Friday, 4 September 2015

A Malta Holiday & Wedding

I travelled to Malta for my boyfriend's Mum's wedding this month and it was a beautiful week. A group of 23 of us flew from Edinburgh airport, many of whom had never met each other. It could have gone either way, but by the end of the week, I felt sad to say goodbye to all these new and wonderful people I met and shared time with.

Staying in St Julians has it's ups and downs. Right in the centre of the night-life, it's a great place for a night out, with a huge choice of bars and clubs. However, if you're not there for the night-life, it can prove very frustrating having to battle your way through 18 year old just-left-school Italians on lads holidays. I wasn't there for the night-life, but I do like a dance and a night out, so it was handy that our hotel was only a stones-throw away from the strip of clubs. And there was a salsa bar - best night I had there, was stumbling across this bar. Hidden in the back of one of the standard club/bars, through a small doorway, unveiled these semi-professional salsa dancers. Of course we joined in, and had the time of our lives - but we were definitely far from pro-style at 4am and after a few local beers!

There's not much in the way of history or cultural visits in St Julians, but there is a lovely wee beach and a couple of harbours. We went JET SKIING! Never done this before in my life, tried it for the first time and now I'm itching to do it again! What a way to see the stunning coastline of St Julians, with it's harbours, beaches and cliffs. There's is a large amount of water and beach sports around this area - definitely recommended for a chill-out or party holiday.

I won't even go into the hotel review, as I've already ranted on trip advisor, but to put it in an advising way: don't go cheap. We did, and regretted it. It is far too hot to deal without air conditioning and without a fridge. Some of the pricier hotels looked stunning. Definitely avoid the cheap, 2-star hotels.

If you're looking for restaurants, heading around the bay to where St Julians meets Sliema, there's a slightly more...for lack of a better word...classy selection of bars and clubs, and little more diversity than the main area of St Julians offers. I highly recommend a restaurant called Scappi's. When I went with a romantic meal with my other half, the place was empty, and we had no idea why. The waiting staff were on top form, and the food was beyond delicious. Over-looking the harbour you'll get a fantastic view - and we were lucky enough that fireworks (the Maltese LOVE them) were being set off right outside as we were finishing off our wine - could you get something more romantic?! You'll find this restaurant on the St Julians side of the harbour that nests the border to Sliema. Sliema itself has a wide range of bars and restaurants, including the Barracuda restaurant that hosted the ultimate night of the week: the wedding.

*At Scappi's, Ryan's burger, mmm*

*Fireworks outside Scappi's restaurant*

With a wedding party of approximately 23 people, this would be classed, in Malta, as a very tiny wedding, with the Maltese valuing extended family and large weddings. But in the guests eyes, including myself, this was perfect. Close friends and family only ensured a comfortable, close-knitted wedding.
The ceremony took place on the balcony terrace of the Barracuda restaurant, overlooking the harbour. The bride arrived in a very classic wedding car that could be seen coming around the U-shaped harbour view.

After the emotional ceremony, which included two romantic poems - traditional Maltese wedding style - we celebrated with prosecco and photos, before heading back out onto the balcony, where the ceremony are had been transferred into two dining tables. Dining at sunset provided a much-needed breeze in the 40 degree heat, giving a perfect atmosphere for the meal. The food itself consisted of lamb ragu for starter, sea bass for main and a chocolate pudding, incorporating both the Italian influence and seafood-legacy Malta has. After the dinner and speeches, there was the classic throwing of the bouquet, where locals and tourists joined in, and the woman who caught it (not part of the wedding party) was absolutely over the moon, having her night made. We proceeded to move to a bar, Tropicana, (two of the three men wearing kilts nipped back to the hotel to change at this point, as kilts and hot weather is not a comfortable mix!) where we had booked a table to end the nights with drinks and good laughs. It was a fantastic wedding, the bride and groom were happier than ever, and there wasn't a single fault throughout the evening.

The rest of the week there was various nights doing our own thing (like the romantic meal my boyfriend and I had, as mentioned above), and doing things as a group. A small group of us went to visit the famous Blue Lagoon and Comino Island on the Friday. Never before have I seen such beautiful waters. Clearer than any swimming pool, and it's all natural. The lagoon is a very popular tourist hot-spot, which unfortunately can take away from the beauty slightly, with burger vans and a hefty amount of deck chairs and umbrellas. But before you buy a deck chair there ( for a sun lounger...), head on a wander around the back of the island, where you'll find slightly less busy spots, where you can jump off the rocks into the crystal waters, just like in the movies. It's a perfect place to relax and enjoy some of the natural beauty of Malta. Not for sun-haters though, as there is not a lot of shelter from the sunshine.

On the last full day of the holiday, we got the wedding party all together and headed for the city of Valetta - the most beautiful city I have ever seen in my life. I will say immediately that I wish I had spent more time earlier on in the trip in this stunning city, surrounded by walls that are just a start to the remaining war history that Malta has. You can see the Italian and religious influences sculpted on the classic buildings that line every street. My boyfriend and I went on a wander whilst some of the other were eating, and found ourselves walking where the locals interacted, away from the restaurants and shops. Hymn singing rang throughout the streets from a nearby church, and local Maltese sat on their doorsteps and hung over balconies, interacting with each other across the street. We walked down to one of the walls of the city and found a quiet spot where we could really inhale the beauty of Valletta and the island of Malta as a whole. Back into the busier streets there are fountains dancing to music, plenty of restaurants and great shopping opportunities - and a 5D cinema! We have already discussed, as a couple, that we will visit Malta again and stay in Valletta, so we can experience more of this romantic city.

Overall, Malta has given me a fantastic experience. The people are very kind and helpful. The Italian influence brings incredible food and stunning buildings, and the Maltese themselves do some lovely traditional food of there own, such as the Pastizzi (a pastry snack). Being surrounded by water also gives way to delicious sea food opportunities. If you visit in August, as we did, you may be lucky enough to encounter the Santa Marija holy festival. If you do, prepare for busy streets, music and bands every night, pop-up bars and plenty of shredded paper landing on your head! Oh, and of course, plenty of fireworks!

*Having fun with the waterproof phone! Please excuse my chins!*

Have you visited Malta? Any recommendations for my next visit and for fellow readers? Let me know in the comments!

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