Thursday 25 May 2017

Malta - Popeye Village

I don't know why I was so keen to visit the Popeye Village when we were in Malta - I have no particular affection for the film, and won't have seen it for a good 20 years... I can't even pretend I wanted to go for the kids sake,  because they were barely aware that a fictional character called Popeye even existed. 

 I guess the answer is 'because it looked cute', and sometimes that's enough.

It did also help that the Popeye Village, the original filming location for the 1980 Robin Williams film, was within cosy walking distance of our hotel (I don't think I'd have convinced the kids another day out on the bus would be what they really wanted to do!) 

I was utterly charmed by the little village of Sweethaven, the ramshackle buildings and higgledy-piggledy houses were all just lovely to look at. 

Not jut for looking though - many of the cute buildings were used as shops, cafes or mini-museums, while others gave you the opportunity to look round the interiors of some of the films sets (like Olive Oyl's house, below).

You'd see some of the characters walking around the village too, and they do the occasional little show. I do wonder about these kinds of jobs sometimes .... like you go to the bank to apply for a mortgage and you have to explain to the bank guy that your job is being Popeye the Sailor Man. Anyway, these guys were all super! 

The village was built into Anchor Bay, and its' just the prettiest little cove. They do run boat trips out here included in the entrance fee, apparently, but this sadly wasn't running on the day we visited (weather was a bit iffy to be fair!)

There were a couple of games set up for the youngsters, and we found not one but two mini golf courses...

... and for reasons I'm not quite sure about, a little Christmas workshop. We all thought Santa spent all year at the North Pole preparing but looks like he might hand round in Malta a lot too - - can't really blame him to be fair! 

Without doubt, the best thing we did at Popeye Village was get involved with making a film. Twice a day, visitors have the opportunity to recreate a bit of cinema magic and star in a film they can then take away on DVD to cherish forever. 

The film was genuinely brilliant and hilarious and we all had loads of fun making it. I imagine it could be a different scenario depending on who was in your group, but ours was a gangs of good eggs. All the dads in particular really put a lot into their roles, it was quite impressive! 

Making the film took around an hour and a half to two hours (including screening time). If we hadn't taken part in that, I can't imagine it'd have taken us too long to explore the little village, lovely as it is, so it really added a lot to our experience and made this a really full afternoon out. 

I imagine if you have a particular love for the 1980 movie, Popeye in general, or just the process of set production and filming of movies, this would be a cracking place to visit. If you don't know the movie and don't care about Popeye,.. it's still definitely a well worth a trip! 

Saturday 20 May 2017

Malta - Mdina, The Silent City

It can be hard, on a family holiday, to strike the right balance between 'doing stuff' and 'doing nothing', both of which are great and valid ways to spend precious holiday time. When we booked to go to Malta, I had loads of ideas of places I wanted to visit, towns I wanted to explore, islands to discover - - the kids just wanted to hang out in the pool all week!

On the way to our hotel from the airport, however, we drove past an impressive looking fortress standing proud high upon the hills above us. "That.." we were informed by our stressed-looking Thomas Cook lady "is Mdina, The Silent City."

There's nothing like a cool sounding name to get the youngsters interested so (after a couple of days in the pool of course) they were excited to explore this mysterious sounding place.

We were reliably informed that getting round Malta on public transport was a piece of cake, and helpfully there was a bus stop right outside out hotel. It'll cost you 1.50E for two hours on the bus, but Malta is tidgy so that'll get you pretty much anywhere in the country - even with the 'relaxed' bus scheduling you may come across!

I'll admit that I was a little nervous about the journey as I'm not really a bus aficionado - I don't even like to take them in my home city (I'm not a public transport snob, I love a good train, I just don't trust my ability to get where I'm supposed to properly on a bus!), but despite my worries we soon arrived just outside the ancient city walls.

The kids took the description of Mdina as the 'silent city' quite literally, and I think were a little surprised that there is in fact some noise sometimes. The little gaggles of loud tourists were definitely not silent, but they were easy enough to avoid and there plenty of quiet, peaceful little streets to discover too.

