I unexpectedly managed to squeeze in another three and a half / four days off in the middle of my roster. All my friends were away on leave and I didn’t have enough time to join them on their travels, and it wasn’t really enough time to squeeze in a trip home. I decided to be brave and head away on a solo adventure. I have NEVER been away on my own, I’ve explored on layovers by myself but this is a little different. There are so many places I want to visit and take advantage of the close location to Dubai AND the cheap flights, so I started researching a cheap and safe city break for solo travel that I could tick off my bucket list and just spend a couple nights there.
I ended up deciding on Tbilisi in Georgia. It’s a destination I knew nothing of before joining Emirates but since then numerous crew have posted on their trips there and it really looked like a beautiful and budget friendly destination to visit that was something up my street. Even better still, our sister Airline, Fly Dubai, fly direct to Tbilisi twice a day and it was just a short three hour flight away. Seemed like the perfect choice, right?
Departing Dubai at 1:45am, it was a quick and easy three hour flight heading North West to the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Another added bonus was that it’s on the same time zone as Dubai, so there wouldn’t be any jet leg added! Landing in the early hours at 4:45am, I thanked the crew who seriously looked after me like I was one of their own!
Side note, being cabin crew is like being one big happy family, regardless of airline. When you have crew members travelling on staff travel we always go above and beyond for each other. Additionally, you can always usually tell who’s cabin crew so it makes for easier identification. They made my flight comfortable and fed me, and kept me entertained seeing as though I couldn’t sleep. So thank you so much Fly Dubai for being so warming and welcoming to me!
After I made my way through immigration and collected my case, I sorted out a Georgian sim card so I wouldn’t be completely disconnected as I wandered solo, and took the bus across to my hotel.
The hotel was great and they let me check in early and I had a nap for two hours as I didn’t manage a wink of sleep on the flight before I got up and ventured into the city. I had a full itinerary planned and walked to the nearest metro station and headed in the direction of Rustaveli Avenue.
Rustaveli Avenue is the Main Street in Tbilisi and is filled with shops, restaurants, cafe’s, bars, hotels. You name it, it’s there. As you wander down the long avenue, you can admire the wonderful architecture of the government buildings. I strolled along in the sunshine admiring the view before I got to Freedom Square.
My next stop of my morning was to wander through the old town and see the view that Tbilisi is most known for. As I walked through the tiny winding lanes, the sides of the streets were filled with locals selling churchkhela or more commonly referred to as “Georgian Snickers”. They’re made by repeatedly dipping a string of nuts, quite commonly walnuts as they use this in everything, in concentrated fresh grape juice which creates what looks like a weird sausage but tastes like a more healthy snickers. If I’m honest I was expecting a bit more from them, but I didn’t have the guilt of a snickers bar and were still tasty.
The thing I liked about Tbilisi is that you never knew what you were going to get next. Wandering down the rustic old streets, I then passed a church which had the sound of monks playing so loudly, before taking a turn down a street that looked like it belonged in Paris.
From here I had a gorgeous view of all the coloured houses with the cable car heading up to the Narikala Fortress. Instead of taking the cable car up, I decided to walk. It’s really quite a steep incline and a lot of steps including the ones at the fortress, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes.
The views behind me were amazing, and the further up I walked the more it started to resemble Lisbon, Portugal with all the red tiled roofs! Trees were coming into bloom and it looked so picturesque as people sat drinking coffees in outdoor cafes.
I powered through til I hit the top of the fortress before clambering up the rugged terrain to reach the peak of the hillside. It boasted a glorious view and I sat here for about thirty minutes taking in the view in this country I was ticking off.
Venturing down my stomach was beginning to rumble and I headed back through the old town in search of Georgian cuisine. I passed down a street called Erkle ll Street (really recommend wandering down here if you visit Tbilisi) which was a bustling yet charming side street filled with an abundance of restaurants serving Georgian cuisine. Finding a table in the sunshine I ordered a glass of Georgian wine (only £1.40 for a large glass) before deciding on some Khachpuri and Khinkhali.
Both dishes arrived and smelt divine. The khachpuri is a traditional dish made of sourdough bread shaped into an open shaped boat, it is then filled with different cheeses and spices and lined with garlic butter which they bake until piping hot. Once ready, an egg will be cracked into the top before being served to you. As the cheese is so hot from the oven, the egg begins to cook and you can swirl it in for the ultimate carby feast.
