read anything about  it I was not quite sure what to expect. I found the book to be an easy, pleasant read. The Shoemaker’s Wife is a love story but it doesn’t get overly saccharine and sentimental. The book recounts the story of Ciro and Enza, two teenagers living in different villages in the Italian Alps at the turn of the last century, who meet under tragic circumstances. Conditions are harsh in this part of Italy and life is fragile, yet love starts to blossom – until Ciro catches the parish priest of his village in a scandal and is abruptly shipped off to a very different life in America. When he gets there he is apprenticed to a shoemaker in New York’s Little Italy area. Some time later, Enza and her father also embark on a ship for New  York. Eventually, Ciro and Enzo’s paths meet again and they reunite but fate still manages to shake things up a bit.

Monday, 14 May 2018

A day trip to Windsor

So here we are, just five days to go before the Wedding of the Year takes place in Windsor. As anyone that’s even remotely interested knows by now, Prince Harry of Wales will marry American actress Meghan Markle this coming Saturday at Saint George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle. Windsor is an easy day-trip from London since the capital is only 21 miles away. The town’s main attraction is Windsor Castle – a favourite weekend retreat of the Queen and other members of the royal family. I am positive that during this coming week the number of visitors will increase to record proportions as hundreds of people prepare to line the streets of the town to watch the procession that will take place after the wedding service. More details of the royal wedding here. But what of Windsor itself? What is there to see and do?
Windsor Castle

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Rome in five days (Part 2)

This is part 2 of my suggestions on how to spend five days in Rome.
Day 3: Altare della Patria monument, Capitoline Museums, Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum
Our third day was the most exhausting and we must have walked miles even though the actual area we covered is comparatively small. We started our day by making a short stop at the Altare della Patria, or Victor Emmanuel monument (also known as the Vittoriano), for a few photos and then hurried up the stairs, known as the Cordonata, past the statues of Castor and Pollux, to Capitoline Hill. The present layout was designed by Michelangelo but this hill has been settled by humans since the Iron Age. Capitoline Hill is flanked by palaces on three sides: Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori, which house the Capitoline Museums, and Palazzo Senatorio, the city hall of Rome.
Altare della Patria (Victor Emmanuel Monument)

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Rome in five days (Part 1)

Seeing Rome in five days is extremely do-able because it is small enough to be explored on foot. Public transport (bus, tram or the metro) is an alternative and most stops are within easy access of the most well-known (and some less known)attractions. The best way to see Rome in five days it to divide it into sections and concentrate on one area at a time.
Below, I have reproduced Part 1 of the itinerary that we kept to  during our five-day stay (for once I actually kept to a sketchy plan that I had made). Since our hotel was located two minutes away from the Pantheon, we walked almost everywhere, except to the Vatican, San Pietro in Vincole and St. John in Lateran, but walking is an option that depends on where you are staying.
Day 1: St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Castel Sant’Angelo
Although it was in our plans, we did not make it to the Vatican museums as we arrived after the last admittance (3pm in winter) and I would advise anyone wishing to visit this vast collection to start early – you definitely need a day, not half a day like we had. Be warned that the security line to enter St Peter’s is extremely long - we were waiting for 90 minutes. I read somewhere that anyone that visits the museums can skip the security line but I cannot verify this.
St Peter’s basilica is enormous and purposefully overwhelming. Michelangelo’s spectacular dome and his exquisitely sculpted Pieta’ are, by themselves, worth the 90-minute wait. As you exit the basilica and walk down the stairs to the square, be sure to take a peek at  the colourfully-dressed Swiss guards; we were lucky to be on time to witness the changing of the guard. Also on this side of the square is a Vatican City post office – the smallest independent state in the world. You can pop in to mail some postcards to which you will stick Vatican City stamps and which will bear the Vatican City postmark. It’s pretty neat and we ended up sending one of the postcards to ourselves.
St Peter's Basilica

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Malta in a Minute: The Splendid

Malta in a Minute is a series of posts featuring a photo taken here or there, of this or that, with a short explanation about the subject matter. It’s a bit like Instagram-on-a-blog and, I promise, will not take more than a minute to read.


