Author Archive

Easter in Malta, a photographic prelude

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

As a prelude to the Easter weekend and its considerable street festivities and events, we’re posting up some evocative photos taken on Our Lady of Sorrow’s day, which marks the official start to Easter.

Our Lady of Sorrows procession, March 2013

This was shot at Valletta’s renowned event which saw streets closed as hundreds of participants filed to Our Lady of Sorrows church in the city. If you missed these street processions or are flying into Malta only now for your Easter holiday, these photos give you a good idea of the religious mood. The photos depicted here are sombre and will be echoed in many of the upcoming Maundy Thursday and Good Friday events (see our Guide to Holy Week) and in personal celebrations of Easter as people make a type of pilgrimage visiting seven churches.

our Lady of Sorrows March 2013

Easter in Valletta, March 2013

About the photographer
Imsouchivy Suos (G.V.) is a street photographer originally from Phnom Penh, Cambodia who was in Malta as a student. This makes the sequence all the more fascinating as we see a well-known Maltese event captured by the lens of an outsider looking in on this timeless scene. To find out more about him and his work click here.

Easter in Valletta, March 2013

Easter in Valletta, March 2013

Living in St Julian’s: property buying & rental guide

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

It’s not uncommon for would-be expats to Malta to ask us where’s best to live when they move here. Typically, they ask for an overview of property, whether it’s best to buy or rent, and for a low-down on the des-res areas. Malta’s main coastal resorts, in particular St Julian’s, tend to be firm favourites for expats, but why exactly? Here, Dragana Rankovic, an expat herself, now helping others to find their ideal new home on the islands, provides a helpful guide to property and lifestyle in St Julian’s.

Choosing St Julian’s

St Julian’s, located on the north-eastern coast of Malta is a popular living area that caters to tourists, expats and locals alike. Because Malta is an all-year-round holiday destination, St Julian’s is a town that is just as alive and dynamic in the winter as it is in summer. Despite being such a popular district, St Julian’s still retains a peaceful quality and its charm.

Today, St Julian’s sits snugly around a bay with its colorful Maltese luzzus giving a hint as to the traditional focus of the town. A walk along the seafront shows St Julian’s contemporary face with its restaurants, souvenir shops and boutiques. Don’t be deceived into thinking it’s just an expat-tourist area though as locals also enjoy the benefits of this lively resort. In 1854, there were just 600 residents of the town whereas today that figure is almost 8,000, creating a strong sense of community into this rocky inlet that was once a sleepy backwater.

Even though St Julian’s boasts many restaurants, bars and nightclubs, it also manages to offer a safe retreat for residents who live and work in this area. From families to retired couples, St Julian’s really does have something for everyone.

Where to live in St Julian’sSt Julian’s is a multi-faceted town which manages to fit together its various offers quite nicely. Deciding where you want to live in St Julian’s depends on what you are looking for and which ‘face’ of St Julian’s appeals most.

From new developments and penthouses to residential houses and apartments, there’s a location to suit, regardless of whether you wish to rent, buy or let a property in Malta. This makes St Julian’s a particularly lucrative area for fledgling landlords and experienced property moguls looking to invest.

Below, is a brief summary of the main areas in and around St Julian’s:

Paceville
The areas around Paceville after the war were mostly farming communities surrounded with fields, and Paceville itself only had a few restaurants. Unlike today, parking in Paceville was relatively straightforward as people used to park their cars in fields, one of them being the field on which the St. George’s Park hotel was built.

Paceville’s slow transition into a tourist hub commenced in the 1960s, when two major hotel corporations, the Sheraton and the Hilton, developed five-star hotel properties in the area. Paceville offers great opportunities for investors who want to buy apartments for holiday lets as well as for young couples and professionals who either want to rent or buy property in Paceville.

Portomaso
Portomaso is one of the main new developments in Malta which offers luxurious residential accommodation overlooking the marina and which also provides a leisure centre, a beach club, shops, a Hilton hotel and a conference centre. It is here that you’ll find Malta’s only skyscraper, Portomaso Business Tower; coming in at 98m it houses a club on level Twenty Two.

Pender Gardens is another popular lifestyle development in St Julian’s, which offers a wide variety of residential and commercial property. With access to a fitness centre, pool and car park, apartments in Pender Gardens are highly sought after by both investors and residents looking to rent, buy or sale property in Malta.

