Monday, December 17, 2012

Cafe Jubilee, Gozo

via @jessinmalta instagram

This is the 'original' Jubilee, located in Victoria Gozo. The one with the 'Thirst Come Thirst Served' umbrella on its vaulted, stone ceiling (how fabulous is that?)

There are three Cafe Jubilees in Malta and Gozo, located in Victoria, Gzira, and Valletta. I've frequented them all, and can't get enough of their eclectic decor, 1940's French music, and their pure and simple, delicious food. Nanna's ravioli is always a favourite, and so are the cheese platters, bagels, and sandwiches.

In my opinion, these restaurants have the coziest atmospheres on the island. And friendly service to boot. They also have free Wifi (ask for the password), and are the perfect place to settle down for a few hours with the Sunday paper, your laptop, or your lover.

Looking back, it was an appropriate time for Mike and I to visit Jubilee. The last time we shared a Jubilee cheese platter (which is always superb and always too big) we had just signed the lease on our new flat. It was celebratory cheese, and we were on cloud nine. We got the flat we always wanted, in a location we loved, at a great price. Life couldn't get any better.

cheese platter at cafe jubilee, via instagram @jessinmalta
This time we had also just signed a lease on a new flat. Because our old flat has sold to new owners. This cheese wasn't celebratory cheese, it was sad cheese. Delicious, but bittersweet.

Between the two of us we've moved 15 times in the last 7 years. And, truth be told, the whole 'nomadic' thing is not as glamorous as it sounds.

If only our housing situation was as consistent as that beautiful blue cheese served at Jubilee. 

- Jess

Friday, December 14, 2012

Victoria, Gozo

During our day trip to Gozo last weekend we wandered around the island's capital city, Victoria. You'll also hear it called Rabat - but we use Victoria to avoid confusing it with the village of Rabat on the island of Malta.

Hello there.

Victoria is a feast for the eyes. For me, it is so much 'more than' many Maltese villages. I think the houses here are more quirky, original, and pretty than many of those in Malta. Their names are funnier (I love Toronto House and American Beauty!) The signs on the city's little cafes and businesses are more beautiful and vintage, more frozen in time. (As Mike said, "Wouldn't those guys from that 'picker' show love this?")

Victoria, Gozo decorated for Christmas

Astra Theatre, Victoria, Gozo

The streets in Victoria are narrower, more winding, more pedestrianized, and more ancient looking. Like those in Mdina, but more lived in.

Yet, I also think Victoria is also 'less than' the villages in Malta. Less busy. Here, there is less potential to be run over by an errant driver. Less of a schedule, less urgency. Less taking for granted your beautiful surroundings. More wide-eyed wandering, shutter clicking, footsteps echoing in tiny stone alleys. 

Kinnie and Cisk are local drinks - a bitter orange soda, and a light beer.

And in the winter, on a Sunday afternoon, Victoria is perfectly quiet and still.

An entire little city, that is both less and more, all to yourself.

- Jess

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gozo with Dogs

We get a lot of emails about living with or travelling to Gozo and Malta with dogs. So you guys (some of you?) must be interested in what it's like. If you do have questions we don't answer in our blog posts, we love to help, so don't be shy. You can email us or tweet me with all dog related quandaries.

And without further adieu, Gozo with dogs:

Gozo is a great place to take dogs if you have a car, or can rent one for the day. Dogs can travel on the Gozo ferry for free. You can leave them in the car, take them into the ferry, or take them on the deck during the crossing, which lasts about 20 minutes and costs €20 for two people and a car.

We make a point of going to Gozo when it's cooler outside so we can leave our pups in the car if we want to pop into a shop or museum. Otherwise, we find dogs are welcome throughout the island.

Bonus: during the shoulder season there is no one around to see you take your dogs into pretty parks with no dogs allowed signs. (And sandy beaches with similar signs, too.) Not that we would ever do that. Because everyone in Malta and Gozo respects rules posted on signs, right?

Xlendi Bay is, hands down, our favourite place to take our pups in Gozo. Our love affair with Xlendi (pronounced shlen-dee) started a couple years ago, when we had our first lunch at a restaurant with the dogs sitting politely beneath our chairs (that polite bit is rare, which is why I think Xlendi is so special to us).

xlendi bay

Turns out, most restaurants in Xlendi will allow you to eat al fresco with fido. There's also a neat little hiking path nearby you can scale with your pup, and a pretty promenade that stretches along the coast of this tiny village, with spectacular cliff views and picnic tables. 

During this visit, in December, we practically had the whole village to ourselves and probably could have let Elle and Win run off-leash along Xlendi's promenade, but I'm a worry-wort and those waves freaked me out too much.

We stopped at Kennedy Grove (in Malta) on our way home for a little off-leash time instead.

And while in Gozo, before we board the ferry back to Malta, we try to stop wherever there is a good view (and a bench) to take in the views of Gozo's gorgeous countryside and let the dog's exercise their little noses.

On a side note: How strange to think we share our home, and our travels, with these two little animals. (Sometimes I wonder how we would explain that to aliens...)

Have you ever travelled to Gozo with pups? Any tips? Leave them below!

