Marvellous Malta

We have just got home from a fantastic break in Malta. Regular readers will know that this was something of a last minute trip designed to chase away the new year blues, and it really did, while we were there at least. I’m feeling somewhat dazed to be back actually. Why is it that travelling makes you so tired? This morning we were picked up by a taxi right outside our front door for a twenty minute journey to Luqa airport, then we sat on a plane for three and a bit hours to Birmingham where we were whisked home by my Dad. Doesn’t sound overly taxing, does it, but gosh my eyelids are feeling heavy. It’s all worth it though.

Where do I start? At the beginning I guess. It doesn’t seem like it was only Wednesday that we headed off up the M42 to East Midlands airport, but I’ve checked and double checked, and it was! The flight out, considering it was Ryanair (you can read about my opinion of Ryanair here) was actually very relaxing. Hubby and I were sat twenty two rows apart because of said airline’s policy of trying to force you to pay to sit together. We even boarded at different ends of the plane! I took this photo from the top of the front steps, of hubby waiting to board at the back!

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Once on board, we both had three seats to ourselves. We could have moved, but it made a pleasant change to have plenty of room and meant we both got a window seat, so we didn’t bother. I was quite content with my crochet and episodes of the Crown that I’d downloaded from Netflix. The time flew by (pun entirely intended!)

We arrived a few minutes early and got straight through customs and met our pre-arranged taxi driver who took us to our little studio apartment. It actually rained most of the way there, but had stopped by the time we arrived and we didn’t see more than a couple of specks of rain for the rest of our trip.

We booked our accommodation through Airbnb and it didn’t disappoint. It was, I assume, a house converted into separate apartments and we were on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the road. We had a decent sized kitchen, a very modern bathroom and a living room with the sleeping section off it.

The tiled floor was amazing.

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We did partake of a few alcoholic beverages (well we were on our holibobs!) but I wouldn’t want to tackle the stairs up to the apartment after too many!

On day one of our holiday we broadly followed a walking tour of Valletta that was in our guide book.

We strolled past the Triton Fountain to enter Valletta …

… and started to wander down Republic Street.

Our first port of call was the National Museum of Archeology. This was really interesting and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Valletta. It really put the island into context. The oldest artefacts displayed date back to 4000BC! That’s really REALLY old.

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I’m always amazed that ancient civilisations created items such as this that are more decorative than essential to staying alive (although I guess they may have felt they were essential in keeping them safe from external forces). In the words of Dr. Ross Geller they had concerns such as ‘gee that glacier’s getting close’. That’s not the right time period, but you get my point. I love the fact that there’s proof that humankind has always been creative.

After this we went into St. John’s Co-Cathedral. I’m not sure what a co-cathedral is – I’ll have to google it – but blimey this one’s impressive! It’s full of gold!

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The floor is completely covered by three hundred and seventy five tombstones, underneath which the Knights of Saint John (rulers of Malta from the sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century) are buried.

We took the opportunity to go up some circular stairs to a viewing gallery where we got a stunning view of the ceiling of the Co-Cathedral.

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We carried on away from the main touristy parts of Valletta taking our time and wandering down what looked like residential streets. Everywhere in Valletta is beautiful. I’d describe it as dilapidated chic. There’s paint peeling off walls, weeds sprouting up between cracked paving stones and rusty balconies, but it all adds to the charm.

Eventually we ended up on what I guess is a peninsular. There were fabulous views of Vittoriosa, one of the Three Cities, over the sea.

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We watched the Malta Experience here, which is advertised as a light show, but it’s actually a series of photos on a big screen. It was a really interesting whistlestop tour of Malta’s history and I’m really glad we watched it. We got a combined ticket for this and the War Museum. I don’t think we did the War Museum justice – we were a bit museumed out by this point, and I was starting to get hangry! I don’t think we missed out because the exhibits basically told the same story that we’d just watched in the Malta Experience.

On day two, after an epic sleep, we caught a local bus to Mdina, the old Capital. First we went to St. Paul’s Catacombs, a network of underground tombs dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries.

If anywhere’s going to be haunted, this place is it! It’s quite eerie down there, especially as, being out of season, we were often the only ones down there (or were we?!)

