On occasion, the gods of journalism just smile on you for no particular reason. And just such an occasion was Malta.
I was lying on the amazingly empty beach at Golden Bay pondering just what made Malta so romantic when, incredibly, a beautiful barefoot bride in full wedding gown sat down beside me on the sand.
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I swear this is true.
The bride turned out to be Janice Balzan, 23, who had just married suitably handsome hubby Amadeo Vella, 24. Between them, they went some way to answering my question.
“Malta is amazingly romantic. It’s just something about the environment and perhaps the light, or the feeling of the place, or even the beaches,” Amadeo said.
Janice added: “We were married in a Catholic church because this is Malta, but we want our photographs on the beach because this is Malta.”
Of course, I shouldn’t have been pondering at all really, as I actually went down on one knee here.
It was a quiet, sunny October afternoon, on the quayside of a tiny cove called Xlendi on Malta’s neighbouring island, Gozo. So it would be remiss of me, and probably deserving of a slap from the missus, to see Malta and Gozo as anything but romantic.
But on a recent return visit, I was amazed at just how classy the place has become, and would heartily recommend it to any beau with a spot of wooing on his mind.
There may have been a time when your average Maltese tourist was a pink German teenager living on a diet of lager and fries. But today’s Malta is sophisticated, grown-up, relaxed, historic, beautiful, and, let’s not be bashful, awfully romantic.
First off there’s the beaches. Away from the main package traps, they’re blissfully empty and there’s surf to be rolled in should the fancy take you.
Then there’s the restaurants.
Cremated steak and pallid French fries have been replaced by some seriously grown-up dining.
Fish, of course, is a mainstay and there is much Mediterranean influence, and almost without exception the methodology is “keep it simple do it well.”
Then there’s the ambience.
The weather is warm, with an occasional breeze, but there’s something about the light that makes everything they touch more beautiful.
And, never underestimate the Maltese love of romance in general and weddings in particular.
The people of the island are incredibly warm and welcoming and turn misty-eyed at the prospect of young (or indeed not so young) love.
One barmaid at the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa told me a Maltese proverb: “Love is a flower which turns into a fruit upon marriage.”
But then she also said something about “Wedding rings being the smallest handcuffs in the world,” so be warned.