We didn’t always travel with the Kid. Around the age of 1.5 until 2 years she was going through a chronic tantrum phase. At any slight frustration or irritation, she would drop on the ground and cry and screaming like a mad child. She would refuse to follow us walking a certain direction, but also got furiously angry being strapped in her stroller. At this stage, we decided that it won’t be fun for anybody (ourselves, as well as the general public around her) if we insist on taking her on long trips and exposing her to unfamiliar and frustration-prone territory. We had a family travel hiatus, and instead, both Hubby and I took turns going on separate solo travel/sailing trips while having the other stayed home with the Kid.
Solo travels have its own charm, and I really enjoyed the time I could do it, but fortunately, by the time she was 2.5, she snapped out of her tantrum phase and returned to become the easy-going and happy child she used to be. She’s still in diapers, but we decided we can safely resume our family travel out of the country.
Malta is a country in the Mediterranean Sea, roughly halfway between Italy and Tunisia. We chose Malta because it was close enough, but less touristy compared to Italy or Greece. It also has a great climate most time of the year. (We spent a week at the end of October, and the temperature the whole time was around 25-30 degrees Celsius with occasional light rain.) English is the official language of Malta, even though the locals speak Maltese, an interesting mix between Arabic and Italian, so communication would not be a problem.
Where we stayed:
We stayed in the small fishing village of Marsaxlokk. We got an apartment in the family-run Duncan Holiday Accommodation, right in front of Marsaxlokk’s main village square, and by the waterside where colourful boats moored. The apartment was basic, but it was comfortable and had everything we needed. The father-in-law picked us up from the airport for our late night flight but when we arrived in our apartment, we found out that they had forgotten to put the Kid’s cot we had booked into the room. The Kid had never shared a bed with us before (not even as a baby), and she didn’t like the company. She spent the whole night trying to kick us out of bed until Hubby decided that he’d just sleep on the floor instead.
The next morning, after breakfast, they set up a cot in our room, and the Kid climbed into it excitedly, saying ‘My little bed! My little bed!’ This was how we learned to always bring a travel cot with us or get her a separate bed (we lost her travel cot in the train earlier that year, and haven’t got around to get a new one).
The village of Marsaxlokk is a quiet village where life rolls around leisurely. There are a few local shops and a daily market. There is a small playground close to the school. I love the place as the base for our trips, compared to the busier Valletta and other towns up north. There were not much else to do in the village itself, but the whole island is small you can get to one end to the other and back in an afternoon . There are regular buses running from Marsaxlokk to other part of the islands, but they are not very reliable, and being with a small child, we decided to rent a car instead.
What we ate:
There was a restaurant belonging to the apartments where we could eat breakfast/lunch (no buffet, you just order what you wanted). The village also had plenty of small restaurants on the harbour road that offered excellent fresh fish and seafood that we were happy to return to every day.
At this age, the Kid ate mostly normal food (i.e. not baby food), but she was picky, messy and hated mealtimes in general. Rather than doing the feeding battle at restaurants, we usually fed her first in the apartment, and let her have dessert later on when we had our meal. Our meal plan for her was not at all adventurous, she basically survived Malta with a diet of Weetabix, milk, and various fruits mixed into it. It did its job at giving her all the needed carbs, protein and fibres and in went down without much struggle. It actually became the to-go emergency food for our subsequent travels whenever she got too picky and couldn’t eat the local food (it happened less often the older and more travelled she got).
Another lesson we learned from this trip: plums are not a good snack idea when travelling. We got some very juicy plums from a local shop, and the Kid loved them so much, she gobbled them up like peanuts. What happened in a few hours time was such an epic blowout (she was still in diapers) that we had to take her back for a complete shower and scrub.
What we did:
We only went around the main island of Malta. For its size, the island is steeped in history and you could feel that people have been living in the island for thousands of years. There are a number of megalithic structures scattered around the two islands of Malta and Gozo, some of them dated to have been built in 5000 BC, making them more ancient than the great pyramid. We visited two of them; Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra. The Mnajdra temples are located some 500m away from Ħaġar Qim, which was closer to the parking spots. It’s not a far walk, but it’s hot and we needed to go through bumpy uneven path, which was definitely not designed for strollers, but it’s not a big deal, I just folded the umbrella stroller and have the Kid rode piggy back on Daddy. It was an open-air site when we visited back in 2008, but they had built domed tents on both structures since then, probably to protect the stones from further deterioration.
The capital of Valletta gave you a distinct Mediterranean feeling with its narrow, hilly and winding roads and Roman porticoes, while the fortress city of Mdina in the South felt like I was suddenly in a medieval Arabian town, with its walled city, labyrinthine alleyways and elusive inhabitants. We didn’t take the Kid into Mdina, since she was taking a nap in the car when we reached the place. Not wanting to wake her up, we took turns staying in the car with her, while the other went and explore.
For an island, there are not many beaches in Malta where it is safe to swim, especially for kids. Most of Maltese beaches are rocky and craggy, the sand beaches are almost always artificially made . The beaches of Mellieha and Pretty Bay were the two we went to. They are not particularly pretty, but they are child-friendly and clean. For more confident swimmers, there are places such as St. Peter’s Pool which allow you to dive from the rocks directly into the deep water underneath. It’s more picturesque, but they are harder to reach, even with a car, and not very safe for small children.
At this stage, the Kid was still very young, and she would happily went along with us wherever we go provided she’s not hungry, tired or too bored. We still tailored our trips for us grownups, who happen to have a child in tow. As she grew older, and developed interests on her own, we began to actively include her in the trips and let her have a say on what we do. She doesn’t remember Malta anymore, but I would like to take her back in the near future, and hopefully to see the other island of Malta as well, like Gozo.