When it comes to travelling, I love to explore new places. I have a long list of countries to tick off which I eventually want to visit for the first time. However, I also have lots of places that I long to revisit as well. It would be amazing to show Dave and the kids some of my favourite holiday destinations.
One place that I know they will love is the island of Malta. I would love to go on a family holiday there again, but this time I will be the parent.
Our family holiday to Malta in 1994, is definitely one of my favourite memories. It’s hard to believe that it is now over 20 years ago and sadly my Dad is no longer with us. We flew from Cardiff Airport and arrived in less than four hours at Malta International Airport, Luqa. As Malta is small (but perfectly formed!) you are always guaranteed a short transfer time to your accommodation. Indeed, the longest length of the island is just over 27 km long. We stayed in Bugibba which was only about 20 minutes away. It was so exciting to arrive at the airport in the early hours, hop on our bus and arrive at the apartment just in time for morning so we had all day to explore the island.
We stayed at Liliana Apartments and had the use of the roof top pool at the Limelight Hotel. This hotel closed down many years ago, so it will be interesting to visit again and see the current, new and updated hotels such as San Antonio Hotel and Spa.
We had lots of fun cooling down in the hotel pool. My dad was always a lot of fun to play with in the pool and the sea. He would have had lots of fun with his grand kids, I know for sure. We all had fun in the black tyre in the photo above- floating, jumping into it and pushing each other out of it! The new pools look even more amazing of course.
With Malta being an island, it is surrounded by coast. We found it interesting though that in Bugibba there was not an actual sandy beach. Instead, there were flat rocky areas from where you could swim. We found this fun though and also travelled to some of the sandier beaches. However, I was pleased to discover that there is now a man-made sandy, pebbly beach in Bugibba. It will be great to visit this creation.
We found Malta really easy to explore by bus, especially as the Maltese second language is English (still no excuse not to learn a few phrases though!). I remember us getting the bus to Golden Sands Bay. The beach above is Ghadira Bay in Mellieha, the largest sandy beach in Malta. It’s great for kids as the water is shallow for a long way out. On the beach there were kiosks to buy snacks and drinks. I became partial to a Maltese drink called Kinnie. I would love to taste that again. I can’t wait to run along hot Maltese sand once more into the warm Mediterranean sea.
A visit to the Liliputian historic capital of Valetta is a must. Valetta, the fortress city is called “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen” It is also known as the “modern” city built by the Knights of St John; a masterpiece of the Baroque; a European Art City and a World Heritage City. Today, it is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.
In contrast to this, it is also full of quaint shops and cafes as well as larger international branded shops. Indeed, it was interesting to see a large branch of Marks and Spencers amongst the Baroque architecture and votive statues.
Valetta is also infamous for it’s steps. There are lots of them. The poet Byron was not a fan of them apparently as he wrote of them:
“Adieu, ye cursed street of stairs, how surely he who mounts you swears”
However, they are now an important landmark and a popular photo opportunity for tourists.
We visited on a Sunday, so we could enjoy Valetta Sunday Market. I remember picking up lots of lovely rings as I was very into jewellery at the time! I also bought one of my favourite floral culotte dresses in Malta too. I love holiday shopping!
Festivals and Fiestas
On every holiday, I love to fit in a boat trip. You see so much more from the sea as you sail around the coast.
We arrived at Mgarr, a very pretty fishing harbour.
Gozo (or Ghawdex) is also full of history- there stands the oldest and most imposing megalithic temples of the Islands, the Ggantja. It’s really quite amazing.
Our boat trip also included a tour and we went inside the Citadel. In here we also visited Gozo Cathedral, which is dedicated to the “Assumption of Our Lady”. We had already been advised to wear modest clothes for this visit and on arrival we were all given shawls to cover up too. Inside the cathedral there appears to be a dome ceiling, however it is actually a “false dome” created by a perspective drawing on a flat ceiling.
In older times, women would do their daily washing at a natural spring. This one at Fontana was built into a publish wash-house. We saw a lady washing her clothes just like in old times. Our actual photo is on the left hand side of the guide book.
I also remember seeing traditional lace makers in Malta.
The Azure Window is a huge rock ledge hollowed out from underneath by the rough seas. It reminds me of Church Doors in Pembrokeshire.
Between Malta and Gozo lies the smaller “one square mile” island of Comino. Here lies the Blue Lagoon, with the clearest waters of all the islands. It was fascinating to see to the bottom of the sea. Again, we are lucky enough to have our own blue lagoon in Abereiddy, Pembrokeshire. Apart from the weather, both Malta and Pembrokeshire being surrounded by the coast and having surrounding small islands, there are many similarities. In North Malta, they have their very own town of Pembroke, which is twinned with Pembroke in Pembrokeshire.
If you like the Blue Lagoon in Malta, then you will also enjoy the Blue Grotto. Boat trips will bring you into the caverns, where the location of the caves combined with the sunlight lead to the water mirroring, showing numerous shades of blue. Several caverns mirror the brilliant phosphorescent colours of the underwater flora; other caverns show a deep dark shade of blue. This boat trip was one of my favourite memories with my dad. This is also a popular area for scuba diving.
Eating in Malta
We went on a self catering holiday so shopped at the local supermarkets in the day and enjoyed a meal in a restaurant each evening. Many holidays offer fully inclusive meals now, which can often work out to be more affordable. I would love to see if I recognise any of the restaurants when I return to Malta. It is interesting that on our next visit we will be able to research a lot more online. In 1994, everything we knew before arriving came from the holiday brochure, guide book and word of mouth.
Traditional food and drink to enjoy are a glass of smooth local wine, a dish of olives, some ġbejniet (local sheep’s cheeses), zalzett (coriander flavoured Maltese sausage) with galletti (Maltese crackers) and some bigilla (broad bean pate) served with Maltese bread and olive oil. On a cold day hot pastizzi (savoury ricotta filled pastries) are perfect with wine or coffee.
I remember the first time I was served olive oil with bread, I asked for the butter! Now this is one of my favourite appetizers. We would always take photos of our food when on holiday and joke that this is the only time you photograph your food. Twenty years later and this is now a much more common thing to do!
We passed Popeye Village on a tour in 1994. However, then it was just the old film set from the 1980 film, which people would drive past. Now it has grown into one of Malta’s major attractions with many activities for young and old. I think we’ll have to show the kids the “Popeye” film in advance of our holiday here so they will be excited to see the set and explore it.
We loved our evenings in Malta. After our evening meal, some nights we would walk by the harbour or beach. We also enjoyed sitting in Bugibba Square taking in the atmosphere. Our hotel entertainment was fun too with bands and dancing. One Maltese band were very entertaining with their rendition of “The Maltese Calypso”.
“Malta, we love Malta, (but) these are the things we’d alter…”.
One of the memorable lines was about the driving in Malta where the taxi driver informs the tourist that “in Malta everybody drives in the shade!”.
Of course it was all tongue in cheek and really sums up the friendliness and humour of the Maltese. We felt so at home there which is why me, my mum and sisters can not wait to visit again, although of course, sadly without my dad. The song ends with:
“We’ve got the sunshine, we’ve got the sea
and not long ago we got the colour TV,
Now when you come back you never know,
someone may have filled up all the holes in the road!
Oh! Malta, we love Malta- there’s nothing that we’d alter!”
After twenty years, we can’t wait to go back!