This is the doorstep of the former Splendid Hotel in Valletta. Located in the notorious red light district known as ‘the gut’, The Splendid started life as a brothel and was the scene of the brutal murder of an escort that took place in one of the upstairs bathrooms. It is now said to be haunted.

The Splendid Hotel, 74 Strait Street, Valletta

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Rome: a life-long love affair

How does one even start to define a love affair? According to most dictionaries, apart from its romantic connotations, a love affair is also an intense liking for an activity or place. But intense liking does not quite encompass the myriad feelings that engulf me whenever I walk through the cobbled streets of the Eternal City – a mixture of awe, curiosity, anticipation, nostalgia, happiness, excitement – the exact emotions we feel during a love affair.
Rome, Piazza della Rotonda

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Malta off the beaten trail: From the Congreve Memorial to the arch at tal-Hamrija

Malta Off the Beaten Trail is a series of articles about the less accessible areas of the island for which a sturdy pair of walking shoes and a degree of physical fitness is usually necessary.
It all started when the Azure Window collapsed into the sea and I realised that our son, who had seen the Grand Tetons, had never visited one of the most-photographed places on the Maltese islands. I knew then that we could not take the natural wonders around us for granted any longer and needed to get off the couch and start exploring. In the absence of the much more famous Azure Window, the arch at tal-Hamrija seemed a natural, if smaller, next-best choice.
Getting to the Congreve Memorial is fairly easy, it’s a downhill walk along a paved path that is accessed by taking a left at the Hagar Qim Temple Complex carpark towards the Mnajdra temples. (Since this route by-passes both temples, there is no need to pay an entrance fee.) A few metres before the path ends at the Mnajdra temples, an unpaved path through the garigue veers left. Take this path and make your way over the rocks and patches of soil, paying attention to the vegetation as it is mostly protected, to the Congreve Memorial.
Congreve Memorial
The Congreve Memorial is dedicated to a former Governor of Malta, Sir Walter Congreve. During his life, Sir Walter developed a deep affection for Malta and its people and his wish was to be buried at sea between Malta and the tiny islet of Filfla. After his death in 1927, his request was granted and a memorial in his honour was erected in this spot.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Things I’m looking forward to in March

March has made its debut and it will bring with it longer daylight hours and warm breezes. For those who love summer, March is a promise that the crazy season is on its way. It is a month that fills me with bursts of unexpected energy, fuelled by the sudden fierce winds that will send clouds scudding crazily across the sky.  Truth be told, March is one of my favourite months and I always make sure that there are some things for me to look forward to:
  • Our trip to Rome.
Rome is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world and I’ve already visited 4 times, the last time being in 2003 for our honeymoon. This is the longest time between visits and I can’t believe that 15 years have passed since my feet last walked on the cobbled streets of the Eternal City. Hopefully, we will pack as much sightseeing as we can during our 5 day visit, which is why I am always on the look-out for insider’s tips and Natalie Kennedy’s blog An American in Rome is a wonderful resource for all sorts of information about the City on Seven Hills.
Malta & Italy 2003 082

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Kitchen tales: Cranberry orange cookies

When it comes to desserts, my husband and I are complete opposites: he likes to have fruit in his while I am of the opinion that it’s not worth the calories unless there’s chocolate in it. So when I came across a recipe for Cranberry Orange Cookies from Fake Ginger I knew I had to make them for him.
These Cranberry Orange Cookies are so easy to put together that they are perfect for making with kids or grandkids. They are a great combination of sweetness from the cranberries with a zingy undertone from the orange peel. They were a hit the first time I made them and had to make them twice after that. The great thing about them is that they keep for up to ten days (less if the weather is hot) and are perfect for Christmas (although it’s a bit too early to start thinking about that). In reality, they can be enjoyed at any time of the year. They are a softer type of cookie but since the cookie dough is rolled in a mixture of sugar and orange zest before baking, they have a slight crunch but are definitely not a hard type of cookie. I would define them as soft and crunchy.
Orange cranberry cookies

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Valletta: Five more quirky facts

As promised last month, I am back with 5 more quirky facts about Valletta. If you missed the first five, you  may find them here.
Quirky fact number 6: It has a street that used to be known as ‘The Gut’
‘The Gut’ is a nickname given by British servicemen to Strait Street (Strada Stretta). At not more than 4 metres wide, Strait Street is the narrowest street in Valletta and is said to have been built so narrow so that a part of it would be in the shade at all times. During the British era, Strait Street gained notoriety as bars, dance halls and brothels sprouted next to each other and brawls, prostitution and drunkenness were the order of the day (and night).

