Cold Beers, Warm Seas

Well that's a big deck!

Down below.

Lexi, Theo, Eva and Steph

Lex, Theo, Eva, Steph, Yana, Charlotte and Anna

Lexi and Eva

Trail blazing

Theo and the kids in the deep blue

Stephan, Theo, Marcus and Charlotte

Nice place to park

Marcus and Eva

Lexi and Marcus

Stephan, Theo and Marcus

Cheeky kiss on the deck

Last Sunday Steph organised a day out on the boat with everyone. I’ve been before with Charlotte, Steph and Yana, but this time we also had Theo, Anna and their kids with us.

Life jackets for kids, check. Massive bowl of pasta salad, check. Beers, check. Cameras, check. Chill mode activated, check.

My niece and nephew have never been on a boat before, so it could have gone either way but they loved it! The waves were high and the boat taking to the sea at full speed must have made the whole journey seem like some sort of kick-ass roller coaster to them, giggling to each other as the boat bounced heavily up and down.

The sea that day was pretty rough so the captain suggested we go to the south of Malta where the sea would be protected from the high winds by the island. I’m not sure exactly the name of where we went, but it was this place. Not far off from the shore were fish farms – the captain mentioned that when the winds blow north, the smell of the fish food leaves a nasty smell making the bay not so popular, but as the winds were blowing in the opposite direction, we struck lucky.

As we pulled into the bay on the boat and while the captain was looking for a good place to drop anchor, we noticed water spewing out of one of the cliffs. Everyone was a bit grossed out thinking we were about to swim near a sewer, but it turns out that it’s just really warm sea water. The bay is set next to a power plant that sucks up the sea’s cold water to cool down the machinery and pours the warm, (still clean) sea water back into the bay essentially giving us a heated sea bay…

It was AWESOME!

The seas were clear blue, warm and deep. Perfect for jumping and diving off of the boat. Swimming underwater with goggles was really cool. As the water was so clear, the light rays shone through the sea to create beams of light all the way to the seabed and watching the schools of fish swim around with that effect going on was like something out of a movie. Times like that I wish so hard that I had a GoPro (hint hint, GoPro!) – I’m planning to get one when I’m back in the UK before departing on more travel adventures.

Charlotte and I swam to the rocky shore nearby. Sea Urchins (uh oh) and jagged rocks made it hard to climb out, but once we managed that we saw this bay filled with so much sea life. All the little colourful fish in rock pools, small crabs darting in and out of holes in the rocks and the kind of sea shells you buy on a bracelet (though these ones were still occupied!). We played around there for a bit, then my brothers joined in for a little explore before we headed back to the boat for some lunch.

Lunch on a boat after a swim just always tastes better than anywhere else. Pasta salad, fresh baguettes, cheese, meat, beer and Nutella (it’s all about the Nutella). Then just a quick ray-catching session on the front of the boat and another dip to cool off before facing the waves of fury on the ride back.

Back home – tired and relaxed – we got takeaway pizza from one of our favourite Sliema Pizzeria’s, Vecchia Napoli.

Baia Beach Club

WAGS

Marcus, Theo and Stephan

Stephan and Theo

Lexi and Eva

Anna, Charlotte and Yana

Malta – being super hot and sitting on the Mediterranean sea – naturally has a whole load of beach clubs (like Café del Mar). Last Saturday we went to Baia Beach Club for the second time, but this time there were more of us.

My oldest brother, Theo (that cockney bloke from Masterchef), came to Malta with his wife, Anna, and two kids, Eva (4yo) and Lex (2yo). We’re all staying with my middle brother Steph and his girlfriend Yana.

Let me break that down.

Three bedrooms (technically two, we’re on a fold-out couch in the office), Six grownups, three different “target demographics”, two kids that are hooked up to an IV sugar drip that constantly feeds them with ruthless energy!

It’s actually pretty great. Me and my brothers don’t really hang out too often and it’s great to have a week together, the WAGS are all cool and the kids are ridiculously cute… and cheeky.

Back on topic – we went to Baia Beach Club located in Armier. It’s quite a drive from Sliema and feels like it’s right out in the sticks. When we arrived we saw that either side of Baia was absolutely packed with sun beds. Maybe 30-40 either side? They were so packed together that because of the shade umbrellas, those two whole sections of the beach were in shadows. Baia, on the other hand, was perfect.

There was a designated sandy beach with spaced-out sun-loungers, waiter service and a swimming zone cordoned off from the beautiful boats anchored nearby (because nothing ruins a trip to the beach like being ran over by a boat!). We chose the sandy beach over Baia’s concrete haven because kids fall over.

The water was nice – it’s always nice – I saw a couple set up towels on the beach and what looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s younger twin came over and told them to shimmy along. No arguments there.

The best thing about going to the beach with kids is that there’s always someone to go in the water with. They had their inflatable rings and armbands. Lex and Eva both had a go with my swimming goggles to see the fish, unfortunately around that area there weren’t any fish to be seen. Probably because they were hanging out by the rocks but I digress.

Lex and I had a kick-ass time playing mini-football, Eva and I spoke about pre-school and how she destroyed the sun by hosing it down with water but it was the bad sun which is why we still have a sun and the bad sun is in a different world. Then we sang, well, she sang and I copied but I couldn’t get the words right so I was told to stop. Then I tried to teach Eva to beatbox because I thought it’d be funny to see a 4 year old girl beatbox.

For lunch I had a Roasted Duck Salad. The salads come in massive bowls – most of us had salads. Stephan has this amazing mixed meat sandwich thing, with maybe Ftira (traditional Maltese bread) or focaccia bread. Either way, it looked amazing.

