A Guide To Malta

If you are reading this, changes are big you’ve got a serious case of wanderlust. We all do. Wanting to travel as far, as much and as long as possible. But, we tend to forget that sometimes, far and long isn’t necessarily what we need. Or what we are capable off (those damn bosses that wont let us travel the world whenever we feel like it). If a 10 day break is all you need, want and can pull off, there are still plenty of places to go where you will feel just as far away as if you traveled all the way to the other end of the globe. We shouldn’t forget those little gems closer to home (well, in case you happen to live in Europe, if not, then this story is not about close to home but still very much worth it ;-)). One of those gems is the medieval and exotic isle of Malta.

Hidden between Italy and Africa, Malta is easily overlooked. A shame, since those pristine beaches, ancient cities, spectacular cliffs, amazing architecture and so much more, is worth every bit of your attention. Whether you want to dance all night long in one of the many bars in St. Julian, work on your tan in Qawra, visit ancient ruins or sniff on some culture in Valetta, you’ll enjoy every bit of it, hassle free. And even though it’s always charming to discover places where you don’t speak the language, the fact that English is the second official language on Malta, makes your trip even more relaxing. Another important detail that will definitely make you want to book: the climate. Between May and October, the average temperature is 26 degrees celsius. Wintertime on the island means an average of 12 degrees. Not too bad eh?

Where to stay
There a enough villages on Malta where you can book your stay, from simple apartments to all-inclusive resorts. Where to stay all depends on your main goal of the trip. Want to head over to one of those resorts? Then Qawra, Bugibba and St. Pauls Bay are your towns. However, don’t expect much of the true Malta here, these towns are full of concrete and tourists. So make sure you have a damn nice resort if this is your home away from home. The true party animals among us should go to St. Julian. This is one of the most vibrant towns, filled with clubs, bars and cocktails. You’ll dance the night away and thanks to the many happy hours, won’t feel robbed inside your wallet. Just be careful here at night, if you don’t watch your belongings closely, you might get robbed for real (oh yeah, my pretty iPhone was a goner after one night in St. Julian’s barstreet, and I wasn’t the only one). So leave your phone at home and party on. The best of both worlds, in my opinion, is the more relaxed but still bustling Sliema. This seaside town, across the water from Valetta, offers nice walks down the boulevard, some great restaurants, good places to stay as well as some more quietness.

Hey, bus driver
Since Malta is home to so many different types of fun, there is one thing you definitely need to do: grab the bus. Until 2011 the island was populated by a large amount of bright yellow, orange, blue and red oldtimer buses, most of them enhanced with religious artifacts of the owner of the bus. It was a sight to be seen and even more an adventure to drive. Unfortunately those buses have disappeared since then, but that does not mean that it isn’t still the best way to make your way around the country. ‘It’s not about the destination but about the journey’ couldn’t be more true here. Just staring lazily out of the window, admiring the landscape zoom by, is the most relaxing way to travel. Best part of it, it’s pretty affordable. Specially when you plan to discover a different part of the island every day. In that case you can buy an unlimited bus pass for 7 days. This ‘ Explore’ card is just 21 euros (yes, they have euro’s) and will get you anywhere you want, day and night. You can buy these passes at a number of sales offices, including the airport. Just ask for the Tallinja Explore card.

Old bus on Malta

Right, so you have your transport all sorted out. Now, where to go?

Fabulous Valetta
This is the countries’ capital, UNESCO recognized, and it’s fabulous. The city is surrounded by water and makes you feel like you have traveled back in time to the middle ages. It has some beautiful churches, St. Johns Cathedral to name one, harbors and tiny alleys to get lost in. If you want to chill out for a while, reading a book or just watch people (or boats), go the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Full of shady places, little fountains and birds. Don’t be scared when they fire the canons that are stationed below the gardens, that just happens. Valetta offers lots of little and big cafe’s and terraces, restaurants and bars. And of course a ton of nice little shops, museums and everything you need for a hot day in the city.