- Jess

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Popeye's Village, Malta

While on our way to Gozo a few weeks ago we passed by Popeye's Village. We've never been to it - we don't have kids, so we lack a good excuse - but it sure is something to look at. I think those are the only wooden buildings on the whole island (no joke).

Popeye's Village is quite popular among holiday makers, particularly families, particularly during the summer months. It offers movie set tours, a Popeye comic book museum, mini golf, water sports and trampolines, sea access, play pools, puppet shows, video games, and free wine for the adults. (That last bit is key).

Mike once got his hands on the Popeye (1980) movie. He watched ten minutes of it, couldn't understand a thing Robin Williams was saying, and gave up. Are you old enough to remember it?

How strange to find its set here, on a little island in the middle of the Med, still attracting visitors nearly a quarter of a century later.

- Jess

opening hours
daily, 9:30 am - 7pm (august)
9:30am - 5:30pm (march - july, september - october)
9:30am - 4:30pm (november - february)
popeye express private transport from all hotels - call 2152 4782 to reserve
public bus - 42, 221, 222, X1 (Tunnara bus stop)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gozo in December

I'll be taking a break from road trip posts for the next week or so to talk about Gozo (not to be confused with the muppet).

fort chambray and the island of malta in the distance

the cliffs near xlendi bay, gozo

Mike and I love ducking away to the island of Gozo for day trips when the weather is cooler, and the crowds thin out. March and December are our favourite months. While the surf can be rough during the ferry ride over, and many little shops and restaurants close down during shoulder season, Gozo is meant to be seen like a local from the passenger's seat of a car, weaving down country roads, at this time of year.

ta kenuna botanical gardens, gozo

the islands of comino and malta, view from gozo

terraced hills

During this visit we got lost on a few dirt lanes, walked the dogs along Xlendi Bay's promenade, and day dreamed of taking longer, farther day trips.

We both have a little island fever lately. (There are worse fevers, I know.)

- Jess

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Paralympics Closing Ceremonies in Trafalgar Square, London

Mike and I took a two-week road trip through Italy, France, Spain, England, and Belgium this past September.
You can read our other road trip posts about this trip here.

Paralympics closing ceremonies trafalgar square London

On our last night in London we followed a Brazilian parade (which was part of the Mayor's Thames Festival) to Trafalgar Square, where we watched the 2012 Paralympics come to a close surrounded by Londoners in the heart of the city (pinch me!)

Paralympics closing ceremonies Brazilian Parade

Paralympics closing ceremonies Brazil parade London

Paralympics closing ceremonies Brazil parade London

Looks pretty cool, right? But, for me, the most impressive part was the crowds in Trafalgar. They were so orderly and polite and lovely. There was empty space at the front of the stage!

People made a point of walking to rubbish bins to dispose of their beer bottles!

They sat in perfect rows and cheered and applauded and danced and sang, and never once broke into a brawl or pushed or shoved. I have never, not in Canada (and definitely not in Malta) ever seen such a happy and courteous crowd of people in my life. (And it was the same at the Royal Wedding last year.)

Paralympics closing ceremonies trafalgar square London

Paralympics closing ceremonies trafalgar square London

Paralympics closing ceremonies trafalgar square London

Paralympics closing ceremonies trafalgar square London

At the end of the closing ceremony there was certainly a bittersweet atmosphere hanging over Trafalgar. But then, as the crowds began to file out of the square, a message appeared on the jumbo screen. It read: Please take your time and look after each other.

How lovely is that?

London, I like you. I like you a lot.

- Jess

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Mayor's Thames Festival, London

I think every post I've written about our time in London this past September has been all "I love London I love London I love London."

Sorry guys, but this one isn't going to be any different.

thames festival london

Disembarking our Thames River Tour at the London Bridge, we were greeted with the street carnival atmosphere of the Mayor's Thames Festival. A celebration of the Thames and the city, the festival takes place every September. But in 2012 it had particular significance, and was a beautiful way to end a spectacular Olympic summer.  

thames festival paper boat london

thames festival paper boat london

At this (free) festival were greeted by two lovely volunteers handing out 'build your own paper boat' instructions: a testament to the playful, interactive atmosphere of this event.

thames festival london

As we wandered through the festival along the Thames, watching live music, dancing, and river races, I remembered what big city life could be like. Multicultural, bustling, busy, and hot. It was lovely to revel in it, if only for an afternoon.

thames festival london

It was also pretty neat for this seaside-dwelling girl to watch life unfold on a river. (They've always seemed so foreign to me.)

The Thames Festival is delivered by the Thames Festival Trust, a not-for-profit which is also the founding member of river//cities. river//cities "aims to increase the impact of culture on urban waterways and waterfronts". As their web site says:
Rivers are often regarded as a means of transport, or - at best - a space for water sports. But they are also powerful and symbolic icons for connecting people and ideas across regions and national borders. 

thames festival london

So, maybe, like river//cities, what the Thames Festival is all about is celebrating the connections between the water and the land, the industry and culture, and the city dwellers of London. The kind of connections that are created when you are building a 21st century city, or a little paper boat. 

I've always said I couldn't live in a city that wasn't by the sea or the ocean, but maybe I've underrated rivers.


- Jess