Malta – Mdina

Maybe I shouldn’t wait an entire year to blog trips because now I barely remember the names of all the beautiful things we saw. Oops.img_7305img_7307

On the day we visited the ancient city of Mdina, there was a massive windstorm. The walled city sits on a hill so is naturally a bit colder than the rest of Malta. However, with the 30+ mph winds, it was freezing. And we were totally unprepared which made for a rather quick and cold trip. Still, it was a really beautiful place to see and was made even more memorable by the fact that no cars are allowed on the streets.img_7306-copyimg_7309-copyimg_7311-copy

After seeing how narrow the roads were, this made sense. Mdina is referred to as “the silent city” and it certainly had a more serious or somber feel to it. I was apparently a bit taken with all the doors and may have photographed every single one in going back through my photos. img_7315-copyimg_7317-copyimg_7337-copy-copyimg_7330-copy

The visual textures were unbelievable from the exteriors of the buildings, the stone streets, and especially inside the churches. This is the Carmelite Church and with all the gold detailing, it practically glowed inside. img_7318-copyimg_7319-copy

Lena begged Jason for a horse ride and because he is a complete and utter sucker for that little girl, we found ourselves down €40. Seriously, what a sucker. It was so windy during the ride that the driver closed the curtains to protect us so we barely even saw anything. Lena couldn’t have cared less; she was just chuffed to be riding in a carriage.img_7331img_7327-copy

On the way back to our hotel, we found a cab and the driver offered to take us on a special tour of Malta. No extra charge; he just really wanted to show us what it was all about. This seemed to be a common theme with everyone we met. They went out of their way to be hospitable and were really proud of their country. He took us to an artisan village where we saw glassblowers and gift shops before calling it a day. img_7353-copy-copyimg_7340-copy

I don’t have pictures of this part, but after returning to the hotel, Jason booked me in for a THREE HOUR SPA TREATMENT. Keep in mind, he had just returned from a seven month deployment, so this was my first break in a long time. I nearly cried tears of joy. It was absolutely glorious and included a full-body massage and facial treatment. I think I’ll keep him.img_7345-copy


Malta – Mellieha Bay

Nothing like a five month break from blogging to make you realize how much your babies have grown! 😦 I’m having a little bit of a moment looking back on these pictures. For one thing, Aksel had no teeth and now he looks like a little chipmunk. Lena’s hair has tripled in length and I’m pretty sure she has the brain of a teenager now. What is even happening?!

Anyway, this will be a short and sweet recap of our day at Mellieha Bay. We originally intended to visit Golden Bay but as we neared the beach, there was a military barricade and no one was allowed to pass. We had no idea what was going on and the entire exchange took place in a language I couldn’t understand. For some reason, my anxiety was really bad during this trip and this nearly tipped me into a full blown panic attack. I had this sobering realization that we were in a foreign country, there were people in front of me holding machine guns, and all our identification documents were miles away. These people could really do anything they wanted and no one would have a clue. In reality, we were in absolutely no danger. Malta was hosting the 2016 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the Queen of England was due to arrive that day at the very beach we were trying to visit. Security was understandbly higher so we were probably even safer than normal. However, it took a while for my brain to accept that fact and it gave me even more empathy for those who have actually been in that situation. Perhaps we could all use a tiny taste of other people’s reality before being so quick to turn them away….

Off my soapbox now, here’s the alternate beach we visited. It’s called Mellieha Bay and is supposed to be one of the better family beaches on the island. There was a decent breeze making it a bit chilly so we mostly had the beach to ourselves.IMG_7218IMG_7222

This lady going for a swim was extremely brave as it was nowhere near warm enough to persuade me to even dip a toe in that water.IMG_7219

One-year-old, chubby, happy Aksel has just made my day. I’m also certain that while his body has grown over the past nine months, his head has stayed the same. And thank goodness, because that thing was MASSIVE.IMG_7226IMG_7227

Lena was happy throwing rocks in the water and never straying more than a few feet away from Jason. It’s like she has a tracking device on him sometimes. IMG_7230IMG_7231IMG_7234IMG_7239IMG_7241

