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The mystery around hypnotherapy

November 3, 2013 1 comment

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Part of the problem with hypnotherapy is that people don’t understand it. “It doesn’t mean I will transport you into a comatose state of mind and control your mind and thoughts,” says Deborah Marshall-Warren, who has been in the business for 17 years and written two books on the subject. Increasingly, hypnotherapy is becoming a popular treatment for mental and physical conditions.

Why is hypnotherapy becoming more popular?
Marshall-Warren:
Hypnotherapy is now becoming seen as a first resort as a treatment option instead of a last resort. It’s also being extended to treat physical problems like skin complaints whose cause can often be emotionally triggered.

The techniques used allow you to access information that could take six months to get out in psychotherapy sessions. Bright intelligent people can talk and talk but their subconscious doesn’t often get a chance to come out. A session with me ‘cuts out the crap’ in a short period of time.

What kind of people do you treat?
Marshall-Warren: The most common issues are anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, depression and low self-esteem.

I have treated teenagers who have stuttered since they were three years old. Once we have discovered the cause of the stutter, we can rebuild the person’s confidence and self-esteem. By addressing the emotional root cause, we can reduce the symptoms.

One woman left a job for shyness. It was getting to the stage where she didn’t even wanted to get married because she was too shy. Now, she will speak at her sister’s wedding.

Sometimes people have gone through so much as a child – poverty and abuse -and they overcome it and grow into fantastic people. They can forgive and forget themselves; others need help.

I’m a great listener and sometimes people speak with very little consciousness of what they are saying. Sometimes in language, people almost self-sentence themselves by saying something negative over and over again. For example, ‘it’s such a nuisance to do this or that’ or ‘I’m afraid I could never do that. I’m afraid of X’. They pre-program themselves and some minor things become magnified into dramas.

Do you ever tire of meeting people suffering from anxiety, depression etc?
Marshall-Warren: This is a fascinating subject, my work is never done. Even if it is the 300th person coming for help with confidence building, it is always different.

How many sessions are needed to treat an issue?
Marshall-Warren: The average is three sessions, maximum five. The only exception is maybe weight loss, maybe they come once a month.

Have you had any unique or bizarre cases?
Marshall-Warren: I had one lady who was terrified of vegetables. I saw her once and during the session we turned her into a bright eight-year-old cooking vegetables; it emerged that her mother had cooked soggy vegetables. Later she went out for dinner and ate broccoli, carrots and peas.

Then there was the mother who was terrified of stinging nettles. It was causing a problem for her because she was afraid if her child would run off into a field full of nettles that she would be too afraid to go and catch her.

Many people might be scared to try hypnotherapy for fear of losing control of themselves. Do you really put them into a ‘coma’?
Marshall-Warren: Contrary to belief, I don’t put people to sleep. They are fully conscious of what they are doing. My sessions guide people to relaxation. You cannot relax a person forcefully, you can only guide them. If a person wants to resist, they can.

After bringing a person to a state of relaxation, I create a sense of respect for the subconscious. I always ask permission – for example, ‘self conscious would you agree to go back to …’ The subconscious can always say ‘no’. I do this so you feel comfortable with the new journey and know that you are in control. I don’t do anything without your permission.

How exactly does a session work?
Marshall-Warren: I try to create esteem around you – determination, self-love, self-confidence, the choice comes from you and helps you to design your own labels.

I describe myself as a cheerleader – you create an orchestra and I am like a chorus, respecting, repeating, reacting to the sentences you chose to liberate yourself. I encourage the best and brightest of you so parts of you are owning your own solution.

By supporting you in forcing your words and repeating, repeating, repeating things like confidence, positivity, self-esteem etc, we can override the old patterns of thinking. It’s like installing new software on the hard drive on your computer!

This is not a typical 9-5 job. How did you end up in this business?
Marshall-Warren: Originally, I worked as a teacher for 16 to 19 year olds. This job went beyond teaching; I also had to help them with their confidence, self-belief etc. As multimedia training emerged in the UK, I moved from being a class teacher to a multimedia designer as I loved the creative side of the job – delivering an interactive training program.

