Tag Archives: explore

Exploring Malta, Gozo and Comino – from hidden caves to edible delights

I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately about one of my favourite holidays ever – my 2012 trip to Malta with my boyfriend. Despite not being the most exotic, or the longest-haul journey I have ever been on, it was definitely up there as one of my favourites because there was quite simply so much to learn and explore.

We settled on Malta after realising that we could not afford to go to Italy with everything else we had planned and from our research we believed that Malta held many similarities, at least enough to keep us happy and not feel like we were sacrificing our summer holiday. Being a very inquisitive pair, we get bored easily and although we wanted to come back feeling refreshed and relaxed, we also wanted to have the opportunity to learn about a different culture by exploring the history and sights. Well, we certainly picked the right place because Malta boasts a rich heritage and culture that had us out almost every day walking across the rocky shores and through the bustling city of Valletta.

We stayed in Mellieha – an area more often chosen for holidays by Italian, Greek and German families as we found out, but which worked well to our advantage as we hate to go abroad and find ourselves surrounded by English people. It was beautiful, very hilly and incredibly traditional – the building pictured above was at the top of a steep hill leading down to the sea and the view at the top of this post is from the very top of the hill looking across the bay. Here we are enjoying a nice cold local beer (Cisk) at a tiny bar for locals we discovered after walking right to the top of the hill.

The fantastic bus services and ferry service (far superior to the UK in every way!) meant we were able to get out and about independently, even organising ourselves on to boat trips out to nearby islands Gozo and Comino. The size of the islands also meant it was very easy to travel right across the island several times during the day as you went between the sights.

I loved the boat trip over to the nearby islands – we travelled around the bay to see the caves surrounding the island and into Gozo harbour, then on to Comino where were able to get off the boat for a few hours.

This is me standing at the top of a rock looking over the Blue Lagoon on Comino – stunning clear waters between the two beaches that enticed us so much we decided to walk across the shallow bay and carry our bags above our head – it was deeper than I expected and being a shortie I did have to swim some of the way while my boyfriend laughed at me.

During the 10 days we spent in Malta we also took a trip to Valletta where we explored the cake shops hidden in the winding streets, explored the harbour and the cathedral, the Grandmaster’s Palace, museums, the forts and library. It was an incredible day packed with history and culture, but unfortunately you were not allowed to take pictured in all of the places we visited so I only have the following:

It was a great day and I would heartily recommend that anyone visiting Valletta makes sure to pop into the Grandmaster’s Palace to watch the changing of the guard, the fortifications, and St John’s Co-Cathedral is nothing else – make sure to wear clothes covering your legs and arms out of respect.

Our hotel organised an evening visit to a Festa in a nearby village – a Saturday night packed with food, live music and entertainment, and fireworks. Perfect.

We had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbour in the village, fresh pasta and seafood – delicious, before heading round to the festa.

It was a lovely evening and one I would really recommend – the music was great and the fireworks were VERY impressive!

Then we spent a day trekking around Gozo and visiting all of the sights, we didn’t make it to the temples unfortunately but managed to see a lot of other sights. One of my favourites was the Citadel which surrounded the town. Here I am standing at the top in the baking heat.

Then we moved on to the Azure Window – another favourite. Amazing to see the crashing waves powering through the window while we swam in a small tidal pool beneath – I loved visiting this spit and didn’t want to leave, especially when we discovered a secret beach behind it and locals sitting by their “beach huts” next to the lagoon. This was the reason we missed the temples, but it was worth it.

This was followed by a trip back across the harbour as the sun was setting.

Malta was definitely one of my favourite countries I have ever holidayed in because there is just so much to do, but it is still a spectacular place if you just want to sit by the pool and relax – we did plenty of both, but my absolutely favourite thing we did there was EAT!

The food was incredible everywhere we went, from the local bakery where they sold spinach and cheese pastries, to The Arches restaurant which sold the finest quality (expensive but worth it) venison, lamb and wine – so good we went twice! If you ever travel there, be sure to eat and drink for it will make you very merry!

Pictures are all my own.

Part 1: A busy summer touring round as many festivals as possible – Wyndstock and Hideout Festival

Now that the summer is clearly drawing to a close, I’ve spent the last week huddled under an umbrella with soggy feet in my sad-looking ballet pumps, shivering despite wearing several layers and the token pashmina has come out of storage. I find myself reminiscing and feeling pretty happy with the way I spent my summer, after a short holiday in Croatia for a music festival, forgoing my usual two-week break abroad, I spent the rest of the summer touring around music festivals across the UK and for once getting to make the most of the beautiful, if late, summer we have had in the UK.

After discovering music festivals last year when I went to Manchester’s Parklife Weekender with my university friends, they ignited something in me that although already aware of, had never really unleashed before now. My love of music, dancing and meeting all types of new people from across the country was perfectly suited to the lifestyle and I had no choice but to further indulge when I went along to Glade Festival and Zoo Project Festival – all attracting very different crowds, from the chavvier types to the laid back hippies, I had a fantastic time at all and quickly decided that 2013 would be my festival summer.

Thankfully, my friends, family and jobs all helped to make this happen and despite going to five festivals this summer, I actually only paid for one set of tickets – top blagger, I know.

