What to do and Where to go in Malta!

In my previous blog I mentioned that that I would be suggesting ways of how to spend your holiday in Malta during the summer months.

If staying in the popular tourist places such as St. Julian’s or Sliema you might enjoy taking a 10-minute ferry from Sliema to Valletta and to spend the day walking around the Capital City built by the Knights of St. John in 1565.  Visit the Upper and the Lower barraccas and feel awed by the magnificence of Grand Harbour steeped in history. From there marvel as you look at the old Three Cities from such a vantage point.  Whether you are the museum-going type or not, do not miss a visit to St John’s Co-Cathedral – it is reputed to have the most beautiful floor in the World.  Have lunch and perhaps dinner as well in one of the many fantastic restaurants in the Capital. My favourite restaurants there are Michael’s and Palazzo Preca but the choice is truly endless.

On another day, you might like to go up North and visit the old town of Rabat and the old city of Mdina. Both are indeed very quaint with their time-honoured characteristics still intact.  Have some pastizzi whilst there or take lunch at the Xara Bottegin for some authentic Maltese food. Their beef olives – bragioli are to die for.  In Rabat you can visit the Roman Villa and in Mdina you might fancy a visit to the Natural History Museum and the Cathedral Museum amongst other things.  If a sweet lover, visit Fontanella the coffee shop overlooking Mdina and capture some breathtaking views from the top. The famous Mosta domed Church which is popular with tourists can be seen from there.

At the southern end of the island you might like to take a trip to Marsaxlokk, a village which is popular for the open air market on Sundays. Marsaxlokk is a quaint fishing village where you can find quite a few good fish restaurants or perhaps sit al fresco at Ta Victor for some awesome Maltese food. His ravioli are simply exquisite.  Down South you might also wish to visit the Hagar Qim Temples which date back to 3600 BC, Mnajdra Temples built in the 4th Millennium BC and the Tarxien Temples which is a UNESCO World heritage archaeological Complex that dates back to approximately 3150 BC.

You might also fancy a trip to the sister island Gozo.  Many exciting things to do such as visiting the Cittadella in Victoria or going to see the Calypso Cave which is located on a cliff just off Xaghra and whilst the cave where Homer is thought to have written ‘The Odyssey’ is nothing much to see, the views from it of the sandy beach, Ramla Bay, are awesome.

Back in Malta, I do suggest that you take a trip to The Blue Grotto which consists of a number of sea caverns on the south coast of Malta. If you are there between sunrise until about 1 pm you can marvel at an awesome sight as sunlight leads to the water reflecting different shades of blue. Take a boat trip to visit the caves, or for the adventurous types one go go scuba diving, snorkeling or rock climbing. The local restaurants there offer food with a sensational view.

You might also enjoy visiting a Maltese village festa which is the quintessence of all that is traditional Mediterranean folklore in one event. These feasts are noisy and colourful with lights and spectacular fireworks, band music and street parties. Village feasts celebrating a particular Saint or another, are an experience that you might find quite unique.

In the evening if you like the vibrant nighlife scene, than Paceville in St Julians is the place for you. Teeming with bars and restaurants and all sort of clubs. You can also do some shopping from Bay Street Complex where shops open 7 days a week from 10am until 10pm.  You might like to have a meal at our very own fornelli restaurant which serves mouth-watering Italian dishes with a modern twist.

Whatever you plan on doing, make sure that if staying in the sun especially at one of Malta’s fantastic beaches with turquoise waters wear sun block – the Maltese sun can be unforgiving even to the climatised Maltese.

Watch out for the next blog about Diving in Malta

James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL

A Mediterranean diet or a Mediterranean cuisine?

Perhaps it was the Americans who coined the word ‘a mediterranean diet’ sometime around the 1970’s when the American Diabetes Association wrote about a diet which is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

This pleased the Italians who made a slight change by replacing the word ‘diet’ which has a burdensome meaning to the word ‘cuisine’ which has an elegant sound to it.

Obviously, Mediterranean Cuisine is not simply the domain of the Italians, although I must add that it is my favourite, especially the cuisines of Southern Italy and Sicily. Think of the cuisines of Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia, Campania, Basilcata, Calabria and the whole of Sicily. Each of these cuisines deserve a dedicated blog to try to do justice to their awesomeness.