On one side of the beach was the village of Mellieha while an old castle overlooked the bay from across the water. I thought the creams and terra cotta hues of the buildings were really pretty against the aqua water.IMG_7244IMG_7247

After deciding we were all cold and tired and ready to go, we went on the hunt for a taxi. Unfortunately, it was siesta time for most people so there were no cars around and hardly any shops open. So we walked up the hill a bit until we saw a hotel. But this wasn’t just a hotel, it was actually a village catering specifically to citizens of Denmark. Jason did not miss the opportunity to mock me for finding “my people” despite being on a very small and isolated speck of the earth. Hey, when you’ve got it, you’ve got it.IMG_7245

Yet again, we had a fine dining experience of room service and whining children in the comfort of our suite. But this time, no one was left unsupervised to deface any surfaces. Thank goodness we’re past that stage now…. I hope.IMG_7278

Malta – Blue Lagoon in Comino Island

After one unsuccesful attempt at dining in an actual restaurant, we threw in the towel and gave up. Malta follows the Spanish tradition of an afternoon siesta meaning dinner time doesn’t even begin until after 7pm. Our kids (ok and maybe us, too) are down for the count by 7:30 each day so this left us with limited dining options. We were on vacation, after all, so we decided to make the best of it and work with what we had.IMG_2438Jason surprised me with his zeal for the bathrobes provided by the hotel and any time we were in the suite, he was rocking the robe and houseslippers. Clad in matching nightwear, we ordered in room service and set up a romantic dinner for ourselves on the balcony. The kids were tired and happily watching tv just a few feet behind the sliding glass door and all was well with the world. We shared a lovely toast and I commented how, someday, we would be free to enjoy dinner out every night and would probably miss these crazy days of screaming babies and bossy four year olds. IMG_2431Lena popped out for a minute to interrupt us check on us and give out cuddles. We praised her for being so sweet and thanked her for playing with her brother so Mama and Daddy could talk for a minute.IMG_2432After about twenty minutes, we headed back inside; feeling a sense of satisfaction with our genius plan. The kids were happy, we didn’t have to leave them with a random babysitter in a foreign country, and we had gotten some time “alone.” Priceless, right? Oh, but what a hefty price we would pay….Lena had taken it upon herself to deface the ENTIRE length of the hotel wall while we unknowingly sat just feet away. When I saw the carnage, it was like everything moved in slow motion while my brain tried to process everything. Finally, I just started laughing because really, what else can you even do? Especially when this is the face of the graffiti artist.IMG_2436I thought Jason might actually lose his mind at this point. Thankfully, our little deviant had only used pencil and we had an abundance of spare washcloths to clean up the mess. The laughter just kept coming as I watched Jason work up a sweat in his fancy bathrobe and Lena pouted her way through a half-assed effort at clean up. These are the days, folks.IMG_2437In an attempt to avoid any more damage fees, we opted to spend the next day on a boat tour of the island of Malta. We weren’t really sure what to expect as they gave us no info about the length of the cruise or size of the boat. Lena’s face pretty much summed up my feelings about taking a one and four year old out to sea.IMG_7081IMG_7084Despite it being a bit grey and chilly in the morning, we ended up having the warmest weather of our whole trip on this day. Even in the harbor, the water was a beautiful, deep blue making for some nice photos. IMG_7085The captain of the ship narrated most of our journey and impressively, spoke English, German and Maltese. It was a bit tricky to understand as the intercom system was rather dated but I did manage to catch a few interesting comments. IMG_7087IMG_7088IMG_7113IMG_7118The statue with a path leading up to it is called St. Paul’s Island and marks where the Apostle Paul landed upon his shipwreck. History states that he was bitten by a poisonous snake but suffered no ill effects, so the people of Malta took it as a sign that he was a special man. As a result, he was welcomed by the Maltese people and even invited to stay in the house of Publius, the Roman’s chief man on the island at the time. Not a bad turn of events for a prisoner on his way to trial!IMG_7092IMG_7096IMG_7121IMG_7099Lena was clearly very interested in this story as you can see #nosepickerIMG_7105IMG_7107IMG_7110IMG_7112While it was great to hear all about the history of Malta, the real reason we booked the boat ride was to get to the Blue Lagoon in Comino Island. Never in my life have I seen such pristine, aqua water. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve seen places like this on the internet and then turn green with envy that anyone would actually get to experience it in real life. IMG_7123IMG_7127IMG_7130IMG_7134I hope this is what heaven is like. Because this is my paradise right here. The only thing it lacked was someplace to buy ice cream cones but let’s not get picky. IMG_7135IMG_7137IMG_7142IMG_7147I would have been happy to spend every day of our vacation in this spot but I was surprised at how small it was compared to how much it was advertised as a must-see destination. Since we were visiting in the off-season, there were hardly any tourists. Combined with the unusually warm November weather, I think we may have had a once-in-a-lifetime experience this day. We basically had the whole place to ourselves whereas in the summertime, I would bet it’s nearly impossible to even get near this place. IMG_7150IMG_7156IMG_7164I didn’t want to leave, but ultimately, we decided we should probably get back on the boat as I hadn’t packed enough food to camp out for the night. I also am not even sure that’s legal, so… you know, laws and stuff. The kids passed out which was lucky as we sailed along for another three hours in some pretty choppy waves.IMG_7166IMG_2424IMG_7175By the time we got back to the harbor, it was nearly sunset and we were treated to a magnificent display. So while we may not have managed any fancy dinners, we did still get to swim in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Not a bad trade off, if you ask me!IMG_7182IMG_7193


