One of the things that we (I) love the most about living overseas is the opportunity to travel. When we first moved abroad and I started the blog, I used it to chronicle many of our adventures for family and friends back in the states. Of course, now there’s Facebook and iMessage and I don’t often take the time to sit down and record every abbey we visit or every new city or country we journey through. Truthfully, it’s a bit of a shame. The instant gratification has stopped me from pausing to reflect as much on these experiences that are shaping my family and the life that we live. So I’m planning to take the time to slow down and journal about our experiences overseas a little more. If I don’t, I worry they’ll be over and I won’t have anything to show for them but some quick pictures posted to FB while we were huddled in the corner trying to tap into the free wifi.
We recently took advantage of the kids’ half-term break from school to travel to Malta. In case your curious, Malta is a country (I don’t doubt your intelligence…it’s just that I wasn’t so sure when it first popped up in my search for cheap tickets) between the coasts of Sicily and Tunisia. Honestly, I booked the tickets having no idea what we’d see or do there–I just knew that we could get there, rent a car, and stay in a self-catering aparthotel for a reasonable price. I figured that we could make the rest up as we went along.
So we did. And actually, we had a pretty great vacation. I would probably not recommend Malta in February, but as we were restricted by the kids’ school calendar, we made the best of it. If you can be more flexible, I’d suggest March–a little warmer, but still not crowded. As it was, we skipped most of the beach/water activities (including the Azure Window and the full day boat trip to Gozo), simply focusing our holiday on historic sites and small local beaches and cities.
At first, Marcus wasn’t very impressed with Malta. We stayed in Sliema, which was crowded and congested and…well…a city. Plus, the driving in Malta was a bit manic, and parking equally insane. So I know that it stressed him out, though he managed it well. However, the boats all left from the dock in Sliema, and we had fabulous views into Valletta. In addition, the aparthotel was gorgeous, and there were loads of restaurants nearby, and even a mall within walking distance (which the girls loved…and so did I…there was a Cinnabon!).
We did loads of exploring, though our favorite cities were Valletta and Mdina. Both were unique and gorgeous–and we could’ve spent more time just wandering than we actually allotted. We never made it into St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, which I regret, but we did go into the cathedral in Mdina, which was just lovely. Mdina is a walled city, and we ate at a cafe on the wall with gorgeous views of the countryside. It was so incredibly clean–we’ve never seen anything like it! Valletta was amazing when we were there–there was a parade and tons of entertainment for Carnivale, so the kids were well entertained. We also got some wonderful views of the harbour and the water.
In terms of sites, the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples were incredible–well worth the price of admission. The small museum (including a video) that was at the site was also worth your time. We opted to skip the Hypogeum, which I know is a very popular World Heritage Site for people interested in history. However, Jessica was too young, you needed to book too far in advance, and quite frankly, Marcus wasn’t convinced the price (30 euro per person) was worth it. However, I don’t have any regrets about that, as in addition to the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples we also took the time to visit St. Paul’s Catacombs in Rabat (skip the city, see the catacombs).
As for beaches, we took the girls to paddle on Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay. We went on different days, but actually, the beaches were only minutes apart. The girls loved hunting for sea glass (a tradition we’ve quickly adopted from my friend Carrie), splashing about, and walking along the water. Marcus and I kept our distance (50 degrees F felt warm compared to England, but still not warm enough for me to get in the water!), choosing to walk along the beach and watch the girls.
We also built in time to do some kid-centric activities, which was the benefit of staying for a full week. We weren’t cramming all of our activities into a few days, so we had time to do things that were focused on them. The girls loved the Playmobil FunPark (though I’d advise it for children under 7, unless you have older children who are happy to play with the little ones, as my girls were). We also went to the Malta National Aquarium, which was great! There was an informative video about the coast of Malta and the sea life found there, and we got to watch them feed some of the fish, including the sting rays. The girls really enjoyed themselves (though again, we weren’t that impressed with Bugibba, where the aquarium was located). Afterwards, we let the girls walk along the rocky coast outside the aquarium.
All in all, we had an incredible trip to Malta. Really…