So, despite my not-too-deep-pockets, I managed to go on holiday this year too. And, as we try to do as often as we can, we visited a place we've never been before: Malta.
You don't hear people talk about Malta that often. Think about it: your friends have possibly been to Spain, Greece, even Thailand, but have they been to Malta? For a sunny, warm, beach-rich island, Malta certainly has some bad PR. After six days on this Mediterranean island, I've come to the conclusion that this state of obscurity that Malta finds itself in is, frankly, undeserved.
We stayed between Bugibba Square and St. Paul's Bay - an area that boasts stunning seasides and a buzzing night life, both things typical of Malta. On stepping off the bus, we were hit with 36-degree heat - this, having boarded a plane in a drizzly, 10-degree London at 6am, was every bit the 'warm' welcome we were hoping for!
Malta is the land of many contrasts. In places it's completely naked, barren and beige. In other places, it offers rich architecture and bustling city life. But most of all, Malta is worth visiting for the beaches. The beaches alone are worth a trip.
For David's birthday, we visited the Blue Lagoon - a truly stunning place that should be on every 'must visit' travel bucket list. Maybe it's only because I hail from Northern countries where we can never even dream of as much, but I had no idea this colour water existed. Even while swimming in it, I kept thinking, "what do they use to colour it?"
If you ever find yourself in Bugibba and feel like going taking a trip of a lifetime, try Extreme boat trips - it's 17 euros with lunch included and open bar! Let's just say that the whole "don't drink and then go swimming" thing is bogus, otherwise I wouldn't be around to type this right now!
Don't believe those who complain about Malta's beaches. Sure, some of the beaches aren't sand. I quite enjoy rocky beaches, though they can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to the actual descending into the water - I saw Maltese kids run up and down the slippery rocks like pros and imagined myself slipping and knocking my head open - but it is something new, and if you like sandy beaches, Malta has lots of those to offer as well. You just have to know where to look.
The capital, Valletta, is not huge, but it does give off a genuine city vibe. It's busy, beautiful and filled with of shops, restaurants and cafés - along with, once again, stunning architecture. Walking around the centre, I kept thinking, 'I could live here'. Now, I won't be getting my suitcase out just yet (after all, I didn't see a H&M!), but it is definitely a place worth discovering.
Things to keep in mind when visiting Malta:
It's HOT. Seriously hot. We went 30 August - 4 September and encountered 36 degrees by day and 28 by night (sorry my Fahrenheit friends, no idea, but really hot!).
Buses are awesome. They are always on time and feature just the perfect amount of air conditioning. But despite what everyone says, they are not cheap! One ride is 2 euros and a weekly travelcard is a jaw-dropping 21 euros.
Food is difficult, and I'm not saying this just because I'm vegan. My omnivore husband found the same. As a Mediterranean country, we expected Malta to be abundant in fresh fruit, grilled veggies and natural goodies. But it's all fried chicken, chips, egg, everything covered in oil, and much more suited to English and Northern tastes than Mediterranean ones. Bit of a disappointment, but not to say you can't eat well in Malta! Tip: go Italian. The pizza and pasta are really tasty most of the time, and staff will gladly make vegan versions.
If you're looking for a first-class vegan meal, I'd recommend Sammy's by Culinary Forward Malta in Xemxija. This gorgeous restaurant offers a five-course, no less, vegan menu which is completely free from soy and other faux meats and focuses on vegetables in many unexpected forms, with a hint of fruit. Truly innovative and full of flavour.
I'd love to come back to Malta and discover more of all the places I didn't get to see this time. Malta has so, so much to offer - keep your camera ready for those mind-blowing beaches, boats and stunning city scenery.
We booked our holiday through On The Beach, flew with Ryanair from Stansted and stayed at the San Pawl Hotel.