Ibiza in winter

 

This year’s winter in the UK has already been particularly long, grey and cold – worse than last year in my view. That said, I’d prefer it to sweating (southern hemisphere Christmas!), but this December it was time for a break, which is why we ended up in Ibiza for winter.

Last year we visited Copenhagen in Denmark and had some lovely family for Christmas company along for the ride. It was fantastic – a cool city and Tivoli Gardens, the world’s oldest operating amusement park, was a magical highlight.

However this year I wanted to change a couple of things with regards to an end-of-year break:

− it needed to be less expensive

− it needed to offer more of a mix of options to explore (travel), as well as options to rest

− it needed to be warmer!

 

Recalling that the Mediterranean seemed to be at least sunny when we cruised through back in January 2013, my research began …. And it started in August because previously I’ve left plans really late by which time flights everywhere are expensive.

Long story short, I found a good deal through British Airways holidays which included flights from London City airport (tick, that’s our closest); to Ibiza in Spain (double tick, always wanted to go!); staying at a central resort by the beach with American half board (so breakfast and dinners, including seven courses for our special Christmas meal were included in the package).

Yes, yes and yes.

old-town-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

But like many of even the world’s biggest destinations, much is shut over Christmas, and in Ibiza even more so outside of its popular summer season.

Ibiza’s small local population swells about five times in summer, with the island boasting the usual beautiful delights of this part of Europe as well as allegedly ‘the best clubs in the universe’ (Ibiza is known as the home of dance music).

 

What to do in Ibiza in winter then? We suggest:

Walking or hiking

We were based along Figueretas beach which is situated about 15 to 20 minutes (easy) walk from the main island ‘city centre’, cruise marina, shopping strips and the ‘old town’.

Cooper and I enjoy being able to walk everywhere in a town, and it is an activity that is free, can be done in most weather conditions (although we got lucky with sunny days), and regardless of what’s open.

In Ibiza the walking or hiking options are endless, with beachfront, villages, cliffs and green hills to explore.

Only thing to be mindful of in our experience, is while it was warm throughout the day, temperatures dropped quickly around 4pm which could be a problem if you are far from home and all of a sudden not dressed appropriately.

ocean-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Creative exploration

It’s not a big stretch to imagine that a sun drenched Spanish island is pretty, and Ibiza certainly is.

From ocean to mountains, vineyards, cool street art, contemporary and old architecture blending as one, it’s a great destination for the modern content creator.

Photographers, videographers, writers and artists will find much inspiration, particularly as the light changes across the course of a day.

wall-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Boat rides and beaches

Unfortunately we just missed this option because of much being closed over Christmas, but there’s a number of day trips you can enjoy around Ibiza even in the winter (that said, try to book in advance online as there is far less operating than between April and October).

A ferry to Formentera (the smallest of Spain’s Balearic islands in the Mediterranean Sea) for a chilled out day by the crystal clear blue is something that was recommended and I’ll make it happen next time!

marina-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Sant Antoni is the main clubbing area and includes the famous sunset strip where summertime ravers enjoy shows by the world’s coolest DJs as the sun sets over the Med.

Pretty much everything is closed in winter with only a few cafes and restaurants operating to cater for the boating crowd. But for the curious (like me), for €2 bus no. 3 from Avenue d’Isidor Macabich (a main street in Eivissa’s city centre) will get you to where all the action takes place.

In about 25 minutes you’ll be on the other side of the island and can spot locations of some of the famous dance music fun-hubs like Cafe del Mar and Cafe Mambo.

Further reading: Ibiza’s best beaches and some of the island’s secret beaches via The Guardian travel.

 

The long lazy lunch

While most up this way in the world are rugged-up at Christmastime, we enjoyed still, warm and sunny 18 degree days. Best to make the most of it then!

We thought the Chinese cuisine was delicious and well priced at Restaurant Taiwan along Figueretas beachfront. Just up a bit from there is Oferta, a little family-run hole-in-the-wall (almost) business that was actually open when nothing else was. Their food was good, but don’t accidentally order the cheap local beer that turns out to be non-alcoholic – oops.