After a few years, I began to travel along on my own yellow brick road in a spiritual way. I wanted to do something more aligned with my spiritual growth and development.

I can’t say I chose this path but somehow it came to me. I seemed to have a healing gift but I just hadn’t realized it.

How did you end up in Malta?
Marshall-Warren:
I came to Malta in 2005 when I was writing my second book and put myself in isolation in a hotel in Mellieha. Then, I came here to live and never looked back. But I do still spend seven or eight days in London each month.

There are plenty of other hypnotherapists out there. What is different about your work?
Marshall-Warren: Most therapists do direct suggestion which is like reading a script. But I think you might as well listen to a relaxation CD, you don’t need me for this.

The way I work, you are creating your own solution and I am encouraging you to gain your outcome but in a way that you hold on to the power. It’s a very clean therapy which doesn’t work on any assumptions. You design and sing your own song.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Marshall-Warren: It is exciting to see a turnaround in people. I never lose that excitement. It’s like going on stage day after day and experiencing the freedom, liberation and turnaround in people.

Hypnotherapy is drug-free, that’s the best thing about it!

What is your source of inspiration?
Marshall-Warren:
I realized that language is as important as the food we put into our mouths. It can be nutritional or toxic. It is amazing what a small detail can make such a big difference.

Interview Alannah Eames More information http://www.marshall-warren.com/

Expats and escargots

September 8, 2012 1 comment

escargotAccording to Wikipedia, the official definition of an expat is “a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).

So, if you go to an expat club, you expect to meet other expats in the same situation as you, right?
Wrong. In some countries and cities anyway.

In Yerevan, Armenia, expats tend to hang out in the “Wheel Club”, a sociable restaurant cum bar which is not difficult to find as there are only a handful of such watering spots in town; and within a few quiz nights or dinners there you will have met all the expats living in the country.

In Nairobi, Kenya, expats (and tourists) flock to popular spots like The Carnivore Restaurant and Pavement restaurant and bar. You’ll also find them easily if you hang out in any of the luxury hotels in town.

In Stockholm, you can read The Local or visit any Irish bar and you’ll find a healthy mix of expats and locals. Attend an event organized by The Local and the chances are that you’ll meet plenty of people in the same situation as yourself bar a handful of Swedes or foreigners with Swedish roots.

In Malta, there are several expat clubs and you won’t find many Maltese there – simply because they already have their own social and support network in place. You might find the occasional Maltese person who is of Maltese descent but a blow-in from abroad, or, occasionally, a local friend of an expat member who was invited along for a drink.

In large cities i.e. over one million inhabitants, and capital cities, you’ll usually be spoiled for choices with British societies or embassies, American Chamber of Commerces, Aussie clubs and much more to choose from so you can sift through and find one that matches you and your interests best.

Then, we come to Lyon in France, a city of almost two million and France’s third largest. InterNations is probably the largest expat club in town; it sells itself as an “Expatriates Community for Expats Worldwide” which helps you to get to know ‘like-minded expats in your city’ but, unlike in Malta, it is run more like a commercial venture than a warm and welcoming place to socialize.

Expect to pay entry for the events, unless you upgrade your status, and expect the drinks at the event to be pricey as the organizers and venues are obviously making money from ‘poor lost expats’ instead of welcoming them with a cheery complimentary cocktail, two-for-one offers and nibbles (like you get at expat events in other countries).

The major difference: in Lyon you will find yourself rubbing shoulders with far more Frenchies than foreigners. Do they consider themselves expats because they are not Lyonnais i.e. they come from another part of France? Does that make them qualify as an ‘expat’? Apparently, it does. Or else they have proudly bestowed themselves with the title of ‘expat’ because they have lived in a former French colony such as Togo for a few weeks, or they have been on vacation a few times to Guadeloupe and Mauritius. These people consider themselves extremely superior and more international than ‘normal French’ people and believe they even qualify as expats because ‘they have been abroad and like to speak English’.

Their other objective for being at these ‘expat’ events is to learn English. So, the role of the homesick expat at these events is not the chance to share experiences and moan about the ups and downs of living in a strange country, no, it’s to offer the ‘locals’ a chance to put their English skills into practice, and give them a taste of our culture so they can become international, just like us expats.

