“Not your usual conference hall without a view”

By James Davis

Most conference rooms in hotels are situated underground so that precious space above ground level is given to dining outlets or more guest rooms.

This makes sense when one considers the space value per square metre. But be.HOTEL had a different vision.

For starters the only way that be.HOTEL could ever incorporate a conference room in its existing infrastructure  was to put it above ground level and secondly, the hotel wanted to provide a more exciting option to event organisers so as to penetrate this market segment.

Hey presto, the hotel placed its conference room on the topmost floor on level 10 and aptly so, named it Panorama Conference Suite.

As soon as the lift opens in level 10 you come into the lobby area of Panorama. You are greeted with a sunlit room from which registration of delegates or welcoming of guests for a social event takes place.

The Hall can be divided into two separate rooms or else opened up as one. Whether in one or two, there are no pillars to obscure vision and both can be bathed by refreshing sunlight when the full perimeter curtains are opened.

Panorama can be used for a whole array of different events including conferences, gala dinners and other meetings. With the full use of the Suite, a banquet can easily accommodate over 200 diners seated at 72-inch wide tables. A classroom style conference can take up to almost 190 delegates or almost 300 when in a theatre style set up. Boardroom type meetings could accommodate over 90 persons, whilst for a standing reception, over 300 people can enjoy themselves in Panorama.

Panorama is fitted with its own kitchen from which all various options for coffee breaks or lavish dinners can be prepared by the Executive Chef and his brigade.

Panorama can be rented with or without accommodation options.

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

“To honour her brave People…”

By James Davis

In May 1942, during a heavy raid by the German Luftwaffe, Lord Gort VC arrived in Malta to take over governorship of the Island from Lieutenant General Sir William Dobbie. With him, he brought over a prestigious medal – The George Cross!

There was no time for pleasantries and Sir Dobbie left on the same plane that brought Gort to Malta. Years later, Dobbie remarked that it was sad that he did not see the medal which was earned under his watch as governor.

The presentation of this medal was made in a public performance some months later in September of the same year and the medal toured every town and village so that the entire population could see the honour that their King, King George VI had bestowed on them.

‘To honour her brave people, I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.”

The letter was signed ‘George R.I”

The George Cross is, a British civilian and military decoration, only second in ranking to the Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest award ‘for valour in the face of the enemy’ The decoration was instituted in 1940 by the King George VI himself for “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger”.

But why did the King award the George Cross to Malta, which out of 410 or so investitures is the only one to a nation?

Leopold Stennett Amery who was the secretary of state for India had suggested to His Majesty that tiny Malta had unlike other countries who received the onslaught of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy remained stoic. Their heroic defence of the island and the resilient manner which the Maltese people continued with their way of life in the face of such undaunting odds had brought the attention of the world upon them. The King agreed and bestowed the honour that to this day is still proudly emblazoned on the Maltese national flag.

In his farewell speech, on the 8th May, Dobbie said,

“I consider that the People of Malta have rightly earned the admiration of the whole world, an admiration crystallised by the award of the George Cross to the Island.”

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

Valletta 2018 – European Capital of Culture for the Year 2018

By James Davis

Valletta 2018 kicked off on the 20th January with a spectacular event by the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura dels Baus and their awesome outdoor aerial acrobatics which opened the Valletta 2018 Cultural Programme; a year-long programme that promises to provide exuberance to the City during this year.

The cultural programme that started in the Capital City of Valletta shall spread out to reach other towns and villages all over Malta including Gozo.

A jampacked cultural programme filled with an array of 140 projects and 400 events; musical events and other entertaining displays featuring artists and performers of different nationalities to pay homage to culture. Various exhibitions displayed in different venues promoting knowledge, discovery, science, the arts and heritage.

One would not be wrong in saying how joyous to be alive and to visit Malta and this time, for surely 2018 shall be a fantastic time of moments of gaiety, inspiration, learning and making new friends.

Above all, one could also say that Valletta 2018 is a tribute to talent and the collective passion and enthusiasm from different people, leading different lives, but having a common goal that celebrates life as a community of equals.

For more information, visit: valletta2018.org/cultural-programme

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

The virtue of impatience

As a little boy, my mother would tell me, “James, always remember, that patience is a virtue”.

