My birthday wish was to be whizzed away for a surprise weekend with my family. I didn't want a physical present, all I wanted were some memories my kids as well as my husband and I could look back onto and which would make us smile.
The kids were great, they planned for months together with their Daddy without ever letting a word drop in my direction.
And so I was told last Wednesday to be ready the following day at 4pm with my bag packed for a beach destination.
Up until then my mind had wondered to Amsterdam and Bruxelles. Now I was thinking more like Marbella or even Sardegna.
We set off for the airport the next day and I still had no clue where my family was taking me. Despite my curiosity I managed to get through check-in and passport control with the destination unknown to me. The feeling was liberating: all I needed to do is follow my family. I am so used to leading the troops that letting loose was were my birthday present started.
Not until we boarded - thanks to some rather insistent advertising on the head rests - did I find out we were on our way to Malta!
Not in a million years would I have guessed. The tiny little island lost in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea was the coolest destination I could have asked for.
Exotic yet European, far enough but not too far for a long weekend and the weather would be so much better than in Paris! ;)
Home to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the world's oldest surviving chivalric order, with its rich and ecclectic heritage. A weird and wonderful mix of cultures and a language which origins are impossible to pinpoint.
In short: my kind of paradise!
We spent three unforgettable days walking through medival villages and sumptuous cathedrals, colourful fishmarkets and even got a tour through the Baron of Piro's 400 year old home.
Of course, we hit the beach and the pool, cried a bit watching Italy on the giant beach screen lose the football match against Germany and celebrated my birthday with lots of bubbly around a candle-lite dinner table with our toes in the sand under a starry sky overlooking the bay of St.George.
We rode in ancient Mercedes with taxi drivers defying gravity as well as speed limits and tasted local delicacies we do not know the name of.
We laughed, we teased, we sang, we took pictures, we quarreled, we swam, we ate, we danced, we walked (lots) and we learnt (lots), we shared, we enjoyed but most of all ... We will remember!
Air Malta and its distinct branding...
... a strange mix of architecture.
A spice merchant
The inside of St. John's cathedral in Valletta
La casa Rocca Piccola
If these balconies' only had voices to speak...
The touch of Christianity is omnipresent
L'Imdina or the Silent City!
The signs of a Christian stronghold
A tiny time capsule
St. Paul's Cathedral in L'Imdina
A deserted alley way
Marsaxlokk, the Southern tip of the island...
... an enchanting fishers' village...
... with a distinct Italian touch to it!