Disillusioned with Internations ‘expats’ , some foreigners try another equally popular  “English club” Act4 and MeetUp.

In all fairness, Act4 does market itself as an English-speaking club and caters for Frenchies who want to immerse themselves in the wonderful world of us Anglophones.

The invitations to English lunches, trips to original version English language movies, trips to the Angloworld pour in. Inevitably, the lunch on Wednesday at 14.00 is often venue-less – that’s decided a day or two before the event. Often, events are cancelled, rescheduled, people put on waiting lists or confirmed and then de-confirmed. In other words, it’s mass confusion. Expect to be bombarded with ten emails every day if you sign up for one event. The latest endeavor is a ‘news club’ which would imply it is a networking club for people who work in media to hang out with other journalists and to immerse in the media world. No, the idea is that you bring a copy of an English news article with you and discuss it … a great exercise to improve language skills, and if you are a ‘ real English-speaking journalist’, then the organizers have hit a jackpot and you should come ‘to see, you’ll probably like it’  – yes, it definitely adds a touch of authenticity to the ‘news club’.

The Act4-ers and MeetUp-ers seem to love everything about us Anglophones – our culture, our language, our way of doing things and even seem to dream of being like us (for all our faults). But, they’ll never be like us – the two cultures are miles apart. Arranging events without an exact time or venue, cancelling last minute, confirming and then de-confirming, that’s not the Anglo way of doing things. But, if you dare to question their way of doing things, or challenge them … then you’ll realize that this is an Anglo-loving club to a certain extent, dare to criticize or raise an eyebrow, or challenge their way of doing things …  and the French culture kicks back in.

Such is the life of an expat amongst escargots!

The usual New Year’s Eve dilemma … what to do!

December 26, 2011 1 comment

Left your New Year’s preparation plans till the last minute again? Paid an arm and a leg for a New Year’s celebration weekend abroad last year in a hotel that didn’t match your expectations and your budget? Bored of ‘to-ing’ and ‘fro-ing’ between friends’ house parties every New Year’s Eve?

Probably you thought about sweeping your special one away – or being swept away – for a cosy weekend in an exotic location or vibrant city. Or maybe you’re just one of those people who hates New Year’s Eve and all the fuss it brings and have resigned yourself to sitting on the sofa watching the celebrations on TV. If you’re a frequent business traveler, probably the thought of a stiff set menu in a decorated conference room at a hotel reminds you just a bit too much of that December office party or a formal business event. But you’re in a bit of dilemma. You don’t want to go away and you don’t want to sit home or go to a house party. And you don’t want to cook or hang out with a bunch of strangers. Maybe you’re in the mood for getting dressed up and spending but looking for that something special to splash out on.

Almost every hotel and top-notch restaurant offers a ‘special’ New Year’s Eve menu … ‘special’ in so far that they can justify a pretty steep set price because it is New Year’s Eve and because their staff have to sweat hard indoors instead of joining in the celebrations outside. Last week I struggled looking for a suitable New Year’s Eve dinner venue for myself and my husband. And that’s quite a bit of research as they are umpteen restaurants and hotels in Malta to choose from. Many menus looked great, some were new places I hadn’t been to and were on my “to see” list … but in the end, we settled on an ‘old’ favorite which holds special memories for us as it is where we got engaged, where the food and service is always good, and where we have spent many lovely evenings together – Grill 3301 at the Corinthia in St. George’s Bay, Malta.

Interior of Grill 3301: romantic atmosphere and stunning views.

My rationale: Why risk paying the same price somewhere else when you know what you’re getting. The menu at Grill 3301 with its focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients sucked us in like a magnet, combined with its large glass windows with panoramic sea views and professional service. The seven-course menu together with drinks for two people will set us back around EUR 180 – less than the price of a night in a good hotel in London for New Year’s Eve or a flight within Europe for one person. It’s not cheap but for a pleasant, hassle-free evening, it’s a good investment! I’m a sucker for the Grill’s beef steaks which are served on iron plates and accompanied with little saucepans for the side orders and a ‘soup ladle’ for your choice of sauce. There’s just about everything from the Kobe beef steak which will set you back around EUR 60 or, if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, there are simple pasta dishes for around EUR 10. Unfortunately, if you want to try their a la carte menu, you’ll have to go back another time because they have a seven-course set menu for New Year’s Eve, but one which is already making my mouth water.