Mother was as always probably right, but we realise that some of our guests do not have time to be patient; and why should they? They are here with us for a couple of days and every minute has a premium price.

Let’s say for example that with flights, lodging, meals and tours they are spending say a thousand euro over four days. That means each minute, (there are 5,760 minutes in four days) is costing them 17 cents. Would they want to wait in line to check-in? No!

Even the most patient of all people would want to get checked in and make his or her way up to their room, unpack a few things and get about enjoying the purpose of their visit.

This impatience is more evident with corporate travellers. After all, they are probably away travelling on business for most of their time. Met an hotelier from Spain a couple of days ago who takes on average 200 business flights each year. He is away from his family most of the time and in the few days that he is visiting in a foreign country, he must accomplish the purpose of his visit. With such a traveller, time becomes even more precious.

So, we offer our corporate guests that extra touch. Hey after all, they deserve a little break being away from their family most of the time. Fast check-in for them is always guaranteed even if they arrive whilst there is a group check-in going on and that is after we have picked them up from the airport in a private taxi, (we also take them back when it is time for them to depart).

After a hard day full of business meetings, we are cognisant that they appreciate to find their room done and refreshed again and finding bottled water or beer in their minibar and a coffee machine. You guessed it – it comes with our compliments!

Now I am not saying that men do not know how to iron a shirt – but there are those who actually don’t and who rely on their wives to do it for them. Obviously we do not ask our guests if they know how to iron their shirts (although we do leave an iron in their room for those who do) but we take no chances for them to turn up for meetings wearing creased shirts, so we do it for them if they request it, free of charge.

Complimentary breakfast, car parking (subject to availability) and early check-in and late check-out (also subject to availability) are also afforded to the corporate traveller.

All good things come to those who are impatient.

For more details please visit the corporate page on the behotelmalta website.

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

Sharing the Gems of Malta

Last Thursday, I acted as a Tour Guide to two of my friends from the States. Rocco and Keith were both bewildered with the amount of history and culture that is packed in this little island of Malta.

The day dawned somewhat dismal at first and I actually packed three umbrellas as it looked as though it would rain, but at 9am whilst in the taxi going to Valletta, the sun came out to shine up on us, as though it wanted our American guests to enjoy the splendour of the City to its fullest.

Our first stop was the Upper Barrakka Gardens from which vantage point one can admire the splendour of Grand Harbour and looking at the Three Cities on the opposite side of Valletta. They were both mesmerised with the view. ‘I came here often as a little boy’, I said to them. ‘Have many beautiful memories of this place, today I add another as I share the experience of this garden with you both.’

Next on our itinerary was . Reputed to have the most beautiful floor in the world, Rocco and Keith were constantly taking photos with their iPads of just about every inch of this sacred place of worship.  Completed in 1577 and dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Order, the place oozes opulence and splendour.  The interior is truly a celebration of Baroque art and famous masterpieces by notable masters such as Bernini, Preti and Caravaggio adorn the church; namely, ‘The Beheading of St John the Baptist’ and St. Jerome, both by the latter artist who embraced the harsh realism of the chiaroscuro technique.

From St. John’s we made our way to the President’s Palace.  There in the State Rooms one can admire the ‘Les Teintures des Indes’ which are the only complete set of the famous 18th Century French Gobelins tapestries in the world.  The visual narration of the Great Siege of 1565 painted by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio can also be seen here as well as the Portrait Gallery of the various rulers of Malta.

From the State Rooms we went down to the Palace Armoury which is in the same building. Rocco sat down as he felt overwhelmed by the many arms and armour that are collected here making this collection, the largest in the world still housed in its original building. Looking at the suits of armour owned and worn by the Grandmasters Wignacourt and La Valette as well as other such weapons and suits used by the Knights from 1530 to 1798 as well as a modest collection from the Ottoman Empire during the Great Siege of 1565 is no small wonder that Rocco felt such awe.

An electric cab picked us up from the Palace and took us for a nice short ride down to the foremost tip of the peninsula of Valetta.  Our last stop for the day before we would go for a lavish lunch at Da Pippo’s was to be Fort St Elmo, the home of the National War Museum.

