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A week in Menorca

After our family trip to Mallorca last year, we chose to discover Menorca this year: we wanted to enjoy the Balearic Islands but with fewer tourists because Mallorca is a beautiful destination but it is even more overcrowded in August than any other islands we know in the Mediterranean region.


In short: goal achieved! It was much less crowded than Mallorca because the capacity in terms of accommodation is much more limited; it also means that prices are a bit higher and that you have to book ahead.

Cala Macarelleta

Our itinerary for a week in Menorca with the kids:

Day 1: Late arrival in Ciutadella: first family walk in its picturesque port and amid its medieval alleys.

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Family holiday in Crete: our road trip through the western part of the island

At the beginning of Easter break, we went to Crete with the kids. A wonderful family trip that confirmed our fondness for Greece! Do you remember? Last April, we spent our holidays in the Peloponnese; then, in July, we sailed around Corfou in a sailboat. What do we love about Greece? The landscape, the climate, the low cost, the food (fresh fish!) and above all the warm welcome of the locals! Here in Crete, we discovered amazing hospitality and generosity! In a word, a destination you shouldn’t hesitate to explore with your family! As Crete is a big island, we focused on the western part and I organized the road trip detailed below, for a duration of 9 nights. As far as the weather is concerned, we had 7 sunny days (18 °C and big blue sky) and 2 rainy days. Also, unlike the same time last year, the temperature of the water was quite cool (I’d say 16-17 °C), so we only bathed once. Let’s say that in April, it is entirely possible for the sea to be warmer, but there is no guarantee. Anyway, my program was more focused on hiking and sightseeing. The summits were still snowy. This early in April, on the most famous beaches of the island, we were lucky enough to be almost alone; during the summer it must be very crowded!

Elafonisi Beach without the summer crowd. Isn’t life beautiful?

Family holiday in Crete: our itinerary

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Week-end in Devon

For a week-end, we went in the South of Devon, between Dorset and Cornwall, by Torquay,  to discover the English Riviera. How did we have the idea to spend a couple of days in family in Devon? Well, I owe this good idea of a gateway in this beautiful part of England to Agatha Christie! Do you remember? A couple of weeks ago, I went to see And then there were none to the theater of Southampton. And while I was comfortably seated in my chair, I remembered that Agatha Christie’s house was located in Devon. I had stored this information in a little box in my brain because I like to visit the houses of famous people whose lives I’m interested in. Watching on the Internet, I found out that her house was only three hours away from our home; then I booked a room in a beautiful hotel in Torquay and there it was! Sometimes, it doesn’t take much for a traveling idea! On the other hand, I had no idea of what we could see in Devon! It’s only on the day before we left that I started to draft a little program for our week-end.

Dittisham (Devon – England)

The creeks of the English Riviera in South Devon: 

Since we didn’t know the English Riviera, we were surprised by the landscapes we saw there: it looked like our French côte d’Azur! With palm trees, big villas, a dense vegetation and beaches so cute! I didn’t expect all these dream little creeks! To be honest, had it been a couple of degrees warmer, I would have bathed! The sea was clear, wearing turquoise and emerald shades… an air of summer holidays! So I will begin by showing you those coves we had a crush on around Torquay and Brixham:

Elberry Cove
Elberry Cove
Churston Cove
Churston Cove (picture taken with the drone)
Fish Cove
Maidencombe

Every time, the children loved the little paths that led to the creeks, for the adventure side… And I think Titpuce would have loved to bathe as well! At this time of year, we were alone, or almost alone, in those English “calanques“. It was perfect! We could easily have imagined that we were on a desert island. Great Britain! 😉

To reach those creeks, or to go from one to another when they were close, we followed the hiking path called the South West Coast Path. Altogether, this coastal path is 1.000 km long! (It’s the kind of hiking that I would enjoy!) We will probably walk on it again, or cross it, whether in Devon, Dorset, Cornwall or Somerset! (Well, yes, we intend to find the time to explore all of “our” South-West of England!).

Brixham and the Berry Head

We really liked Brixham, a little town with a nice ambiance, organized around a very active harbour. We observed the fishing boats, the fishermen’s traps and the coloured houses along the docks. There even was a pirate boat!

