Destination: St. Julian’s, Malta
Recommended Airlines: EasyJet
Accommodation: St. George’s Park Hotel & Resort http://www.thestgeorgesparkhotel.com/
Attractions: The Old Capital City of Mdina, Paceville Clubbing Strip, Valletta, the neighbouring islands of Gozo & Comino, The Point Shopping Mall and St George’s Bay beach.
Overall Experience Rating: 🎒🎒🎒
I just couldn’t resist. I had to somehow incorporate my love of chocolate into the name of this particular post. If you didn’t notice, I’m going to be talking about my trip to… *drumroll*…Malta! I visited this historic Mediterranean gem at the end of summer 2014 and as imagined, the entire trip was comprised of sun, sand, sea and… sexy dancing (I assure you, all will be revealed soon).
So, we were half board guests at the St. George’s Park Hotel and Resort, and it was an interesting stay, to say the least. I use the word “interesting” not to sugar-coat or spare the feelings of their management team (if they ever stumble across this review) but because, till this day, I still can’t quite decide whether the pros of this hotel/resort outweighed the cons, or vice versa. Anyways, I shall mention a few of both and let you decide for me.
This hotel’s location is perfect for you if (like myself) you are down for the turn up; it is practically on the Paceville clubbing strip, which is the main nightlife hotspot in St Julian’s. We couldn’t really take credit for this geographical blessing though, as it was a major plot twist. We were actually booked to be guests at the La Vallette, its sister hotel a bit further into town. However, on the night of our arrival there was a maintenance issue that forced us, and a handful of other newly arrived guests, to be re-accommodated at St. George’s Park. One of the first things I noticed when we were checking in, was the bold architectural design of their lobby; the black, peach and cream theme colours, coupled with the marble finish on the floors, really left a lasting image in my mind. This visual imprint was further reinforced by the fact that we spent a fair amount of time in the lobby. Before you think it – no! We weren’t perpetually locked out of our room because we forgot our key cards; we were frequently in the lobby because that was the sole place you could access internet. Before my fellow Sociologists hit me with an intense ‘slaves to technology’ lecture, let me just say, although it was admittedly an inconvenience, If you saw the enormity of this resort, you would totally understand the managerial logic behind concentrating their Wifi to one specific space. Nevertheless, I promise, I will try having an ‘unplugged’ holiday… one day!
As you’ve probably already gathered from my previous posts, I possess no ounce of guilt nor shame concerning the fact that I like to eat. So this is the condensed gist about the hotel’s food situation: their continental breakfast buffet was delicious, but my palate really didn’t agree with at least 65% of their dinner menu. Yes, the latter was obviously a bit disappointing, but I do feel like acquiring a half board hotel package, in any given country, is a bit of a gamble – especially if you’re a picky eater. Hotel dinner options often tend to be hit or miss, simply because they are so specialised or should I say “creative”. However, the interesting nightly meals weren’t even St. George’s Park hotel’s major transgression against me, the fact that our room featured 2 broken pieces furniture, took the absolute cake. I know right, how cheeky?! *side eye*
However, the hotel’s shortcomings didn’t rain on our Maltese adventure; our itinerary was jam-packed with things to do and sights to see. Amongst the list was: a few beaches, the biggest shopping centre on the island – The Point in Tas-Sliema (although it was comparatively quite small to the ones in the UK), the ancient capital city of Mdina, the neighbouring island of Gozo and last but certainly not least, the [in]famous Paceville Strip!
In true ‘The Black Girl and her Backpack’ fashion, I have a detailed breakdown for you. So, grab a snack, get comfy and keep reading…
Our excursion to Mdina started with a rather hot and lengthy (45 – 50 minute) bus ride from a stop nearby our hotel. Random observation: their buses were incredibly clean (almost disturbingly so). Along the way we passed both the British and American embassies, as well as the Mater Dei Hospital; however, in between those major locations, there wasn’t much to look at outside of the window. Upon arrival, the first thing we did was buy slush puppies, to cool ourselves down, because that single decker bus was absolutely sweltering! Afterwards, we charted a horse-drawn carriage tour, which took us through the mazy streets of ‘The Silent City’, showing us everything from the medieval dungeons to St Paul’s Cathedral (I honestly didn’t mean to use such a polarity as an example). In addition to having a rich history, Mdina is also breathtakingly picturesque. All of the golden, sand-coloured buildings within its fortifications, simply buttresses the fact that the old capital city remains a national treasure to the Maltese, and is truly majestic sight for all who visit it. Check out this beautiful panoramic taken from an elevated point just outside the castle:
YOU GOTTA GO TO GOZO! *mic drop*
…don’t worry, I have a few more details than that. But before I delve into our exploration of the scenic neighbouring island of Gozo, let me share a very useful tip with you guys.