“If you’re looking for a romantic dinner with exquisite food and unique atmosphere … and to give yourself and your loved ones a special treat for New Year’s Eve, come and celebrate with us,” says Antoine Zammit, restaurant manager, who’s going to be ringing in his fourth new year at Grill 3301.

New Years’ Eve at The Grill 3301 kicks off at 8 pm with a cauliflower puree served with mushroom salad and truffle oil. Next up is a seafood mélange with an interesting combination of limoncello jelly and caviar dressing, followed by wild mushroom risotto with grilled quail. For your main course, it’s going to be a tough choice between the Scottish Aberdeen Angus beef fillet or the red snapper/grouper plate. And, if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be in heaven when you see there is a pre-dessert teaser, before the real dessert, which is not just one but an assortment of three – coconut cheese cake, passion fruit mousse and mango ice cream. All topped off with coffee and petits fours.

That’s bound to bring us up to midnight by which time, we’ll either be ready to hit the sack or jump on our scooter to finish off the night with a bottle of champagne on the bastions of Valletta, before hopping into bed and waking up in 2012.

More information on New Year’s Eve at Grill 3301, click here.

The best full-facial workout ever

My cheekbones are still aching from the Laugh Out Loud (LOL) stand-up comedy show last Saturday in Qawra, Malta, which greatly surpassed all my expectations. Yes, I expected to have a laugh but I was also waiting for some “drier” moments.

However, from the time Tiernan Douieb kickstarted the show at 20.45 to the moment he stepped off stage at 22.45, my whole insides and face had done an intensive two-hour workout.

Douieb got the show off to a lively start by interacting with the audience, picking on the ‘unsuspecting’ couples in the front row of tables asking them about themselves and poking fun at their answers. He also appeared to be baffled that the Maltese ate so much and why they were so into the new fad of ‘planking’.

The crowd was a mix of Maltese and expats but Steve Andrews’ – an expat and upcoming comedian living in Malta who filled the open spot – witty jokes about “the island that logic forgot”-  i.e. Malta– went down well with both.  

Next up was Dana Alexander who was also much better than expected as she played up her Jamaican roots, revealed her current favorite hobby (trying to figure out the nationality of people on the streets of London – her new home – based on … the size and shape of their ass) and the whole ‘women are from Mars, men are from Venus’ concept.

The dirtiest of all was John Fothergill (pronounced ‘For the Girls’ in his strong Newcastle accent) who poked fun at an all-female “lesbian” table in the corner who were celebrating a birthday (“ah, nice, so you came here to celebrate so you didn’t need to talk to each other” he shouted at the table). He also admitted to enjoying his time in Malta – showing off his sunburnt “British tanned” chest, but added that he wasn’t impressed by the Maltese attitude to quality and safety as he bumped along the precariously pot-holed streets during his taxi ride from the airport and watched sailing boats bent over battling the high waves.

The show was superbly organized from start to finish. From the prompt air-conditioned pickup service at Spinola Bay (just EUR 4 return) to the tasty Mexican and Asian platters to nibble on, waiter service and interaction with the crowd, I was glad we splashed out an extra EUR 8 on the Inner Circle seats, as they were worth every cent of it.

Humor can sometimes be differently perceived by different nationalities and culture but this show was funny enough to be appreciated by all and subtle enough so as not to offend anyone. We were a table of Dutch, Irish,New Zealand and Australian expats and each one of us laughed equally hard as did the Maltese group at the next table.

I, like the rest of my group, can’t wait until the next Laugh Out Loud show because for sure, I’m going to become a regular.
Psst … the next shows are planned for September 24 & 25, 2011.
Click here for more info.

Why live in a house when you can live in a museum … like this one!

May 27, 2011 2 comments

It’s hard to know what makes a good investment these days as share prices crash, savings accounts disappear overnight, companies go bust and analysts disagree over the future of commodity prices. But, how about a 17th-century historic palazzo in the medieval UNESCO heritage city of Mdina on the island of Malta? You’re not just buying the bricks and mortar but also a piece of history.