It all started at Wyndstock, a new addition to the scene which is marketed as the anti-festival. Set up by Victor Wynd as a party for his friends and like-minded individuals to enjoy a Midsummer Ball in the beautiful setting of Houghton Hall, in my home town, the event is for the more upmarket festival-goer. There was dancing, feasting, fireworks, literature talks, petting of prize bulls, a “fox hunt”, falconry, puppet theatre, lawn games, tours of the stately home, jazz, storytelling and stargazing amongst many more amazing activities. My favourite was the swing-dancing lessons and competition, which my boyfriend won and was very proud about. I love anything vintage-inspired and Gatsby-esque and this was an amazing opportunity to get very glammed up and go to a banquet of lobster and venison before partying the night away with some amazing people.

Before the hunt, meeting the horses and hounds..

Glammed up for the banquet and a night of dancing..

Meeting the host for the evening, Victor Wynd himself…

Our swing-dancing teachers shared dinner with us..

Mark winning the swing-dancing competition..

All in all, a very fun festival with amazing benefits such as being a small and intimate affair, and very posh toilets and showers!

Then we boarded a plane to the Island of Pag in Croatia for Hideout Festival which was very much a festival for the beautiful people – everyone had amazing bodies and the perfect tan. But I wasn’t bothered about all of that, we had a team of friends with us and more meeting us out there for one thing only – to dance until the sun came up every day. 

There were a lot of amazing DJs coming along to play the festival and I was very excited to see a whole range of them including Julio Bashmore, Chase and Status, Skream and Benga, David Rodigan, Rudimental, Seth Troxler, Andy C, Pendulum, Redlight, B-Traits and many, many more… Here are some of my snaps:

Sunset on the first day in Croatia.. such a beautiful country!

Packed out stages…

The King’s Lynn crew ready to rave until dawn..

David Rodigan – one of my favourite sets of the whole week!

Raving is even more fun when you do it with some of your best friends…

Chase and Status were pretty intense…

Boat party with Midland, MK and Julio Bashmore playing… so nice to get away from the festival for a short time..

And sadly, ending with Rudimental, who only gave a rubbish DJ set rather than a full show – such a disappointment!

I wrote about my experiences at Hideout Festival in a preview and review for This Festival Feeling in exchange for press tickets.

Check out my next posts for the rest of my experiences…

Travel: More from Ireland as I search for my ‘pot of gold’

The next day, I awoke bright and early feeling refreshed from an amazing night’s sleep in a cosy bed and lay there for a little while, watching the boats from the bed. I was thrilled to see the sun was shining and that my beautiful new shoes would be safe from the heavy rain I had been warned about. We headed downstairs where a delicious breakfast of cereal, juice, yoghurt with fresh fruit, toast and a full fry-up was awaiting us. We filled our boots knowing full well that we wouldn’t be eating again until dinnertime with the wedding taking place at 2pm at a church that was 30 minutes away. We smartened ourselves up and headed over to meet the others.

I wore a Love by Topshop floral dress which I customised by sewing up the slit at the front of the dress, with a black New Look blazer, a Topshop necklace, my bargain Dorothy Perkins shoes (a steal after the were reduced to £15) and a Primark bag.

Mark wore a River Island suit, with River Island shoes, his tie and shirt came from Topshop, he also wore a waistcoat from River Island and red braces.

We were first in the hotel lobby and made the most of it by having a sneak around to look at the reception rooms and have a drink.

The wedding ceremony was beautiful and suited the couple, Brendan and Liza down to the ground, they are very big on family and the importance of everyone being involved – when we visited them last year they did everything they could to make me feel incredibly welcome and they are endlessly generous and kind.

For the service, they started with Liza walking down the aisle to the tune of Mark’s uncle playing the fiddle.

The couple made their vows, interspersed with readings from several members of the family, in front of priest (Great Uncle) Richard, who had made the journey from South Africa where he works as a missionary in order to conduct the service. Such a lovely touch and he made it so personal to them. I was thrilled to finally meet his after hearing so much about him over the past six years.

Later on, after a champagne reception back the the hotel, with strawberries to dip in our glasses, we enjoyed a hearty meal of a large seafood vol-au-vent, followed by prime Irish beef with gravy, roast potatoes, mash and vegetables (all in endless supply) and finished the meal with profiteroles and meringue. Just what we all needed after such a long day. And the meal was later followed by sausage sandwiches for an evening snack!

Then the dancing started. The entertainment was a rockabilly band which later turned into a disco with the best playlist I have ever heard at a wedding – all good, party anthems such as Cornershop and FatBoySlim – perfect to get everyone dancing!

After dancing until our feet could take it no more, and the DJ closed down for the night, we retired to the bar for more drinking and a lot more laughs. Myself and Mark finally left at around 4-4.30am but heard the party was still going on until 6.30am! We stumbled back to the B&B and hit the deck fairly quickly.

The next morning, after missing breakfast in the B&B, we got our stuff together and headed out for a walk and lunch by ourselves, to make the most of the final day before catching our flight. After a gorgeous lunch of linguine with fresh prawns and a garlic, white wine sauce as we sat outside overlooking the ocean, I insisted on dipping my toes into the water – something that means a lot to me. I love the sea and to be close to it is a big part of my life.

I achieved what I came to Ireland to do – I ate heartily, drank heavily, chatted to everyone, danced merrily, made people smile, learnt to smile again after a stressful few weeks and most importantly, it gave me the break I needed.

By dipping my toes into the chilly Irish sea, I feel like a new woman and that is the most important thing.

Ireland is a stunning country and the views, especially in this part, always leave me breathless. I would recommend that everyone visits Dunmore East at least once – as you can see from my pictures, it really is beautiful.