Malta – St. George’s Bay

Malta. Ever heard of it? Thanks to Jason’s Theology course focusing on the Apostle Paul, we found ourselves visiting this tiny island at the end of November. At the end of Acts, Paul finds himself shipwrecked along with some 274 others and they swam to the safe shores of Malta. His curiosity piqued, Jason did a quick google search and flight tracking, and that’s how we ended up spending a week in this sunny little paradise.

Not knowing what to expect for transportation, I insisted we bring both carseats for the kids. Jason nearly killed me before we even boarded the plane as apparently, the seats weren’t airplane friendly and had to be stowed. We all have our triggers – his is travel, mine is car safety. Once we landed, we found our driver and headed out to the car. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the little tuna can he had arrived in and wondered how we were all going to fit. He attempted to load Aksel’s carrier carseat forward facing by just placing the seatbelt over the front and according to Jason, my reaction wasn’t polite. Despite the driver insisting, “No, no, this is fine; everything is okay,” it most definitely was not. I finally got everyone buckled in and then squeezed myself in the middle and went full blown mom-mode by holding my hands over the kid’s chests as an added precaution.

After a nerve-wracking drive through the city, we finally arrived at our hotel. By this time, I was really sweaty from stress, Jason was ready to throw the carseats into the ocean, and Lena was just ready to get her holiday on. We were greeted with freshly squeezed orange juice and then shown to our room. IMG_2375Jason had splurged for a giant suite with dual balconies overlooking St. George’s Bay as well as the several pools on the grounds. The view was gorgeous and after months of grey, English weather, the sunshine felt like paradise. IMG_7079Lena, much like her father, is constantly singing a song but it’s never the whole song. It’s always just a short stanza and usually, the lyrics are just slightly off. From the moment we left the house, this little diddy was on repeat: “Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn, say what?!” Except Lena’s version sounded like, “Hotel, Motel, Holiday Nancy Woo!” Say it out loud and it will make sense. We hadn’t been in our hotel room more than a few minutes and she had stripped down to her undies, gotten out her Nabi, and made herself comfortable in the pull out bed. Jason and I about died laughing and agreed that her holiday alter-ego, Nancy Woo, had come out. IMG_2378It took some convincing, but we finally got Nancy Woo to agree to get dressed so we could explore our home for the week. Marina Hotel Corinthia Beach Resort has seven pools, a spa, fitness facilities and 11 restaurants to choose from. Most of our vacations are jam-packed with sightseeing and traveling between different destinations, so for this one, we decided to relax as much as possible. And having all those amenities at the hotel made it perfect as attempting to go out to eat with a one and four year old isn’t the most relaxing experience. By the end of our trip, we were quite friendly with the room service attendants.IMG_2380IMG_2384IMG_2390Our first full day was spent at St. George’s Bay and since it was the off season, we had the beach mostly to ourselves. It was a little bit chilly to start off with, but we were dedicated to soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible and weren’t about to be deterred. Plus, how often do you get to take a dip in the Mediterranean?IMG_7020IMG_7022IMG_7024IMG_7030IMG_7032IMG_7034Aksel was not entirely sure if he approved of things and took a few nibbles of sand before demanding I clean off his hands. Also please notice his lack of hair. A few days before we left, I noticed he was starting to grow a mullet like his sister had at the same age. So I asked Jason to just trim the little wings in the back. Well….. that didn’t work out quite so well as instead of a trim, he just took a giant chunk of hair out the back of my baby’s skull. In an attempt to fix it, Jason thought he could just “blend it” by cutting everything off and leaving the top bit long. Sweeney Todd, he is not.IMG_7026IMG_7043IMG_7057IMG_7067So here is an obnoxious number of photos of us sitting on the beach. Lena suckered Jason into buying her an ice cream and then did a victory dance in front of me with a face covered in chocolate. This little girl owns her daddy. IMG_7064IMG_7037IMG_7040IMG_7042We had debated whether or not to get the balcony suite when we initially booked our room but I’m glad Jason insisted because we ended up spending every morning and evening out here. We even attempted a romantic balcony dinner that ended in disaster, but I’ll fill you in on that debacle in my next post.IMG_2416IMG_7005IMG_7006IMG_7009IMG_7018IMG_7076IMG_7077IMG_2414

