Early on a Friday morning at the end of January, we were airport-bound once again. Our destination was Malta, and what we were hoping would be a warm and sunny getaway from the bleak London weather. While it turned out that sunshine wasn’t in the cards for us, we had a fabulous time exploring this small and magnificent country (at least, as much as we could manage in just 2 1/2 days!).
Malta, officially the Republic of Malta, is an island country comprised of an archipelago in the Mediterranean, and is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It has a history spanning thousands of years, and has been under both French and British rule (though the French rule lasted only 2 years, until the Maltese asked the British for help). Malta became independent in 1964, though the British roots are still deeply felt in the country and its culture, and joined the European Union in 2004. The official languages are Maltese and English, making this a very travel-friendly destination for English speakers.
We arrived on Friday morning and had transport pre-arranged by our AirBnB host, so we had a relaxing drive to the apartment that we had rented for the weekend. With a patio overlooking a long, open courtyard, it was just the serene setting we were hoping for.
Despite a few kinks (most frustrating: the lock on the door which was incredibly stubborn), we quickly settled in and went right out for a walk. We had asked our hostess for some local suggestions and she told us two things: eat at Fresco’s, and check out the great little neighbourhood market around the corner.
It turned out we were situated even closer to the water than we expected; it was literally only about 100 feet down a little hilled street to St. Julian’s Bay. Technically, St. Julian’s encapsulates the entire bay, but the 3 small bays within it are each named separately: Spinola Bay to the north, Balluta Bay to the south-west, and Exiles Bay to the south-east. Heading north-west from our apartment took us to Balluta, while heading down the north-east hill brought us right to Exiles.
After a brief walk along the promenade, we stopped in at Fresco’s Cafe & Restaurant. The meal was perfection. It began with fresh baked bread, served with LaRambia oil and balsamic vinegar. Today was the day we learned that the quality of the oil and vinegar REALLY make a difference!
Next, I had the Grilled Calamari (gluten free and pan fried), and T had the Fritto Misto, which was a deep-fried calamari, prawns and whitebait, dusted in semolina. We enjoyed both of these alongside a local wine: a 2016 Medina syrah, carignan, grenache blend. The calamari was so good that we forgot to take photos (oops!) and you would think we’d be full by now… well, perhaps we were but then we decided to order pizza. I think our intention was to have something for dinner, but of course it was so good that we ended up eating half at the restaurant and having half to take away. 🙂
T ordered one that featured the Matlese version of sausage but I forget what it was called. I ordered the Pizza Bufala (tomatoes, fresh rucola, mozzarella di bufala). Full of gluten and dairy and let me just say, it was worth it. It is also worth mentioning that Fresco’s is dedicated to sourcing local food at all times, which we loved! You taste the quality when the meat, the wine, the bread, the vegetables- everything you are eating is from the island. This place is a great find for travellers who want to support local and sustainable businesses. The service was great, too. A highly recommended spot!
Wandering back to the apartment, we stopped in at the Old College Mini Market which became our favourite neighbourhood stop. It is owned and run by a family and they were so kind and welcoming that by day 2 we felt like locals. We frequently stopped in for breakfast foods, beautiful fresh produce, and of course some local beer for T to try. That first evening, armed with leftover pizza and groceries, we were ready to hibernate for the night. Having gorged on food, I was also ready for some yoga. After extensive research a few weeks before our trip, I had ordered and received my Jade Yoga Voyager mat, and was thrilled to find that our Malta apartment even had a spacious nook where I could lay it out beside patio doors. Having a dedicated yoga space really encouraged me to practice every day, which my gut desperately needed with all of the food indulgences. Made from renewable rubber and weighing in at only 1.5 pounds, the Voyager is eco-friendly and it fit easily into our carry on bag (keep in mind that T is almost 6 feet, and we still only pack 1 carry on for the 2 of us when we travel).
After more pizza and a bit of yoga, we decided to call an early night so we’d be ready for adventure bright and early on Saturday.