Next door to Oferta is a larger pub-like establishment, Bistro Magnus; and for a classy meal and cocktail with a view look up Cotton lounge bar, also positioned on the Figueretas waterfront.

Bondi at Sant Antoni is a cafe/bar/restaurant opposite the port, not too far from the bus station where we got off the no. 3 from the city centre. The food was delicious with many nice vege options on the menu. Friendly service too. Finally, back over on the Sant Antoni side is a beachfront restaurant called Hostal la Torre – sadly we didn’t get to it but it was recommended for sunset gatherings and if it’s as pretty as its pictures it wouldn’t disappoint.

We also frequently bought some nice cheese, salami and inexpensive wine from local Spar supermarkets for beach picnics. Along the main road Av D’Espanya there’s a few lovely bakeries where you can buy fresh baguettes and coffee to complete your DIY lazy long lunch experience.

sunset-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Just breathe

Meditation, yoga, mindfulness under the sun or even sun bathing – it’s all possible here in winter.

During the day when there’s no breeze it’s really warm; perfect conditions to ‘just be’.

In fact, along the promenade where we were staying I noticed many individuals happily spending quiet time bathed in sunlight; no phones, relaxing, tuning into the sound of the waves, no distractions (except for the odd dog, but even they seemed blissfully content).

hotel-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Next time

When a little more is operating (April to October), I’d like to:

  • Visit the hip and happy Hippy market
  • Book a four hour party boat ferry that cruises around the island
  • Indulge in a winery tour
  • Hike over to the mystical rocky island of Es Vedra in the north west, reputedly the island’s most magnetic point and with an energy similar to that of the Pyramids. I’m actually sure I spotted this when we were flying out at the end of our trip, but we’ll be back…
  • Explore Sant Josep some more – I wanted to make my way over to a little village called Es Cubells which promises a quaint church on a cliff top and a couple of authentic local bars, but the bus wasn’t heading there during our festive stay.


Getting around Ibiza

Organise hire of a bike, car or moped for an easier and independent look around the island’s main regions of Eivissa (central), Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Sant Antoni de Portmany, Sant Joan de Labritja and Santa Eularia des Riu.

Here’s a link to a downloadable PDF island guide and map we found helpful

There is an inexpensive bus service which you’ll need to study the map and website to navigate, and you need change to buy a ticket when boarding, but the service is clean and efficient. The no. 10 gets you to and from the airport to the city centre for €3.50 (single), otherwise a cab is about €15. There are many airport shuttle and pick-up services advertised online but they are totally overpriced so be careful not to be ripped off.

 

Other useful online Ibiza resources:

Ibiza Spotlight features lots of stories and tips for first time visitors on where to eat, travel, club, stay and spend your money.

Ibiza bus includes maps and timetables for the local service around the island.

Ibiza Tourism – official website.

 

More of Ibiza – view our Flickr gallery:

Spain, the islands

 

 

 

Malta pictures: most Instagrammable

Over the summer we had the chance to visit a beautiful island on the Mediterranean between Sicily and North Africa; while we were only there for a few days, my Malta pictures are some of our favourites from recent travels!

We visited in August, European summertime and yes, it was hot.

The highlight for that month annually is the colourful religious festivals which take place in all the Maltese villages of the island. Every church and cathedral is lit up and evening street festivals are held just about every night, with performers and bands, fireworks and an all-round fabulous vibe.

There’s even daytime fireworks – something I’ve never seen before! Oh, and canon fire wakes you up at 8am which takes some adjustment but then it’s just plain amusing.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

Malta’s population is predominantly Roman Catholic and the churches, relics and crosses across the island make that very obvious.

Interestingly though, Malta feels really multi-cultural. I picked up on accents from all over the world on the street and even on their commercial radio stations where I heard a number of varying English and American accents along with Irish and even Australian.

The destination is renowned for its intriguing historical sites associated with a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British.