Comino
Wherever you are in Malta, on almost every street corner they’ll try to sell you a cruise to Comino, a small Island where the water is bluer than blue in the Blue Lagoon. This cruise will sail you along the Maltese coastline, it’s super pretty. However, in the summer season, it’s also super crowded. If you happen to find yourself on Malta before June or after September, take the cruise. Just make sure you pay a little extra for the more luxe cruise on a Turkish wooden vessel, you’ll get everything you need including a little mattress on the deck for sunbathing. Don’t go for the cheaper, massive tourist boats. Unless you like to sit on an uncomfortable plastic chair, almost on the lap of your sunburned English neighbor for the entire day. If you don’t fancy the cruise (in the high-season) or if you are on a budget, take the bus! Go to Cirkewwa in the north and embark on of the ferries to the Blue Lagoon. Once arrived, you can stay as long or short as you like. Go early if you want to avoid the crowds (there will be crowds, trust me, but the water is worth it).

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Ghajn Tuffieha Bay & Golden Sands
Hey beach bum, this is the place to go for a tranquil day in the sand. There is, as far as I know, only one resort near these beaches, so it’s much less crowded than the sandy options near the resort towns. Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Sands are next to each other and the bus stop is in the middle of nowhere. The beaches look like hidden bays and you’ll find a lot of locals here as well. There are not many restaurants, so make sure you stock up before you go. All you need to do once you have arrived: find a spot and enjoy. Oh, and to make sure you are back at the busstop in time for the final bus to avoid being stuck here for the night (unless you are up for and adventure, of course).

Hidden Ghar Lapsi
After a long busdrive, you’ll arrive at Ghar Lapsi. At first you will doubt whether you are at the right place and whether you should catch the bus right back. Then you will walk down the street, and see the stairway between the rocks. Climb down and smile, you are in the right place. A natural pool between the rocks is the perfect place to cool down and to chill in the water. Want to chase some fish? Just swim from the pool to the open water, put on your goggles and enjoy the underwater-world. This is a mostly known as a dive site and a far journey from almost all of the villages, so you’ll see more Maltese seniors bathing there than hungover tourists. It’s pure heaven.

Eat cake in Mdina
Exactly in the middle of the island, the medieval town of Mdina arises. Hardly any cars are allowed in this thickly walled city, so you can look around and simply be amazed by the wonder of the buildings, the doors (yes the doors), the views, the smells and the cake. Yes, the cake alone is a reason to catch those buses heading to Mdina. Search for Fontanella Tea Garden, find a spot on top of the city walls, take in the views and the most amazing cakes. If you don’t mind death by chocolate, take the choco one and thank me later.

Malta Mdina

Spinola bay stroll
If you’re staying in Sliema or St. Julian, don’t forget a stroll around Spinola bay. Full of nice places to dine or drink or just soak up the many lights and sounds. There is only one word that describes this bay: lovely.

The colours of Marsaxlokk
Google Malta images and you’ll find the colorful boats of Marsaxlokk. Not a sight to miss. This little fisher town is not spoiled by large apartment buildings and will give you the authentic Malta vibe. The boulevard is the perfect place to grab a bite, since the many little cafes offer great fish meals for very reasonable prices. If you are there on Sunday, the big market will tickle all of your senses.

I think I haven’t covered half of the adventures you can have on Malta, but you get the picture. This is one perfect island, combining sightseeing and other day trips with lazily hanging on the waterfront. There is no need to head over to the other side of the world to experience true adventures. Just make sure to catch the bus on time!

Love,

Jill

Check Out Bari, Italy!

After a beautiful wedding of my dear friend Marlieke aka Cotton & Cream, I traveled back to Bari. It’s not as populair as Puglia but it’s definitely worth visiting and I’m going to tell you why! From spectacular gems, top-notch cuisine to historic castles. This town is full of energy and great atmosphere. Bari is a big port city on the Adriatic coast; the capital of the Italian region of Puglia. I stayed here for a few days in an Airbnb apartment close to the city center.

Bari Vecchia
The “old town” of Bari, is a must-se! A very charming town with lots of hidden lane ways and paths and amazing architecture. You will see old cute Italian men on the streets playing cards and you will see grandmothers sit outside their homes and roll, shape and sell fresh pasta, orecchiette (or “little ears” pasta are traditionally found and made in Puglia). Lovely to walk trough and stroll Day and Night.

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Italian Gelato
Italians do it better than every other in the world, they make the best gelatos! When in Italy I can eat ice-cream for lunch, dinner, and in between meals. I found this place called Martinucci 1950. The flavors were all pure and fresh and my favorite was the “pistacchio” the taste is sublime!