And if you’re still confused about this magical place called Malta, this is how Jason described it to me: it’s a little fleck that got kicked off the boot of Italy. And now you know!


Ireland: Kinsale & Cork

After enjoying some of the most beautiful views ever, we wandered down the street from Charles Fort to have lunch at The Bulman Bar and Restaurant. Jason was dying for some seafood and TripAdvisor rated The Bulman as one of the top spots for fresh fish. We were a bit early so we took advantage of the extra time and had a wander around the beachfront below the pub. IMG_2250IMG_2246Lena was totally in her element, finding all sorts of snails, shells, and seaglass. She is really enamored with rocks at the moment so we told her to find a few favorite pieces of seaglass to keep as a souvenir from the trip. And then I congratulated myself on another genius parenting move because rocks are free.IMG_2248IMG_2245By the time the restaurant opened, there was a fairly large crowd outside which was a good sign that we were in for a treat. Jason was drooling just looking at the menu and ended up ordering half the ocean with a side of lemon. I think he ended up getting half a dozen oysters and 40 mussels. I decided to go way outside of my comfort zone and jump on the seafood wagon with an order of lobster. You will rarely find me eating seafood as I had a near death experience seven years ago involving seaweed salad and eel sushi. Basically, I got such a violent case of food poisoning that I actually pooped my pants. Also, Jason and I had just started dating (like maybe a couple weeks in) and he was the one to clean up the aforementioned mess. I still don’t know how we ended up married after that incident. Anyway, back to my main point, this seafood was delicious and didn’t cause me to lose bowel control so all in all, it was a delicious and memorable meal.IMG_2260IMG_2261Full up of fish oil and local brew, we did a quick tour of Kinsale. The rainbow-colored buildings were incredibly charming and the shops were full of great local wares.IMG_6522IMG_6523IMG_6524IMG_6527IMG_6528IMG_6529We almost bought a small painting as a memento of our trip but just couldn’t decide which one we liked best. So instead, we stocked up on pounds of sweets and artisan chocolate. Because that seemed like a solid second choice. IMG_6533IMG_6530IMG_6531IMG_6532IMG_6535IMG_6536IMG_6537Our last bucket list item for our Ireland trip was to hear some live music. So on our last night in Cork, we bundled up the kids and headed to The Olive Plunkett. It was a bit touristy but the music was really good and Lena basically lost her mind over the dancer. She looked like a Celtic Princess Elsa and treated us to a live Riverdance performance while we ate fish and chips. Not a bad way to end the day. IMG_2208IMG_2210The bar also had this leprechaun photo booth which is still making me giggle hysterically.IMG_2212The last night of our trip was spent in Dublin again as we had an early ferry departure. Luckily, the kids sleep like logs once they’re out so they woke up the next day looking like little angels. I could eat them. Jason, however, was not feeling quite so angelic as he had spent the entire night puking in the bathroom. I was a bit concerned how he was going to survive the two hour ferry ride on top of a four hour drive home in such a state. I think I would have cried like a baby and begged him to throw me overboard if the tables were turned. No time for that, though, as thirty minutes into the boat trip, Lena emptied the content of her stomach everywhere. Needless to say, it was a memorable trip from start to finish!IMG_6538IMG_6543

