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Malta – A surprising getaway.

Malta Blog
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I accepted my trip to Malta. It was a place I visited a LOT when I was younger with my parents and I didn’t really remember much about it. Probably because I was quite little at the time. But whenever people mentioned Malta to me it always brought to mind churches, dirt tracks, building work, not much in the way of beaches and dogs…….lots of dogs!! With that in mind I was a little nervous that it would disappoint – however I do like to try and go with an open mind so I went along to Heathrow open to any possibility!!
First of all check in with Air Malta was smooth with no hiccups and we boarding pretty much on time which is always a bonus. They have a drinks and snack service which was full and varied and you also get a free snack on the flight (what was exactly in my roll I couldn’t tell you but it was lovely all the same!!)
Once landed we made our way through Malta airport and were greeted by the lovely Malta Services who were to accompany us throughout our trip. We made way to our hotel for the next three nights – Cavalleri Art Hotel. When we pulled up outside the hotel all we could see was building work (so far just how I remember) and cats (not quite how I had remembered)!! However we were given a warm welcome to the hotel and a small drink of something a little herby and fruity!! The staff didn’t seem to quite know what it was but it seemed ok. Now this hotel is not for the faint at heart!! Art Hotel really does mean ‘Art’ and I can imagine some of it not being to everyone’s taste – headless ladies, huge great tarantula’s anyone?? It kept us all quiet for a few minutes anyway while we gazed around reception!!
The rooms were a good size and the balconies also, which was refreshing. The bathrooms left a little to be desired and needed a good refurbishment but all in all very comfortable.
As we arrived late that evening we just had time for a quick drink in the bar (very reasonable – around 3 euros for a bucket – sorry glass of wine) and then down to dinner. The dining room was in the basement which I always think gives a bit of an old fashioned feel and it was your typical euro style buffet. The next morning at breakfast though they had an omelette making station so I was happy – it was nice to have something fresh.

Our first day we headed for Valletta. This is the capital city of Malta. Our guided tour through the vibrant streets of Valletta allowed us to discover the beauty and charm of the fortified city built by the knights in 1566. The Order of St. John ruled over the islands for 268 years and left a unique cultural legacy of which Valletta is the prime example. Firstly we headed to the Upper Barracca Gardens where we enjoyed a breath taking view over the Grand Harbour. We spent a while amusing ourselves spotting a few of the smaller cruise ships and famous peoples yachts. It was very beautiful and tranquil and a great place for viewing. We then continued our visit to St. John’s Co-Cathedral where we saw the Caravaggio masterpieces in the Oratory, the Flemish tapestries and the church museum. I have to admit I am not one for tapestries but the intricacy and details in the ones we saw are just phenomenal. The Co-Cathedral also houses one of the most beautiful marble laid floors in the world. After being impressed by all we had seen we made our way to the Hilton for lunch. First impressions were extremely good – the foyer was beautiful and the tasteful Christmas decorations looked amazing. Lunch was tasty and then we had chance to look round the hotel. Extremely different to the Art Hotel I have to say!! Conveniently located 20 minutes from the airport the Hilton has 4 outdoor pools, 2 children’s pool and an indoor heated pool. There is also a Mayoka 5 Senses Spa with a selection of relaxation and wellness treatments. For customers to enjoy there are 3 restaurants and 4 bars and a café in the foyer lounge serving amazing looking cakes and coffee in a relaxing atmosphere. The hotel has free WIFI available in all public areas. For those that are interested, there are also plenty of well-equipped conference rooms.
That evening we were being hosted at the Corinthia St George Hotel so we jumped aboard our minibus and made our way there – I have to say one of the nice things about Malta is the fact you are never really far away from anywhere – during the whole trip we only had to travel 20 to 30 minutes maximum to anywhere which is nice when you are visiting for a short amount of time like we did!! Making a city break not an impossibility. Corinthia is part of a small family owned chain and the founder’s philosophy is: ‘in a world of mass produced experiences we offer our guests the made to measure’. You can certainly see this as soon as you walk in – we were made to feel at home right away. The hotel boasts six pools, a diving school, water sports centre and luxurious spa. Because pools and terraces are on different levels it doesn’t look like a massive resort which can be very off putting instead the layout is really well designed. With its own private beach as well it really is a ‘mini resort’!! They also offer a courtesy bus to St Julian’s, Silema, Valletta and the Royal Malta Golf Club meaning you don’t have to hire a car if you don’t need.