Ice-cream in Bari

Food and Drinks with a view
Admire almost the entire seafront of Bari at Via Venezia. The seafront walk here is very pretty, decorated with cute street lamps, and surrounded by Victorian style buildings. After walking around you should definitely go to La Ciclatera Sotto il mare. This cafe has a nice, small terrace with views over the sea and old walls. Time for an aperitif!

Wandering around
One of nice things of Bari is that this city is easy to visit by walk. Walk along the old city walls, with beautiful views of the palm tree lined promenade on the sea. Then Visit the Basilica of St Nicholas, where apparently the bones of the real Saint Nicholas lay buried. Last but not least, visit the Cathedral (Duomo) of San Sabino.

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Beach
Spending time at the beach is also another popular thing to do during a vacation in Bari. In just 15 minutes’ walk you can go from the center to the beach. Discover which are the most famous beaches. The beaches of Polignano a Mare for example, among the most popular along the coast, some rocky, some with golden sand.

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The cute fisher boats of Bari’s coast

Love,

Sarah

An Italian Summer full of festivals!

It seems as if Italy has finally got its mojo back, this year the Italian beaches will be the summer destination of choice for millions of Europeans probably wary to venture to tourist destinations in Turkey, France and Spain. Unfortunately, the terror threat has had a certain decisive factor for many travelers however Italian hotel owners will be the last to complain. If you are coming to Italy this summer you are absolutely spoiled for choice as there are countless music, theatre and gastronomy festivals, outdoor operas and concerts by international stars. There is still plenty on schedule for this Italian Summer.

As it promises to be another long hot summer with temperatures up to 40 degrees in many popular destinations I’m guessing you will be up for some action during the cooler evenings. This is a rundown of my favourite events which will be taking place during the end of July up to about the end of August in some of the main tourism destinations such as Marche, Tuscany and Sardinia.

Marche is a glorious summer destination with some of the best beaches, food and wine Italy has to offer. Marche is also the destination for Summer Outdoor Opera lovers such as the Macerata Opera Festival will be playing through the 14th of August at the Arena Sferisterio. www.sferisterio.it

A favourite of Classical music lovers is the Ravello Festival, these enchanting concerts take place high above the Mediterranean Sea in the ancient hamlet of Ravello, with unmatched views over the Amalfi coastline. Concerts are to be scheduled throughout the month of August up until September 30th. www.ravellofestival.com

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Stunning views at the Ravello Festival

I’m going to skip right over to Sardegna if I may, for the Dromos Festival, for those of us that would like to celebrate the existence of the ‘disobedient’ woman! Who doesn’t? The objective of the festival is to pay homage to contributions of women in music and the arts. A festival that could potentially please many with an international line up filled with new age jazz, blues and contemporary acts. Taking place from the 1st august until the 15th of August: Concerts, expositions and theatre some of which will be held center stage at the spectacular ancient seafront amphitheater, the Arena di Tharros. www.dromosfestival.it

So you actually think you would like to spend August in Rome? No you aren’t completely weird, no weirder then me in any case! Because I think Rome is awesome in August, no traffic, parking spots, quiet evenings. So don’t miss taking in an Puccini Opera at the Roman Thermal Baths of Caraccalla which is being used as a backdrop for some of the most amazing Italian Operas up until mid August with Madame Butterfly, Nabucco and The Barber of Seville on the program. Tickets are available here 

However the hottest ticket in town is most likely the Andrea Bocelli concert The Cirque to be held at the open air Teatro di Silenzio near the Tuscan town of Lajatico on the Maremma Coast on the 29th and the 30th of July. http://citysoundmilano.com/it/teatro-del-silenzio/biglietti/

Italian Summer, teatro del silenzio

I’ll meet you here this Italian summer! – Cous Cous Fest 16th – 25th of September in Sicily
If you ever traveled to Sicily and missed a visit to the beaches and islands off the Western Coast in my opinion you have missed out on some of the prettiest beaches, national parks and idyllic holiday islands on the Sicilian coastline. From Castellemare di Golfo to the outer island of Pantelleria the province of Trapani makes for a stunning holiday destination. Those of you looking for great street food, eateries and great beaches look no further than the town of San Vito Lo Capo. You would do well to stop by during the annual Cous Cous Fest that’s set between the narrow streets and piazza’s. It’s a truly a gastronomy festival where Europe meets Africa. This is a Cous Cous cook off with contestant chefs from eight countries – Côte d’Ivoire, France, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia, plus the Palestinian Territories
www.couscousfest.it

Ttalian Summer, cous cous fest
Feast your tastebuds at the cous cous fest. Photo source: http://www.deliciousitaly.com/

Love,

Elisabeth

*Elisabeth Jane is one of our guest bloggers who lives in Rome and knows all about Italy! If you are looking for more entertainment options, feel free to give these events pages a quick visit for a year round selection of the best events in Italy. www.dolcevia.com

Top 5 » Most colorful places in the world

We’ve selected our top 5 most colorful places in the world so you can travel and bring some color to your live!