Ireland: Charles Fort

Thanks to our dual GPS systems, we made it to our next hotel with no major issues. The man working reception was a wealth of knowledge and joy (truly, I’ve never met a happier person) and recommended we make a trip to Charles Fort just above Kinsale. Despite it being late October, we lucked out with warm sunshine and blue skies to top off this gorgeous view.IMG_6457IMG_6458IMG_6460IMG_6459IMG_6462IMG_6463

Charles Fort overlooks Kinsale Harbor with history dating back to the 1600’s. We learned that it was built in a star design which makes it stand strong against cannon attacks.IMG_6468IMG_6464IMG_6471IMG_6470IMG_6476

These are some of my most favorite photos I’ve ever taken. Between the perfect morning light and incredible textured backgrounds, there wasn’t a bad shot to be had. It didn’t hurt that my models were pretty cute, too.IMG_6478IMG_6484IMG_6482IMG_6486IMG_6490

I have a confession to make here. Before I met Jason, I had ZERO plans of ever getting married and I was definitely not going to have kids. I was adamantly opposed to the mere idea and no one was going to change my mind. Wouldn’t you know that just seven months after we got married, I found out I was pregnant and had a major meltdown on the kitchen floor? I was utterly terrified and pretty sure my life had just ended. If only I could go back in time and show that crazy girl these photos. How insane was I to not want all this?! I am so thankful God had other plans for me.IMG_6495IMG_6492IMG_6488IMG_6496

I just love these people.IMG_6499IMG_6502IMG_6510IMG_6517

Before we left, we let Lena have a go with my Canon. She’s become quite the little photographer; managing to keep her horizon lines fairly straight and framing things impressively well for only being four years old. It’s so fun to see things through her eyes. IMG_6519IMG_6520

I am so glad we decided to check this place out. Charles Fort was just magical.

Ireland: Waterford City

Ah yes, the drive from Powerscourt Waterfall to Waterford City. As I mentioned in my previous post, we somehow managed to turn a two hour drive into a five hour nightmare. Our new Volvo came equipped with an in-dash navigation system so we figured we would be adventurous and just follow it’s promptings. Well….. we learned a couple valuable lessons in the process. First, Ireland has no zip codes, no post codes, really no legitimate addresses for anything. So when you only have half a street name and a city, your GPS will not cooperate very well and demand more specific information. Information like the latitude and longitude of said destination. And here’s the next important lesson – latitude and longitude are very specific measurements. DO NOT just leave out a few numbers and assume you will get close to your target. For the love of your sanity, your marriage, and your relationship with your children, never, ever do this.

After getting ourselves utterly lost in the deepest, darkest parts of who-knows-where-Ireland, we finally saw a small beacon of light in the form of a Londis shop. I am still saying prayers of gratitude that this mishap occurred in the friendly country of shamrocks and leprechauns because had we been in the States, I am absolutely confident we would have either been shot or abducted by those terrifying monsters from The Hills Have Eyes. Forget about street lights as we weren’t even driving on actual roads. At one point, we almost hit a large animal and it’s possibly due to the fact that we were driving in a field of some sort. We still don’t know; the trauma of it all is too fresh to process.