If you enjoy sightseeing and doing a spot of landmark photography whilst on holiday, I must recommend City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours; they’re a fast, fun and an effective way of maximising your time and covering as much ground as possible. When you’re planning the itinerary for your next trip, check if they operate a service in that location. It’s worth a shot. To make it even easier for you, I’m going to leave the link right here >>> https://city-sightseeing.com/en/destinations < < < don’t ever say that I don’t give you guys anything!
Although we travelled to Gozo via ferry – the Gozo Channel, the City Sightseeing tour bus was precisely how we navigated ourselves around the island; it afforded us the luxury of getting off whenever and wherever we wanted. However, if you’re going to do this in Gozo, please bear in mind that there are quite a few stops on this route, so I don’t advise sitting on the open top deck throughout the duration of the tour. Especially if, like us, you visit during a particularly hot season, it’s best to alternate between both decks to avoid exhaustion and dehydration.
In juxtaposition with Malta, Gozo was a much more rural island. It’s landscapes were decorated in greenery (giving us views for days) and it possessed a noticeably slower pace, somewhat epitomizing the authentic, Mediterranean lifestyle. A cute little restaurant by the ferry port also reinforced this proclaimed lifestyle by offering a traditional and exquisite culinary experience – everything (and we all ordered different meals) on their menu, tasted freshly caught, cleaned and cooked. In addition, the accompanying salad was so rich in taste and colour.
Candidly though, I’m glad we only did Gozo as a day trip; I imagine that being there for an extended period of time would eventually get very boring. Other than sight-seeing, it didn’t appear as if there was an awful lot to do (but to be fair, I’m a city girl, so I am slightly biased).
The Paceville Strip
I’ve got such a vivid recollection of the Paceville Strip, mainly because it was absolute pandemonium. In retrospect, I feel quite accomplished because we popped into a fair amount of the R’n’B/Hip Hop clubs before finding ourselves in Fuego’s, a popular salsa club/lounge, for the remainder of the night (or should I say early morning). I’m convinced that it was the ambience of Fuego’s, as well as their delicious cocktails, that kept us there. I really felt like I was stuck in a Latin episode of Strictly Come Dancing, as the dancefloor was packed with couples caught in the swing of the sexy salsa. We, on the other hand, were happily perched at the bar, sipping our Pina coladas and periodically shoulder shimmying to the infectious rhythms… until *doom, doom doom*…I was accosted to dance by a rather persistent local. This is the junction at which this story takes a rather embarrassing turn to the left (because what I was doing certainly didn’t look ‘right’).
As you all should know by now, I’m of Nigerian descent, so I’d like to think I possess more than a substantial amount of rhythm. So, after shaking my head, loosening the grip of his hand in mine and mouthing ‘no’ several times, my brain entertained a self-dialogue which concluded on the rhetorical question of “C’mon, how hard could Salsa be?!”
I can now confirm, that the answer to that ladies and gentlemen is VERY – Salsa is very hard! To make matters worse, this guy was like a professional. He didn’t ease me into any of the steps, he just unflatteringly dragged me along his whole impromptu routine, which included swaying hips, mesmerizing spins and dramatic dips… yes, I SAID DIPS! Afterwards, I came to two conclusions. Firstly, I really did play myself; I had never danced salsa in my life, so I don’t know WHY I thought that owning Shakira’s Oral Fixation Vol.2 album, back in 2006 (and admittedly over-playing Hips Don’t Lie) qualified me to be able to ‘dance’ Salsa outside the confines of my home. Secondly, my sister played me too (what are sisters for, right?!); I mouthed “help me” so many times and she ignored, proceeded to laugh and videoed the entire ‘performance’…and no, I am not going to do myself a disservice and upload it for you all. Sorry not sorry
Before we part ways (just until the next post, of course) you know we’ve got to quickly touch on ‘Travelling While Black’ (otherwise known as “T.W.B”) in Malta. Honestly, we did receive a bit of a salty reception from members of the indigenous. Mostly in the form of stares, whispers and general standoff-ish-ness though, nothing that we couldn’t handle; however, the reason for this only became glaringly apparent on our way to the airport, to return home. In that single car ride, we saw at least 15 young black men, who were distributed at main junctions, to conduct road sanitation. Up until this point, we had only seen a handful of other black people during our trip (a large portion of which were female Nigerian migrants, turned working girls). These young men were all roughly dressed and working outside in boiling conditions with no bodily protection and with inadequate cleaning equipment. It was heart-breaking to see, but those encounters definitely helped me put our reception into perspective. If these low-level and clearly racialized forms of ‘paid’ labour, were the only socioeconomic parameters, in which the indigenous situated black people, seeing three black female tourists would understandably ruffle some feathers. My response to such attitude is simple though, they should stay mad ✌️
In summary, my trip to Malta was everything you’d hope for a Mediterranean getaway to be; it was a combination of relaxing, reflective and revitalizing, with a splash of ridiculousness. So visit Malta and make sure you relish in every single moment of the tease!