Inner courtyard: the perfect spot for a leisurely breakfast, afternoon tea or twilight cocktails.

Mdina – the former capital of Malta before Valletta- is a UNESCO heritage site so it’s forbidden to build or change anything in the old city. This, is welcome news, on an island where much of the beautiful original houses of character and townhouses along the seafront in prime areas like Sliema and St. Julian’s have been torn mercilessly down to be replaced by dour lifeless concrete apartment blocks.

Fit for a king
Designed by the King of France’s personal architect de Mondion, and home to several generations of Maltese nobility, this beautiful palazzo has been lovingly restored to its former glory by professional restorers under the watchful eye of its British owners who bought it in 2003.

The palazzo has retained it original character but mod cons like air-conditioning, central heating and a 21st-century-worthy bathroom and kitchen have been installed. Although, with one of the best restaurants in Malta a stone’s throw away at the Xara Palace Hotel, it’s not used as often as it should be, confides the owner.

The owners have pulled off a fantastic restoration project. At the same time, they’ve managed to open the house up so there’s a relaxed atmosphere of tranquillity and calm. It’s far from uptight – it’s simply a place to live in, a home away from home. The kind of place you can imagine an artist or writer turning to for creative inspiration or a retreat where burnt-out business executives can escape to. On top of it all, even the most cynical visitor can’t help but think: “Wow, this is how they used to live in the old times!” feeling.

The “modest” entrance defies an interior fit for royalty.

Situated on a narrow side street, built into the fortress walls, when you close the heavy oak door behind you, you leave behind the hordes of summertime tourists and enter a majestic hallway which leads into a tasteful dining room. The first floor houses the dining room, kitchen and courtyard. Steps from the kitchen behind a “secret” door lead down to a limestone Roman
cellar complete with old stone troughs from which the knights’ horses used to drink. Today, it would serve a better purpose as a wine cellar. Upstairs there are two bedrooms and a living room. The “bathroom with a view” as the sellers call it, like the kitchen, is coated with top-quality marble slabs and has an “antique” feel to it. Another staircase leads up on to the large roof space offering a stunning view over the “Silent City ” of Mdina and the cathedral.

For me, the absolute highlight of this 400-square-meter property is its beautiful inner courtyard with original multi-coloured mosaic floor tiles, which opens on to a fantastic balcony built into the Mdina bastions. Without question, the balcony offers one of the most stunning views over the island Malta and on a clear day, you can see as far as the fishing village of Marsascala and the tower at Portimaso in St. Julian’s.

A good reason to buy
One local real estate agent claims that such properties in Mdina are usually kept in the family for over ten generations. The chain of succession is only broken when a sibling marries a foreigner and they inherit that house, as in the case of this Palazzo currently on the market. But, as in much of Malta’s real estate market, if you’re a foreigner who is able to cough up the dough, they’ll probably be more than happy to sell.

Fully furnished … it’s ready to move right into!

Move right in
As an added bonus, the palazzo is being sold fully furnished, complete with everything right down to the John Lewis linen, champagne in the wine cellar and books in the dining room.
The antiques and furnishings – handpicked by the owners from antique shops and markets around the world – are worth a whopping EUR 500,000 alone. Including a five-meter original Frederick C. Mulock painting dating back to 1888 and a five-meter, 17th-century Goebelin tapestry.

The result is a museum fit to live in. The price tag ? A snip at just under EUR 2 million.

You’re probably thinking ‘ What’s the catch?’ … a former palace in a UNESCO-protected site, fully restored for the same price as an apartment in London’s Mayfair, a penthouse in Manhattan or a farmhouse retreat in a remote area of France.

Well, I’ve been there three times to take a look and, try as I might, I just can’t find one … maybe it’s just that the sellers aren’t really trying to hard to advertise it … or, perhaps, they are just looking for the right buyer!

Built into the bastion walls, you could wake up to this view every morning!

