With a full day ahead of us, the first thing we did the following morning was pack our bags and move to the InterContinental Malta (www.malta.intercontinental.com). Located in St. Julian’s, just four miles from Valletta, this became our home away from home for the next few days. The hotel, and the location, was ideal for us. With a shopping mall right down the street, numerous restaurants, an onsite casino, and the gay club and lounge Michelangelo (www.facebook.com/michelangeloclublounge) right around the corner, we had the best vantage point for enjoying all the pleasures and attractions of Malta.
As frequent travelers, we know the importance of having accommodations that enable us to both work and relax. We booked a Highline Suite with a huge outdoor terrace and views of the Mediterranean Sea. The space felt more like an apartment than a hotel room, and we had to pinch ourselves to make sure we were not dreaming. As part of our stay, we had access to the Club InterContinental Lounge that includes private checkin, a dedicated reception desk, a sumptuous breakfast, all day refreshments, afternoon tea, and pre-dinner drinks and hors d oeuvres. Guests staying in the suites also has private access to Skybeach, the stunning rooftop pool, bar, and restaurant. Obviously, we were in no hurry to leave the hotel. However, Vince would be arriving soon to take us to the beautiful and fascinating island of Gozo.
Our 40-minute drive from St. Julian’s to Cirkewwa, where we would catch the ferry to Gozo, provided a great opportunity to drive along the coast, through hillside towns, and near vineyards, often with spectacular views of the sea.
The ferry takes 30-minutes and you will pass the island of Comino and its famous Blue Lagoon. If you love the sea like we do, this is definitely a day trip you will want to add to your itinerary. Traveling on the water is one of the most exciting ways to arrive at a destination, and the beauty and allure of Malta’s sister Island is immediately apparent, with rural fishing villages and historic architecture beckoning you to explore.
Steeped in myth, Gozo is thought to be Calypso’s legendary isle of Homer’s Odyssey, and is a peaceful, mystical area where Baroque churches and old stone farmhouses dot the countryside. Gozo features a rugged landscape, spectacular coastline, and some of the Mediterranean’s best dive sites. The island is also home to one of the archipelago’s best-preserved prehistoric temples, Ggantija.
This site is considered as one of the oldest free-standing monuments in the world, preceding Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. The two temples making up the remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ggantija have an extraordinary history. Built between 3600 and 3200 BCE., they fell into disuse around 2500 BCE and were not fully excavated until the nineteenth century. The name Ggantija derives from the word ‘ggant’, Maltese for giant, as Gozitans used to believe the temples were built by a race of giants. Not so surprising when you see the size of the limestone blocks from which it is constructed.
From here, we headed to the fortified Citadella, Gozo’s old capital city. With its distinctive skyline and imposing military architecture the Cittadella stands out as Gozo’s major landmark, a beacon visible from all over the island. Occupied by man since prehistoric times, it is rich in buildings of architectural, military, and historical significance, while its open areas afford a habitat for numerous rare species of flora and fauna.
Only a couple of families live within the Citadel walls today. In the square you will find the impressive Cathedral of Gozo dedicated to Santa Marija, or more precisely the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Very close by is a state of the art Visitors’ Centre and several fascinating small museums, including The Cathedral Museum, the Museum of Archaeology, the Folklore Museum, and the Gozo Nature Museum.
We spent a couple of hours walking around the Citadel, but you can easily spend a day or more here because there is so much to see and explore. For us, the seaside setting could not have been more exhilarating, and the history and culture more inspiring.
Having worked up quite an appetite, Vince decided it was time for us to enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of his favorite restaurants on Gozo. Featuring locally sourced, fresh produce, Il-Kartell Restaurant was the ideal setting for a leisurely lunch by the sea. With the waves crashing over the sea wall just a few feet away, we enjoyed grilled calamari with extra virgin olive oil and a touch of garlic, swordfish with onions, garlic, fresh herbs, capers, olives, cherry tomatoes and white wine, and grilled chicken breast served in Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce. Afterwards, we needed to walk off our hearty meal, so we walk along the harbor dreaming of spending the summer here like many Maltese people do each year.