Brixham
Brixham

Right next to Brixham, we walked on the Berry Head, in a landscape that looks like the edge of the world… A long strip of land on the sea with high cliffs and dizzying views. We walked to the lighthouse (very small lighthouse, paradoxically!) then we had tea and cakes, under the sun, on The Guardhouse Cafe terrace.

Berry Head

Discovery of the Dart river: Agatha Christie’s house and the romantic landscapes…

Here we are! So we visited Agatha Christie’s house (Greenway): a beautiful visit, very detailed. Agatha Christie and her husband were quite collectors so their house is full of amazing objects: even if Ticoeur and Titpuce don’t know Agatha Christie, they were intrigued by this house, a real Ali Baba’s cave, English version 😊 Also, it is fully furnished, so it really feels like we are entering in the universe of the author, which is a real privilege, since Agatha Christie was a very discreet lady. We even could see her dressing, her clothes and hear a recording of her voice. At any rate, we do understand why Agatha loved this house: the location is unbelievable! Moreover, the setting inspired her book Dead Man’s Folly. The estate is on the Dart River’s edge and all the views from the garden are lightly romantic…

Greenway (Agatha Christie’s house)
Dart River
Agatha Christie might have been the Lady of the Camellias!

We spent a long time roaming through the garden. I didn’t expect it to be blossomed but with the temperatures we have been experiencing for the last couple of weeks, there were flowers everywhere: magnolias and especially the numerous species of Camellias. We had never seen so many versions of Camellias! A beautiful collection! And how lucky were we to be able to admire them in February! On their branches, there were a lot of adorable robins!

rouge-gorge
Hello you!

Still on the Dart river, facing Greenway, is the adorable village of Dittisham:

Dittisham

Then, from the village of Kingswear, we took a ferry to Dartmouth, another picturesque village where we ate a delicious Fish and Chips at Rockfish (they also have a restaurant in Brixham). We took our lunch away and ate while seated on the edge of the river. In Kingswear, we saw a steam train running: it might be nice to plan a journey on this old train with the children (some other time!).

Dartmouth

Not far from the river, on our way back to Torquay, we stopped to visit another house: Coleton Fishacre House & Garden. It’s a mansion from the 20s and it shows us the life of a wealthy family of that time: a visit you should plan if you like Art Deco and design. The children didn’t really enjoy the visit but they liked the garden. It was so exotic! With bamboos, huge ferns and a junglelike density! We walked until the different points of views on the sea…

Coleton Fishacre Garden

Torquay and Cockington

Torquay is the big seaside resort where we stayed. Since we prefer the little creeks and wild places we only stayed in Torquay to sleep. By the way, the sunset on the sea was an amazing pink!

Torquay

Torquay is very well located to move around this area. We never had to drive for a long time to visit or hike…

Not far from Torquay, you can’t miss the tiny village of Cockington known for its old thatched cottages.

Cockington

Where to stay in Torquay?

I have a very good address I’d love to share with you because I thought our little hotel was a beautiful discovery: The Charterhouse. The architecture of this thatched roof house is typical of the English Riviera style. The family suite is perfect because the children really have their own room to sleep in. The decoration is very neat and very British, the breakfast is gargantuan and delicious. And, if you go in the summer, there even is a little swimming pool.

And for our next time in Devon

Devon is big! During a week-end, we only focused on the Torquay-Brixham zone so I already established a list of what I would love to visit next time:

  • Dartmoor National Park
  • The old town of Totnes
  • The surroundings of Salcombe (South Devon)
  • The creeks of North Devon

We really loved our improvised getaway in Devon, on the English Riviera, so I thank Agatha 😉…

Broadsands Beach (right next to Elberry Cove)

What about you? Are you tempted by a family trip in Devon?

voyage à Malte

Our Autumn break in Malta

During the Autumn break, we spent a week in Malta. I was longing for warmth, sea baths, and the Mediterranean where I come from. Most of all, I needed to recharge my batteries after our first weeks in England. A change of life, especially as a family, is not so easy! Also, for Ticoeur and Titpuce, who started English school, the holidays were a very appreciated break to relax and enjoy our family cocoon…

The reason why we chose Malta is because there are not many destinations from our part of Southern England. But this option suited us perfectly. We had already travelled there twice – so it was the perfect occasion to discover some new things, but also to go back to the places that we loved. I don’t know how you feel about it, but, as for me, I enjoy to visit again a place that I loved. I am delighted to travel and discover new countries as much as I am enchanted to go back to places where I feel good. In Malta, I love the cultural aspect, the beautiful architecture of the old cities, the Mediterranean landscape, the stone walls that border the roads, the prickly pear trees, the Italian influenced cooking, the small ladders almost everywhere, that invite you to go down for a bath, and above all, I love it when Summer lasts until Autumn… That’s it: I needed Summer, bathing and culture !