Monday, 5 February 2018

Book Talk: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah’s Key recounts the story of Sarah Starzinsky, a Jewish girl living in Paris with her parents and younger brother during the war. In every other chapter in the first half of the book the story takes us to Paris in 2002, where we follow along as American journalist Julia Jarmond researches the notorious Vel d’Hiv roundups in the run-up to the 60th anniversary commemoration of the event. The Vel d’Hiv arrests had been swept under the carpet by all the French governments since the war, until Jacques Chirac publicly addressed this black mark on France’s history in 1995 (full speech here).
Eventually we find out that the link between Sarah and Julia is an apartment on rue de Saintogne, in the Marais quarter of Paris, and the horrific events that took place there in the summer of 1942.
Sarah’s Key, like most books, has its flaws but it’s not my intention to be an armchair critic as the aim of this article is not to dissect its style and content. If I have one complaint it is that I wish Sarah’s character, and the harrowing experiences she was subjected to at such a tender age, could have been developed better by providing a bit more insight into the psychological trauma that she was going through.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Malta off the beaten trail: Fomm ir-Rih

Most people translate Fomm ir-Rih to ‘the mouth of the wind’. The translation is grammatically correct (fomm is mouth and rih is wind in Maltese) but I think it’s one of those names that cannot be translated literally as it loses its true meaning. So I would prefer to change the translation to ‘the breath of the wind’. You only need to visit this secluded bay to see why – a breeze always seems to be blowing here - even during the worst of the dog days of summer. Fomm ir-Rih (4)

Monday, 22 January 2018

The art of slow living

Over the past few years, the internet has been inundated with articles and websites dedicated to the art of slow living. Slow living is described as
“a lifestyle emphasizing slower approaches to everyday life”.
It is a way of life being adopted by many people as a counter-response to all the technology that surrounds us. I’ll be honest that I have grown so accustomed to clicking a few buttons and getting an answer, connecting with people without actually meeting them, looking at the 1000 best images of the Taj Mahal or the Great Barrier Reef or whatever, that I am starting to lose one important human trait: patience (and mine was already in short supply). If an app or a website takes a few milliseconds longer than usual to load, then frustration takes over almost immediately. It is quite frightening to what extent we are relying on technology of one type or another.
Gnejna Bay

Monday, 15 January 2018

Valletta: Five quirky facts

When the foundation stone of Valletta was laid in 1566, quirkiness was the last thing on people’s minds. Just months before, the Knights of the Order of St. John, who were the rulers of Malta, had defeated the army of the Ottoman Empire after a bloody 3-month siege. In the aftermath, Grand Master Jean de Vallette and his Council concluded that a fortified city needed to be built on the peninsula at the mouth of the harbour where their ships and galleons were berthed. And so, Valletta was born and, with time, it gained its own particular character and quirks that are now part and parcel of this unique city.
Valletta collage

Monday, 8 January 2018

Hello 2018. New year. New blog.

A new year always seems to creep up on me and 2018 is no exception. Just when I was getting used to the idea of 2017, bang, we’re in 2018 and I don’t quite know what to say about it except that it happened very quickly. But I will not think about that.
Instead I want to welcome you to my new blog. I hope you like my new digs. It took me close to a year to make the decision to stop writing at Stories and Scribbles. The reasons for the change are varied but, mainly, I felt that I needed a fresh start. I also wanted to make some major layout changes but I had no idea how to go about it without creating an unreadable mess. So, a new slate seemed like the safest bet. With that said, I am not taking down my previous two sites. You can access Stories and Scribbles and Snapshots of an Island from the About Me tab at the top of this page. I think that, in some ways, this blog will be an amalgamation of both but, in others, it is going to be completely different.
Dingli cliffs sunset

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Sincerely, Loree. Theme by STS.