You can see how much smaller people were by the size of each resting place, and it was very sad to see how many baby sized plots there were. Indicative of the time, I guess.

We strolled over to Mdina Gate after this and entered the city. It’s very atmospheric and very beautiful. The King’s Landing scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed here, and as fans of the show, we could really imagine Cersei or Tyrian appearing round every corner. I was so busy looking at everything that I completely forgot to take photos around the streets!

We went for lunch at Fontanella Tea Garden which has a roof terrace with stunning views.

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This was complemented by the most amazing cocktail called a Bric Royale.

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I’m not a hundred percent sure what was in it, but I think it was some combination of pomegranate liqueur and rose wine and I’m fully intending to acquire both and do some experimenting!

Unfortunately I made a poor choice for lunch and was still hungry so I took this as a perfect opportunity to find another lovely cafe to have some cake and an Aperol Spritz!

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On our last day we decided to make use of the hop on hop off bus. There are two routes you can take, north or south, and we chose south.

On our way down to the Valletta Waterfront to catch the bus, we happened upon this little fella who seemed reasonably happy to pose for photos.

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The bus went through Vittoriosa which looked really pretty …

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… but we continued on the bus until we arrived at Marsaxlokk. This is a really pretty fishing village and we loved it! There’s not a lot to do here, but we really enjoyed  having some lunch gazing out to sea and then strolling along the front in the sun, looking at the little boats.

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We carried on round the route on the bus until we got to the Blue Grotto. There’s a series of caves here which you can get a boat into and the water is very blue and crystal clear. Unfortunately we arrived too late to catch a boat, we didn’t realise they stop earlier in winter, but we got to see the grotto from above and it gives us an excuse to go back!

It was really beautiful.

On the way back we got to meet this little Miss.

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So, that’s our little mini break. We had a brilliant time and will definitely go back some time because there’s a lot that we didn’t get chance to see/do. It was soul restoring to get a little bit of winter sun. It wasn’t really hot, but it was warm enough at times for short sleeves and to feel the warmth on our arms was just what we needed. Maybe we’ll go back in the early summer or autumn so we can experience some of the beautiful beaches and maybe even do some diving off Gozo. I would recommend Malta to anyone.

Twenty Years a Jetsetter

This time of year always gets me thinking about holidays. I may have mentioned (once or twice) that I can’t stand the cold, detest the dark, yearn for those heady, eternal Summer days (please tell me they’re not far away!) In the midst of booking our upcoming trip to Malta (nineteen sleeps and counting!) it occurred to me that 2019 marks twenty years since I first left this lovely island of ours (soon to be even more of an island than it already is unless I wake up from this Brexit nightmare soon! Moving swiftly on ….)

I was a late starter (foreign-holiday-wise). When I was a child school holidays were filled with family visits mainly around the south of England. I’m not complaining at all. I have lovely memories of lying in the sun and running my fingers through the grain in the silo behind my maternal Grandparents’ house (it was on a farm), hunting for fossils on Box Hill with my Mum, often in the rain and not caring (she probably did!) playing with marbles that I found in the wardrobe at my paternal Grandparents’ house, hiding under the Pampas Grass in my Aunt and Uncle’s front garden, running around my Great Grandparents’ garden like a whirling dervish, brushing through mahoosive granny knickers drying on the line.

I was twenty one the first time I went abroad. It was with my then boyfriend and his parents, and it was two weeks in Menorca. There were a lot of firsts. First time flying at thirty thousand feet, driving on the wrong side of the road, feeling the intensity of that Mediterranean sun, and the first time discovering the joy of sitting on a balcony in the early morning hazy sunshine before everyone else has got up.

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I spent a few nostalgic hours going through photos from this first holiday right up to Mexico last year. The early ones are actual real photos in photo albums, taken when digital photos were still something from Star Trek, then there were photos taken with the new digital camera technology with less than perfect quality and finally I moved on to camera phones. I tried to choose my favourite photo from each holiday (although some I couldn’t narrow down to just one) and thought maybe it’d be interesting to show you what I chose. Some are photos of photos (like the one above) so apologies for the poor quality.

I’ve been on several European city breaks over the years.

