So last week I returned from an amazing, busy, fun, stimulating 3 days and 4 nights in Malta. During my time on the island I was whisked round all the tourist spots, stuffed to the gills with fabulous food, taught how to paint, shown the photographic highlights of the capital by the Nikon ambassador to Malta, introduced to deep fried pastries, shown ancient ruins and driven to to film locations.
It’s therefore not entirely surprising that it has taken a few days (and perhaps more importantly a few nights sleep) for my brain to assemble everything it saw into some sort of order and to find a way to tell you about the whole experience. So here we go…
I was flown to the island as a guest of Creative Holidays Malta and the Maltese Tourist board. The former is a small newly established travel company which specialising in painting and photographic holidays (heaven for us creative types!) and although my press trip combined both activities, normally the holidays focus on one craft or the other.
We arrived on Friday night having flown on a 3 hour flight from Gatwick to Valetta with Air Malta. Our accommodation for the trip was on the east of the island at the Hotel Corinthia in St George’s Bay. The hotel seems to have a couple of great swimming pools and a lovely terrace area, but to be entirely honest our itinerary was so packed that I only ever saw them from a distance! The room was good though as was the lovely little cocktail bar which we sampled one night.
Our Malta experience begun on the Friday night with the first of many awesome Maltese meals at the Commando restaurant in Mellieħa. The building is 300 years old and takes its name from the ties it developed with the Royal Marine Commandos in the 1930s. Whilst we were there I got to sample Imqaret a sweet pastry with a filling of dates. You often see them for sale on street corners, but I think I picked one of the best locations to try them as they were wonderfully (and surprisingly) delicate.
On Saturday after breakfast we headed off for a full day of photographic lead activities with our guide Vince and photojournalist Rene Rossignaud who is quite a character! Valetta was quite different to what I had been expecting, more fortified, grander and densely populated, but it oozes character which makes it the perfect place to spend time wandering round looking for photo opportunities.
The streets of Valetta rise and fall like the roads of San Francisco and are dotted with colourful doorways and balconcies with religious iconography on every corner. Taking a traditional boat ride around the harbour you can look back at the imposing facades of the old houses juxtaposed with the modern spleandour of superyachts moored in the marina.
The sun was quite strong as we explored the city which wasn’t ideal for photography, but Rene was able to talk us through the how the light falls at different times of the day and the opportunities this creates for the camera. He knew the parts of buildings that are lit up by the warm evening sun and the places you can go to capture long-exposure shots at night. The courses themselves will seek to maximise these opportunities and provide not just expert knowledge but a local insight into where to find the best locations at the best times of day.
We stopped for lunch at Guze Bistro, a subterranean restautrant in a 16th century building which served up a platter of savoury delicacies including plump Maltese olives and delicious local cheeses. The mushroom tart I chose for the main cause was more of a hearty mushroom pie – Slowly I started to learn that the Maltese like their servings large, although honestly I have no idea where they put it all as I never saw an overweight person while I was there!
Finally we headed for Marsaxlokk Village in the south-eastern part of Malta where brightly coloured fishing boats bob around in the bay and you can drink Kinnie at a pavement cafe whilst watching local life pass you by.
It was a pretty busy first 36 hours and we were barely off the starting blocks! Still to come was a hillside painting workshop, a ferry ride to Gozo and visiting the place where Game Of Thrones was filmed. I’ll share all of those with you in a second installment next week…
Are you thinking of visiting Malta yourself? If you’ve got any questions I’ll try my best to answer them if you leave them in the comments…