Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We want to Go With Oh to Prague!


It's no secret, we love to travel. It's a big reason why we packed up one little apartment and two little dogs and moved from Canada to Malta a couple of years ago. Well that, and Maltese ravioli.

So when we were contacted by Go With Oh to enter their blogger competition it was a no-brainer. We're in. The prize? The winners become Go with Oh's new travel bloggers (Blogging our way through Europe? Yes please!) and receive free accommodation in one of their fantastic apartments in four of ten cities: Berlin, London, Florence, Rome, Prague, Paris, Dublin, Vienna, Barcelona, and Venice. The task? Write about five things you would like to do in any one of these cities.

When we write about visiting, or living in, Malta, we consider what to eat, see, and do. We are also curious about how things work (or don't) in Malta, how its villages are built, and how its people live.

We apply this curiosity and outlook to travel.

Eat - well, that's easy. We have followed our stomachs around countries like France, Italy and Morocco and are itching to go back for a second helping.

See? That's where Jess, the art history student, comes in. When we travel you can find a neatly composed list of museums, galleries, cafes, shops, parks, and quirky sites to visit tucked into her purse. But seeing is about more than just snapping pictures and ticking boxes off a list. Sometimes (even more than eating), it's about discovering the real flavour of a city.

Then there's 'Do': Mike's favourite. Think rock climbing, jumping off cliffs, diving, and sailing. Spontaneous, wind-in-your-hair fun.

We think Prague offers a perfect selection of things to eat, see, and do. So here's our plan: we want to load up our little blue convertible, buckle in our two dachshund chihuahua dogs, and blog our way through Europe for Go With Oh. From our little island in the south all the way up to London in the north, its the ultimate road trip. And we want you to follow along.


When we get to PRAGUE we want to:

1. GET THE SHIVERS AT SEDLEC OSSUARY. Just an hour outside Prague in Kuntá Hora, Sedlec Ossuary is a fabulously quirky, and strangely beautiful, work of art. Jess gets big nerd points for having studied this chapel in a funerary art class, so you can guess why this made our list of things to see. As a bonus, on our way out of the city we will see some of Prague's suburbs. Prague's history doesn't stop in the Old Town, its suburbs blossomed in the early 20th century (hello, art nouveau mansions!) What better opportunity to Czech check out how people really live, work, and play here.

image via
2. GET LOST IN PRAGUE CASTLE. From off the beaten track to the well-worn track. After visiting 11 countries and 19 cities last year, we know that many tourist must-sees are so-called for a reason. This particular castle is about half the size of Malta's entire capital city of Valletta, so we look forward to getting lost while exploring its nooks and crannies. We're interested in the views from the top of St. Vitus' bell tower, loosing our footing on the Rider's staircase, viewing contemporary art in the castle's gorgeous stables (how strange!), Vladislav Hall's infamous gothic vaulting, catching a jazz performance, and taking a bite out of the golden apple.

image via

3. FIND THE BEST BREW. When we travel we also like to take some time to do as the locals do. Happily in Prague that means drinking beer. Indeed, no trip to Prague would be complete without a quest to find the best brew in town. We'll start with the traditional Czech beers, take in a brewery tour (or three), and round off our search with some local oddities - coffee or banana beer, anyone? If we time our visit right we might even catch the Pilsner Fest!

image via

4. DO PRAGUE BY FOOT. Yes, it's been done before. But we'll do it again, and we'll do it our way with two little dogs in tow. We hear great things about how dog friendly Prague is, and we want to put it to the test. We're thinking the Vltava river and Charles Bridge at sunrise - so we can beat the crowds, and find the real flavour of Prague as locals commute to work. We also want to savour that flavour at a riverside cafe, and walk all the way through Old Town. By the end of the trip we will have walked through all ten of Prague's districts, collecting photographs and swapping stories with locals along the way. And just as Rome was built on seven hills, Prague was built on nine. What better way to work off all those beer calories?

image via
5. GO ZORBING. They call it the human hamster ball, and it's not hard to see why. This is a  completely unconventional way to see the Prague countryside whirl by. Probably best not to do this one on a full stomach ovepro, knedlo and zelo though. Mike's pick, in case you hadn't guessed.

image via
WE WANT TO GO WITH OH TO PRAGUE

We often stay in apartments while traveling (as in ParisValencia and Vienna) and we like to think of them as the best of both worlds. All the conveniences and quirks of living like a local while still getting to play tourist.

