Friday, October 1, 2010

Making the Most in Malta

As far as travel styles go, I'm the compulsive and meticulous planner who likes to pack in as many --usually off-the-beaten-track or, at least, less touristy -- experiences as possible into each and every day of my trip. And finding a bespoke tour operator who listens to the needs of the client and has an insider knowledge of the destination makes the planning all the easier.

I don't always seek out this help, but, for a number of logistic reasons, I did in the case of Malta, where I wanted to go beyond the many historic monuments that occupy so much tourist attention. I was lucky when Jessica Colley contacted me on twitter and gave me a heads up on Trevor Zahar and Natasha Borg, co-owners of Culture3Sixty. No matter your interest, whether it’s focused on diving, sailing or other sports; luxury oriented with visits to spas; or more nature based, they can dig up the perfect locales, as they did for me.


This is a micro sampling of what Culture3Sixty arranged for me:

• tours of wineries for tastings and tours, such as the Meridiana Wine Estate, which is planted on the original British military airfield. In fact the original control tower still stands, but now it houses a laboratory. Designed as an old Malta country residence, the winery allowed me to taste a crisp 2009 Chardonnay, and a bright berry Cabernet and Merlot blend with just a hint of oak.

• visits to gardens, such as the San Anton Gardens that were originally laid out by Grand Master Antoine de Paule of the Knights of Malta as his private residence. (As I mentioned in a previous post, so much for the vows of poverty.) These gardens are so lavish and they were such the talk of the town at that time that they’re said to have inspired Versailles. With tinkling fountains, elegant statuary, foliage from around the world and peacocks strutting about, San Anton is a must-see for garden lovers.

• restaurant reservations, such as Fra Giuseppe in the town of Balzan. Housed in an 18th century building, the restaurant stocks some 200 bottles of wine from all over the world. Sitting in a wee stone room where the walls are hung with contemporary paintings, I sampled ftira, a ring-shaped Maltese bread that’s somewhat crunchy with a soft interior and filled with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers.

Whether venturing down narrow cobbled lanes in the capital city of Valletta or wandering around the less visited locales in the central part of the country, you'll find Malta restaurants that radiate authenticity.

18 comments:

Sheryl said...

Well, that's certainly a very helpful thing to have someone arrange for you! Nice to be able to put yourself in someone's capable hands, and it sounds like you did.

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, Yes, it totally worked out. It's great if you can find someone who is tuned in to your individual interests. And I'm so into not visiting typical tourist sites, as well as finding anything new that may have opened in Malta, that having someone who's this knowledgeable saves time and reduces the stress level of planning.

Stephanie - Wasabimon.com said...

Ahhh, you make me want to visit Malta, which was never on my radar before.

JTravel said...

Hi Stephanie, For so many of my well-traveled friends, Malta wasn't on their radar either. That is, until I returned with all the cool stories of what I did.

Christine said...

It's nice to hear you had a good experience - so often, people don't, when they leave some of these arrangements up to someone else. Glad for the recommendation!

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

For our recent trip to France, I did most of my own planning as usual, but also had the friendly guidance and introductions of Marie who owns FranceMadeEasy.com She does the same kind of planning you are talking about, totally unique for each client. It is like having the advice of a good friend who knows the territory. (A native of Scotland, Marie also runs ScotlandMadeEasy.com)

JTravel said...

Hi Christine, Yes, leaving arrangement up to others certainly could go awry. But we had plenty of back and forth in the planning so that there were no unpleasant surprises. It couldn't have worked out better.

JTravel said...

Hi Vera Marie, I totally agree: having someone in the know on the ground who's got your back is absolutely like having the help of a good friend. Thanks for the heads up on Marie. I'll check out her websites.

sarah henry said...

Makes sense to me to find a local who knows a place well and understands what you're looking for.

Often friends and family play that role, but in places where you don't know folks or it might be challenging to tease out places that interest you, such guides seem invaluable, especially if you want to pack a lot in in a short amount of time.

Casey said...

Thanks for the tip - would love to see them expand to other areas too!

Sunduvan said...

Thanks for the tips. Malta seems a good place to visit but emm..may be not in the near future. I got several more places to go like Pattaya, Thailand and Angeles City in Philipppines

JTravel said...

Hi sarah, yes, family and friends in a city can play an invaluable role in terms of picking out the under-the-radar sights that I so love. But when I don't have any friends in an area, that's when I may turn to just the right tour guide.

JTravel said...

Hi Casey, Yes, that would be great. But usually I find that the tour operator that lives in the given country has the best perspective on the venues.

MyKidsEatSquid said...

When we took out family out of country at the last minute we decided to go with a guide--I'm so glad I did. Like you point out, a guide knows how to find the right spot and takes care of you. Plus, our guide always found places for us to use the potty--and with three kids in tow I found that very helpful.

JTravel said...

Hi MyKidsEatSquid, you are so right. I know some people are very anti-guide and prefer discovering a place on their own. That's all well and good but that doesn't obviate the benefits of a fab guide as opposed to one that provides a canned tour.

Name Tags said...

@Stephanie... I am in the same boat. I never thought of going to Malta, but this sounds wonderful!

JTravel said...

Hi Name Tags, I've spoken with many colleagues and friends since I returned from Malta. And none of them had Malta on their list. But they do now!

abstract canvas said...

Well thank you for the tips, I have been thinking aboout going out there for a while.