 

1. Chefchaouen, Morocco’s bluest village  
Blue Monday has never looked so good. We are totally mesmerized by this beautiful Moroccan village called Chefhaouen.
Chefchaouen (or Chaouen) is situated in the Rif Mountains, just inland from Tangier and Tetouan.
Founded in 1471, the town now has about 200 hotels & apartments because of the increasing number of tourists.
Did you know? That the countryside Chefchaouen region is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco. Hashish is subsequently sold all over town, but is mostly the domain of native Chaouenis.

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We can’t get over these beautiful colors (source featured image: condenast traveler)

2.  The Favelas, Rio De Janeiro
Notorious for their crime wars and poverty, this part of Rio is looking rather colorful since a couple of years thanks to 2 Dutch artists.
They employ local youth to paint the buildings and houses for a few reasons; Give them something they can be proud of and take them of the streets.
We love this and that’s why it’s our number 2.
Check their website for more info and other projects.

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The Favela have never looked so colorful (Source: Favelapainting.com)

3. Isla Mujeres, Mexico
This small Caribbean island is one of the most colorful places on earth because of  all the shops and houses there.
It’s only 7km in length and it’s perfect for lazy beach days.
Did you know? That Isla Mejeres literally means “women island”

colorful houses
Wouldn’t you just want to live in a house like this one?! (Source: Fotolia/AP)

4. Havana, Cuba
Yes, you knew this one was going to be in the list right? Havana is becoming more popular now that the USA renewed their bond with Cuba.
If you want to experience Havana in all it’s original beauty, you must hurry up. We’ve heard that the first MC Donald’s have been spotted..

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Still authentic..for now! (Source:cubaabsolutely.com)

5. Vernazza, Italy
Only accessible by sea or steep walking routes, Vernazza is one of 5 villages along the Cinque Terre coast of Italy.
The blue sea and the green trees certainly help but this village owns it’s own colorful reputation.
Did you know? That there is a trail that connects all 5 towns together? So bring your walking shoes!

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All the colors match in Vernazza. (source: Vernazza.nl)

Love,

Elke

How to see Rome in 2 days

This city has been on my European bucketlist forever. Somehow I never got the chance to visit Rome but when I planned my Greek Island hopping tour a few months back, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to fly via Rome. With only 2 days to discover this Italian capital, I needed to plan a little ahead to make the most of it. After all, 2 days may seem too short for a city with so many things to see but it can be done! How?

Read more

Cool Travel Website » TripInView

If you want to get a good impression of how your next holiday destination looks, keep on reading.
My best friend told me about this cool site! TripInView.com

TripInView is an innovative website and application that provides documented video’s and images on the Mediterranean coastline countries like France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta and Portugal.
Filmed out of a helicopter, the clear images and video’s will take you right next to the coastline and goes 3 steps ahead the ordinary Google Maps.
Especially the video material takes you on a magical journey as the visitor can kind of “visit” the coasts and beaches of the the Italian Riviera, the Greek islands,Côte d’Azur, rocky Malta and the stunning Iberian Peninsula.
The application (available for IOS) offers practical details about the shorelines.
You can create your own trip or add some to your wishlist

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Stunning helicopter images of the Greek Coastline

Tripinview started back in 2011, when the Greek founders were asked for some holiday tips including images. There, they quickly realized that with the exception of some well-known area’s, no high quality images were available. So they came up with the idea of covering the gap with videos and photos, to be taken from a helicopter. They worked hard and after 3 years, TripInView was born.

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Above: The French Corsica coastline. Below: Barcalona, Spain

At present, TripInView has 600,000 helicopter photos and 250 hours of video from the Mediterranean coastline, covering 339 destinations and containing 7,727 points of interest such as anchorages, marinas, ports, villages, cities and of course: Beaches!
They are planning to include the Caribbean next so watch this space! 

Check the site here.

Love,

Elke