 

The “best of” wining and dining in Malta …

May 24, 2011 4 comments

Tourists sometimes complain that the food in Malta just isn’t as good as in neighboring Mediterranean countries. Others are thrilled to see Italian favorites like pizza and pasta on almost every menu. Meanwhile, Anglophones, who like their home comforts, are always happy to see an English breakfast and fish and chips popping up here and there.

Tucking into the Seafood Tower at Grill 3301 at the Corinthia San Gorg Hotel. Most Maltese restaurants have a good selection of fish dishes.

Like any other place which has a heaving tourism industry, for every good restaurant there’s a not-so-good one. Stick to the tourist-beaten track and you’re sure to be disappointed. I’m referring to tourist traps like Paceville and Bugibba  … many restaurants here just don’t try hard as they know that their diners will come once and never return, regardless of whether they get good food or service … or not. (Of course, there are a few good restaurants in both places but if you’re not in the know, it’ll be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find a Michelin-star-worthy one.)

But what is good about Malta is that there is a restaurant for every budget, age group and taste. The challenge is to find them!

Over the past ten years, I’ve built up a list of my firm favorites to which I always return, found some that have become regular hang-out spots and tried some new ones that, for sure, I will never revisit.

My “best of” list:

Lupanara by evening. Romantic and secluded.

Best romantic spot: Lupanara is a cozy cellar-style restaurant/wine bar built into stone fortress walls on the waterfront in historic Vittoriosa. Intimate and atmospheric, it’s the perfect setting to enjoy a cheese platter and bottle of wine with your other half or close friends and family. It recently got new management so hopefully, nothing too dramatic will change.

Best value for money:  You just can’t beat La Cuccagna in Sliema for good food at a price that won’t break the bank. Unpretentious and “simple” décor and the kind of food you could imagine an Italian mama cooking up at home. Their avocado, ruccola and prosciutto salad, with bruschetta as a starter, come highly recommended.

Best hidden secret: Wedged in between a dodgy-looking Chinese restaurant and a rowdy bar, don’t be put off by the entrance to this restaurant, or by its childlike name. Snoopy’s serves up a great steak and has a cozy wooden seating area upstairs, a nice bar downstairs.

Gululu. A colorful twist on typical Maltese food.

Best to impress foreigners or visitors: Touristic? Maybe. Kitschy? Yes. But Gululu is a great place if you want to eat Maltese food in  lively and pretty Spinola Bay  … it’s the perfect
spot to bring foreign friends or visitors to taste Maltese food. Their selection of dips for starters are delicious.

Best view, regardless of the weather: This can be a thorny issue but, personally, I like Surfside on the Sliema waterfront. The food’s so-so here but they have a great choice of pizzas and pasta, all named after famous footballers. There’s a large sun patio on the roof, a side balcony, and indoors, large glass windows giving you a panoramic view of the waves crashing on the rocks underneath. An all-weather venue.

Best “local” hang-out: Peppi’s is a well-established and classic spot on the waterfront, a stone’s throw from Balluta Bay. From the outside it looks a bit like a kiosk but they have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. The no-frills menu is basic but broad. Their pizzas – especially the Capricciosa – are well worth checking out, or, if you are a bit more conservative, their half-roasted chicken and chips are a safe bet. Friendly service, low prices and, if you’re a football fan, plenty of TV screens.

Best to cure indecisiveness: If you’ve walked up and down the seafront in Marsaxlokk ten times and still can’t decide on a seafood restaurant, why not try La Ruelle. They have all the usual fresh fish of the day, a good choice of seafood platters, classy water bottles and a nice rustic décor inside. Their wraps are also good.

Best café: Without a question, Mint in Sliema is my absolute favorite. The food display is always changing so even if you go there every day, you’ll never get tired of it. Great coffee, mouth-watering cakes and tasty lunches (especially their chorizo hot dog and quiches). There’s free wireless internet, some magazines and papers, and toys for the kids.

Best Sunday lunch spot: If you don’t know Marsascala you probably make a beeline for the waterfront like the tourists, but Tal Familija despite its more rural setting has actually some of the best seafood in town. Especially their seafood platter which they can customize according to your preferences. The perfect place for a leisurely Sunday lunch with friends or family. Outdoor seating, though, is limited.