So think also, Maghrebi cuisine from North Africa such as couscous. Think Levantine Cuisine from the Middle Eastern Mediterranean coast such as, tabbouleh; wheat with tomatoes, parsley and mint and drizzled with olive oil and hummus. I personally love most dishes from the levant such as their aubergine puree, mixed with olive oil, onions, tomatoes and cummin and drizzled with lemon juice.

But there’s more. Ottoman or Turkish cuisine is also part of the Mediterranean culinary family. Think Greek which sometimes has much in common with Turkish such as, moussaka and bechamel sauce. I still think of Lamb chops and yoghurt when Greece comes to mind but of course, Greek cuisine is very rich with all types of meat and fish.

Mediterranean French Cuisine is also rich in fish dishes; imagine bouillabaisse a speciality fish stew from Marseille, or Insalata Nizzarda – Salad Nicoise from Nice from where Socca, an unleavened pancake also comes.

Spain’s Mediterranean seaboard, provides us with mouthwatering dishes such as paella which originated from Valencia. This dish can come in a variety of ways including, mixed, seafood, vegatables and with chicken or rabbit to name but a few.

And of course there is Maltese cuisine, with comfort food such as timpani which is a baked pasta dish covered with pastry, or thin slices of beef stuffed with minced beef called Bragioli (beef olives) and whilst there are no olives in bragioli the word ‘olive comes from the old English verb, ‘to olive’ meaning ‘to roll it up’.

From all the different cuisines in the World, I relish the cuisine of the Mediterranean and perhaps the one main ingredient that gives them the bond to each other is the mighty olive.

 

James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL

Julian the Poor

For the first six months of my life I lived in the town of St. Julian’s named after its patron saint; Saint Julian. He was known as Julian the Hospitaller and also as Julian the Poor and became the patron saint of hunters who flock to this part of the Island every last Sunday of August for the annual summer feast to shot off blanks in his honour. St. Julian is thought to have hailed from Belgium (Le Mans in France and Naples in Italy also claim his birthplace) which is probably why, the town’s flag is similar to the Belgian national flag.

Fifty odd years ago when I was still a young boy, visting my maternal grandparents who continued to live in St. Julian’s until their death, the town was a quiet and serene fishing village. Few would have thought that this would eventually become the prime locality for tourism in Malta.

Perhaps, it was due to the subdivision of St.Julian’s from which Paceville emerged that gave rise to the status for this locality of being the number one hotspot for tourism and locals alike, who flock to this part of the island for leisure.

After all, the place is teeming with restaurants of all genres, the finest hotels, clubs and bars, a Cinema Complex, a bowling centre and one of Malta’s biggest shopping Complexes.  It also has its own blue-flagged beach at St.George’s Bay which is cleaned every day and surrounded by places to drink and dine.

So maybe St. Julian should also have another title to his name – Julian the Favourite!

James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL

MICHAEL BOLTON – When a Man Loves a Woman

When Michael Bolton started his singing career in 1975 aged 22, I was only 14 years old and preferred other music genres since I was never much into hard rock and heavy metal, but after he anglicised his name from Bolotin to Bolton and started writing such awesome songs like “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” for Laura Branigan and his Grammy Award-winning cover version of “When a Man Loves a Woman” he became one of my favourite in the music scene. Now the Multiple Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter will be visiting Malta for two concerts together with his band as part of another leg on his journey of his world tour wowing audiences around the globe.
With more than 65 million records under his belt, Michael Bolton has a strong followership here in Malta as well and this is great news for us living here, and possibly you if you fancy taking a plane to this part of the mediterranean for his two-hour indoor concerts being held on Friday 4th and Sunday 6th of August 2017 at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valetta. Visit booking.mcc.com.mt/Event/8883 to book direct. Prices start from 49 euro And when a man loves a woman, he buys her tickets to see Michael Bolton performing live in Malta.

James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL

Being conscious of the world environment and cultural heritage

There are circa 20,000 hotels in the world who have embraced the policy of being eco-friendly and be.HOTEL is one of them.

ECO certified hotels are recognised for ensuring the environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural sustainability of hotels by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as fully reflecting the GSTC criteria.

The scheme that was launched by the Malta Tourism Authority in 2002 today represents approximately 16% of hotel accommodation or 22 hotels.

