Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Palatial Garden in Malta

I didn't have the chance to stay in a palace on my recent trip to Malta. But I had the next best thing: an afternoon in the expansive Baroque gardens of Palazzo Parisio. In the town of Naxxar with its atmospheric narrow lanes, many decorated with potted plants and flowers, the palace dates from the time of the Knights of Malta. In fact, it was their holiday house. (So much for the vows of poverty that they were required to take.) And, though the ultra-ornate rooms lined with Carrera marble and hung with Caravaggio paintings are plenty striking, I was most struck by the serenity and natural beauty of the well-tended gardens. (I am a huge park and garden buff, as you all know.) And, though checking out gardens in the heat of August hardly sounds delightful, it is in Malta and especially in the gardens of the palace where I relished in the sight of colorful oleander, bougainvillea and hibiscus blooms as well as roses and the numerous species of palms -- a couple are said to be some 200 years old -- as well as citrus trees and many others. (There are also some private side gardens where the restaurant grows herbs and vegetables for items on the menu.)

But even if you're hardly the garden lover, you'll enjoy just hanging out pre- or post-lunch on one of the many lounge chairs set on the grassy lawn or in a comfy sofa with a drink in hand in the canopied gazebo. I spent hours just doing this.

My video shows some of the tempting garden lounge possibilities.

Anyone who's planning a wedding should take note. This is a most romantic venue for the ceremony.

And, because I couldn't tear myself away from this verdancy, I lunched outdoors under a canopy at the palace's restaurant, Caffe Luna. The mostly Mediterranean menu includes local ingredients, especially at the lunch hour. I found the best choice was the assorted tea sandwiches that included chicken with chutney, and cream cheese with arugula and chives. And though these were most flavorful and filling, the desserts were a high point. I chose the signature cake: a slice of carrot with pineaplle and walnuts plus a dish of lemon granita. What could be more refreshing?

The only thing I missed was High Tea in the garden -- it's considered too hot in August for this service . Ah, another reason to return.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Travel Tips for Island Escapes + Healthy Travel

Over the past four weeks I've been unusually busy, not only traveling in Malta (I've blogged about my adventures on the island of Comino and will be posting about my travels on the big island of Malta in a couple of weeks) but also writing guest posts for some fellow bloggers. Each one of these posts, like my own blog, deals with either hidden treasures or key travel tips. I want to share these with you:

1. I'm a big fan of island travel, especially when I can find lands that radiate authenticity. In this guest post you'll find out why I especially adore Sardinia, Corsica, the Azores, Bozcaada and the Lofotens. Because I believe in checking out the landscape slowly, on some, I bicycled past vineyards, sandy beaches or small fishing villages while on others I hiked and walked through a lush, wild landscape.

2. So much of the Caribbean is hardly off the beaten track, especially the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, when I visit my favorite island, St. John, instead of sunning on a stretch of golden sand, I take to the hiking trails far from the madding crowds. Here's what I found along these dirt paths that network this island that's mostly preserved as a national park.

3. A trip just isn't enjoyable when you're sick or in pain. Which is why I carry a very organized and extremely complete first-aid kit. Because I also have a medical background, I've devised a first-aid kit that takes care of just about any malady that might hit you on the road, whether you're doing a weekend at the beach or traveling far afield. In this post, I've described in details everything I carry in my first-aid kit. Some may think it's overkill, yet my kit packs small. And, it fits along with my "always be prepared for anything" mentality.
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