Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer travel part 2: Rest and Relax in Malta

On the island of Gozo to see the famous Azure Window. June 2016

Malta is made up of three islands in the southern part of Europe between Italy and Tunisia in the Mediterranean. The main language is English and Maltese. Malta is a member of the EU and Commonwealth. A great spring/summer destination to get some sunshine and beach time. Sandy and rocky beaches are plenty spread out among the three islands. The main island has quite a lot to see and do. Historic sites in the old town of Mdina and Valletta. Bars and clubs in St. Julians and everything else in between. For more of an overview of Malta check out Destination Travel

I came to Malta to relax and chill by the ocean. After living in land-locked locations for the past year and a half, seeing the ocean is always a nice change of scenery.

Verdala bianco Maltese wine

Dinner in St. Julians on the first night was a bit on the crowded and tourist-y side. But there is a chill vibe in the air and pace of the locals and tourists alike isn't frenetic. The Eurocup football was being broadcast on a large screen right by the boats. The night breeze coming from the ocean inspires one to stroll instead of rushing around. I ordered a half bottle of local white wine to go with my plate of grilled octopus spaghetti. This white had a light smooth taste with a hint of fruit and dryness that works well with the octopus meal and environment.

As the night wears on, the party revelers start to emerge and walking to the heart of St Julians was a tricky web of narrow streets until you reach the main stretch of night clubs, gentlemen's clubs, lounges, and pubs. Crowded, loud, and filled with party promoters handing out drink promotions for their establishments to entice passerbys to enter. A bit on the aggressive street marketing side, I was not convinced to enter any of these bars. Perhaps if one was a bit on the tipsy side, it would be easier to convince. I'm usually turned off by aggressive street promoters or aggressive sales assistants at stores.

The view from the balcony of the hotel. St. Julians. June 2016

Staying right across from the beach (rocky and sandy) was convenient. The balcony made a nice spot for sunbathing and people watching. Isn't summer the time to slow down and relax? I'm usually pretty happy just hanging out and people watching on some days during vacation. 

Strolling by the coast line in Saint Julian's/Sliema area. June 2016

The hot and balmy weather was rather shocking for me as I've been used to cooler temperatures in Switzerland, Brussels, and Amsterdam. I was ill-equipped with my lack of summer clothes. Most of my lighter summer clothes are stored in Singapore as that's the place where I'm constantly sweating. The hot sunny days paired with quite a bit of walking around required a lot of water. I'm a bit skeptical about drinking tap water when I arrive new locations so I tend to play it safe and purchase bottled water. 

Rocky "beach". June 2016

The waters of the mediterranean coast are rather cool and a bit choppy due to the winds. One has to wonder how the refugees who manage to swim to the Greek island of Lesbos in such conditions. 

Taking a ferry to the islands of Gozo and Comino for a day trip was rather a harrowing experience at sea. That morning, I forgot to tell the barista not to put any milk in my coffee as milk makes me feel queasy in the stomach. Paired with a choppy sea, I felt seasick for the first time in my life. The hour long ferry felt like eternity. I was so happy when we arrived and docked. Many passengers were throwing up on the ferry. A girl was so sick she couldn't enjoy the bus trip to see the Azure Window, old historic town, and Church of Victoria. 

Travel tips: Make sure to keep hydrated throughout the day and bring seasick pills. Don't go out drinking the night before. (the people that were hungover were the most sick on the ferry)
Bring some mint or chewing gum. 

Azure window. Malta. June 2016

The Azure window is the most gorgeous natural cliff I have ever seen thus far. It's one of the main attractions of Gozo so be prepared to see loads of tourists trying get the perfect picture and selfie. With the waters so blue and the window just breathtaking, you can see why it is a popular attraction. Tourist attractions are popular because it is usually either breathtaking, unusual, and/or delicious. I consider myself a traveler rather than a tourist most times but it is ok to be a tourist. Just don't be an obnoxious one, ie. blocking others from taking pictures, blocking sidewalks, being rude to locals, and claiming to know a culture just because you've been there once to take pictures. 