Exactly the way we like to travel.

Go With Oh: like pivo and Praha, we're a perfect match.

- Mike & Jess

ps. Please help us Go With Oh! We're up against some big competition, so every little tweet or Facebook post or email you send goes a long way. To make it even easier, 2 of those links contain pre-written messages so helping us only takes a couple clicks! As always, we appreciate your support.

You can also win four fantastic prizes in Go With Oh's Facebook competition and tweet your travel tips for another chance to win!

New travel section!

We recently did a little spring cleaning here on the blog. Switched some things around. Graduated to Adobe Creative Suite and changed all our graphics (which were originally made on Mircosoft Paint!) Added new sections like the Guide and the Quick & Dirty Guide.

We also created a Travel page, where you can click through to blog posts about where we've been (my favourites are Marrakech, Morocco & Venice!)

Speaking of travel, we're cooking up a little European road trip this year. Have you ever done one? Do you have any recommendations? Cities not to be missed, the best museums, the most incredible places to eat?

Or maybe you've done a road trip somewhere else. Where? Best experiences, worst? Road trip tips?

Talk to us, we love to hear from you.

-Jess

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hello, Gozo!

Last weekend we hopped on a ferry to Gozo, Malta's smaller sister island. Mike spent the day rock climbing on 180 foot/60 meter cliffs (his idea of fun) and I spent the day catching up on some reading (my idea of fun). It was blissful.

I understand why so many people keep summer and retirement homes in Gozo. While part of the same country, there is something beautifully unique, almost quirky, about this little island. Its subtle differences from Malta make escaping here for a day feel like a short vacation. Driving through its lush green, terraced hills we remarked more than once just how gorgeous Gozo is. Life seems to be a little slower here, a little calmer, a bit more colourful. And coming here in the off season makes it even better. Not that we don't love and appreciate tourists in Malta, but feeling as though you have the whole island to yourself is kind of magic.


- Jess

the gorgeous Gozitan countryside
with a view of the Azure Window (Game of Thrones fans - the Dothraki parts of the show were filmed there!)

church restoration gozo

british telephone box malta gozo

big rocks gozo

terraced hills rubble walls gozo
gozo is known for its terraced hills. the rubble walls are used for agricultural purposes to deter erosion

limestone cliffs gozo

limestone walls gozo

rock formations gozo
can you spot the sunbather?
gozo country seaside

gozo countryside spring flowers

gozo salt pans seaside
seaside salt pans, gozo



Sunday, March 25, 2012

Malta on Facebook


Just moved to Malta? Fruitlessly Googling for information on shops, businesses, and organizations? Try a Facebook search instead, you might be more likely to find information here.

There is just something about Facebook in Malta. Everyone (and their nannu) uses it, but Maltese businesses and organizations use it really well. Although I have a bone to pick with businesses who don't pony up and create a real web site, preferring to use the free Facebook service instead (which, let's be honest, is just not as robust as a .com) I have to commend businesses in Malta for their social media savvy.

I have found that quite often information is available faster on Facebook than on .coms in Malta, and have benefited from 'Liking' one or two of these pages. If I've missed your favourite do let me know by commenting below.

- Jess






Saturday, March 24, 2012

Malta's eGovernment Services

Malta offers a number of e-Government services to residents of the island. Some of the best in Europe, we hear. To access e-government services in Malta you must have an e-id. To obtain an e-id you must have an ID card, instructions for getting an e-id in Malta can be found here.

We are providing a summarized list (there will be over 500 services available in the future!) of eGovernment services with brief descriptions here. This list will be periodically updated as more services become available.

Did we forget an important service you have found useful? Comment below to let us know.

Not sure what eGovernment service you're looking for? Start here:

Malta eGovernment Services PearlTree
an interactive graphic that will point you in the right direction
OR
Servizz
online portal to search for e-government services


PAPERWORK
simple and secure government forms

birth, marriage and death certificates online

TOURISM, MEDIA & THE ARTS
tourist information

stock photography and video clips of Malta. free for use with credit.