Built in less than six months, the Fort which by the time of the first attack in May 1565, had been extended and further fortified from its original star-shaped design in time to be better able to withstand the imminent attacks from the Turks.

Museum pieces from the First and the Second World Wars can also be seen here. Most notable is the original George Cross that King George VI awarded the island of Malta in April 1942 for her gallantry.

Rocco, Keith and I stood at the Chapel of St. Anne inside the Fort and imagined the battles that must have raged in there as the Knights fell for the last time on the 23rd June.

‘If only the walls could talk’, I said to my friends. We would probably hear the pain and anguish of hard fought battles if they did.

Are you planning your holidays in Malta? Check out our rooms!

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

The food delights of Malta

I always had a love affair with food. In a sentence, I would refer to food as ‘one of the three pleasures of life’ (will leave it up to you to guess the other two), and my favourite cuisine was always from the Southern Italian regions especially that of Puglia; simple, fresh, wholesome and oozing flavour!

The way they cook fish, their cheeses and pasta are simply to die for!

But I also am a great fan of certain dishes which are synonymous with Malta, such as Timpana which being a lover of pasta and pastry comes as no surprise to love this dish having them both as the core ingredients. Basically a Timpana is a pasta casserole with a juicy succulent Bolognese sauce with a pastry covering on top and baked in the oven. A variation of this dish is Imqarrun which is basically the same dish without the pastry topping.

Now the list of Maltese dishes is very vast and some are even a variation or at times, an exact copy with a Maltese tint from other countries, particularly Italy and the UK.  Think Roast Pork on Sundays with some Maltese people even taking their joint to the baker for it to be cooked in his oven. It is a fact that the baker’s oven gives off a better flavour to the meat dish.  So seeing that this blog cannot mention all the typical Maltese dishes, I shall only mention the ones which I am very fond of.

So; another dish which I love to indulge in, is Bragioli. This is basically minced beef, bacon garlic and breadcrumbs wrapped with thin slices of beef. Some even put hard boiled eggs in the stuffing but i prefer to eat them without since the eggs would otherwise have been cooked twice. In English they are called Beef Olives and whilst there are no olives in them, the word ‘olive’ comes from the old English verb, ‘to olive’ meaning ‘to roll it up’. Bragioli are best served with a mouth-watering tomato and carrot sauce and accompanied with roasted potatoes. Have plenty of scrumptious Maltese bread at the ready to dip into the sauce.

As mentioned, I simply adore a pie; meat pies in particular! Pity that such awesome fare is fattening. I would be eating them every day instead of twice or thrice a year if they were not. But I do have to mention one particular pie which is perhaps typically Maltese from time immemorial – Spinach and Tuna Pie!

Both spinach and tuna are very popular in Malta and therefore it is only naturally that the industrious Maltese housewife concocted ages ago a wholesome and very comforting dish using both of these ingredients.  The flavour of this pie is further enhanced with anchovies, olives and of course garlic. When the Lampuki fish is in season, it replaces tuna. Most Maltese simply cannot eat enough of the popular and tasty Lampuki Pie.

At be.Hotel, our hotel restaurant Fornelli, organises a Maltese Cuisine Buffet evening every Wed and one can enjoy the many delights of typical Maltese dishes which, some are traditional and others given a more modern twist, by our Head Chef and his brigade.

Come and enjoy!

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

Segway your way around Malta

Now this is another fun thing to do whilst in Malta – Segway Tours!

Tried it once in a conference hall and it was mighty fun. Could not believe how easy it was to get the hang of manoeuvring the nimble gizmo as I whizzed around the people. Made me feel a little boy again.

The Segway technology is thanks to Its dynamic stabilisation system that allows the user the maintain balance whilst the wheels turn at the right speed. A whole array of gyroscopic sensors, tilt sensors and microprocessors allows you to balance yourself on just two wheels.

Basically you just lean sligthly forward to go forward and lean backwards to stop. To turn you just lean to the required side and hey presto, Segway turns in the direction that you want to.

Segway Malta has a number of tours available such as, the Fun Tour, three Explore Tours and two Culture Tours. Personally I think that the Valletta Segway Experience would be my preferred choice since I love cities but there are also those which show you around the Maltese countryside such as, the ‘Ride on Dingli Cliffs’ and the ‘Stunning Selmun’.  Other tours such as the ‘Mellieha Red Cliffs spectacle’ and the ‘Golden Sands Rally’ offer a beach/sea experience.

