I have been a journalist all my working life (in TV, radio, print and online) and a travel writer for over a decade. I spent a couple of years as the BBC correspondent in Indonesia before returning to London. I have written on travel (including on Malta) for The Independent, The Guardian, The Times and The Telegraph as well as various magazines.
My most recent book is Malta & Gozo (the Bradt Guide, 2010) – currently the most comprehensive guide to Malta in English. Malta is known in the UK primarily as a package sun and sea destination; the sun certainly shines but Malta has so much more to offer - including world class historic sites and the oldest sophisticated stone buildings in the world!
Where I’d grab a coffee: Caffe Cordina (244-5 Republic St, in Republic Sq/Queen’s Sq), Valletta’s traditional gathering place in the heart of the city. Sit outside by the statue of Queen Victoria with a pastizzi (the Maltese snack - a mini-pasty full of cheese or peas) or an ice cream and watch the world go by.
My favourite dining spot: Difficult, I have quite a few! In Valletta: Rubino (53 Old Bakery St), a Dickensian shopfront hiding top class Maltese home cooking. On Gozo: Ta’ Frenc if you are splashing out or Ta’ Karolina (Xlendi Bay) to relax on the water’s edge.
My favourite stroll: Around Valletta with its historic narrow alleys and overhanging wooden balconies, its constant glimpses of sky and sea opening out into panoramic views over the Grand Harbour from the top of the fortifications. Especially good in the early morning, before any tour groups arrive, with the bakeries smelling of fresh bread and the church doors open spilling music gently onto the street.
The most breathtaking view: From the Red Tower on the Marfa Ridge (above Mellieha Bay): you can look right along the coast of Malta as well as over the top of the little island of Comino to the cliffs of Gozo - and understand how this tower communicated with all the others built by the 'Knights of Malta' as an early warning system against pirates and invaders.
Best spot for some peace and quiet: Definitely Gozo. Malta is bustling and interesting; Gozo is the place to relax.
Don’t leave without: Seeing the ancient stone temples at Mnajdra and Hagar Qim – my favourite of Malta’s remarkable prehistoric buildings, older than the famous standing stones at Stonehenge and a lot more sophisticated.
My expert information
Get to the heart of Malta
Mdina sits on a high rocky outcrop at the centre of Malta. This was the island's capital for 1700 years from the time of the Romans (who called it Melite), through the Arabs (for whom it was Medina), until the arrival of the Knights of St John in 1530. These seafarers moved the capital to the coast but the Maltese aristocracy stayed in Mdina and it is still a place of tiny medieval alleyways and noble limestone palazzos - something of a living museum.Read more...
Rooms, restaurants and rock n’roll (well, pop really)
Sliema, along with neighbouring Saint Julian's and Paceville, accounts for most of the upmarket tourist accommodation in Malta as well as being home to many restaurants - some with delightful sea views - and bars. Paceville is home to almost all Malta’s nightclubs outside the big hotels.
Views of Valletta
Some of the best views of the Valletta bastions are from the Sliema seafront on the other side of Marsamxett Harbour - they are especially good at night.Read more...
Wander and wonder
There are two ways to think of Malta’s delightful capital: as one massive fortress or as one tiny town. It is Europe’s smallest capital and has to be in contention for the most charming. I love to just wander around it and see what’s going on.Read more...
There is one simple reason why people go to Mellieha - the beach. It is Malta’s longest at 800 metres and one of the few stretches of coast that is naturally covered in classic yellow sand.
And another beach
Just across the island on the opposite coast from here - only a few miles away as this is Malta’s narrowest point - is Golden Bay. This is Malta’s other yellow sandy beach, smaller but less marred by traffic than Mellieha Beach.Read more...
Gozo Maybe Time - just that bit slower than the normal GMT. Gozo is a place to relax, chill out and take it easy.
Enough, but not too much
There are sights to see here: the evocative fortified Gozo Citadel, Ggantija Temples, Sanctuary of Ta' Pinu, a few museums and Knights-period towers, but there is not so much that you feel under pressure. This is holiday sightseeing.Read more...