It's always useful to get travel tips from friends and family. If you know someone is going somewhere you are interested, why not take advantage? When they return, quiz them about where they went, what they did, and ask for some handy travel tips.
Malta has been on my radar for a little while, and when my mum decided to go there on a last minute trip recently, I jumped at the opportunity to ask her about it. Here's some of the things Malta offers as a holiday destination.
Why did you choose to go to Malta?
We wanted some Autumn sunshine without having to travel too far, and Malta was the perfect fit. Temperatures there at this time of year are very comfortable, and ideal if you want to be out and about and not get too hot and sticky. We also wanted to go somewhere where we could do some hill walking and go on a few hikes in and around the coast. My partner had been to Malta before and knew it would suit our needs and provide the type of holiday we were looking for.
What was the food like?
We found that in Malta you can get tasty, simple food for a reasonable price. The main dishes on many of the menus included rabbit, pasta, pizza, steaks and fish dishes. Personally we found the Maltese wine leaves a lot to be desired, but they do sell Italian wines in the restaurants for great prices. Overall we were impressed with the standard of the food you can get there for the price. Our favourite meal was steak and we would recommend going to Commando restaurant.
What were your favourite things you did/memories of the trip?
Walking down to the beach, swimming in the lovely warm sea, walking amongst the beautiful scenery and of course, relaxing by our hotel pool. There was actually a pretty bad storm when we were there, the locals said it was the worst they have seen in a long time.
It didn't really impact our holiday too much as the rest of the time we had bright sunny weather. It was also fascinating to walk down to the beach the next day and see all the debris from the storm. When we went to Valletta on the bus the next day, some of the waves were crashing up against the windows which was quite unusual!
How would you describe Malta in 3 words?
Cultural, rugged, interesting.
What were the beaches like?
Mellieha Bay beach was big, lovely and sandy, but also generally quite rocky. Here you can go snorkelling, swimming and wander by the restaurants and cafes. I was surprised just how warm the waters were and was happy to be able to spend so much time swimming in the sea. The beach is located just on the outskirts of Mellieha and within easy reach of the town. We enjoyed the stroll down to the beach every morning.
Give me your thoughts on Valetta
Valletta is a bewildering city. It's got such fabulous older style buildings and monuments to admire. There's a huge grand harbor that's packed with culture and stories. You can learn about the military history and the buildings in and around the city. Valletta also has great shops and restaurants.
What sort of holidaymakers would Malta suit?
It's perfectly suited to "culture vultures", diving and snorkelling enthusiasts and those who want to go on walking holidays. There's so many scenic places to walk and fascinating buildings to uncover.
If you could go back again, what would you do that you missed out on this time?
We would book a trip to Gozo and the Blue Lagoon at Comino. These trips offer fishing and snorkelling, water sports activities (which I love) and swimming and snorkelling in the caves and amongst the beautiful fish and the abundant marine life. The trips were also very reasonably priced, some of them were around 20 euros for a half day trip. The only reason we didn't end up going is because the day we planned to go the sea was too rough, so we went to Valetta for some sightseeing instead.
Did you visit any historical sites and learn about the history of Malta?
We went to Mosta, to the North, a town with a large circular Roman Catholic church, mainly known as the "Rotunda of Mosta", as it has the third largest unsupported dome in the world. A German bomb went through the dome during mass in the 2nd World War, but luckily it did not explode... the Maltese call this a miracle.
It was built by locals and took 27 years to build between 1833 and 1870.
We also went to Valletta, the capital city, which is steeped in history. It has a magnificent Grand Harbour, and was a safe haven for the British navy and Royal Marines in World War II, although it was heavily bombed, and the scars of war are still evident.
It's buildings date from 16th century onwards during the Order of St. John, and are mainly Baroque in character. It was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Malta was a great ally to British troops in WW2, and was awarded the George Cross for bravery by George the sixth in 1942. The George Cross is actually depicted on the Maltese flag.
What is there to see and do?
You can go walking, go on boat trips, hire a boat and visit the Grand Harbour in Valletta. You may also want to visit Mdina, which is known as "the silent city." It's one of Europe's finest examples of an old walled city, and its history traces back 4,000 years. Game of Thrones fans might also want to visit Mosta, a town in the Northern Region of Malta, where they have reportedly just filmed scenes. You can go on open top bus tours here.
Any general tips on travelling to Malta?
The bus service is very good for visiting the key places of importance. You can buy a ticket for 21 euros to travel around on the bus for a week. If you are thinking of hiring a car be aware the drivers can be a bit mad here, so you might want to take this into consideration! Don't drink the water here. The long shallow bay in Mellieha is ideal for kids and families. I would recommend going snorkelling or scuba diving off the Gozo and Comino and Valetta harbour.
From chatting with my mum about her trip, it's clear Malta has a lot to offer those interested in history and culture. To her, parts of Malta seemed like they had been trapped in time. She felt places like Valletta were unlike anywhere she has ever been. If you have read her interview and think, "this sounds like a place I would love", then check out the Malta holidays available with The Holiday Place.