Visiting Malta happened somewhat last minute.
You see, initially I wasn’t planning on going anywhere. But when I realised I hadn’t taken a trip in 9 months I immediately got to planning. I tend to get restless after 3-4 months of not travelling (and yes, I know that being able to say that comes from an incredible place of privilege) but the truth remains that there’s an itch that only travel can scratch—and no matter how many English adventures I fill my life with, nothing else compares to the feeling of venturing somewhere completely new—and that’s how I ended up visiting Malta last minute.
The thing with last-minute breaks is that there are great deals, you just have to find them. This usually involves a combination of switching your browser to incognito, opening a million tabs and going full detective on each website. But I went one step further…
I made a spreadsheet.
You see, I was tasked with the challenge of finding somewhere to go for a last-minute break. The only issue is that it was the end of August. Which means three things:
#1: It’s my birthday.
#2: Travel is expensive because it’s the school holidays in the UK.
#3: It’s my birthday.
And because I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, I fired up the laptop and dove into the task head-on, creating a spreadsheet on Google Sheets (because a decade later and Excel still confuses me) with columns for hotel names, prices, board, locations and countries.
My next struggle, was picking a country.
You see, “what country to visit” is a questionI struggle with often. I mean, there are 197 countries in this world it’s completely understandable that option paralysis kicks in, right? So, to keep my wanderlusting mind on track, I set myself a rule: the budget could not exceed £600pp and had to cover flights, hotel and breakfast at the least. Anything above that? A total bonus.
I wanted to venture somewhere new, somewhere warm and somewhere I could relax and unwind, but also not get bored in. A relatively vague brief, but eventually I narrowed down the options to three countries: Cape Verde, Malta and Croatia.
I got to work on researching options, looking into the basics like transport and hotel location. I’d never really planned a trip like that before. Usually, I pick a place, book a flight and figure out the rest as I go. But conflicting schedules and a need to relax meant that this time was different. So, once I’d found a few options per country, I went through the list and highlighted the options I liked most in green, the potentials in orange, and the firm “lol hell no” in red (like the beautiful deal I found in Croatia that would take an entire day to get there).
Once I had the shortlist, I deleted the reds and as I was doing so, I noticed that Malta seemed to be the country I was leaning towards the most. Which is when I found the Pebble Hotel Resort in St Paul’s Bay in Malta.
It was a hotel I stumbled upon by sheer chance and, for the price point, offered the most value. It was a convenient location, close to public transport and the waterfront, offered half-board for prices which were cheaper than bed and breakfast (go figure) and was one of those deals where it looked too good to be true. After looking into it I saw why—the photos were concept photos and the hotel was new and therefore still under construction.
But it was the hotel I was leaning towards the most. So, I found some people who had been staying there on Instagram and messaged them to find out what they thought. The reviews were good: spacious rooms, friendly staff and occasional construction noise. A risk? Sure. But would it be a worthwhile one?
I looked at the area and saw it was in a place called Bugibba in St Paul’s Bay. An area I knew next to nothing about because I’d done absolutely no research into Malta before deciding to go there, yet I had come to the conclusion that I can deal with construction noise. Because what’s life without a little risk?
It was then, when I realised I’d be visiting Malta last minute, that I realised I’d be seeing the place my mum visited when she was 13 years old and has loved ever since. Something which comes across as strange when you realise it was over 37 years ago she visited—but hey, travel love affairs can last a lifetime.
And with that, it was confirmed: I would be visiting Malta last minute.
Because a few days later I packed up the car, popped Akira (my dog—I haven’t introduced her on the blog yet, but I will, she’s a Shiba Inu, she’s adorable and she has her own Instagram) into her crate and drove to the kennels to drop her off. It was the first time I’d left her for more than a few hours so I was hesitant to do so, scared she’d love her life filled with dogs more than she loved me and wouldn’t want to come home (spoiler alert: she was much happier to see me and came home no problem). But I digress. So, after dropping her off I drove to Manchester to spend the night there before catching my flight the next morning.
I booked the trip through On The Beach and flew with Thomas Cook Airlines—an airline which has sadly now ceased trading. And just 3 and a half hours later, I was there: visiting Malta last minute, ready to explore.
The journey from the airport to the hotel was a 35-minute journey by car, so I assumed it would take around the same amount of time by bus, give or take a few stops.
But I was wrong.
I was very very wrong.
I took the X2 bus from Malta’s International Airport to Imhasel bus stop which is conveniently located near the hotel (about a two-three minute walk depending upon your pace) but the journey did not take 35 minutes. Nor did it take 45. Or 55. It took two hours because it stopped at almost every single stop. I didn’t mind because my flight departed at 6am and so I had a few hours to kill before check-in anyway, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’ll be using Malta’s public transport system!
I arrived at the hotel too early to check-in, but reception said I could store my stuff and enjoy the hotel’s facilities, and so after a quick wardrobe change, that’s exactly what I did. Then set off for a wander to get a feel for the local area.
From the hotel you can walk to the seafront in an almost-perfect straight line, so I started there, passing an abundance of cute fishing boats along the way. Having been up since 3 am, I wasn’t at my most energetic but was definitely at my most hungry, so when I smelt the waft of fresh dough I stumbled straight into Rossopomodoro: something I’d never heard of but now know has 103 branches scattered across the world.
I demolished the Rossopomodoro (€13)
Which featured smoked Provola di Agerola cheese, San Marzano DOP tomatoes, Piennolo del Vesuvio DOP tomatoes, yellow Battipaglia date tomatoes and shavings of mature Cacioricotta cheese, washed down with a Coca-Cola (€1.80).
The pizza was juicy, flavoursome and oh so filling. After finishing my drink and enjoying the warmth of the Maltese temperatures, I got up to stretch my legs along the waterfront. Where I passed a random line of floats for an upcoming parade
Cute fishing boats
Salt baths, and then made my way towards Wignacourt Tower (a watchtower in Saint Paul’s Bay) to enjoy the views across the bay.
I sat and relaxed, not really doing much, just taking in the fact that I was warm and full of pizza.
As time passed by I realised I’d be able to check into my hotel room soon, and so I ventured back towards the hotel, taking the inner-city route this time so I could walk past the shops and window-shop as I went.
I thought I was full, but after spying pastizzi (a traditional Maltese pastry) in a bakery window, I decided I still had room and bought some cheese pastizzi for the journey back.
Only it turned out, it was peppered sheep cheese, and I’m sorry Malta, but I have to say: not a fan.
After this I checked into my hotel, ready to see whether my risky booking would pay off…