Malta boasts many fortresses, Megalithic temples and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean complex of halls and burial chambers dating to circa 4000 B.C. Really extraordinary.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

There’s something for everyone in Malta, and I’d pitch it as an excellent option against the coasts of Spain, France or Italy in the summer. It’s probably a bit cheaper than these neighbours too.

Travel for me offers a creative outlet, in that I relish the chance to take photos of the beauty of the world around me. Malta pictures are dreamy – the place is so sublime it’s basically impossible to take a bad shot.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

Malta pictures: most Instagrammable

Architecture

I can’t wait to get back to Malta one day and explore more – there’s much of the northern side we missed, but we had a good look around the south of the island.

We stayed in an amazing, authentic 700 year old villa that likely houses a ghost or two.

In fact, they used to make cheese where we stayed, and goats once roamed the lower part of the building that now acts as a casual outdoor area with a pool around which we spent hot afternoons drinking a local brew, Cisk.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

Napoleon reportedly stayed in the place next door to where we were based. It was then an armoury, and on further investigation I discovered that historically, relations between France and Malta have been tumultuous.

Malta’s positioned in such a spot that it’s ended up in the centre of many wars and struggles for power over the years, including during WWII.

I spotted several plaques in the capital, Valletta, commemorating Malta’s involvement in recent wars as part of the Commonwealth (same as Australia). In fact, Malta is one of just three European countries that form part of this alliance, alongside the UK and Cyprus.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

A rich history (both modern and ancient), change and rebuilding following periods of war, plus fascinating neighbours bringing a range of cultural influence means that every street, window, door and archway on the island offers an Instagrammable moment.

Blue Grotto

We were staying only about five minutes’ drive from the Blue Grotto, a haven for divers and free spirits alike.

Cliff drops, sparkling blue Mediterranean waves and the option to take a speed boat for just €8 means this is a must-visit in Malta.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

Get there early to avoid queues.

The sea caverns you’ll cruise into on the water are awe-inspiring and jetting around these parts feels like nothing less than an adventure out of a Bond film.

There’s plenty of Malta pictures opportunities here, but we also captured a little bit of video to share:

Travel tip: Book a meal at Blue Creek Restaurant which is positioned on a cliff-side not too far from the Blue Grotto. Request a table outside because the views are sensational. The food is well priced and delicious.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

While you’re in this area, you might like to visit the Hagar Qim temples (Megalithic temple structures built on the Maltese islands between 3600 and 3000 BC), Mnajdra temples (three conjoined Neolithic temples dating from about 3000 BC) and the Ghar Dalam cave and museum which contains bone remains of animals that were stranded and subsequently became extinct in Malta at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum.

Valletta waterfront and city centre

Malta’s striking capital, Valletta, is surrounded by spectacular bodies of water; cruise ships line the harbour alongside expensive yachts moored at Vittoriosa.

In stark contrast to these contemporary symbols of wealth and decadence are the fortified structures that date back thousands of years.

We highly recommend investing a couple of hours of your time in a harbour cruise where you get the best views of such buildings. Plus, there’s really no better way to experience the grandeur of the area and some of the world’s prettiest waterways.

Cruises here take in two of the largest natural harbours in the Mediterranian, Marsamxett and Valletta.

 

Malta harbour - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

Travel tip: Captain Morgan cruises are heavily advertised, but if you buy tickets on the ground you can also cruise with Luzzu. Start at Valletta and take a fast ferry over to Sliema, or make your way to Sliema first and begin there. Tickets are available on the waterfront in both spots.

We scored tickets for €10 (down from €16 each) on Luzzu, and while we had a small panic that the boat was much smaller than that of Captain Morgan’s, the experience turned out to be much more fun, personal, free and enjoyable. We absolutely recommend you take this option that we happened upon by taking a chance on a street vendor working for Luzzu.

