I headed on a health retreat to Gozo, simply across the nook from Malta – and it’s best to do the identical (Image: Matt Hush)
Should you haven’t heard of a surprising, small Mediterranean paradise known as Gozo, you’re in good firm.
Many an skilled globetrotter scratches their head on the point out of the place and regardless of its awesomeness, often doesn’t make the ‘high islands to go to’ journey lists.
Why? Properly, I imagine the blame lies firmly at Malta’s ft.
Malta sits simply across the nook from Gozo, however as a result of it’s huge, vibrant and recognized for throwing a very good previous knees-up, it will get everybody’s consideration and consequently eclipses its little neighbour.
Truly, Gozo is named Malta’s child sister – the quiet, unassuming child all the time put within the nook. Nevertheless, as a result of the fortunate few who occur to note her within the shadows develop into so struck by her magnificence that they will’t fairly imagine she’s been right here this complete time, she’s pleased along with her place within the shadows.
I’d like to contemplate myself an avid traveller, however I too didn’t know Gozo existed till I used to be invited by my fitness-loving pals who heard a few Barre retreat there.
Barre is a mélange of Pilates, yoga and ballet. I’m no health club bunny. My thought of rigorous exercising is strolling down the escalator to catch my tube. Nevertheless, after performing some analysis and studying that Gozo is essentially unspoilt, has year-round sunshine, and a rugged shoreline framed with ‘apricot sands washed by seas so turquoise it’s a cliché’ – I used to be capable of block out the terrifying actuality that on this journey my physique could be subjected to extra ‘actual’ every day exercises.
With that, I put the wet British climate firmly behind me and smiled because the airplane zipped by means of the gray clouds into blue skies.
I’m no health club bunny, however I used to be nonetheless tempted by a visit (Image: Matt Hush)
From Malta Worldwide Airport it was then a half-an-hour drive to Cirkewwa, within the north of Malta to take a 20-minute, five-quid ferry journey into Gozo (as there is no such thing as a highway entry to the island).
I used to be delighted to find that my enjoyable was to start as quickly as I touched Gozo soil, as there ready to whisk me off to my lodge, was a vibrant tuk-tuk.
This mode of transportation, I found, is the proper means to absorb Gozo’s sights. You meander by means of dramatic cliffs and by beautiful bays taking in limestone-walled properties framed by bountiful bougainvillea flowers.
‘Gozo means pleasure’, my driver tells me, and with each bumpy flip of the journey that had me guffawing like a baby at Christmas, it was made clear why that’s.
The motive force additionally boasts that it was on Gozo that Brad Pitt filmed 2015’s, visually beautiful, By the Sea, which film-makers pretended was the South Of France. And scenes in fantasy drama, Game Of Thrones, had been additionally shot right here.
All of it is smart. Zipping by means of Gozo with its quiet streets, caves, greenery, and rugged shoreline, it actually does strike you as a pure movie set.
Take a stroll by means of Gozo’s fairly streets for a way of peace (Image: Matt Hush)
My tuk-tuk had reached the Kempinski San Lawrenz Lodge and Spa – the most important lodge on the island with 122 rooms, three swimming swimming pools, and limitless stretches of landscaped gardens.
Regardless of its dimension, it’s true to its environment because it’s low-rise and is constructed from blocks of the golden limestone from which the island is long-established, and the terracotta flooring is ready off with occasional items of conventional dark-wood furnishings.
It was right here that I’d be assembly our Paolo BodyBarre instructors and, hopefully, indulging in spa therapies, post-workouts.
I used to be informed that the lessons could be set towards a backdrop of the ocean, swimming swimming pools and historical ruins. Additionally they inform me it is going to solely take 4 of the 9 lessons I’ve in retailer, of squatting, shaking and quaking, earlier than all of it turns into second nature.
As I groan by means of my first lesson, that first night, it’s onerous to imagine that issues will get simpler anytime quickly. However the beautiful visible of the sundown does assist soften the blow of each lunge.