The khinkhali are very similar to a Taiwanese favourite of mine Xaoi Long Bao. They’re a soup filled meat dumpling but with a little thicker dough and I had mine served with chimichuri for a spicier kick.
The food was amazing, and I could have kept eating until I could eat no more. Finishing lunch with a hot cup of tea to warm up a little, I paid the restaurant and continued my day of exploration.
Next up was visiting the funicular. This old train heads up to a theme park that sits atop the mountain side. It has fabulous views over the city where you can see the mountains and the river winding through Tbilisi.
It also has a restaurant on top for panoramic views. I can imagine in summer it to get incredibly busy up here, but it had quite an oddly eerie feel being pretty empty in the chilled spring air. There’s something quite spooky about an empty theme park, ins’t there?
Back down at the bottom, I decided to venture back towards the hotel, not before stopping at Rooms Hotel to check out their hotel bar whilst I had a long skype with my Mum. I had done a LOT of walking and after little sleep and a very busy day, I quickly stopped for dinner in a restaurant near my hotel that had rave reviews on Trip Advisor called The Shadow of Metehki. I can see why too.
A very fancy restaurant but moderately priced too. With floor to ceiling glass windows along the back of the restaurant, it had a gorgeous wooden veranda that had the perfect view across the river back towards to Old Tibilisi to watch the sunset. In summer, I bet this restaurant is packed out. I ordered another glass of Georgian wine (its rude not to when its so cheap) and ordered more khinkhali and a mushroom side dish. Struggling to stay awake I went back to my hotel and fell straight to sleep.
The next morning I had a tour booked, however, it seems myself and booked tours are not agreeing at the moment. After my issues in Auckland, I made sure I double and tripped checked the location of pickup, the time of pick up, and confirmed this over email with the tour operator. I was to be near a metro station a twenty minute walk from my hotel (despite the tour being advertised as hotel pick up) which I made sure I got there twenty minutes early, as I really HATE being late. And I also did not wanna cause a delay to a group of people I was spending the next thirteen hours with. However, when at 8:20am I still hadn’t heard or seen anyone, I messaged the tour operator who told me that the pick up was actually now at 9am, despite confirming with me the day before it was 8am. At this point I’d been stood outside in the cold for forty minutes and starting to shiver. When I was finally contacted again, I was told I was going to be picked up in a car which I would be later sharing with three others. Red flags started to show and not only did I now not trust this company, but even if this was legit, I did not want to spend thirteen hours of my day in a full car with people I was unfamiliar with. So I cancelled and went back to the hotel for breakfast and to plan what I was going to do with the rest of my last day! I was sad to not venture out of Tbilisi and see the sights I wanted to see, but my safety is paramount and I was SO cold I actually laid in bed for two hours after breakfast trying to warm up!
A little later I decided to take the long (ish) walk across to the city from my hotel to better see the place.
I spent the entire late morning, early afternoon just wandering around the city wherever I pleased. I’d seen a restaurant recommendation online too that I had wanted to try and walked slowly over to Café Stamba. There were still a few Georgian dishes I wanted to try out, and when the total of all three dishes only came to £9, I thought I would order them all.
I ordered the chakhokbili which was a chicken dish in a tomato stew with purple basil, the rachvelian lobiani which is a red bean and bacon stuffed bread and a side of zuchinni with chimichurri. The food was incredible, I am a serious fan of Georgian cuisine which is the perfect blend between Asian and European due to their geographical location.
Across the road was a fab little bar called Lolita which is actually an outdoor bar, but is completely encloses away from the road. It’s filled with overhead heaters and got pretty busy in here with what I assume was people coming in for post work drinks. It was a picturesque bar and had a great food menu too. I went for a warming mug of mulled wine before the long walk back to the hotel.
A pretty mellow final day, but one filled with food and drinks that I seriously enjoyed. I stocked up on Georgian wine to bring back to Dubai with me, not before smashing an entire bottle of red in the shop and all over me. Talk about EMBARRASSING.
Tbilisi is a great city break destination that also boasts so much nature and activities. Whether you’re wanting to wander around a beautiful city, head wine tasting, venture up into the mountains where you can even ski in the winter, there’s something for everyone here, and I really do think I will be back here at some point in the future to further explore more. Not only that, it is SO cheap. I was paying very little for food and drinks, and my hotel didn’t cost very much either! For a holiday on a budget, Tbilisi ticks all the boxes and I know there are direct flights to Tbilisi from London. What a great place to tick off country 67.
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