Rabbit is pretty common on Maltese menus. Eat it as a sauce over spaghetti or whole.

Best “home away from home”: Feeling like you are sitting in your own home, Vino Veritas in Sliema is understated and cozy with a great selection of pasta dishes and friendly service. It’s good value for money and if you want something traditionally Maltese, their rabbit is supposed to be pretty good, according to the locals.

Best “trendy” spot: The flickering flames on the roadside on the Sliema waterfront mark La Rive, a great watering hole for after work drinks and casual dinners. Always attracts a young, professional and lively crowd right through the week.

Best view in Valletta: It’s got to be the tucked-away Café Deux Baronnes underneath the Upper Barrakka Gardens. The outdoor café has a great view over the Grand Harbour, super-friendly staff, a decent menu for lunch or just a coffee break and is much more reasonable than some of the cafes on the city’s larger squares.

A bird’s-eye view of Malta

May 21, 2011 2 comments

Our seatbelts are fastened, the engines rev up, the smell of fuel wafts through the windows and there’s a splash and ripple of waves as the seaplane lifts off from the terminal in historic Valletta.

Harbour Air's seaplane moored in Valletta.

I’m one of 14 passengers and am sitting in the first row of Harbour Air’s DeHavilland DHC-3 Turbine Single Otter plane for a 30-minute aerial tour of Malta. Even though I’ve flown in and out of Malta hundreds of times, this is the first time I’ve really seen the island properly from above. Travel experts always say to really know a country you need to see it from the water, by road and from above. I’ve seen Malta several times already from the sea, on the charming but rickety old yellow buses and now, finally, from the air.

It’s a well known fact that Malta is a densely populated and rocky island, but this is even more obvious from above.

After veering northwards, we enjoy a spectacular view of the historic and breathtaking capital of Valletta with its large harbors and fortified walls. Once we’ve reached our cruising altitude, we’re high enough to avoid turbulence but low enough to get a great view of the crowded buzzing areas of Sliema and St. Julian’s before seeing the choppy waters of St Paul’s Bay, the tourist mecca of Bugibba and the quieter coastal town of Mellieha below us.

Our pilot on the job focusing on safety and pointing out the sights.

I’m not a big fan of small planes or turbulence but the flight is relatively smooth apart from the odd bump when we cross from the land to the water and vice versa. Our pilot, a 30-year-old French Canadian is one of the few qualified seaplane pilots in Europe. He tells us that there are very few seaplane companies in Europe, compared to Canada. He’s competent and friendly and is keen to share information about the plane and sights along the way.

Once we are over the north of Malta, the concrete jungle landscape below us changes to a more rural mix of low stone walls, limestone house of characters and, to our far right, we see the sheer drop of the Dingli Cliffs.

The turquoise-colored waters of the stunning Blue Lagoon.

After a bump it’s out over the aquamarine-colored waters of the Mediterranean before flying a bit lower over the stunning Blue Lagoon and small island of Comino before reaching Malta’s second largest island – Gozo. The contrast between Gozo and Malta never ceases to amaze. Locals often say that Gozo is like stepping back to how Malta was fifty years’ ago with its sleepy villages, old men sitting smoking in roadside bars, fields with sheep and goats and potholed roads. Gozo is also very quaint in its own way with its distinguished villas and beautiful architecture which, luckily, have not been knocked down yet to make way for characterless sky-high apartment blocks like what has happened on Sliema’sTower Road.

We take a sharp left and swoop low over the Azure Window, one of Gozo’s key attractions and one of the most stunning sea arches in the world.

Final glimpses of Valletta before landing back at the sea ferry terminal.

All too soon, the 30 minutes are almost up and it’s time to head back to Valletta. We nosedive down, and land smoothly with a splash, gliding along the water before coming to a standstill at the sea ferry terminal.

If you live in Malta, or are holidaying, you’re sure to spot Harbour Air’s seaplane flying overhead several times a day. Besides offering scenic routes over the island, it also offers daily scheduled flights between the islands of Malta and Gozo. The scheduled flight takes just 20 minutes and is a good alternative if you don’t fancy the ferry crossing between the two islands or if you are strapped for time.

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