We travelled all the way to Malta and one of our waiters was from Liverpool!

Our family hasn't been abroad together since Lois was born so this holiday was a big deal. We went with my mum, step dad, sister and her family, it was a big group holiday. It worked so well, we all did our own thing, came together for certain activities and had built in babysitters for an evening out! The following post is my diary of our trip and so feel free to skip it if you aren't into that. I will say though that Malta's history and culture has completely inspired me and hopefully this glimpse will interest you...

The holiday started with a stay in Mellieħa on the main island of Malta. It was super hot when we arrived and so we decided to head to Malta's National Aquarium, which was fun with the kids. The exhibits were good, some nice interactive bits and actually some really funny elements throughout (worth reading the information screens). Then we were happy to spend time in the pool and the sea! It was glorious, here's the view:

view from Mellieha

The next day we headed to where we spent most of our visit, and took the ferry to the island of Gozo.

ferry crossing Malta to Gozo

We stayed in Xaghra - a beautiful, fairly quiet part of the island - in a farmhouse next to the Ta' Kola Windmill!

Xaghra windmill farmhouse

This is the Nativity of Our Lady Church which stands in the town square, where most of the restaurants are. We ate at a couple of them and on our last night there was a rehearsal for the upcoming Festa (feast), we got to see all the local children dancing and acting out scenes. It was sweet to see and a shame we couldn't be there for the actual event.

Xaghra Parish Church

Keen to explore we took a bus (or three!) to the town of Żebbuġ, where we were early for the celebrations (again!). It was the day of The Assumption of Our Lady Festa but we missed the morning part and decided it would be too late and difficult to get back if we stayed for the evening. Still it was amazing just to walk around, the landscape is so different to the UK.

view from Zebbug Gozo Malta

The main square of the town was decorated with huge banners, lots of lights and flags. All around Malta and Gozo there are plaques and statues adorning the doors and houses, it is a predominantly Catholic country and there are lots of churches. Although I am not Catholic, I am drawn to go into churches when I travel after being deeply moved when I went to the Vatican as a teenager. They are so peaceful and I think the art, statues and holy images are extremely beautiful. 

The Assumption of Our Lady, festa, Zebbug, Gozo

The Assumption of Our Lady, festa, Zebbug, Gozo, Mary

We went in to the Church of the Assumption of Mary, which was very ornate. I assume it would be a crucial part of the Festa and it had been lovingly filled with flowers and candles. It was also very hot inside though so we didn't stay long and instead took a walk around admiring more of the views:

view from Zebbug, Gozo, Malta

The next day we headed to Victoria, the capital city of Gozo. We missed the bus so passed some time down at Xerri's Grotto - the astounding cave underneath a house! We were given a tour by the granddaughter of the man who discovered the cave while he was digging a well in the 20's. You enter down an incredible spiral staircase, the grotto has stalactites and stalagmites along with other fascinating formations. The girl was really knowledgeable and answered all our questions well, we all thought it was a cool place.

Xerri's Grotto, Xaghra, Gozo, Malta

So then we went to Victoria, where I totally failed to take pictures for the rest of the day but we had lunch with my sister and family (at Café Jubilee, I highly recommend the fried Gozo cheese salad) before heading to the Cittadella. We decided not to do any of the tours or museums there, to be honest the kids were a bit grumpy by that point and it was very hot again. We did see the art exhibition that was on and also visited the pretty Bastion lace shop. The lady there was working on some beautiful pieces and I bought myself a little handmade gift:

After some time wandering around the city we had some yummy gelato from Bon Bon and made our way back to Xaghra. There was a great park not far from where we were staying, brilliant for kids and we visited it a couple of times. I sat and did some hand sewing there!
For our final evening in Gozo we went back to The Hideaway restaurant, which we'd been to on the first night there. It had great pizza and this time we were served by a waiter from Liverpool, who was fantastic and made us all say 'what a small world'!

My mum planned the trip and cleverly booked our last night in Malta in a place closer to the airport. It was quite a long journey to get there so we decided to get the first bus at around 6:45am and stop on the way at Valletta, the capital city of Malta. I am SO glad we did because it is a wonderful city and we crammed a lot into one day!

view from Valletta, Malta

After a quick look round the Upper Barrakka Gardens we went to the Spazju Kreattiv. This is the most stunning cultural centre, housed in an incredible building full of arches, intrigue and interesting spaces. Unfortunately they were in the process of changing many of the exhibitions but we still enjoyed it. This huge Victor Pasmore was perfectly framed by the columns either side:

Victor Passmore Apollo 5, Spazju Kreattiv

And there was a very moving film 'Children of the Underground' by Leanne Wijnsma.
"A short film documenting Valletta’s underground tunnel network dug by hand during World War II by its citizens. Wijnsma has spoken to the last remaining survivors who excavated kilometres of tunnels alongside their families as children. Featured in the film together with the following generation, they share their trauma and wonders of life in the hollows of the earth and what it meant to be reborn from the womb underground." -Spazju Kreattiv.

Then it was back to looking at churches. Our Lady of Victories Church was the first church and building completed in Valletta in the 1500's. It was breathtaking.

Pictures of the ceiling and the floor!

After another walk, admiring the shops, hilly streets and steps, we went to Valletta Contemporary. Another gorgeous space that showcases local and international contemporary art, it also has an awesome shop! We also saw these very cool boxes, created by artist Eberhard Bosslet:

After a busy morning, we chilled out at the Lower Barrakka Gardens and then had some lunch at a kiosk outside. The staff were wonderful and the food was good, we needed fuelling!

With renewed energy we went to the Malta Postal Museum, a fantastic interactive place for the kids and full of interesting displays.

The artwork on some of the stamps was really inspiring, I loved the mid-century ones and the Emvin Cremona Exhibition:

More wandering around and we found these cool sights, a (now closed) stationery shop with a lovely sign:

It's been ages since I've seen this sign! And we saw it just after we'd chatted about whether there were any music shops:

And right across the road was this brilliant concept, free cinema viewings. I would have gone to Ghostdog if we were staying overnight in Valletta!

But we weren't, one more bus journey this time to Marsaxlokk. We spent our last night in the pretty fishing village and had a nice meal overlooking the bay with the parental units. 
It was a great trip and now I've unpacked and done mountains of washing, I can get on with creating patterns inspired by all the wonderful things I've seen. I have a whole file of other pictures I took and can't wait to translate them into quilts!

If you've made it to the end of this post, congratulations and thank you for taking the time to read through! I would love to know what you enjoy doing on holiday, are you a lying on the beach or exploring the town person? And is there something you always like to do, like us visiting churches and galleries?