‘Malta is gorgeous!’
I gushed, possibly rather loudly, as I spoke to a representative from the Malta Tourism Authority. Perhaps it was the delicious and detectable canapés from Chef du Jour David Darmanin coupled with the rather drinkable Maltese wine that helped me to reminisce about my trip there with my family when I was 17. (many moons ago, shhh).
But Malta, what a place. What a beauty and definitely what a destination to go to.
Last week, I was asked to attend at the Cuckoo Club in Mayfair in London to join Visit Malta and the Malta Tourism Authority for an evening of authentic cuisine created by the bearded chef and also take in the atmospheric and technicolored botanical themed nightclub by London’s Glitterati.
‘Is that a real tree?’
Roma of Roaming Required asked suddenly, causing me to lean to one side and cock my head peculiarly at the corner of the room. Indeed, it was a real tree. I followed the trunk up through their branches that displayed majestically across the ceiling, playing shadows with the purple lighting that adjourned our faces.
This was interesting. Exciting and interesting. Could this be a taste of what Malta was to come?
I do remember my trip to Malta 14 years ago. It was a very nice relaxed holiday with my parents and it was the first time I felt like I was ‘travelling’. I explored Valletta, Gozo island and played on the beaches at the resort we were staying at. It was immensely beautiful and gorgeous. But uniquely and crazily interesting? I wouldn’t have described Malta as that… until tonight.
Wanting to give myself a refresh of the ninth smallest country in the world, I decided to have a bit of a natter with Visit Malta and Malta Tourism Authority particularly from Peter Vella, the Director of Malta Tourism Authority in UK and Ireland.
Malta: A bitesize overview
- Malta is actually an archipelago consisting of Malta, Gozo and Comino located in the centre of the Mediterranean, 60 miles south of Sicily and 120 miles north of the coast of Africa
- Malta is roughly three hours away from the UK by plane
- Temperatures range from 15 degrees celsius (Nov-Apr) to 33 degrees celsius (May-Oct)
- Languages include Maltese, English and even Italian
- The population of the Maltese islands is just over 423,000
- The official currency is the Euro
- Valletta, Malta’s capital city, is an UNESCO World Heritage site
- Get the best local experience by haggling with the locals at the Marsaxlokk fish market
- There’s an ancient city of Mdina which boasts centuries of history
- The British Queen adores Malta and her family has visited Malta plenty of times
- Gozo is just a 25 minute ferry hop from northern Malta – it’s quieter, greener and feels like the clock has gone back 20 years!
- Comino is located between Malta and Gozo and is the smallest of them all. It takes a few hours to do a complete circuit of the island but don’t forget to visit the eminent Blue Lagoon!
So why do I want to visit Malta again but as an upcoming destination?
As Peter gave his presentation to us, my interest in Malta was getting more and more piqued. It’s definitely a happening destination in Europe. Today, more and more younger people are visiting Malta particularly among the young music crowd, families with teenagers and even the LGBT crowd in this Catholic country. You may be surprised, but Malta is number one on the Rainbow Index (UK is 21). Its stunning landscapes is no surprise too as the National Geographic has named Malta as one of the top places to travel in 2017 even Skyscanner too!
Malta is also becoming more accessible with various airlines flying from a number of UK airports that include Air Malta, Easyjet, Ryanair, British Airways and Jet2. You can find out more information at www.visitmalta.com/getting_there
So, I’m sold how to get there but what do I want to do and see in 2017 and 2018?
1) Valletta Capital of Culture 2018
I’ll always remember that day out from my resort in Malta to Valletta. I was so impressed with it that I do remember on my way back that I felt I needed to see a lot more. Now, here’s my chance!
Valletta is going to be European Capital of Culture in 2018! This beautiful fortified capital city is perched above the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and is full of cobbled streets, sun dappled squares, history, 16th century medieval cathedrals to fantastic shopping, cafe culture and cutting edge architecture. So, I’m convinced to visit but even so in the lead up to 2018 where there will be celebrations taking place across the island ranging from festivals and exhibitions! Perhaps I should attend the Malta and Gozo Carnival, a week-long celebration featuring colourful floats, extravagant costumes and parties into the early hours (very much more my sort of thing now!) and the Notte Bianca Festival, which sees the very best of Maltese culture. You can find out more information at www.valletta2018.org
2) History and culture of Malta
Now, we all know I love my history and culture ranging from museums, walking tours, activities and more. So, it comes to as a surprise that Malta, despite being a small archipelago has played host to 7,000 years of culture including a golden Neolithic period, the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and the Arabs. All of them have left their mark on the islands and even in the culture too.
Until 1530, Malta was ruled by the Moors and Norman Sicily and during that time, the Knights of St John came after the Great Siege of 1565. I remember visiting their museum in Valletta at 17 and I remember I was extremely impressed. Valletta was named after their Grand Master, Jean Parisot de la Valette. Today, Valletta is an UNESCO World Heritage Site behind the fortifications and filled with unique baroque architecture that makes the city so special and iconic.
So, I reckon I’d want to find out more about this tiny place in the grand Sea that has influenced the region for centuries!
It isn’t a holiday without a bit of fun, right?
The relaxed cafe culture is more for me. I’m not one to go all out crazy, it’s a relaxing break. But I do adore dancing so I reckon I would want to check out Paceville and Bugibba in the summer that are filled with outdoor dance clubs. Time to strut my stuff on the dance floor I think and wow the Maltese people!
4) Maltese Food
Okay, the last few years have seen me gain a huge appreciation for world food (too much, may I add!).
Local delicacies are what I’m after and even more so, their fresh al fresco fish and sea food including tuna, swordfish, prawns, lobsters and calamari (oh, yes!) all caught that day from the Mediterranean and could be grilled, baked, roasted, steamed or poached too! But if I really wanted to get down to it, I’m told that I should plump for Pastizzi, a delicious filo pastry filled with either rich ricotta cheese or mushy peas; Fenek, a slow-cooked rabbit stew; or Malta’s national dish, Kunserva, a sweet concentrated tomato paste, deliciously spread on bread. There’s simply loads more to try.
Here a couple of dishes I tried at the event in London:
What about wine?! I can’t be missing out on that, surely?
There are five main wine makers in Malta, many of which is family owned, that can also provide tours and wine-tasting (when’s the next flight?!). A good time to sample Malta’s wines is at the Delicata and Marsovin Wine Festivals held in July and August in Valletta and Gozo.
5) Events in Malta
Did you know that Malta has a huge range of music festivals such as Malta Music Week taking place in June featuring the annual free Isle of MTV bringing together some of the world’s biggest superstars, with award-winning The Chainsmokers set to headline in 2017? You do now!
6) Adventures in Malta
Malta is definitely one of the places to undertake a series of adventures. The Maltese Islands boasts over 1,700 rock climbing routes as wel as plenty of virgin rock (don’t laugh). Perfect for all abilities, Gozo’s craggy cliffs will provide you with some challenging ascents with incredible views across the islands and out to sea. But if you cannot got your appetite for adrenaline sated, you can undertake abseiling, which is becoming increasingly popular. Modern ropes and harnesses make the actual mechanics of abseiling safe and the is even time to stop and admire the beautiful surroundings (including me hehe).
So, how about it? Will you be visiting Malta in the next year or two? I know I will. There’s always more to do in Malta… hey! Malta is More!