 

Malta harbour - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

While you’re in the city, you might also be interested to see the Malta Experience which offers an immersive trip through Malta’s fascinating history, and the Knights Hospital which showcases more about how this critical 250-year period in Malta’s history influenced everything from architecture to folklore and even the nation’s flag.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

Marsaxlokk fishing village

This small and picturesque fishing village is a must-see for perfect Malta pictures and sublime Instagrammables.

Marsaxlokk is popular for a daily open-air market and offers a selection of some of the best fish restaurants in Malta.

I was there around lunchtime and can verify there are plenty of specials to enjoy, the only problem is figuring out which one to try.

There are lovely walks to be had around the harbour here, and you can even take a dip in secluded and untainted swimming zones.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

Mdina

The history of the walled Mdina can be traced back more than 4000 years.

It is said that in 60 A.D. the Apostle St. Paul lived here after being shipwrecked. Wandering the narrow old streets of Mdina is like taking a trip back in time.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

The romantic alleyways date back to the 12th Century and over the years has shifted from housing nobles to then falling into disrepair around war times; and now are called home by those who can afford an apartment in unique, historical surrounds.

 

Malta - Sarah Blinco travellivelearn.com

Malta is a destination brimming with beauty, history and plenty of wonderful Instagrammable moments.

A highly recommended destination, and one we suggest you enjoy with friends or family.

A huge thank you to Robin who inspired the trip, and Anna + Anna who also made this escape such fun!

 

Malta

We’d love to hear from you – if you have a comment or tip to add, drop us a line below.

The history of Swedish pop

Our visit to Stockholm reminded us of how much influence the Swedes have had on the history of pop.

Some of the coolest, most influential sounds of commercial music have come out of this area (home of Eurovision) and the locals are rightly proud of that fact.

The excellent ABBA Museum isn’t just a nod to that particular fab foursome, but also to the history of Swedish pop, dance and rock music.

It really had us stepping back in time, remembering melodies of youth.

This experience got me curious about what we’ve forgotten about the history of Swedish pop, so I did a little research while waiting for a flight, and discovered 14 music acts from the 80s through to now that pop and dance music fans might be surprised to know are Swedish.

The history of Swedish pop

14 acts from my childhood to now, that you might be surprised to know are from Sweden:

  1. Europe – they enjoyed number one status in 26 countries around the world with the classic anthem, The Final Countdown.
  2. Roxette – Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle gave us some of the best pop of the 80s and 90s, including their debut hit, The Look, classic soundtrack songs and massive world tours for the albums Look Sharp and Joyride.
  3. Ace of Base – that song about a ‘sign’ that we couldn’t get out of our heads in the early 90s.
  4. The Cardigans – released one of the biggest tracks from Baz Luhrmann’s wonderful Romeo + Juliet back in 1996. The movie’s soundtrack was equally as successful as the film.
  5. Dr Alban – producer of some of the most fun dance tracks of the 90s including the massive Sing Hallelujah.
  6. Robyn – Show Me Love is a song I remember was played a lot on commercial radio – as far away as Australia. This was back in 1997, when Robyn was just 17.
  7. Rednex – Responsible for Cotton Eye Joe back in 1994. Don’t know why I expected these guys were from America! Guess again.
  8. Eagle Eye Cherry – another act I never would have thought hailed from Europe. Save Tonight was huge on radio and featured on television soundtracks in 1998/99.
  9. Alcazar – we all raved to Crying at the Discoteque back in 2000 (right?!).
  10. Eric Prydz – a popular DJ who famously produced Call on Me which was accompanied by a video set in a raunchy aerobic class that made most men pretty happy.
  11. Icona Pop – they had a pop-dance hit we liked, I Love It, which was heavily played in clubs around 2013/14.
  12. Tove Lo – in 2014 she released a successful pop album, Queen of the Clouds, featuring neat releases like Talking Body.
  13. Swedish House Mafia – an electronic music super-group.
  14. Avicii – currently one of my favourite producers of dance anthems.

On the topic of the history of music – here’s a display I got a kick out of at the ABBA Museum – who remembers…?

We loved our visit to Stockholm. Read about our itinerary and travel tips here.