 

Top left is the Colosseum in Rome. My friend Emily and I took ourselves off for a few days of culture and we went on an evening walking tour around the sites. I love this photo, it was taken on an old film camera with no screen so I didn’t know it had come out artistically blurry until I got home and had the photos developed.

In the top middle is a canal in Amsterdam. I went here on my own and had a great couple of days wondering around. Underneath is the Rialto Bridge in Venice and to the right is a statue in Bologna. This was one trip. We caught the train from Bologna and spent one night in Venice. We loved Venice, but Bologna was a bit dull – we made it more interesting with wine!

In the middle are two images of Budapest. This was another solo trip and it was the coldest I’d ever been until our trip to Prague (which I can’t find any photos of). The bridge is the Chain Bridge which goes over the Danube and connects Buda to Pest and the second is Fisherman’s Bastion which, in my head, is a Disney Castle.

Lastly there’s me outside the United Nations in Geneva.

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I went to Paris in the early 2000s. I have all the usual Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Seine photos, but this one makes me laugh. It’s a photo of a door in the Louvre, behind which is the Mona Lisa. Somehow I managed to visit the Louvre on the one day in the week that the section with the Mona Lisa in was closed.

 

Las Vegas! I love it here. We got married here in 2008 and went back in 2011. On the left is the Grand Canyon, middle is the Strip and right is Hoover Dam.

 

I went to New York in 2004 and 2005 and then we stopped off there in 2008 on our way back from Vegas. The first pic is me freezing cold at the top of the Empire State Building, the second needs no explanation, and the third is hubby and I on our honeymoon walking through a tunnel in Central Park. I was a lot bigger then but I don’t mind this sillouette photo because you can’t really tell.

Continuing the theme of the Americas, we’ve been to Orlando twice, on a Caribbean cruise and, of course, our most recent holiday to Mexico.

 

Top is Hogwarts Castle in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Middle left is me feeding budgies at Gatorland and middle right swimming with dolphins in Isla Margarita. Bottom left is us on a glass bottomed boat in Tobago and bottom right is a gorgeous coati in Mexico.

Vegas is the furthest west I’ve ever been. The furthest east I’ve been is the Maldives.

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I still can’t believe that we were lucky enough to be able to go to the Maldives. It is the most beautiful place on earth!

 

These photos are all on various Spanish holidays. Working top left downwards there is a beach in Majorca, a view from the top of Mount Teide in Tenerife, a rather arty shot of a harbour in Fuerteventura, a cute cove in Tossa De Mar on mainland Spain, another Majorcan beach on a different holiday and finally the Gutbuster! Hubby’s parents had an apartment near Murcia and this was served in a bar underneath their place called Concierto.

Top right is a seagull in Lanzarote. Underneath that is a Barbary Ape on the rock in Gibraltar and finally, hubby with a new friend at Loro Parque in Tenerife.

 

The Greek islands are up the top of our list of places to go. We went to several of them on a cruise in 2008 which was our delayed honeymoon – Cyprus, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes, and we’ve been to Corfu three times. Above top left is at a monastery in Corfu, next to that is a pelican that we saw wandering around Mykonos and underneath is me in crystal clear water at a beach in Kassiopi in Corfu.

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This final photo was taken on the first foreign holiday that hubby and I took before we even lived together. We’d been together for just over six months and had not long got engaged. We were in the process of buying our first flat and decided to go on holiday before all our money was tied up in mortgages and utility bills. We chose Tunisia and this photo was taken in the ruins at Carthage. It was January, which brings me full circle to the beginning of my post – I NEED SOME SUN! I’m going to bed so it’ll soon only be eighteen sleeps!

We’re going on holiday!

Have you noticed the adverts on telly have switched from toys and food to holidays and diets? This is inevitable for this time of year, I think, but it really does show how consumer driven we all are.

I include myself in that. I’m back on my perennial January diet (New Year’s Resolution numero uno – a la Bridget Jones, obviously will lose half my body weight!) To aid myself in this endeavour I have purchased the aria Fitbit scales that I’ve wanted forever! These are the ultimate lazy scales! You don’t even have to log your weight, it gets sent straight to your Fitbit app and charts your progress.

