I've been to a few gardens and parks: Versailles; Paris' Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens; London's Royal Parks; Valencia's Jardins del Real; Marrakech's Cyber Parc; Rome's Villa Borghese Gardens; Florence's Boboli Gardens; Barcelona's Parc Guell; Dublin's Pheonix Park (are you still with me?)
Visiting parks and gardens is often my favourite part of travelling. What is lovelier than enjoying a good book or board game or chat over a picnic or a hot drink in the middle of a park? Mike and I got engaged in a park of sorts, and dreamed up another crazy idea in our hometown's public gardens.
I have a thing for parks. And my favourite park in the whole world is right here in Malta.
San Anton Gardens is located in the village of Attard, Malta. Just a stone's throw from the University of Malta's student residence, where we stayed during Mike's 2008 exchange to UM. While Mike was at school, I would often come to this garden with the complete works of Jane Austen and read on a bench for hours. Or, we would both visit with peach ice tea and a backgammon board.
Now that we live in a different village trips to San Anton are fewer, but just as special.
This park is actually the President of Malta's back yard. Its history stretches back to the seventeenth century, and over the years it has housed the National Assembly of France, the Govenor General of Malta, and the Queen of England.
The Palace's gardens were opened to the public in the late nineteenth century, and today are divided into a private and public section. The private section is mostly comprised of citrus groves and manicured lawns, and is the domain of the President and his staff. It's open to the public for special events, like the Citrus Festival in January.
The public side of the park has a small aviary, a resident population of friendly stray cats, and geese, ducks and peacocks that wander around at their leisure.
San Anton Gardens are planted with the most diverse trees and flowers I've seen on the island, most bearing dedication plaques from this or that head of state or public figure (like the Dalai Lama!) Its gurgling ponds are filled with koi and turtles, and lizards dart across the stone pathways during the hot summer months.
San Anton is a bit of a journey from Malta's main tourist areas so a lot of visitors don't make it here. Perhaps that is what makes the gardens so nice - during the week they are practically deserted, and they only fill up with Maltese families on weekends. But if you're a traveller who is drawn to parks and gardens, make an effort to see this one. Because there's something quite magical about settling down with a good book on a park bench, surrounded by palm trees, only to be disturbed by a peacock or flock of goslings.
p.s. If you get hungry while you're there, wander over to Melita Gardens restaurant for a meal or afternoon tea (it's lovely) or grab a snack from the confectionary stand outside the garden's gates.
PARKS & GARDENS IN MALTA
Hastings Gardens, Valletta
Buskett Gardens, Rabat
Chadwick Lakes, Rabat
Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta
Lower Barrakka Gardens, Valletta
The Strand and seaside promenade
(Ta x'biex - St. Julian's)
Ta Qali National Park, Ta Qali
Argotti Botanical Gardens, Floriana
Railway Track Garden, Birkirkara
Howard Gardens, Mdina (just outside the city gate)
Kennedy Grove (named after JFK!), St. Paul's Bay