Our last full day was spent in Mdina a medieval fortified city at the central part of Malta. It is the old capital city of Malta. Its medieval name is ‘Noble City’. It is also known as the ‘Silent City’ and is a film-makers paradise. Some of the TV programme ‘Game of Thrones’ was filmed here as well!! A feeling of peace and tranquillity does come over you once you enter Mdina and everyone speaks in hushed tones – it is a good place for contemplation!! There is a timeless atmosphere and still to this day noble families live in the palaces that line the streets. In fact whilst standing outside one of them with our guide we caught a quick glance into one of them as a resident walked out. I had mixed feelings about the place, I loved the peace and quiet but because it is a tourist attraction I am not sure I would like people starting into my windows and door whilst I am going about my daily chores!! Whilst there nearly all of us stocked up on the reasonably priced and beautiful hand blown glass.
When we left Mdina we were surprisingly told to pack our bags as we were moving hotels for our last night (this wasn’t in the programme) and we travelled to the Marina Hotel Corinthia Resort which is the 4 star sister property to the Corinthia St George. I am going to be completely honest this was because Cyplon (the company we went with) didn’t feel that the Cavalerri Art Hotel was giving us a fair feel for Malta. Although I am aware every hotel has its place I would be very careful about the type of client I sent there. If you are looking for a cheap, 3 star standard hotel that you are not planning to spend much time in then it is perfect. If you don’t like anything basic then steer well clear. The Marina was an absolute joy to be in I have to say. The rooms were amazing, the beds comfortable and probably one of the biggest balconies I have ever seen. The views were also amazing. A big plus point to this hotel is that you can use all the facilities of the Corinthia St George but pay 4 star prices – excellent!! As it was quite late we just had time for a quick chance then a glass of prosecco in the bar before going for dinner. Between 6pm and 7pm they do ‘happy hour’ and you get some amazing tapas with your wine – personally I would have been happy to stay nibbling all night but that is not really protocol on these trips.
That evening we headed for orientation and dinner at the Westin Dragonara Resort. We were all really excited about this and I have to say we weren’t disappointed!! It was absolutely beautiful and I do wish we had had time to see it in the light but by night it was still spectacular. They describe their atmosphere as ‘refreshing’ and I have to say I thoroughly agree. It is in St Julians and set right on the water’s edge. You have direct access to the Mediterranean Sea from two private lidos and also water sports to enjoy to your heart’s desire. For those who are no keen in lidos there is a small sandy cove where the within the Reef Club area which is ideal for younger guests. There are also two lagoon style pool areas with spacious sun decks, children’s paddling pools and Jacuzzis. You could see from the terrace that there was plenty of space and you wouldn’t feel over crowded. For the foodies there was something for everyone – including a super food and juicing restaurant!! You would be spoilt for choice here!!

Thursday was our last day in Malta so after a quick look round the Marina we headed to the airport for our flight home to Heathrow. Once again, smooth check in and boarding plus a snack on the way home so we were all happy.

Did the trip change my mind about Malta? At first I didn’t think it would especially the sights that greeted us at our first hotel but spending time in Mdina and Valletta was absolutely lovely and made me realise that there is much more to Malta than churches and dogs. I was impressed by the standard of accommodation they have and their 5 star properties rival their other European and Caribbean counterparts. Would I go again? Do you know what if I had a spare three days I would be tempted to do a little city break to Malta for sure – I would definitely incorporate a visit to the beautiful Gozo though!!

NB – On the last morning in Malta while looking at the various room types in the Marina I was unlucky enough to fall and break my leg (note to all of you – do not go onto a marble balcony if there has been torrential rainfall the night before.) I would like to say the medical care and attention I received from the time I was picked up by the ambulance to the time I was discharged for my flight home was absolutely amazing and the cleanliness of the hospital second to none. I know we all worry about healthcare abroad but I would be quite happy to be treated in Malta again (I hope that doesn’t happen but nevertheless………)

 

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