Last month, my husband Dave and I celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary. We really hadn’t taken a big trip beyond a long weekend just the two of us since our honeymoon, so we decided to go big this year with a European vacation extravaganza! We’ve always talked about Malta so we sat down earlier this summer and booked it. The biggest questions we received is 1) Where the heck is Malta? And 2) Why are you going there?
Dave introduced me to Malta years ago. Basically, he always thought it looked like a cool place to visit and once I did some research, I agreed. Nothing more to it than that. We’ve also both been to other “bucket list” places in Europe like Paris, London and Rome so this was a new place to visit. Although I’d like to go back to all those places and then some. (You can read about our trip to Italy in 2011 with parts 1, 2 and 3 here. Unfortunately I didn’t blog back in 2001 when I went to Europe for the first time in high school, but I have a sweet photo album if you ever want to see it 🙂
Malta is an island country in the Mediterranean and is 50 miles south of Sicily and 176 miles east of Tunisia. It’s also one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries! I think it’s the size of Philadelphia to put it into context. You know I like to Google stuff, so I read that Malta became a British colony in 1815, serving as a critical way station for ships and the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet. Also, although the origin of the name Malta isn’t 100 percent certain, it is often suggested that the ancient Greeks called the island Melite (honey-sweet), referring to the country’s unique production of honey, thanks to an endemic species of bees found in Malta. Malta’s also been popping up on some lists this year, like Travel and Leisure’s Fastest-Growing Tourist Destinations in the World. So there’s your fun fact of the day.
I have to say Malta is so unique and beautiful! A lot of it is like Sicily but in other ways, it’s totally different. We felt safe and were thrilled with how nice the Maltese people are, and how affordable it is! I can’t recommend it enough.
Now that you have all of that fun background, here’s a quick(ish) breakdown of what we did each day. And in true fashion of every big trip I take, I wrote down what I ate every day.
Days 1 & 2: Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13
These were our travel days. We took off from Pittsburgh International Airport on Friday afternoon with a quick one-way 4:00 p.m. Delta flight to JFK (thanks, frequent flyer miles!)
Our flight out of JFK wasn’t until 11:30 p.m. so this gave us plenty of time to go through security, buy snacks and have dinner and drinks. We then flew overnight to Oslo, Norway on Norwegian (had a great flight/plane and it was CHEAP! Just make sure you stick to their weight limits – they were strict in the U.S. but didn’t give a crap in Europe). After a smooth flight that took less time than we thought (only about six hours, not 7.5) we woke up in Norway for a little layover so I had a croissant and coffee and got on our next Norwegian flight – a three hour trip to Malta. We arrived in Malta about 8:00 in the evening after the time difference. The travel was fine but we were tired and Dave had to drive us to our Airbnb in our rental car. In Malta since they were a British colony they drive on the opposite side of the road with the steering wheel on the right so that was a little confusing, not to mention it was night time and they have so many roundabouts and then it started raining! Yikes. But with Dave’s mad skillz and Waze we made it to the apartment, got a quick tour, then went to sleep since we were pooped!
Day 3: Sunday, October 14
Woke up to this view. This will work!
Sunday was all about acclimating to our new place. We found this place on Airbnb (again, so cheap!) and was just what we needed – small living room with kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and this super amazing deck that we spent time on every day. It was in a place called St. Paul’s Bay, which was a quieter part of the island which was perfect for us. And there were a few restaurants, a convenience store, cafe and coffee/gelato place all walk-able. (If you’re interested, I can share the link to the Airbnb.)
We walked around St. Paul’s on Sunday and bought some snacks/drinks for the week, including some Maltese beer and wine (we loved Cisk beer), then we had a late lunch at the cafe and drinks on the deck. The weather was just OK this day and we were still adjusting to the time, so it was the perfect way to spend the day.
Day 4: Monday, October 15
OK Malta, let’s do this. Today we drove (well, Dave drove) to Mdina and Rabat and explored those towns. Had dinner that night near our apartment where Dave dined on Malta’s own rabbit! I just had a bite. OK but not my favorite. I stuck to raviolis.
Day 5: Tuesday, October 16
Boat day. We did a cheesy touristy boat but it was so great and we did a lot. We first went out to Comino and literally jumped into the Mediterranean and swam under a cave. People were jumping off of cliffs and it was just so cool. One of my favorite moments of the trip. The boat then took us to the famous Blue Lagoon that I had been seeing on Instagram for months. We spent about an hour here taking in the amazing blue water. Malta’s terrain is super rocky, so I was glad I brought my tennis shoes! The boat then brought us over to explore a smaller island called Gozo, so we walked around there and had a snack and then drove over to Xlendi Bay. Finally, the boat took us back and we grabbed dinner at the cafe, where we had pizza. I got the Maltese pizza – sausage, goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes. Yum! If you visit Malta, definitely take a boat trip.
Day 6: Wednesday, October 17
Today we drove to Malta’s capital (and Europe’s 2018 capital of culture) Valletta. What a cool place! We walked around the streets and people watched. We also got to try a Malta favorite and traditional snack – pastizzi. This delicious treat is a pastry stuffed with ricotta. I loved it. We then had dinner in Valletta where Dave got the rabbit again (such a local) and I had mussels. We loved Valletta!
Day 7: Thursday, October 18
Today we took it a little easier since it rained just a little, so we read and relaxed, then had fish and chips in Buggiba, a touristy area about a mile from our apartment. Since the weather was just OK, we went to the movies and saw A Star is Born! It was amazing. Also, it was cool to be at a movie theater overseas for the first time. They had a bar, which was not super unique but they also had assigned seating and intermission. Definitely don’t have that in the states! Fun fact: I’ve collected movie theater ticket stubs since 1995, so this one will be the highlight of my collection.
Day 8: Friday, October 19
Hagar Quim is among the most ancient religious sites on Earth. Pretty remarkable to see this. They also overlook the sea and the views are just incredible. Then we drove to Qrendi to see the Blue Grotto and then over to Marsaxlokk, a small fishing village, and had dinner outside. Dave got swordfish and I had a simple pasta dish with tomatoes.
Day 9: Saturday, October 20
We drove back to Valletta and hopped a ferry to the Three Cities, Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, which have “provided a home and fortress” to almost every person who settled on the Islands. More amazing views and more food! We had dinner over there and split an Italian meat platter, salad and pasta. We headed out as it started to get dark so it was neat to see the cities lit up.
Day 10: Sunday, October 21
Last day in Malta! As much as we loved it, we were ready to go and spent Sunday doing a little packing then lounging on the deck and reading/drinking beers. It was the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday. After gassing up for the next day, we walked to dinner on the water and both had calamari and linguini with clams for our last night.
See more photos on Facebook and stay tuned for part 2 where we head to Denmark to get back to fall weather!