Most tours I believe, can also be held at night which cost slightly more that the usual price.  Tours come in three catagories; the 1.5-hour, the 2-hour and the 3-hour.  There is a minimum age which starts at 14 years to be allowed on the tour.

Segway Malta also offers the package ‘Ride where you want’. Just tell them where and they would organise it for you.

Prices are very reasonable; starting from just 45 euro and when on holiday such experiences add to make your trip more memorable.

I got so excited about Segway whilst writing this blog that I think I will book a tour myself now!

Are you planning your holidays in Malta? Check out our rooms!

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

Malta – A Diver’s Paradise

With temperatures never falling below 15° around Malta’s clear seas, diving is truly a sport that can be almost enjoyed everyday throughout the year in this sunny Mediterannean island.  No wonder that leading dive magazines feature Malta regularly and hail it as the top European diving destination and one of the finest in the World.

The three islands of Malta, boast some very awesome dive sites whether from the shore or from a boat; wrecks, and a host of marine life which can be appreciated in the clear warm waters. With visibility of up to 40 metres, the keen diving enthusiast is assured a memorable diving holiday in Malta.

For instance, imagine you are diving amidst the sheer cliffs, caves and wrecks; these are reef habitats from which a variety of flora and other fauna sprout out. You are also likely to see a whole array of different fish species such as groupers, amberjacks, octopi and others.  Watch out for but do not handle certain fish like the Scorpion Fish and others which can be dangerous for you.

Malta is also home to a vast array of accredited diving schools and diving centres which also offer the services of a doctor.  If you are already licensed, remember to present your diving certificates; PADI, BSAC, CMAS, SSI etc at the diving centre.  As always, if not diving in a group, you are legally obliged to have a dive buddy with you.

And awesome as it is, diving can be dangerous, so if you feel that you should not dive on a particular day or situation, then don’t – Always obey instinct!

Enjoy diving but do it safely please – you are more beautiful than the awesome Maltese seas!

Check out also our blog post about what to do and where to go in Malta!

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

An awesome buzz – Up, Up and Away!

This blog was supposed to be about diving in Malta, but that has to wait as I am still excited from the flight in a Delta Jet microlight courtesy of Buzz Flying Malta. It was probably the closest thing to skydiving.

Leon was my pilot; without doubt he is truly a man born to fly.  In his able hands the little yellow aircraft took us up to sky in a matter of seconds and the wind rushed to greet us both with a gentle breeze.  The sky, blue and the sea the epitome of calm.

Than the spectacle began. Flying along the south westerly shore line, Leon flew us both along Dingli Cliffs towards the beautiful beaches on that side of the island. Gnejna bay, Ghajn Tuffieha bay and Golden bay were awesome to look at from 1100 feet. Sunbathers waved at us and we waved back.

Flying north at 60 knots we reached Paradise bay and circled over the sandy beach before heading off towards the little island of the Maltese archipelago – Comino island. Santa Marija bay was full of yachts and people enjoying the clear and beautiful sea around this gem of an island.

I had to remind myself that I am not dreaming and so Leon took a selfie of both us from his mobile phone.

Leon now turned south and we headed towards Bay Street Complex and be.HOTEL, circling twice over the Complex before pushing off towards Valletta the Capital city of Malta and her majestic bastions.

The highlight of it all was probably when we flew over Grand Harbour, seeing Fort St. Angelo and Bighi from that height in an open cockpit has imprinted beautiful memories in my mind.

Sadly, all things need to come to an end and it was time for Leon to turn towards the runway at Luqa to land.

The landing was sheer pleasure as if the ground was rushing towards us to greet us back to earth. We touched down gently without the slightest bump!

I highly recommend this awesome experience provided by Buzz Flying Malta to anyone on holidays in Malta. In 45 minutes you would almost manage to see the entire island from the sky. The thrill is so great that you stand a chance of getting addicted to it!

If flying in an open cockpit might seem a bit too daunting for you, Buzz Flying Malta also offers flights in Ikarus C42B which has a closed canopy. (the white aircraft seen in the background)

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

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 holidays 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