These superb views undoubtedly soften the ache of a troublesome exercise (Image: MATT HUSH)
The following day, after one more breathless class, it was off to Ramla Bay – a spot thought-about the most effective seashore on Gozo.
With its nice red-hued sands, shallow blue water and curving bay, it’s simple to see why. Nevertheless, there are a couple of drawbacks to Ramla being such a draw. Its dimension and pure magnificence appeal to native households and guests from the seaside resort of Marsalforn, which occupies the subsequent bay to the west.
It subsequently felt busier than I imagined for my mid-afternoon tour. Nonetheless a must-visit, however I’m informed the mornings and early evenings are essentially the most relaxed, albeit not the prime time for critical sunbathers.
The next day was a extra peaceable affair spent on a non-public boat tour to Comino’s Blue Lagoon and across the coast of Gozo.
The calm, crystal-clear waters on this lengthy, slim bay surrounded by rocks and some small areas of sand, proved the proper pure swimming pool for hours of floating, snorkelling and sun-bathing. We sailed alongside vibrant caves and across the magnificent cliff edges and by the well-known Azure Window. This was an enormous stone arch that supplied the backdrop for the well-known marriage ceremony feast of Daenerys and Khal Drogo in Recreation of Thrones, that my tuk tuk driver had informed me to look out for.
Sadly, the construction collapsed in a storm in March 2017, however the website itself remains to be beautiful and its ‘inland sea’ – a secluded pool with crystal clear waters, surrounded by cliffs – was excellent to drift round in.
A picnic overlooking Qbajjar Salt Pans (Image: Matt Hush)
That night and gruelling Barre class quantity three later, I loved specifically curated picnic dinner, overlooking Qbajjar Salt Pans.
A salt pan is carved from pure limestone rock, into which salt water collects, later evaporates and abandoning it uncooked, rock salt that’s wealthy in minerals. Gozo’s Salt Pans are nonetheless in use immediately, some 350 years after their origin, and stretch three kilometres alongside the coast.
The Gozo Picnic right here was like nothing I’d ever skilled – from the epic environment to the scrumptious fare, which in its diversified vary, included juicy olives, freshly made quiches, crusty, heat breads, regionally sourced greens for yummy salads and candy treats, akin to natural carrot truffles.
It was unimaginable, sitting on cushions on the sand with the sound of the ocean crashing into rocks as I sipped on wine watching the solar go down on the horizon.
I believed then that even when nothing tops this second within the remaining days, this alone would’ve been well worth the journey.
My subsequent few days, nonetheless, didn’t disappoint. Visiting locations just like the 5,500-year-old The Ggantija temples, those I discussed are older than Egypt’s pyramids, was additionally awe-inspiring. Legend has it the temples had been constructed by a giantess who ate broad beans that made her so robust she might carry her child in a single arm and a bolder within the different.
Simply take a look at that setting (Image: Matt Hush)
After touring the mini museum there, I walked by means of the temples and because the setting solar washed its stones with a deep orange hue, I stretched and breathed in for my superb fourth Barre class in entrance of the traditional artefacts. Certainly, by then my physique did begin to really feel like a stable, well-heeled temple. Coincidence?
With my urge for food for train lastly whet as promised, I even did what in my pre-Gozo life would’ve been unparalleled – a spot of significant rock-climbing with Gozo Adventures on these steep cliffs I’d whizzed by in that first tuk-tuk journey.
I then loved a prolonged, steep hike, full with Barre stops on the best way, by means of picturesque small cities and villages. On my means I used to be accompanied by both lush greenery, the ocean or one of many astounding 46 church buildings dotted across the little island.
Nevertheless, it was the common sight of the normal pink British telephone field that stunned me essentially the most on my stroll.
I’ve since discovered that it was again in 1800 when Malta voluntarily grew to become a part of the British Empire that these pink cubicles started popping up everywhere in the island. Remarkably, they nonetheless stay in immaculate situation with many nonetheless purposeful.