Later that evening we ordered Chinese Takeaway from Pavilion. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much because I hadn’t had a really good Chinese yet in Malta. That changed when the doorbell rang.

Ding Dong.

It was amazing.

Travel Tip: Whatever you pack, pack less.

hand-luggage-aerolite

Over two months since leaving the UK and I’ve come to realise I’ve packed way too much shit.

Taking only hand luggage, I bought the 21″ Aerolite Holdall for about £12. It’s perfect for RyanAir’s tight restrictions and when you’ve got to where you’re going, you can unpack and fold it up to the size of a book.

Aerolite Folded Up

If you’re going to stay a while in one place where you can unpack, it’s perfect. If you’re travelling from place to place, you’ll do better with one of these bags.

This is what I originally packed:

Equipment:

MacBook Air 11″ + Charger
iPad Mini + Cable
– iPhone 4S + Cable
– Apple USB Wall Plug
Remington Beard Trimmer + Charger
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Toothbrush + Travel Case + Charger
Kindle + Charger
Olympus OM-D E-M5 + Charger
– Four Camera Lenses
Apple EarPods
Clip-on Phone Camera Lenses
– Two pairs of glasses
– Two pairs of sunglasses
Field Notes Expedition Notebook
Field Notes Pen
Fisher Space Pen
Double-Edged Razor
– A Book on Javascript Patterns
– Misc. Toiletries
– Passport / Money / Cards / etc.

Bags / Cases:

Aerolite Foldaway Holdall
American Apparel Gym Bag
Muji Hanging Toiletries Case (to store camera lenses)
ColcaSac Laptop Sleeve
– Glasses Case
– Fab Toiletries Bag (for actual toiletries this time)
Neon Pink Nike Heritage Small Messenger Bag

Footwear:

– Havianas Flip Flops
– Nike Roshe Runs
– Blue Suede Shoes (bargain from Primark)

Clothes:

– Hoody
– Jacket
– Pair of Jeans
– One Belt
– Two Short Sleeve Shirts
– Three Vests
– Seven T-Shirts
– Two Pairs of Swimming Trunks
– Four Pairs of Shorts (one pair for working out)
– Seven Pairs of Trainer Socks
– Nine Pairs of Boxers

How the hell did they let me on the plane with all that stuff?!

On top of that, during the course of this trip I’ve realised that most of my T-shirts are heavy material and dark in colour and all of my shorts are more for going out (i.e. not that comfortable to always wear), so while here I’ve also bought:

– Three T-Shirts (lighter materials than what I brought with me)
– Pair of Shorts (more comfortable than my other shorts)

I told you I over-packed.

Waste of space

This is all a waste of space.

– Blue Suede Shoes
– Hoody
– Jacket
– Pair of Jeans
– One Belt
– One Short Sleeve Shirts
– Five T-Shirts
– One Pairs of Shorts

I plan to swap my camera for a good compact and leave all this at home:

– Olympus OM-D E-M5
– Bulky Charger
– Four Lenses
– Muji Hanging Toiletries Bag

I could also leave behind my book on Javascript Patterns. 20 items. Twenty items taking up precious space and adding unnecessary weight.

I didn’t bring a towel, but I have a travel towel that’s coming with me when we explore South East Asia.

A great idea I’ve had to free up even more space – which I’m not sure I should publicly admit – is underwear. Instead of boxer shorts (which actually take up quite a bit of space) I want to find out some fresh looking Y-fronts that’ll keep me cool and packing light.

Why did I originally pack so much? I have no idea. Maybe it’s something to do with wanting to be prepared for everything. Whatever it is, I’m guilty as charged.

Next time you’re packing your bags, pack less and have a great time.

When have you taken too much stuff away with you? What should you have left behind?

What I learned from a week unplugged

Plugging back into the grid The past week Charlotte and I have been on an Internet Detox. If I said I didn’t miss the internet, I’d be lying – but it’s definitely been an enlightening experience. As I said to a friend over Facebook chat (fitting, right?).

It’s crazy how much we rely on the internet, and when it’s gone, it’s scary. For a bit anyway. But then you settle down and realise how much of life is wasted on constantly checking notifications and the implications it has on the real life connections with people around you.

I hadn’t noticed just how much being continually connected to social networks had affected my life (first world problem alert!). Before going to bed, right after waking up, during an ad break – always checking for something new.

Switching on my phone’s Wifi again was exciting, then after opening Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, waiting for all my emails to download – and after sorting through all the junk and irrelevance – I would have thought I’d have missed more. In reality, I’d hardly missed a thing.

A lot of my life revolves around this vast interconnected world of computers and have only just learned that it’s okay to not instantly reply to everything. Not every photo, status or tweet needs to be liked, commented or retweeted. The best part of coming back from a week off was my feed – everything was new again! Imagine going to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, scrolling through and not reaching something you’ve already seen or getting to where you left off last time. Refreshing!

It’s reminded me that the internet is there to serve. Not to be served by us. And it’s okay to switch off for a bit. Those little notification bubbles have been given a lot of importance from us, but actually, if something is so urgent that it needs your immediate attention, your phone will ring.

It’s as simple as that.

As for passing the time – it was all about the Gin Rummy (such an awesome card game!), reading books, exploring and enjoying watching uninterrupted films. I noticed as well that I was sleeping better and my dreams were way more vivid (and somewhat spiritually profound…) – that, and you can OD on chocolate snacks. Seriously. Don’t replace a day’s food intake just with chocolate. It’ll end badly.

Now, tell me – would you, could you or have you given yourself an internet detox before? If not, you should try it.