They do, of course, allow for non Fitbit-obsessed husbands to also use them (after all, it wouldn’t be the best marketing strategy if the whole household had to have a Fitbit now would it?) It means his weight is also transmitted to my Fitbit, but he doesn’t care about that although I would be mortified if it were the other way round. He can eat cookies and crisps and down gallons of sugary drinks 24/7 without a murmur from the scales let alone a full on groan of squished pain!

You can imagine my surprise when I checked my Fitbit app yesterday and found this ….

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Now, slender as hubby is, 10.1 lbs he is not. What has occurred? thought I. Curious! Then, this morning whilst in the shower with the scales residing at the end of the bath I noticed a little furry white face looking at me! Olive has obviously become health conscious and decided to monitor her weight! Goodness! Have I passed on my somewhat unhealthy obsession with my weight to little Olive? She’s perfect as she is!

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Anyhow, the motivation for the weight loss regime (mine, not Olive’s) aside from the fact that only one pair of my work trousers fits comfortably at the moment, is a couple of upcoming holidays.

As we flumped our way out of the festive period we had two holidays planned for 2019, however, as is my wont, I have now booked another, rather more imminent holiday. I have to do something to make January less Januaryish (and preferably, February less Februaryish too) and more often than not, that involves booking a holiday.

I did briefly toy with the idea of splashing out on a short break to Iceland so that we could hopefully get to see the Northern Lights. However, the old purse would’ve been considerably lighter in this case and there’s obviously no guarantee that the old Aurora Borealis would play ball and show up on cue (how gutting would that be?) Then two people who know me better than most both looked at me in something akin to amazement crossed with horror when I floated this idea and said ‘but you hate the cold!’ There has never been a more true statement!

So, I decided we should make like geese and fly south. The obvious choice is the Canaries for Winter sun, but I just couldn’t seem to get excited by any of the islands. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Canaries (or the three of them that I’ve visited at least) but I was craving something a bit less Katie Price and rather more Victoria Coren Mitchell.

So, we’re going here ….

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Just over three weeks and off we’ll go. If you look at Malta on the map, it’s in line with northern Africa so in theory the weather should be pleasant. Not as warm as the Canaries admittedly, but we should get to feel the sun on our skin (hopefully, please oh sacred God of Sun). Whatever, it would be a sad day for Malta if it was ever as cold as the UK!

We’ve booked a really cute little studio apartment in the capital, Valletta, through Airbnb. I was sold by this picture of the view from the Juliet balcony.

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Doesn’t it look pretty?

I love love love holiday planning. I adore leafing through a guidebook to find the best things to do, the scrummiest food to eat, and the secret hideaways that only locals know about. I get to write lists! What to remember to do before we go, what to pack. Ooh ooh ooh and an ITINERARY! I get to make an itinerary! What to do, when to do it, how to get there, what to take, how much it costs, what to wear. Oooooooooooh! It’s exciting!

I almost hate to tell you what the downside of all this is. Ryanair! That’s the downside! I hate giving luggage charging, strictly one piece of hand baggage, general money grabbing Michael O’Leary any of my hard earned cash, but he’s got you by the short and curlies (and he knows it!) It’s best for my blood pressure if I don’t talk about Ryanair any more, but, just to cheer up anyone else who has the same aversion to hearing that flipping bugle toot as you land on time (mainly because they didn’t clean the plane from the inbound flight leaving you to extract the sticky sweet papers from your own seat, and then bullied you down the aisle so fast that you tripped over the person in front’s cabin baggage (40 x 20 x 25cm and not a millimetre more) which would’ve been checked in and out of the way if they didn’t charge you for the pleasure and then don’t let you get up from your seat to speak to your husband who’s sitting three rows behind you because you refused to be forced to pay to choose seats together) here’s a link to a hilarious Fascinating Aida song which is completely based on Ryanair (it’s got to be!)

Anyway, Ryanair excepted (or should that be, accepted, through lack of choice?) I can’t wait! I’ve got a lot of crochet to get on with, and a lot of gardening ideas fizzing away in my head that need refining, but I’m planning to spend a good proportion of tomorrow devouring my guidebook and starting to play with my ITINERARY!

If anyone’s been to Malta and has any tips, I’d be really grateful to hear them, but for now, have a great weekend!