St Julian’s Environs

Swieqi
Swieqi is close enough to Paceville to take advantage of the many amenities and events on offer, but far enough away to offer a quiet, peaceful residential environment. There are many great properties available for rent in this easily accessible location. Public transport into Valletta and other parts of Malta is excellent and one of the park and ride schemes is located here. Properties in Swieqi include maisonettes, apartments and terraced homes.

Madliena
Madliena is another desirable area near Swieqi-St Julian’s and rumored to be the place where Mary Magdalene was shipwrecked. Madliena is undergoing development with Madliena Village; a number of luxury apartments offering superb sea views are being developed nearby, along with high-end properties in Madliena Ridge. Such interest is turning this quiet village into one of the most sought after areas to live in Malta.

Spinola Bay
Spinola Bay lies on the other side of St Julian’s and encompasses the traditional quiet bay with its luzzus and fishermen. There are still plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants, but the pace of life here is quieter and more conducive to those who wish to dine al fresco with a bottle of wine watching the sun sink over the horizon. This is the place where retirees find their escape and there are more traditional Maltese properties to be found in this region.

Public Transport in St Julian’s

Buses are plentiful in this district with several routes going to Sliema, Valletta and Paceville and stopping at various locations along the way, although they might operate a lighter schedule in the winter. There are also night buses on at the weekends and buses to the airport.

The new park and ride in Swieqi is also a handy way to get into town without worrying about parking. There are several taxi companies too, but these can be an expensive option unless you’re sharing.

Schools in St Julian’s

The most popular school in St Julian’s is the Sacred Heart Foundation which runs both a primary school and a senior school for girls. There is a good mix of local and expatriate children here and lessons are primarily in English. There is also the St Vincent School on St Julian’s Hill and a few public schools as well as a huge scattering of English language schools. Even if the locality doesn’t have the school of your choice, Maltese schools all over the islands are within striking distance; all run minivan transport for pupils at a reasonable rate per term.

Local Amenities in St Julian’s

There is always something to do in St Julian’s. The Spinola Palace Gardens offer a quiet retreat during the day with breathtaking views. Portomaso marina is full of luxury yachts, restaurants and bars and from here you can get to the beach which is popular in summer with sunbathers and swimmers.

For shops you need to head to Bay Street which also offers large-screen and an IMAX cinemas and a bowling alley. It was the closest Malta had to a shopping mall before The Point in Sliema, and you can get most things here from household goods to clothing.

For supermarkets there is an Arkadia supermarket beneath the Hilton Hotel. However most of the local butchers and grocers often have cheaper deals and can be fresher and there is no shortage of local food shops. There is also a Lidl in San Gwann not far from St Julian’s Bay.

Need some help with property in St Julian’s or elsewhere in Malta?

Dragana Rankovic can guide you in your search. Feel free to contact her directly by email or tel: (+356) 79791976. This video gives an overview of the Maltese Islands,  of various places and moods, dawn to dusk, not just St Julian’s.

Experiencing the Unusual: Seeing Your Malta Holidays In A New Light

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Malta, a Mediterranean destination that sounds all too familiar to many British people. Everyone has a granny, neighbour or work colleague who has been to Malta once, twice, or even more frequently. Whenever I make cursory mention to folk in the UK that I happen to live in Malta, I find ready and eager conversationalists. People open up about their time there in the forces, or that of their dad’s, or say how they’ve close friends in Qawra. They then go on to mention specific shops and bars they visited on holiday, or more likely the shopkeeper and bartender whom they got to know on first name terms.

While Malta may be familiar to the British, it has a lot to offer under the bonnet that’s uniquely its own, even though it’s had more than a dose of overseas’ cultural influences for centuries. This article by seasoned traveler Ariana Louis teases out several of the more unusual and iconic ways that Malta takes the Mediterranean holiday and makes it all its own; one that visitors will want to return to time and again.

A Shared History

Comino, Malta by travfotosMalta has always been one of the top destinations for UK holidaymakers, quite renowned as the number one spot for Brits in search of cheap holidays. After all, Malta and the UK do possess some shared history, since the country was actually a British colony until the mid-1960s. A cluster of Mediterranean islands situated right between the island of Sicily and the northern African country of Libya, boasts some of the most high-quality and luxurious hotels and resorts in Southern Europe.

