Tuesday, 5 June 2018

How not to falter in Malta

Are you thinking of a trip to Malta the next time you manage to escape your particular version of tragic reality? Here are a few handy tips along with some photos I took with my very own index finger.

San Blas Bay, Gozo © Ryan Chapman

Tip #1: 

Go out-out in Valletta.

We found Valletta's nightlife to be unexpectedly cool. And I mean cool in a cocktail-bars-spilling-out-onto-the-street kind of way, not in a I-think-I-might-need-a-jumper-soon kind of way (though do take a jumper with you just in case, obviously). 

Our highlight was the Cinema Bar where a pianist provided a live soundtrack to old silent films  projected onto the wall, whilst I drank over-priced craft beer and chain-ate complimentary popcorn.

Valletta © Ryan Chapman

Tip #2: 

Don't expect to be blown away by stunning beaches (unless you go to Gozo).

We stayed in Mellieha because it was said to have one of the best beaches in Malta, but Mellieha itself is just a concrete jungle of ugly hotels and apartment complexes near an underwhelming stretch of sand. And don't even get me started on Bugibba. 

The island of Gozo has some far prettier spots. See Tip #3.

Valletta Contemporary, Valletta © Ryan Chapman

Tip #3: 

Gozo is prettier.

A little underwhelmed by what Malta had to offer in terms of scenery, we hired a car and got the ferry over to Gozo (20 minutes). You can drive from anywhere to anywhere on Gozo in less than half an hour on near-empty roads, and - good for us - they drive on the right side of the road (meaning the left side). We saw all four corners of the island in a day and wish we could have stayed longer.

Find the beautiful secluded red sand beach at San Blas and then cross the island for a seafood lunch in the stunning Xlendi Bay. Perfect.

San Blas Bay, Gozo © Ryan Chapman

Xlendi Bay, Gozo © Ryan Chapman

Xlendi Bay, Gozo © Ryan Chapman

Victoria, Gozo © Ryan Chapman

Tip #4: 

Visit the Lascaris War Rooms.

All I knew about Malta's involvement in World War II came from a brief summary on the BBC's World War II in Colour series (which is on Netflix now by the way, and is brilliant). It turns out that the George Cross awarded to Malta for the courage of its people was well-earned, and a trip to the War Rooms in Valletta will reveal why.

The defence of Malta from wave after wave of attacks from Axis air forces was orchestrated from here, as was the Invasion of Sicily. Wait for a guided tour and have it all dramatically re-lived. Cross your fingers and hope that Stefan is your guide because he's an incredible goosebump-inducing storyteller. 

Before anyone could beat him to it he finished the tour by saying "I know, I know. If only I was your history teacher". He knew everyone was thinking it.

Lascaris War Rooms, Valletta © Ryan Chapman

Tip #5:

The food is incredible.

It's an over-used compliment and one I think is rarely justified when applied to entire countries,
however the food in Malta is incredible. For whatever reason, the bar is set very high. We ate at some average-looking 'this'll do' kind of places and were super impressed with almost everything. We also ate at some very highly-rated places and were never disappointed.

Our overall favourite was Rebekah's in Mellieha. This friendly little place is a Michelin Star waiting to happen. It's fairly priced for what is exceptional food and they even offer a pick-up service if you're staying near-by. Winning.

Valletta © Ryan Chapman
Gozo sunset © Ryan Chapman

To conclude, any trip to Malta should include at least a day exploring Gozo; at least a day and night in Valletta; and some budget set aside to eat really, really well.