And that is how I found myself sitting at a giant computer from the late 90’s, attempting to connect to dial up internet and find a phone number for our next hotel. When I asked the shop keeper if we were close to Waterford, she actually turned white, said “Oh my God” several times, and then offered to let me sit behind the counter and use their computer. Just as I got the phone number pulled up, an old man walked into the shop and I do believe he was an angel sent from heaven. According to him, however, he was a truck driver and knew where we were trying to go. So he came out to the car with me and relayed the most detailed driving instructions to ever exist while I wrote everything down and Jason pretended to understand his thick Irish accent. The directions included the following gems: go down the road .2 miles until you see a large tree. Turn left. You’ll then see two old pumps. Take another left. Drive 4.5 minutes until you hit the second round about with a broken fence and keep right. After dictating two full pages to me, he wished us luck, said “oh my god, you are so far away” just like the shopkeeper had said, and we were off. And let me tell you, Grandpa Truck Driver’s directions were on point! Every.single.detail was spot on and we were so delirious and frazzled, that we couldn’t stop laughing.

We FINALLY made it to our next hotel and thankfully, the front desk guy was very accomodating despite it being nearly 10pm. The fact that he was completely drunk may have had something to do with it.

The next day was gorgeous and we headed into the beautiful town of Waterford. Our first stop was at Waterford Crystal. We decided not to do the museum as we didn’t think two  kids and thousands of dollars worth of glassware made the most winning combo. So we checked out the gift shop instead and even got this complimentary photo where it looks like Lena and I are attempting to rob the store. Neat-o!IMG_6449IMG_6400IMG_6403IMG_6402unnamed

We had promised Lena she could see some Vikings (or Spikings, as she calls them) as Waterford has a rich history with the warriors of the sea. IMG_6428IMG_6429IMG_6404IMG_6410

Reginald’s Tower was the highlight for her, to be sure. It was built in 1003 as part of the city wall and is deceptively large once you’re inside. There is a huge spiral staircase and each floor has it’s own special display. They had everything from ornate carvings, to miniature replicas of the city from ancient days, and even artifacts that had been excavated from the site. The excitement of it all had Lena in rare form. I have no idea what this face is but it was her signature look for the day.IMG_6412IMG_6423IMG_6418IMG_6424IMG_6413IMG_6422IMG_6414IMG_6415IMG_6420

While we were inside, Jason and Aksel took a little stroll along the waterfront. When we came out, I noticed Jason had his signature smirk on his face; telling me something had happened. Apparently, he was approached by two girls with nametags and they started talking to him. I can only imagine how awkward this must have been as he’s not the most outwardly social person. They eventually asked him if he knew anything about the Mormon faith and he made some comment about “John Smith” and magic underwear. Apparently, their nametags and modest dress didn’t alert him to the fact that they were missionaries. When they corrected him about John Smith really being Joseph Smith, he realized he had likely just offended them completely and then tried to end the conversation so he didn’t do any further damage. IMG_6427

Not wanting him to be the only person embarrassed that day, we all took turns posing for these super dorky photos. This is what European vacations are all about, people. We are living the dream.Untitled-1IMG_6436IMG_6435

Just up from Reginald’s Tower is the Irish Handmade Glass Company. We were able to see the artists at work blowing glass for lamps, vases, and even jewelry. I could have sat here all day watching them work but everyone was starting to get hungry. So we picked out a small glass ornament and were on our way. IMG_6440IMG_6441IMG_6442IMG_6443IMG_6445

The artwork throughout town was really vibrant and I loved the giant murals on the walls. I didn’t get a picture of our lunch, but we stopped in at a small local shop that was sort of like a deli. The shopkeeper was so friendly and suggested some local dishes for us to try. The main dish was an Irish variation of Shepherd’s pie and it had almost a cheese type sauce with the meat. That disappeared almost immediately. He also said we had to try a blaa (pronounced blah), which is a white bread roll distinct to Waterford. It was square in shape, super soft, dusted with flour on top and served with butter. I could have eaten a dozen.IMG_6446IMG_6430IMG_6437

With everyone fed and pottied, we made our way back to the car, checking out a few more shops and sculptures on the way and then loaded up for our trek down to Cork. IMG_6448IMG_6447IMG_6450

After the GPS fiasco the day before, we weren’t taking any chances. So we had two navigation systems going plus handwritten instructions on how to find our next hotel. With the kids passed out in the back, I was free to take pictures, pretend I wasn’t petrified of getting lost again, and make fun of Jason for offending two innocent girls on a street corner.IMG_6451IMG_6452IMG_6456