Malta Craft's Council


TRANSPORTATION
public transportation by bus

ACADEMICS & RESEARCH
with online catalogues



FOR THE HOME
Malta's electricity utility online, with RSS and SMS alerts of outages

Malta's Environment and Planning Authority. online services include planning applications, development notifications, enforcements and scheduled property.



BUSINESS & EMPLOYMENT
Intellectual Property Office of Malta for information on patents, trademarks & copyrights.

Employment and training centre. online services include job listings and information on apprenticeships, traineeships, training subsidies, short courses in IT, trade, management, and working in europe.




for trade licenses online


MONEY MATTERS
online customs services

online tax services

submit income tax and related services.


Malta Financial Services Authority

PUBLIC SAFETY
Police Services
report lost property, crimes, etc.

Want to learn more? Read about the security of Malta's e-government services. Spend a lot of time on Facebook? Check out Malta eGovernment Services on Facebook here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

we love the view



A little country lane.

With pot holes, rubble walls, spring flowers, late afternoon sun, prickly pears, honey coloured stones. At one end a castle. At the other a church rising above the skyline of a little village.

We love the view.

This weekend I'm taking Mike on a surprise date (he gets one a month, lucky guy!), we're having friends over for dinner, and popping into a charity fundraiser. I might also hunt around for one of these before the sun gets too strong around here. What are your weekend plans? 

- Jess

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Valletta by night

We recently wandered around Valletta, tip to tip and corner to corner, to explore this old little city by night.

Valletta is very quiet and empty at night, but the absence of cars and tourists makes you aware of the real flavour of Valletta. I felt invisible slipping around corners in the dark (only our noisy shutter was giving us away), and as we passed by open windows we caught odd bits of conversation, the happy noise of a family eating Sunday dinner, Italian and Maltese talk radio, classical music, barking dogs, mums scolding children, laughter. A perfect little slice of life.

I think cities are bi-polar. One personality in the day, one at night. And it's kind of the best.

Before you head off, why don't you click over to:

// A proposal to re-vamp Valletta's Suq (covered market) as an art gallery

// The related art exhibition: Valletta Art Museum at Lily Aguis Gallery

// The architect behind it all (love his public toilets!)

// Love this brand strategy and design firm based in Malta & London

// That time I took a trip around Europe with my entire family + Mike (during which my Dad successfully butchered several languages. Sometimes all in one sentence.)

// Curious about Runway Malta (and what the Maltese are wearing at such fab fashion events)?

// My fellow NSCADU alums taking Toronto Fashion Week by storm!

// Joe Fresh does it again at Toronto Fashion Week (In case you're not Canadian - believe it or not, we buy Joe Fresh at the grocery store!)

// Pantone meets Sephora


- Jess





Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Victoria Lines

Last weekend we embraced the sunny weather (hello, spring!) and went for a short walk along the Victoria Lines in Mosta, had (another) picnic at Buskett Gardens, got lost trying to find a mysterious castle perched high on a hill, and got our first (accidental) sun burns. Yes, yes, I know. Sunscreen. But it's still strange to remember to apply it in March.

What are the Victoria Lines? In a nutshell the Victoria Lines are like Malta's Hadrian's Wall (according to Mike).

This line of defensive fortifications built by the British in the late 19th century spans over 12 kilometers (almost 8 miles, for Americans) and were intended to present a defensive barrier to invading forces coming from the north of the island towards the more heavily populated south. 

And maybe someday we will walk the whole thing. With better shoes.
- Jess

the view from the victoria lines, mosta
the view from the victoria lines to bugibba. i've never seen malta so green, the yellow bits are wild flowers!





camouflage?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Caffe Luna, Malta

Dining in the garden of 18th century Palazzo Parisio - Malta's mini Versailles - at Caffe Luna is a luxuriously relaxing treat. With its symmetrically manicured hedges, citrus trees, hibiscus, bougainvillaea, and twisting walking paths, the gardens are truly a delight. The perfect place to idle away an afternoon with a cup of tea or a few glasses of the palazzo's own house wine.

Last weekend we had the pleasure of doing just that. Lunch was a platter of sandwiches (no crusts!) to share for two: chicken and chutney, creamed cheese and herbs, tuna, ham and cheese. Simple and delicious. Throw in a bottle of Cisk (local Maltese beer), a bottle of still water, the Palazzo Parisio's own chardonnay, a tray of St. Patrick's Day themed desserts - brownie in irish whiskey, lime cheesecake, shortcake with english toffee, baileys ice cream - and a pot of flowering jasmine tea and I was in heaven. And not only is the food good, the bill won't shock you (ours was €30), and the service is superb.

