San Sebastian was breathtaking, we thought, how can this be beaten? We did not really have any expectations of Malta so let’s go…. Next stop, Malta it is! Our adventures were clearly not over yet…..
Flying to Malta from San Sebastian was a little cumbersome but options were limited so there is not much you can do about that. First to Barcelona, then check in again to another flight to Malta. When we arrived it was nearly midnight, with a plane load of people all scrambling for taxis at the same time, it seems a bit messy at that time of the night. However, they do have a taxi booking counter which seemed to run like clockwork. Soon, we arrived at our hotel, right on the water at St Julian’s, the Carvalia Art Hotel.
After all the hotels we have stayed at, to say we were a little underwhelmed was a bit of an understatement. Mind you, we had just flown on two interconnecting budget airlines, had a bag trolley turnover mishap at the airport and were very tired. In the hotel’s defense, it was right on the water and the rooms were large and inexpensive (and when you ask for some more shampoo and conditioner, they give you a bag load, enough to last you a month!). Even though breakfast was included in the price, best give it a miss. The saying that there is so much food on offer but nothing to eat was too true in this case. As most establishments here offer great quality food at for not very much, in large portions, also serving their entire menu at any time of the day, you would do yourself a favour by branching out. And branch out we did every morning, taking advantage of the lovely weather, taking a long walk along the promenades that seem to go forever, along the water’s edge and exploring until we were in need of sustenance. That being said, the staff at the alfresco bar at the Carvalia looked after us very well, even ensuring they had ample amounts of the wine we tucked into every evening.
On most occasions we headed towards Sliema. When you research Sliema, it will tell you this is a resort town on the east coast of Malta. The waterfront promenade is filled with touristy activities you can participate in and plenty of eateries you can enjoy food with a stunning view. The view over the Med is nearly as impressive as the density of the buildings. From the impressive old school architecture to the new apartments built high on narrow lots, St Julian’s is certainly a sight to see.
Did I mention we are starving by the time we’ve walked about 5kms? I’m sure we were starving and exhausted from taking in the amazing scenery! We would find a place and enjoy a leisurely meal before we head back. As this country offers their full menu any time of the day, I became addicted to their chicken wings. Yep, chicken wings for breakfast washed down with a nice cuppa tea was how I rolled back to the hotel.
We were blessed with our friends and his parents as tour guides but you can land anywhere in this country and find yourself submerged in its glorious beauty. Be warned, the food is ample, there’s no fuss nor fancy but they do serve plenty of delicious Mediterranean food from all their historical influences with gusto. Stick with Spanish or Italian as well as South African wines as there were plenty on offer here too.
Our lovely Malta expert friends also took us to Valletta, the capital of this country. This walled city was established in the 1500s so there are museums, palaces and grand churches everywhere. We just can’t get over the brilliance of their limestone buildings amongst the bluest sky and the bluest water you will never tire of seeing. We took a lovely walk to the Saluting Battery located at the Upper Barrakka Gardens and even watched the canon firing ceremony. Then we ventured inside the town to enjoy a lovely lunch amongst the hive of activity at an outdoor café. Being poised in between Europe and Africa, not only makes it a melting pot of cultures but more often than not, a target for invasion. A lot of Malta was flattened in WWII and some parts have not been rebuilt, like the opera house, which still serves as an opera house amongst its ruins. But the fort itself is so strongly built, the walls seem hardly touched.
Whilst in Valletta, our friends suggested we go see “The Malta Experience” at a small theatre at the bottom of Valletta. This is a short 20 minute audio visual show that tells the dramatic story of the island’s 7000 year history. This was highly recommend, informative, interesting and entertaining. When you research this, it will say the show runs through the turbulent history of a small island nation that has overcome almost unimaginable odds to survive and prosper. Not only was this little session a welcome reprive from the heat, it was well worth it, again totally recommended. Especially when you’ve been walking around so many old buildings and may wonder its origins.
Mdina is another fortified city. It served as the island’s capital from antiquity to the medieval period. Confined within its walls, just under 300 people still live in this city till this day. There was plenty to see, the architecture, specialty shops, the curved streets that lead to the various squares and of course all the buildings.
Malta was a stunning surprise. It was not on our radar as a place to visit but we have friends visiting family on this occasion so we thought we would join them and see a place that has been used for film locations for many Hollywood movies and Game of Thrones. We were gob smacked at every location we visited, every town was stunning with its oceanic location, their spectacular limestone buildings and fortresses. This charming island country won our hearts and wooed us with its heart.
Again we were so sad to leave this place when we did. How could you not be sad when sunshine, ocean, great food and company was on tap each day? On top of that, did I mention that my in-laws got a poll position room with balcony overlooking the bay large enough to swing a cat? Oh and their room was big enough to have wheelchair races in too! So verdict on Malta…..definitely need to return! The hotel which seemed as a source of angst when we arrived had transformed into a home with welcoming and caring staff. We didn’t even touch the sides, this place was truly a wondrous part of the world to submerge yourself in.
Next, homeward bound via a few days in Singapore. Ahhh Singapore, it’s like running into the warm arms of several doonas! The purpose of Singapore was to acclimatize with our time zone, get some more heat (and humidity only Singapore can dish up) on your bones, eat some serious chicken rice & other hawker dishes only Singapore can offer at anywhere any time, and load up on shopping you could not do during your trip due to reduced baggage allowance on the smaller air crafts.
We stayed at Shangri-la Valley Wing again. My in-laws love this place. Not that we don’t love the on tap familiar service as everyone remembers you, the never ending beverage service of (this time) Verve Cliquot champagne, Bordeaux wines, high tea, afternoon tea and their deluxe breakfast offerings in the dining room.
We took advantage of the close walking proximity to Orchard Road to multi-combine exercising with shopping. June to August is Singapore’s sale time and it is also a bit of rainy season time. Tip: grab an umbrella and you can achieve the best of all worlds!
We’d also decided to pop up to Marina Sands for a spot of lunch at Ce La Vi, located at the roof top of this hotel complex at one end of ‘The Boat’. This complex can be a bit overwhelming, with so many arms and legs of places to eat & shop, people coming & going everywhere, however when you are high in the sky, in air conditioned comfort, all that dissipates but the menu and the spectacular bird’s eye view of Singapore.
Dad wanted to treat us to lunch somewhere special. And special it was! Whilst the décor is lush and lovely, the food great, the view is spectacular. Looking over Gardens by the Bay on one side, Marina Bay itself, the financial district on the other and pointing toward the Singapore Flyer, it is simply jaw dropping. You feel richer for just being able to see it. Luckily for us, the usual overcast Singapore skies relented, turning clear and blue, magical. After lunch we retired to the bar section next to the world’s most impressive rooftop infinity pool. It was HOT and starting to get steamy again…..nothing an ice cold Tiger can’t fix (even if it is $20!!!).
On a more casual dining experience, whilst shopping on Orchard Road, we thoroughly enjoyed a few bites of Japanese at Wisma Atria’s Food Republic. Food Republic is in most large shopping centres. They are a food hall complex offering stalls and stalls of different cuisines. There are always loads of delicious local offerings here.
Needless to say, living the life of a tourist needs to end at some point. At the end of the month we needed to go home. To get back to our lives so we can plan for our next amazing adventure.