As a TCK, I like to travel and I like to observe how locals live. Slow travel is more my style and returning to the same locations even if it takes a few years to come back is also ok. I never feel satisfied visiting a place once. I like exploration. Reading other travel blogs, yelp reviews, tripadvisor reviews, watching travel shows with animated hosts such as Anthony Bourdain or Samantha Brown (two very different hosts), and reading travel magazines inspire me to make some decisions on what to see,do, eat but I also rely on instinct as well as local residents' recommendations. 

Blue Lagoon. Malta. June 2016

I rarely swim in the ocean. In fact, I can recall the number of times I've swam in the ocean and submerged my body in the water. I like chilling by the ocean but have a slight fear of swimming in lakes and oceans. Perhaps it's due to the sheer amount of shark movies and horror movies involving getting eaten alive or attacked by unknown entities in natural bodies of water. I like to be able to see the bottom. Upon hearing that Malta has crystal clear blue waters and swimming in the ocean where I can see the bottom has been on my bucket list since I was a little girl, I was excited to be able to experience swimming in clear blue ocean waters and tick it off my list. 

The blue lagoon in the small island of Comino was incredible! Warm shallow waters with little to mild waves. It makes for a perfect swimming spot. This little island has not much on it except for this swimming area. A slice of peaceful heaven! The waters felt warm and I remember giggling like a school girl because it felt amazing and surreal at the same time. Being able to see the bottom and wade through the cool shallow waters of the blue lagoon felt glorious. 

Can't get enough of this beautiful coastal view. 
The hotel location was technically across from an amazing Italian restaurant called Fresco's and right by another really good authentic Italian restaurant called Vecchia Napoli. 
Pasta, pizza, wine, and amazing views. What more could you want? 

Beautiful sunset at Fresco's restaurant. But what comes next also blew my taste buds away...

Smoked duck breast with cherry tomatoes and fried duck skin tagliatelle pasta. This was seriously my favorite dish of the summer. The creamy pasta with the flavor and saltiness of the duck breast was a match made in heaven. 

Argotti Botanical Gardens. June 2016

I joined one of those hop on hop off buses to explore what Malta has to offer. There's historic sights near downtown Valetta, gardens, and museums. Part of the filigree silver jewelry trade comes from Malta. 

Argotti Botanical Gardens. June 2016

The Argotti Botanical Gardens was a tranquil escape from the crowded tourist areas with beautiful flowers, fountains, ducks, peacocks, cats, birds roaming the grounds. At the end of the gardens sits a very beautiful majestic house that is used for special events. A quick quiet stroll through this park from the hop-on hop-off tourist bus is a nice change of pace. 

Its so easy to get dehydrated or get sunburnt in Malta so a bottle of water and sunscreen is a must in your daypack before you go out for the day. I'm constantly reapplying sunscreen and drinking while seated on the tour bus. 

A nice refreshing drink by the Golden Sands beach. June 2016

It is ok to be a tourist. Sometimes as a seasoned traveler we shun all aspects of tourism. Tourist attractions became popular because it is a wonder and something to experience. Duomo in Milan, Matterhorn in Zermatt, Azure window in Malta, Niagara Falls in Niagara/Ontario, Gold temple in Kyoto, Empire State Building in New York, Orchid Garden in Singapore, Grand Place in Brussels, Berliner Dom in Berlin, Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, etc. you get the idea. I believe that if you were so inclined to travel to a destination there should be no shame in wanting to see the main sights but to also explore beyond the tourist areas. (within the parameters of safety of course!)

Travel is an experience. Enjoy the journey!


  1. I never swim in the sea or ocean for the same reason haha! So that lagoon looks amazing :) definitely adding it to our list for when we go!

    1. HAHA its really a valid fear! If I can't see my feet - I'm not swimming. :-)