A day in Valletta and the Three Cities, Malta

A day in Valletta and the Three Cities, Malta | PACK THE SUITCASES

We spent our first day in Malta exploring Valletta and Birgu, one of the Three Cities, just wandering round to get a taste for the place and taking a ridiculous amount of photos. Valletta – a honey-coloured fortress city full of Baroque architecture – is the capital of Malta. The Three Cities is an area of, unsurprisingly, three cities built in very close proximity to each other around the Grand Harbour. The Three Cities is just over the water from Valletta so it’s ideal to see both in a day – we only went to Birgu, but you could easily do the other two as well.

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5 train-themed things to do in Japan for railfans and train geeks

Five things to do in Japan for railfans | PACK THE SUITCASES

Japan’s trains are a cut above anywhere else in the world. No one in Japan has ever been reduced to tears by the words ‘rail replacement bus service.’ Because of this, they’ve become quite a cult thing to obsess over and Japan is an absolute goldmine of brilliant and hilarious train-based stuff. I knew I’d have to write up my top things to do in Japan for railfans, and I’ve not even scratched the surface yet.

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How to watch sumo in Tokyo, Japan

Watching sumo in Tokyo, Japan | PACK THE SUITCASES

Watching sumo in Tokyo was not on our ‘must-do’ list of things for our first trip to Japan back in 2015. We didn’t really know anything about it and it seemed a bit weird and didn’t interest us. But we did it anyway and LOVED it. For our second trip, in January this year, we knew we wanted to go again. And after that, we seem to have become actual sumo fans. Who’d have thought it?

So we thought we’d share what it’s like going to watch it for the day and some useful things you need to know before you go.

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20 unique things to do in Tokyo, Japan

20 unique things to do in Tokyo, Japan | PACK THE SUITCASES

Here’s my selection of 20 unique things to do in Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo is vast and ever-changing. It has been done to death on travel blogs and in guidebooks but you can never quite capture it. For that reason, I didn’t want to write down what we think you ‘shouldn’t miss’ or ‘must see’ places. But here are 20 things I really enjoyed on my last two visits that aren’t your generic big sights.

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Tokyo off the beaten path: exploring Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Kichijōji

Tokyo off the beaten path: Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Kichijōji | PACK THE SUITCASES

We’re lucky enough to have friends in Tokyo, so we try to stay near where they live in Ogikubo. This gives us a unique insight into local life there every time we visit. Here’s a brief summary of things we love about Tokyo off the beaten track. It covers: Kōenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Kichijōji. This area is basically a western section of the Chūō-Sōbu line: one of the most crowded commuter train lines in Japan (which is really saying something).

If you want to visit somewhere in Tokyo without the tourists, where normal people live, and where the huge 20-storey buildings give way to low-rise winding streets, this area is perfect.

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Funchal, Madeira travel guide: things to do, see and eat

Funchal, Madeira travel guide: things to do, see and eat | PACK THE SUITCASES

I’ve been meaning to write this for ages: my ultimate Funchal, Madeira travel guide. Madeira is a gorgeous island in Portugal and Funchal is its much-underrated capital. It’s one of the few places I keep returning to year after year. I first went for guaranteed winter sun in February and I’ve been back not just for the sun, but for the beautiful scenery, culture and food.

Funchal as a city is amazing and probably not at all what you’d expect. Sweeping boulevards, a harbour to stroll down, flowers everywhere. What more do you want? An airport that you land in over the sea and feel like you’re about to die? Got that covered, too.

It’s also deceptively large – almost an optical illusion, in that you can think something is fairly close by but actually takes ages to walk to because of the steep roads. It’s got some of the prettiest architecture I’ve seen, but never feels built up because you can always see the sea.

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