(Though the sounds of the plentiful tweeting birds that just appear from holes in the walls everywhere are often heard, but no one was complaining about that!)

We'd been told that the Fontanella Tea Garden was a particularly top spot for an afternoon cake stop, so I couldn't help but make my excuses to pop in when we stumbled across it. It was pretty busy but we managed to find a table right at the top of the café that had the most magnificent views across the island.

As good as the views were, the cakes were equally as impressive!

Between us we had a slice of the chocolate orange cake, banoffee cake, and strawberry meringue, lemon sorbet, fruit smoothie and strawberry milkshake and a thick gooey coconut hot chocolate. It all came to a little over 20E - great value for the size and quality of the cakes and the special location! (The hot food delivered to the tables around us looked and smelled amazing too, but I'm aaaaallllll about the cake!)

We were enticed inside an attraction called 'The Knights of Malta' by a convincing lady in a costume. Now, costume-led tourist attractions aren't always rubbish, but....

I'm sure it was fine, really - it's a video about the history of Mdina, followed by a walk through various historical scenes with an audio commentary. However I missed half the sound on the video (technical issues caused by children), and my little lady freaked out a wee at some of the violent scenes and wanted to leave, so I really didn't have the chance to learn too much about the Knights of Malta! Ooops!

Though the nice costumed lady did lend me a stool so I could sit outside in the sun while we waited for the boys to finish up!

On balance though, I think our time would have been generally better spent just pottering round the pretty streets of Mdina!

I for one was really glad we managed to make it away from the hotel for a little while and have the chance to explore such a lovely and unique place - and the kids didn't even miss the pool that much!

Friday 5 May 2017

April Happenings, May Plans

May already, wowsers!

We had a really nice quiet April, actually. The insanity of the last few months at work has thankfully calmed a little, allowing a more slow paced month which I think is what I needed!

The main thing we did in April was a lovely family holiday to Malta, taken over Easter. Our destination was picked quite randomly - after my suggestion of a trip to Cornwall was voted down by the kids, we just picked the place with the biggest pool we could find for our budget! It worked out a treat though, it's a beautiful place and everyone had a great time. There's bound to be more about it here once I get my photos organised!

The weekend before we went, I had a karate grading. I won't lie, it nearly killed me - I am definitely not fit enough for those longer and more intense sessions. I was fast asleep by about 8pm that night, I was so worn out! But I passed, and I got to eat great food as a reward! Tradition dictates that any big karate event - gradings, tournaments - is followed by a trip out for dinner (mainly cos I'm usually too knackered afterward to cook!)

It was my turn to choose a venue so we headed to the Classic Persian Restaurant - this place the number one restaurant in Bradford according to tripadvisor, and its only a few minutes walk from my house, so it was a bit of an obvious choice really! The food was amazing, as always - and I got to eat alllll that homus (their spelling) myself, as no one else likes it! Delicious!

Apart from that though, we didn't get up to much in April. The last couple of weekends we mainly spent at home - we did get a bit of tidying done, and we had my nephew over to stay, watched a couple of films - stuff like that but nothing you'd really call 'adventuring'.

The sunny weather at the minute has me itching to get out and about though - so hopefully I'll have a bit more to tell you about at the end of the month!

For a start, little miss was asking about how to make cheese the other day (she wants her own farm when she's grown up so needs to be building her knowledge of such things!) and since I don't actually know much other that it involves milk, I thought I might take her to the Wensleydale Creamery to learn from the experts. (Also so I can eat all the cheese of course!)

We have a wedding coming up in May too, I do love weddings and I'm really looking forward to that - though no idea yet what I'm wearing and I'm running out of time to work it out, eek!

And then at the end of the month we are going to take advantage of the bank holiday and run away to Dublin for a couple of days. The kids are away on a camping trip and I'd get bored at home without them, is my excuse!

How was your April? What have you got lined up for May?
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