The remainder of my days had been spent visiting beautiful vineyards, such because the household run Ta’ Mena Meals Boutique and Vineyard, the place I attempted scrumptious reds, whites and rose wines whereas tucking into contemporary salads topped with regionally produced olive oils.
Gozo, I realised to my delight, takes its meals and wine very critically.
A blissed-out vacation vacation spot (Image: MATT HUSH)
I dined at native eating places, whose house owners spoke effusively about their dishes and had been all the time available to advocate the proper wine pairings.
For instance, I spent one night in Ta’Philip’s in Ghajnsielem – a restaurant I’m informed Duchess Meghan Markle as soon as dined in. The proprietor Philip welcomed me effusively and led me to a desk within the beautiful courtyard. He regaled me with tales of the area and ‘the love’ put into his meals.
Gotzian delicacies is a splash of Lebanese and North African affect. At Ta’ Philip’s, often known as one among Gozo’s greatest, the meals parts served are big – wonderful worth for a fraction of the worth you’d spend to dine out in the same normal of restaurant in London.
I’m a bread lover and liked that bread straight out the oven is served initially of each meal with a tasty, native sun-dried tomato paste known as, kunserv.
I began off with a salad, marinated grilled eggplant, contemporary tomatoes, basil and contemporary buffalo mozzarella and the choice of peppered Gbejniet, a scrumptious Maltese cheese that has been dried with salty sea air.
Dinner because the solar set (Image: Matt Hush)
Philip delivers conventional meals centred round an enormous wood-fired oven and for my predominant I tucked into some distinctive pasta made out of scratch.
One other beautiful eating expertise was at Ta Frenc, Gozo’s award-winning nice eating restaurant set in an previous farmhouse surrounded by lovely nation views.
I loved a luxurious meal of their lovely, ornate dining-room – an area that wouldn’t look misplaced in one of many UK’s stately interval estates. I loved a Steak Diane cooked to perfection and a chocolate soufflé for dessert.
With all this gastronomic indulgence, Barre exercises actually got here in useful, and between lessons, exploring Gozo lounging by the pool and massages within the spa my time in paradise was instantly quickly nearing the tip.
Nevertheless, the ultimate cease on my journey would see me exit with a bang. The epic Citadel, Gozo’s most outstanding and dramatic landmark seen from everywhere in the island, actually represented saving the most effective for final.
(Image: Matt Hush)
The dramatic fortress has its roots within the late medieval period and, for hundreds of years, served as a sanctuary from enemy assault.
It’s a lovely imposing piece of structure, which I used to be capable of not simply discover however to have a outstanding eating expertise proper within the centre of.
Sheltered solely by the sky, a number of metres excessive and cradled by the Goztian panorama, I sipped on champagne, tucked into my final supper and with a sculpted new physique, watched sadly my final solar setting on lovely Gozo. Bitter-sweet, however it was a ‘pleasure’, certainly.
The following retreat at Kempinski Lodge San Lawrenz is operated by Paola’s BodyBarre. Costs begin from £2,450 per particular person, together with all meals, actions, and a wine-tasting tour to Ta Betta winery, flights from London Gatwick and transfers in Malta and Gozo. You possibly can head to @visitmalta for extra info.
Journey to Malta amid Covid-19
Whereas there’s no quarantine on arrival to Malta, guests from the UK might want to self-isolate on their return, and the FCDO advise towards all however important journey to the realm.
Steerage continues to vary, so please check the Government’s travel advice page before booking any holidays.
Since July, Malta has reopened all its well-known points of interest, together with museums, seashores and excursions talked about within the article.
Eating places and bars are additionally open, however with restrictions on the variety of prospects allowed entry at a time.
The nation additionally has the two-metre social distancing rule and the requirement to put on face-masks in enclosed public areas and on public transport, together with the Gozo ferry and rickshaws.
On arrival at Malta Worldwide Airport, guests will probably be temperature-screened.
Lodging and eating suppliers comply to Maltese Authorities COVID-19 protocols, with all accredited companies displaying a Licensed Compliant sticker.
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