Malta is a habitual stop on many Mediterranean cruises, and its capital, Valletta, is a very popular shopping destination for many patrons of such cruises. The open air markets that are littered all throughout this tiny country are a real source of insight into Maltese daily life and socialization rituals, in addition to being the places where one can buy the country’s traditional crafts, such as knitwear and lace.

When it comes to popular holiday activities, snorkelling and diving are probably the ones that attract British holidaymakers the most: the beautiful, clear Mediterranean waters create superb visibility, and the abundance of reefs and caves contribute to making diving in Malta a great experience for divers at every level. An experience that is, very importantly, also a safe one…since Malta does not have any dangerous predators in its waters.

Malta’s Night Life

For the younger ones, Malta holidays have also been recently becoming synonymous with, believe it or not, clubbing! In the last couple of years, the night life in Malta has really spiced up! During the summer, various internationally-renowned DJ’s are continuously invited to perform in the village of Paceville, on the coast near the small beach town of St. Julian’s.

All in all, Malta is a very much established destination for travel and leisure, with cheap flights frequently available from many major UK cities.

What Maltese Cuisine?

One thing that Malta is not really famous for, unlike its much larger neighbour up North (Italy, of course), is its cuisine and restaurants: indeed, many of us could admit to probably never even hearing about a Maltese culinary scene, ever! Yet, this is one cuisine that definitely should not be overlooked: influenced by British, Italian, Mediterranean and Northern African foodstuffs and techniques, the Maltese cuisine is definitely one of the most interesting in Europe.

Harbour reaches, Malta by Michel27Having been a somewhat “isolated” corner of the Mediterranean for many decades, fish, fresh vegetables and various pasta dishes taken from the Italian cuisine are the key protagonists in Maltese cuisine. Fish is made in soups, hearty stews and encased in puff pastry. As a matter of fact, puff pastry is used to encase a variety of foodstuffs, such as vegetables and different kinds of meat: might this be a reference to our own British pies? Indeed, such pies, called “pastizzi” in the Maltese language, are the most common street food in every Maltese village and town: it is a small ricotta, cheese and egg puff pastry, which can often be enriched with peas, meat and anchovies. Served hot, these are delicacies very much beloved by the Maltese people, who like to have them as a teatime snack.

Another Maltese unusual delicacy, which however many holidaymakers would not have the chance to taste, is an “escargot” stew that is made with the snails that come out with the rainstorms of late September. As in the French tradition, these are boiled, smeared in garlic and eaten cold, accompanied with a sauce of fresh herbs, garlic, and some slices of traditional Maltese bread.

The Maltese tradition is not inattentive to the drinking needs, either: the country can boast some quite good, cheap wines produced by “Marsovin” its main winery which has been owned by the same family for decades.

Malta’s own beer label

Maltese beers are also known as being quite good. Definitely an import of its former British colonizers, the UK’s favourite beverage gained even more popularity when a local family, the Farsons, decided to open their own brewery and produce the very first Maltese pale ale, the “Farsons Pale Ale”. In addition, a cool summer event to attend is the Farsons Beer Festival, which runs from end of July to the beginning of August and is held in the Ta’Qali National Park, located near the village of Attard.

With all these tantalizing choices, restaurant scouting could thus become an interesting activity to get into during your holiday in Malta. You may not admit it but the one thing you will never forget in any holiday is the cuisine. The tastes linger beyond the trip and once you love it, you will remember it for years! Have fun exploring, and enjoy your Malta holidays!

Author-Bio:

Ariana Louis is a teacher by profession and enthusiastic traveller by nature. Her passion and main objective in life is to be able to unleash her adventurous nature by visiting places all over the world, where her perky and extrovert self can be free to learn with and from the locals. As of now, she has travelled more than half-way around the world, and is currently embarked in a daring “love story” with Asia. Ariana is often helped by Travel Republic, which also offers Malta holidays, whenever she makes a trip abroad.

Photo credits: Top: Neil Alderney; (centre) Comino by Travphotos; (bottom) Michel27

A note about Euro notes (& pizzas): the new-look €5

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Face of Europa on Euro notesIf you live in Malta or any one of the 17 Eurozone countries, you may have noticed a newcomer in your wallet since May 2013. Or, like myself, you may not have. As someone who lived through the UK’s momentous changeover to decimal currency in 1971 and then Malta’s change to the Euro on 1 Jan, 2008, it’s strange to think that there are children, now aged 11 like my son, who’ve only ever known the face of Europa. I hazard a guess that only bank tellers have clocked the latest note change even though around 332 million of us use it daily.