What did we visit during our week in Malta?

  • The island of Gozo: our biggest crush of this Maltese trip… I already told you all about it in my blog post three days on Gozo.
  • Ghain Tuffieha beach: for us, it’s the most beautiful beach on Malta. The sand has a beautiful orange shade, the setting is quite wild, the water is not too deep but there are waves: my Ticoeur loved it! We spent an afternoon there, until sunset. It’s a perfect spot for sunset because it’s on the western part. (NB: there were little harmless pink jellyfishes – I don’t know, maybe it’s a matter of season?)

voyage à Malte

malte en famille

I take this opportunity to warn you that there are not so many beaches on Malta. There are many opportunities to bathe, yes, but not necessarily big beaches. Maltese inhabitants set up ladders along the rocky coasts, or they created natural pools like on this picture:

voyage à Malte

  • The towers of Maltese knights: everywhere on the Island of Malta, you will find remains of the towers that enabled to control and protect the island. Our favourite one is the Saint-Agatha Tower, the only red one…

voyage à Malte

  • Mdina: it’s the ancient city, it’s a journey into the past, it’s getting lost in the maze formed by the alleys of the citadel…

visiter Mdina Malte

  • In Rabat, alongside, we visited the catacombs. I don’t really know why but I am fascinated by the catacombs – I never miss an opportunity to visit some whenever it’s possible (you have to visit those of Palermo in Sicily!). Let’s say it gives another perspective of the culture of a nation. I thought that Rabat catacombs were interesting because of their structure and their number. The visit is a little bit repetitive because the galleries look alike, but you should see it, and the kids were intrigued.

voyage à Malte

voyage à Malte

  • Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples: I hesitated to go there because you have to know that those temples are located under sheds, so that they are protected from the wind and the sea… And, visually, it takes off a lot of the character of the place… But we overlooked this fact, I reframed the pictures (😉…) and we experienced this. The remains are from the IVth century BC! I was seduced by those sometimes enigmatic buidlings: the children as well, so no regret. Moreover, it’s not an expensive visit so you should go!

voyage à Malte

  • Valleta and the Three Cities: it’s the third time we are going there and we still love it, especially Birgu, the prettiest of the Three Cities, with its fort, and the Collachio area in which we can stroll far from any bustle. In Valletta, we didn’t visit the famous St John’s Co-Cathedral because we already did it the last time (and the entrance fee is expensive), but you should see it if you’re coming for the first time. This time, we focused on the gardens and the café terraces and it was perfect 😊 Between Valletta and Birgu we travelled by boat.

voyage à Malte
voyage à Malte

voyage à Malte
voyage à Malte

We also dropped by Sliema (by boat) to admire Valletta from the other side and to see again some salt works. But you have to remember to watch the sea, and ignore the concrete buildings of this seaside resort.

La Valette

  • Marsaxlokk: our first time in this fishermen town with photogenic boats (the luzzus). Look: they have eyes! And one of them even had soft toys! This little town is ideal for a terraced lunch on the waterfront.
  • voyage à Malte
  • malte en famille
  • St Peter’s Pool: a spot you mustn’t miss right next to Marsaxlokk. I love this kind of coves with turquoise water. It’s not adapted for young children, nor for people who don’t know how to swim. It’s a place where people go to jump or dive into the big blue sea. With Ticoeur, we had fun, but we had to reassure Titpuce who was afraid to see us disappear in the gap, even though it was not so high…

voyage à Malte
voyage à Malte

***

Practical information to visit Malta:

  • Which season? The first thing I want to insist on is that, for me, it’s a destination you should avoid in Summer (I forewarned you). Not only is it too hot, but also it’s overcrowded and there are traffic jams. That’s what the local people told us but I believe them because the island is not adapted to an important road traffic, and there are not so many beaches. That’s why, for me, it’s not an option. I went there once in January and twice in October and it was very good. Spring must be perfect as well. Concerning the temperature, this time we had 25° outside and 24° in the water. So we could bathe (although, there’s no guarantee of course…)
  • Where to stay? We had chosen 3 places to stay: 3 nights on Gozo, 2 nights in Mellieha (in this simple yet clean and spacious apartment) to visit the North of Malta and 2 nights in Birgu (in the very neat Casa Cara, an old and typical mansion – Be careful : you cannot climb on the terrace with the children) to visit the Capital and the South of the Island.