Many visitors to Malta don't know about Palazzo Parisio and its trio of fantastic food establishments - Caffe Luna, Luna di Sera, and the Luna Lounge. But for an entirely unique dining experience on the island you simply must go. While you are there take the time to wander around the palazzo's famous gardens and enjoy the exotic plants and fruit trees. Caffe Luna is also a good place to take children, and on the weekend you will see many families dining al fresco while their little ones play with the toys thoughtfully tucked into a corner of the courtyard. You will feel equally at ease here on a business lunch, or having a romantic meal for two. 

Cafe Luna is open daily from 9am to 6pm. Continental and English breakfast is served 9am to 11am, traditional English tea is served from 3pm to 6pm, and their regular menu is served all day. Luna di Sera (menu hereand the Luna Lounge are open for evening diners, with live music at the Lounge on Saturday nights.

Caffe Luna and Palazzo Parisio are my very favourite place to relax in Malta. I get the same feeling here that I do in a spa (minus the awkwardness of being naked in front of strangers) - all insta-zen and luxurious. Where do you find your insta-zen? At a restaurant? At a beach? On a massage table? In an armchair with a good book?

 - Jess

dinign al fresco at Caffe Luna at Palazzo Parisio (can you spot Mike? hint: he's wearing black)
St. Patrick's themed dessert tray at Caffe Luna (so good!)



flowering jasmine tea

Monday, March 19, 2012

Palazzo Parisio: Malta's Mini Versailles

Palazzo Parisio is one of my hands-down favourite places on the island. This 18th century palazzo, built by the Grand Master de Vilhena (read more about his work in Mdina in a previous post here), is open to the public as a private museum run by the mother-daughter team Christine Ramsay Scicluna, Baroness of Tabria, and Justine Pergola.

Mike and I paid a visit (our third) to the palazzo last weekend, and since I can't stop coming back to this magical place I bit the bullet and bought an annual membership - which means 10% off at their gorgeous gift shop and the Luna Collection of restaurants and cafes, as well as free entry to the palazzo (but let's be honest, it's just a good excuse to come here as often as I like). Sometimes I shake my head when I catch myself buying memberships to 18th century palazzos and think how did I get here? Pinch me.

I was thrilled to climb the palazzo's marble staircase to the piano nobile and find the ballroom set for a banquet. In a word: gold Stunning. I'll let the photos do the talking (it's not hard to see why Palazzo Parisio is referred to as Malta's miniature Versailles). And if you ever find yourself in Malta, don't miss this lovely hidden gem. Oprah didn't

Located in the village of Naxxar, Palazzo Parisio is the perfect size to wander around in less than an hour. General admission is €12, audio guides are provided to visitors, and the palazzo is open 9am-6pm daily. If you time your visit right you can finish your tour just in time for afternoon tea at Caffe Luna - an elegant treat. Don't forget your camera (and your biggest darkest sunglasses for some excellent people watching!)

- Jess

the ballroom at palazzo parisio set for a banquet


palazzo parisio gardens caffe luna
the courtyard of Palazzo Parisio, with Caffe Luna diners eating al fresco
palazzo parisio ballroom
the ballroom of Palazzo Parisio
palazzo parisio ballroom
banquet for the Bailliage National de Malte of the Chaine des Rotisseurs
palazzo parisio ballroom

palazzo parisio music room chandelier ceiling/></a></td></tr>
<tr><td class=Palazzo Parisio's music room
palazzo parisio ballroom ornate ceiling
the ceiling of Palazzo Parisio's ballroom
palazzo parisio ballroom
the ballroom of Palazzo Parisio
palazzo parisio landing neoclassical
the landing in Palazzo Parisio
palazzo parisio

palazzo parisio

palazzo parisio

palazzo parisio

palazzo parisio grand staircase marble ornate ceiling
the grand staircase
palazzo parisio gardens
in the gardens
palazzo parisio gardens

palazzo parisio gardens
Palazzo Parisio's gardens in March.
palazzo parisio gardens