“I need some sun”, I thought as I gazed at the dismal British weather during a rainy morning commute. By the end of my 30-minute bus journey, I’d planned an entire trip to the warm Mediterranean island of Malta a few weeks later, for less than £200. There was just one problem – I’d only have three days there. Perhaps three days wouldn’t be enough time, but no trip is ever enough time, so off I went.
Checking myself into a fancy hostel (complete with swimming pool and tapas bar) in the bustling seaside town of St. Julian’s, I put my stuff down, and immediately went out to explore. Strolling along the lively waterfront of Spinola Bay, I inhaled deeply and took in the ‘smell’ of Malta, as described by my beautician. It’s a warm aroma of salty air, pine trees, and a waft of hot cheese emanating from the many pastizzerias (think Gregg’s, but more delicious). Uniquely Maltese.
I always say the first evening of your trip is the best time to get your bearings, and a feel for your destination. My walk around St. Julian’s was certainly not one without purpose, for I was heading to an eccentric little place called ‘Cat Village’. It had randomly caught my attention as I perused Google Maps, and with a name like that, I couldn’t not check it out.
It is essentially a gaudy but adorable street corner, where stray cats come for a good meal, a warm bed, and love from passing humans. It’s run by a local lady who adores cats, and she relies on donations of money and cat food to continue her wholesome work. I didn’t get a chance to speak to her, as she was busy talking to some Italian visitors, but I put some money in the box and said hello to a sleeping tabby. I smiled at the scene before me. It’s an assault on the senses, with such a kaleidoscope of colours, smells, and twee music playing in the background. But that’s just the way I like it – cute, but chaotic.
It seems Maltese people really do love their cats. As I walked back along the harbour, this statue caught my eye:
Any cat owner can relate to this scene.
Just behind it were a couple of cats lounging beside a disused dinghy. They looked well-fed and healthy, which is really refreshing for a Mediterranean country – as much as I adore Greece, the general treatment of stray animals is so dire that there are a number of foreign charities working in the country. Not so, here. If you’re a cat lover, Malta will warm your heart.
I continued meandering home, stopping for a quick snack on the way. My half-Maltese colleague had recommended I try ‘cannoli’, which are definitely not to be confused with savoury Italian cannelloni. Cannoli, rather, are puff pastry cones stuffed with all manner of sweet fillings. I went for the Nutella and Smarties one, because my eyes are always drawn to the most colourful option.
So much choice. So little room in my stomach to eat them all.
It’s probably good that I didn’t buy more than one, because my tiny piece cost three Euros, and it was gone in about three mouthfuls. That’s a Euro per mouthful. I blame Brexit for this. But, I’d come to get away from all that, so I gazed at the peach-coloured sun setting over the water as I munched my sweet Maltese treat. I do love this classic Mediterranean vista.
I headed back along the promenade to my hostel, Inhawi. It’s a great little place – a hillside hostel, just tucked behind the buzzing St. Julian’s seafront. It’s quiet and chilled, but a stone’s throw away from all the nightlife you could wish for. Set in a traditional Maltese building, with plenty of outdoor space, it’s no wonder it’s frequently described as the best hostel on the island. Its pièce de résistance is the swimming pool, which is a great place for a drink, some poolside snacks, or even an impromptu pool party.
It’s like ‘walking into Instagram’.
I listened to the familiar sound of crickets chirping as I stared up at the stars. I’d come here alone, and so far, was having an extremely relaxing time. A couple of years ago, I’d have been terrified to take myself on a trip, but now? I feel I can go wherever I like. It’s really quite empowering – knowing you’ll never have to miss out on a travel opportunity or cheap deal ever again, because you are confident enough to rely totally on yourself. It’s an experience I’d recommend to everyone, if you are able to – it makes us all more rounded people.
While I was enjoying my deep thoughts, I realised it was getting late, and my eyes were telling my brain to stop thinking too much. With plans for the next day in mind, I reluctantly moved from my tranquil perch, and turned in for the night. I’ll be visiting Malta’s best beaches soon, so come along if you want to experience some stunning snorkelling, or explore some Game of Thrones filming locations – the TV show that really put Malta on the map.