Criteria such as sustainability management, waste management, Control of Chemicals, energy preservation and use of alternative energy sources, air quality, and water conservation come to mind when one thinks of eco-friendly hotels but the scope is wider than this and includes protection of the cultural heritage and natural surroundings and the promotion of such with tourists by better communication strategies. It also encourages properties to purchase local produce whenever possible and to provide such fare to foreign visitors.

In the end, eco-friendly embraces the world that we live in and all of earth’s resources so that these and the world heritage can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL

The awesome Vicia Faba

Better known as the broad bean, Vicia faba is also known by many other names; fava bean, faba bean, field bean, bell bean, English bean, horse bean, Windsor bean, pigeon bean and tic(k) bean and is a species of the plant in the vetch and pea family Fabaceae.

It is reputed that the Greek mathematician Pythagoras believed that the fava beans contained the souls of the dead and therefore never ate or even looked at them. The ancient Romans used these for funeral rites, making them the forbidden legumes in ancient times.

The downside is that broad beans are associated with favism, a genetic defiency known as Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD deficiency). Carriers of this mutation do not show any symptoms unless their red blood cells are exposed to certain risks, such as fava beans which can trigger it.

Having said this, broad beans are rich in protein and energy just like all other beans and lentils. 100 g of beans carry 341 calories per 100 g. Broad beans also contain an abundance of health-benefiting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

At this time of year here in Malta, this little legume finds itself in a variety of dishes. I personally love them in any which way; raw with a nice cherry tomato and ricotta salad or cooked with garlic to add as a condiment that goes beautifully well with roast lamb. They sit well with peas and garlic butter for a springtime sidedish or else in a soup or with pasta.

James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL

One Language is never enough

Last Sunday, I discovered that there are over 1,700 ways to say, ‘One Language is never enough,’ and I was mesmerised for I never thought that there are so many different languages in this world of ours.

True, some of the languages listed are now forgotten methods of communication, like for example saying, ‘Mía glotta oudepopote hikane’. That is saying ‘One Language is never enough,’ in ancient Greek. Today, one would say, ‘Mía glossa then ine pote arketi’, using modern Greek.

Other fascinating languages which are only spoken by the very few are Cherokee or Cheyenne to mention by two. Still, these are languages in their own right and a form of communication making us humans a prolific species, copious in our creative ways.

According to Wikipedia, with a total footprint of just 316 Km2, Malta is the 186th largest country in the world, just eight kilometres larger than Saint Helen and about 20% the size of London, but Malta too, albiet being very small, has its own distinct language – Maltese.

So in Malta, one would say, ‘Lingwa wahda mhux bizzejjed’ and the Maltese truly took this to heart for most of them are multi-lingual, able to speak fluent English and Italian, with a large portion of the Island having tri-lingual speaking persons also apart from obviously, Maltese.

This is great news for you if travelling to Malta, for language has never been a barrier to communications with the Maltese.

James Davis is the COO of Bay Street Group that operates be.HOTEL

Gourmet – The Dish or the Diner?

Gourmet kindles thoughts of food or drink which is posh and expensive who only true food connoisseurs can fully appreciate.

For gourmet dining is the epitome of refinement when it comes to food and drink and it needs a refined person to truly appreciate it – hence a Gourmet Diner!

Such exquisite fare is often made by a gifted hand and an imaginative mind who knows exactly which ingredients to blend together. Ingredients that fire up each other. Ingredients which, when prepared and cooked in the right way, release the flavours of one another to tantalise the tongue and excite all the senses of the one eating such food.

And so the tongue of the diner needs to be just as refined and imaginative as the hands of the Chef who prepared it.  Such food on the palate of a gourmet diner sends the mind whirling as it tries to understand all the ingredients that went into making the food that is now being savoured.

A gourmet diner understands that food should be treated with respect. He or she does not eat for the simple sake of not going hungry, but eats for the sheer pleasure of food. A gourmet diner is enthralled by a dish which is not only beautifully prepared and presented, but its structure was meticulously put together by ingredients that ignite the passion of all that is elegant.

A gourmet diner would rather eat a sandwich (and would probably prepare even that in a gourmet way) than eat boring comfort food that simply fills the stomach without satisfying the soul.

So imagine a gourmet diner eating a gourmet sandwich filled with roast beef with caramelised onions, watercress, pickled cucumber and horseradish.

James Davis is the COO at Bay Street Group which operates Fornelli Restaurant at Bay Street Tourist Complex