An Escape to Malta (1)

Hotel: Corinthia, St. George’s Bay

Transport : Ryan Air 

Currency: Euros

Welcome or Merhba as they say in Malta!

As you may have read in my Petrie Museum post, just after Christmas, I decided to escape the cold for some winter sun in Malta. Malta is an island between Sicily and the North coast of Africa, which is famed for its year long sunshine – just what the doctor ordered!

Our hotel was located in St. Julian’s, which is where a great number of the main resorts are based. We were only in Malta for three full days, which was fine for a minibreak, but could have been longer if places like Mdina, Rabat and Gozo were to be explored further.

  • Day One 

On our first day, we spent some time getting acclimatised to the area. The original plan was to head into Valletta, but the number 14 bus we were advised to take disappeared for over an hour (seriously, find another bus because #14 is cursed) and so we were left somewhat stranded.

Instead, we decided to walk down to the beach and grab some lunch. One place I would definitely recommend around the St. George’s Bay area was Eatwell; a café serving up amazing fresh smoothies and lunch items with a healthy twist. There were gluten free and vegan options, but I went for a lemon boost smoothie and a roast beef ciabatta which was ON POINT. For all of my haloodies out there, you will be pleased to know that Eatwell does serve some halal dishes as well.

We spent a couple of hours on the beach, catching the rays we had missed out on in the UK for the past 4 months. This area was pretty and picturesque, as well as having a large number of shops, restaurants, cinemas and bars around. Despite this, if I were to go back to Malta, I would probably try to stay in Valletta because there is generally a lot more going on.

Having topped up our Vitamin D, we gave up on the bus idea and got a taxi into Valletta instead (€20). Valletta is the capital city of Malta and is characterised by grand sqaures, official buildings and quaint alleys. Disembarking the taxi in Castille Square, we walked over to the stunning Upper Barraka gardens which look over the harbour and give incomprehensible views of the city and port.

Luckily, we had also arrived just in time for the daily salute of the battery. This is the ceremonial firing of cannons everyday at 4pm, which draws quite a crowd! The salute gives a nod to Malta’s famous naval history and in particular, the fact that from the 1820’s, the firing of cannons marked midday for Ship Masters sailing by.

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Valletta is the kind of place you also need to see by evening – despite it being the 27th of December, Christmas was still in full swing for the Maltese and the lights were a real sight to behold.

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The main religion in Malta is Roman Catholicism and it was evident that the country is very devout. There are said to be around 365 churches in the Maltese Islands, which is quite impressive given their tiny size. If you do walk past a church in Malta (and you definitely will), I would suggest popping in for a quick look because Maltese churches make Italian churches look plain and demure – they are spectacular!

We walked all the way around the city centre and through to Floriana, which has some beautiful gardens and architecture.

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The highlight of the evening was a truly serendipitous moment, as we made our way back to Castille Square to catch the taxi home. We were halted by the sound of beautiful music, emanating from a marquee pitched opposite the Auberge de Castille. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra were rehearsing for a sold-out Christmas concert later that evening and while we were sadly unable to stay for the full event, we managed to hear some of the country’s finest musicians and operatic singers performing some beautiful festive pieces.

  • Day Two

On our second day, we took a tour to the neighbouring island of Gozo, which I had booked through Viator. This was such a fantastic day trip that I wanted to do it justice by writing a separate blog post about it! Stay tuned for that post, which should be coming next week 🙂

  • Day Three 

On our final day in Malta, we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and take a nice long coastal walk. Leaving St. George’s Bay, we followed the coastline over to Spinola Bay and all the way through to the pretty town of Sliema. The best thing about this coastal walk was the fact that there were parks and benches pretty much all the way through, which meant that we had ample opportunity to sit and just gaze at the endless blue sea.

One odd thing about Malta  is the abundance of stray cats. You’re probably thinking that this isn’t that weird, but I’m talking dozens upon dozens of cats sitting everywhere. I was so perturbed by this that I had to look into it and apparently, while all of these cats are stray, they live in cat colonies where they are cared for by the entire community, rather than just one pet owner. This is why all of the stray cats are well fed and groomed and you may see a number of cat feeding points along your walk. If you’re particularly interested in cats, you can find out more about the Maltese cat phenomenon here.

The plan was to continue this walk all the way to Valletta, however as we reached the end of the coastline, we realised that the only remaining options were either a ferry or the bus.

Upon arrival in Valletta, we headed straight for the National Museum of Archaeology (€5 pp) which is a small but informative museum about Malta’s rich and colourful history.

This museum was opened in 1958 and is filled with artefacts found through excavations of the numerous neolithic and prehistoric sites in Malta. Pictured above are two stone fertility goddesses, which are quite a common symbol of the country. The goddess in the reclining position is called the Sleeping Lady, which was discovered in the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni (a prehistoric underground temple founded in approximately 4000 BC). This museum is definitely worth a visit.

After the museum, we walked around the little streets and alleyways of Valletta, revisiting Upper Barakka Gardens and poking our heads into dusty record shops.

For lunch, we wanted to try a bit more traditional Maltese cuisine. Food in Malta has a distinctly Italian vibe, due to its proximity to Sicily. Traditional foods are pastizzi (filled savoury pastries), rabbit stew, pasta and kannolis.

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Truffle mushroom risotto and calamari linguine

We ate at the Metropolitan Bistro, which served a range of Maltese and Italian dishes at reasonable prices. The food here was delicious, fresh and the portions were huge. We picked this place completely by chance but it’s worth searching for if you’re looking for something filling and hearty.

For dessert we went to the Wembley store in the centre of Valletta, which sells freshly filled ricotta kannolis.

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Winter or summer, Malta is the ideal place for some fun in the sun. It is one of the few places in the world where you don’t really need to schedule your activities around the mood swings of Mother Nature, and with so much to see and do here, it would be the perfect travel destination for almost anyone.

Tune in next week to find out more about my day trip to the Maltese island of Gozo!

Thanks for reading,

~ Plane Emoji

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