This post is of the practical advisory type to help visitors and residents of Malta get to know their notes well, not just to spot fraudulent ones, but also to help them when they delve into purses and wallets. Since May, a new-design Euro fiver appeared; the first and lowest denomination new-look Euro note to be in circulation as part of an ongoing programme over the next few years to replace Euro bank notes. Wear and tear of old notes and replacement with smooth, sleek new notes apart, there practical reasons for the change.

The design changes are quite subtle to an untrained eye, but these quirky European Central Bank videos explain how to spot the design differences:

New security features and benefits

euro 5The new €5 banknote has benefited from advances in banknote technology since the first series was introduced in 2002. It includes some new and enhanced security features. The watermark and hologram display a portrait of Europa, a figure from Greek mythology – and hence the name of this series of banknotes. An eye-catching “emerald number” changes colour from emerald green to deep blue and displays an effect of the light that moves up and down.

Short raised lines on the left and right edges of the banknote make it easier to identify the banknote, especially for visually impaired people.

All these security features can be found on the front side of the new note and can be readily checked using the “feel, look and tilt” method [see videos above for how]. It is envisaged that they will be included in all the banknotes of the Europa series. The other banknotes in the series will be introduced in the years ahead, with the €10 as the next denomination.

Classic Cars take to the road: Mdina Grand Prix 2013

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Classic cars, who doesn’t love them? Oozing retro glamour with their curvaceous bodies and vintage liveries of pillar-box red and racing green and some softer 50s pastels and greys dominating. They are a car and photographer’s delight. The Valletta Grand Prix Foundation‘s Mdina Grand Prix 2013 is on this weekend. We’ve just walked by the static car display in Mdina’s cathedral square and wished we’d had a camera with us. But with camera in hand, we’ll be back over the weekend for some photo opportunities (how’s your moving image shooting?). The Grand Prix takes place in the picturesque setting beneath the Bastions of Mdina, Malta’s Old Capital city, affording some good spectator viewpoints from the upper bastion gardens above the ditch.

Classic car rally, Valletta, 2012

Here’s some info from the organisers…

What started off in 2009 as a dream with an organisation going into motion all in within a few weeks has now transcribed into a prestigious annual event which is becoming also internationally renowned with participants from all over Europe attending. The event which was a first for Malta, having recruited foreign participants to take part in competitive motorsport, clearly illustrates the high standards that are being portrayed.

Last year’s event, that was spread over three days from the Concours d’Elegance on Friday to a weekend of racing, has been described as another success with major coverage both locally and also the by the international classic motorsport press. Enhancing the event were various local activities that continued to illustrate what Malta had to offer in terms history and culture

Leanne Attard photography

Over the weekend, spectators were also treated to Static Car Exhibitions put up, in collaboration with the VGPF, by the Old Motors Club (OMC) VW Club Malta and various other local motoring clubs.

This year the Mdina Grand Prix promises to be even more spectacular, with the programme being further extended by another day in order to accommodate more competitive and social gatherings. Preparations are in full swing and entries for the Grand Prix and Concourse will soon be available online.

The event would not be possible without the logistical support from the Mdina Local Council, backed by the Mtarfa and Rabat Local Councils, together with the continued support and cooperation of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), the Malta Council for Sport (KMS), Transport Malta (TM), the Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport and Communication (MITC) and the Malta Police Force, as well as the collaboration of the Old Motors Club (OMC), Island Car Club (ICC), the Malta Motorsports Federation (MMF), the Malta Drag Racing Association (MDRA) plus our dedicated Corporate Sponsors.

More Info

Grand Prix including static classic car displays from 10 – 13 October, 2013, in and around Mdina. See the Valletta Grand Prix Foundation website for details.

Photos: top photo courtesy of Gege Gatt; in-text photos courtesy of Leanne Attard Photography, Valletta Grand Prix, 2012.

Mighty Holidays to Miniature Malta

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

There are plenty of reasons why holidays to Malta are still so popular. The tiny archipelago is like a scattering of gems set in the Mediterranean’s diadem. Don’t let the tiny size (the entire country – one fifth the land area of London) discourage you from traveling and taking a holiday here, says travel writer Michael Roberts. Here’s his round up of what he likes most about Malta however many return trips he makes to the Islands.