voyage à MalteMelliha Bay

On the picture below, Melliha downtown seems so peaceful in the first light of the morning, doesn’t it? Yet, on that night, our sleep was interrupted by… an earthquake! The epicenter was off the Greece coast. It’s the first time that it happens to us and we are glad we only experienced a small version! The children didn’t feel a thing. Happy little carefree angels…

voyage à Malte

  • The English side: The British past of Malta makes it easy to communicate in English with everyone (English is the official language). On the other hand, it also means that you have to drive on the left part of the road… Stay focused in the roundabouts, but otherwise, it’s easy, you’ll see! Obviously, for us, after two months in England, we are already trained 😊

Our good addresses in Malta

We ate well in Malta. The cooking is influenced by the Italian cooking, and it’s for the best! Moreover, the kids like it! Seafood and pasta are in the spotlight!

voyage à Malte

Cafés and Restaurants in Malta:

  • Crystal Palace: an institution in Rabat for quick eating the famous pastizzis (some sort of turnovers stuffed with green peas, or cheese, or chicken); it’s a Maltese specialty that allow you to eat cheap for lunch. You’ll find pastizzis everywhere on the island, but it’s true that the ones we ate there were particularly good, and warm, just out of the oven.
  • Fior di Latte, ice cream maker in Mdina: yummy! You’d think you were in Italy!
  • Café Society: for very good cocktails to taste in a very typical street in Valletta.
  • Osteria.VE: a little trattoria held by Italians. Pasta dishes are delicious. We ate there on our two evenings in Birgu.
  • La Reggia: very enjoyable terrace facing the fishermen’s boats in Marsaxlokk – the seafood cooking was very fine but less generous and a little more expensive than other restaurants of our list.
  • Bouquet Garni: Excellent choice of fishes – a little expensive but the quality is there.
  • Our good addresses on Gozo are in my Gozo blog post 🙂

voyage à Malte

So? Are you tempted by holidays in Malta?

salines de Gozo

Three days on the island of Gozo

Since I already knew Valetta and the northern part of the main island, during this third trip to Malta, I really wanted to spend time on Gozo, this island North of the Maltese archipelago. We devoted half of our holidays there and we were delighted we made that choice! We spent three nights there, in other words a little more than three days and it was the most beautiful part of our trip!

What did we love about Gozo? It’s the Malta of the past, it’s a quieter version of Malta, it’s following the rhythm of the local life. It’s lovely landscapes that offer many possibilities to bathe and to stroll in amazing natural settings… Also, maybe Gozo reminded me of the atmosphere of the Sicily of my childhood, with its inhabitants who get out in the evening, sitting on a chair in front of their house or in front of the sea, just to talk with their family, their friends, their neighbours. The gastronomy also reminded me of Sicily but that was everywhere on Malta!

Gozo was very peaceful. We met very few people during our long walks on the seaside… You might tell me it’s normal because of the season, October is calm… Yes, probably much calmer than during the Summer but on the island of Malta, there were many people! When we took the ferry between Gozo and Malta, it was like coming back to civilization!

In a little more than three days, here is our program on Gozo:

Sunday, October 21st: With the ferry, we get on Gozo around 3pm. Direction Marsalforn where we settled. Walk by the sea, right nearby, in Xwejni Bay, at the bottom of a very impressive clayey mound. The children have fun between the big rocks, and then, from here we went along the salt works for about 2 kilometres. Back to Marsalforn.

salines de Gozo

gozo en famille   vacances à Gozo

visiter gozo

Monday, October 22nd: We start with Ramla Bay, the red beach that Titpuce renamed “orange beach” and she was so right! Very beautiful beach, anyway! After the bathing, direction Tal Mixta cave from where we can enjoy a wonderful view on the beach. We also climbed to Calypso cave but we liked it a little less because we actually don’t see the cave!!! And the view is less beautiful than from the other one. Lunch in Xaghra then direction Victoria, the capital of the island: stroll in the citadel and around to appreciate the architecture of the buildings. Back to Marsalforn.