There are More Than Two Sides to Malta

I like the fact that while Malta is one of the most densely populated pieces of real estate in the world, a veritable rabbit warren afloat on the sea, Malta still has secluded beaches. And places you can contemplate the profound depths of history. But if you find the quiet of those spots starts getting to you, the place crawls with restaurants, shopping centres, spas, and just about everything else in quantities great enough to enjoy an entire life (or, alas, just a fortnight) of travel and leisure.

Just to illustrate though how much it has to offer, Malta’s the kind of place where hotel amenities regularly include several centuries of history alongside a pool, not to mention splendid luxury. I’m often able to find cheap flights there, and there are regular ferries, if you like a little transportation variety. And there’s the weather, which is about as good as you’ll come across most times of the year.

Top destinations include the town of Valletta, sitting on a scenic finger of land and doing double duty as Malta’s capital and one of its three World Heritage Sites. Mediterranean coastal towns run the risk of sinking under the weight of superlatives, to the point where I can’t talk about their charm without feeling cliché-ic. No matter how many of these places I’ve seen before, however, I never regret a visit to Valletta.

Malta still offers secluded beaches

Malta still offers secluded beaches

With a car rental, you can escape to the Delimara Peninsula, a world away from the bright lights of the little city. Driving is also a good way to see The Megalithic Temples of Malta, which not only roll off the tongue; they’re also on the World Heritage Site list. Consisting of eleven stone monuments up to seven thousand years old, wandering them is like voyaging the seas of time. Speaking of old stone and seas, don’t miss Dwerja, a coastline of fantastic limestone formations.

Subterranean in the Middle of the Mediterranean

My Maltese favourite happens to be the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni. The name alone conjures something arcane and exotic – a port of call where interstellar cruises disembark in some science fiction novel, perhaps. As unique as its name, it’s the world’s only known example of a subterranean temple built in prehistoric times. It had a long and varied history, beginning as a temple, or perhaps the home of an oracle, but was later converted into a necropolis where eventually 7,000 souls were laid to rest. You can still see some of the remains today.

The chambers lie on three different levels. This first is the main ossuary. The second, to me is the most interesting, with walls cut from limestone so skillfully they resemble laid stone, rather than carved rock. The second level contains what I think are the most interesting rooms in the whole Hypogeum. The name of the Decorated Room speaks for itself: curving walls are covered in swirling designs, evocative of lost dreams and forgotten ancient beliefs. The ochre paintings in the Oracle Room are just as fascinating, but the real attraction there is the acoustics of this odd little gourd-shaped chamber. It’s easy to imagine a whispering oracle crouched in this dark spot under the uncanny swirling paintings designs, uttering prophecies magnified by the very earth itself. Easy, because you can try out the acoustics yourself.

Perhaps most impressive is the age of the structure. The Hypogeum was constructed during the Bronze Age, around 4,500 years ago. Think about it: 500 more years will have to pass before our Gregorian calendar is just half as old as these chambers. And remember, Bronze Age. No iron to cut and carve Malta’s hard limestone back then. The ancient masons did it all with flint and obsidian. To achieve such workmanship with such tools is another reason the site is famous.

A Few Important Details

That the Hypogeum lies essentially directly beneath a thriving metropolis not only makes it weirder, it also makes it extremely easy to visit. Multiple buses run from near all the hotels in Valletta past or very close to the Hypogeum. And once you’re done with your tour, the Tarxien Temples, definitely worth a visit in their own right for their intricate stone carvings, are a short stroll away. That’s one of the things I love about Malta, it’s so small, you can see a lot in a single day, and still have time to soak it all in without feeling rushed. The only catch is that Heritage Malta, which runs the site, only allows 60 people a day to tour the Hypogeum. So, be sure to plan ahead!

There’s an old saying on Malta, “A kiss without a hug is like a flower without fragrance.” No one place in Malta is far enough from the water that you don’t get the fragrance of the sea in each breath. The little island country truly is a flower, where you can breathe deeply of the ocean of history.

About the Author

Michael Roberts’ love of travel began at a young age, when his historian father regularly took the whole family on holidays to Malta. Refusing to grow up being an integral facet of the successful travel writer, he spends trips ferreting out forgotten historic sites, contemplating their grandeur, and then writing about them for websites like Travel Republic.

Photos: courtesy of Neil Alderney & I.Vogelmann (Flickr creative commons)


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