visiter Gozo

trois jours à Gozo

visiter Gozo

visiter Gozo

visiter Gozo

visiter Gozo

visiter Gozo  visiter Gozo

Tuesday, October 23rd: Direction the South of Gozo with a first step in the beautiful Mgarr-ix-Xini creek then long walk on the cliffs of Ta’Cenc. Lunch break in Xlendi. Then we explore the Western part of Gozo: picture break in Dwejra to enjoy the very wild seafront with its huge rock formations. There was even an arch until last year (the Azure Window) but it collapsed because of erosion. Although, even without the arch, the place is so worth it! We walk by Ta’Pinu church in Gharb. We end by two stops in the North-West: in Wield-il-Mielah to see the other arch (which hasn’t fallen yet…) but be careful because to see it, you have to come close to a cliff so you have to keep the kids away from it. Nearby, we wanted to bathe in Wied-il-Ghasri creek but since it has been raining a couple of hours earlier, and the wind blew strongly, the creek didn’t have its emerald shade anymore and the sea was too dangerous so we came back to Marsalforn.

visiter Gozo

gozo en famille

visiter Gozo

vacances à Gozo

vacances à Gozo

vacances à Gozo

Wednesday, October 24th: Ticoeur and Titpuce wanted to go back to Mgarr-ix-Xini to bathe. I enjoyed it very much as well! Yes, because, I forgot to mention that during all of our holidays, the sea water was 23-24°C! The same temperature than in the air… Then, direction Victoria again to attend a concert in St George Basilica (the inside is worth the visit, and unlike many other churches in Malta, this one has a free access). Late lunch in Victoria and direction the ferry to Malta!

vacances à Gozo

visiter Gozo

Practical information for a stay on the island of Gozo

How do you go to the island of Gozo? We arrived in the morning in Valletta airport where we rented a car. It takes about 40 minutes to go to the harbour in the North of the island. A ferry to Gozo leaves every 30 to 45 minutes and the crossing lasts about 25 minutes. Don’t be surprised: you don’t pay on your way there, but only on your way back (about 25 euros for a car and 4 persons).

Gozo for the kids? Ticoeur and Titpuce like little hikes, especially when the path is steep, when there is some relief and natural curiosities to observe, so they loved our walks on Gozo, especially those along the salt works and the climbing to the cave above the red beach. Concerning the bathing: be careful, some creeks or beaches are not always adapted to swim safely. There might be some tide, or a rough sea, and it’s not always at the same place, so you have to see directly there. We’ve had a lot of wind during our stay there so for us, Mgarr-Ix-Xini creek was the most adapted for a quiet bathing time as a family.

What about our next time on Gozo? The next time, we’ll do the excursion to the Island of Comino to see a beautiful lagoon with turquoise water. Of course, you have to avoid summer because this place is probably the most visited around here!

Our good addresses on Gozo:

  • Il-Kartell Restaurant in Marsalfon: amazing sea food and very generous plates! Roasted squid, spaghetti alle vongole and a waterfront terrace. Our favourite address!
  • Latini Wine & Dine Restaurant in Xaghra: also a specialist of sea food, nice terrace in the heart of the village with a beautiful view on the church.
  • The Cup Cake café in Victoria: perfect for a cheap lunch (good pasta plates… yes, I know, it has nothing to do with cupcakes!)
  • Jubilee Café in Victoria: to take a coffee on the counter or admire the vintage decoration inside before you continue your walk through Victoria.
  • The Black Cat Café in Victoria: for a gourmet break (muffins, carrot cakes, etc) … Too bad it’s such a little place…

  • Where to sleep? It doesn’t matter where you will find your accommodation. The island is very small so you can do everything, no matter where you start from. The four corners of the island are interesting so I don’t have any advice as to which geographic choice you should make. The most important thing is to choose a place that you like! We were in Marsalforn where we particularly liked the restaurant choice for the evening. I won’t give you the address of our apartment (Airbnb) because it was nice, but nothing more. In fact, I did the bookings last minute and the most beautiful accommodations were taken.

visiter Gozo

I had to wait a third trip to Malta to choose to settle in Gozo, but don’t do the same mistake! I recommend Gozo even for a first trip to Malta! It’s a staple and a real crush !

So? Are you tempted by Gozo?