The pinnacle of luxury, Malta style.
The Phoenicia hotel changed my whole life on Malta. Okay yes, that’s dramatic. But let’s rewind for the details.
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Right around November, a little winter escape was in order, as the bone-chilling Swiss cold-rolled in. As my finger swept the Mediterranean coast of Google Maps, I noticed Malta and assumed that it was just another little slice of Italian heaven. A few clicks and a Google flights search later, I was booked and set for a weekend getaway on Malta.
MALTA THE COUNTRY
Just days before jetting off to the island, I decided that we should have a few plans and that’s when the search and discovery began. “It’s a nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers, including the Romans Wars, Knights of St. John, the French, and” I read in the Google sidebar description of the country.
“Wait! Malta is a nation?!” I thought, completely confused. Yes, it is! And the Holy Bible will show you the receipts. Acts 28 of the Bible tells the story of Paul the Apostle, shipwrecked on the island on his way to Rome. As a good Christian and curious traveler, I was excited to learn all about it, over lunch, with the fabulous head of PR and lifestyle at the Phoenicia Malta, on my second trip to Malta. And over dinner with the marketing head of the Malta Tourism Authority. More on Malta in a separate article.
This little island nation is full of big surprises and they reach far beyond the obvious sun and sea that pique your curiosity at the start.
Valletta: the capital of Malta, a UNESCO heritage site and the highlight of our three-day trip. While we focused on Valletta, we chose to stay in Sliema per the advice of a few Malta travel blogs. In hindsight, I realize just how important it is to check your source before making any locational decisions. Sliema was popular, yes…touristy… yes. It has all the makings of a one-stop island vacation shop… for 20-somethings. Bike rides, pedal boats, boat tours, shopping and nightclubs. We were looking for something a little more cultured and a lot more sophisticated. So we asked our resident concierge where we could find a nice five-star hotel with a great ambiance, and nice drinks.
“Hmm. The Phoenicia Hotel, it’s our iconic Hotel. Just outside of Valletta, “ he instructed. “You’ll just take the ferry, which departs every 30-minute walk up to the center of the city. Pass through the city gate, and you’ll see it right there.” So, we did and the moment we stepped into the Palm Court Lounge our trip had taken a pivotal turn for the awesome.
THE HOTEL AND THE CHOCOLATE CAKE
“Do you know what made me stay here?” I asked Pat the PR and Lifestyle head. “No,” she humored me. “The chocolate cake!” I blurted out, hardly waiting for a response. “I came here for the nice setting, had a tea, and then moved to the restaurant Terrace where I had the most decadent slice of chocolate cake I have ever eaten. A real-life #foodorgasm. Pat laughed her elegantly polite giggle and began describing how the whole team came together during the coronavirus pandemic to make the hotel beam for guests once they would be ready to reopen after lockdown. They painted, cleaned, and found creative ways to wow guests. One of the creations that came out of the hiatus was the chocolate cake. The first bites felt sensual melting in my mouth. Layer upon layer of dynamic chocolate flavors and textures. With every last bite, I could feel the love and intention invested over the two months it took to make this masterpiece. The chocolate cake sent me into sweet submission. Even the accompanying tea was beautiful. I was home and this was my standard of living.
It was nearly 4:00 in the afternoon and even with only one night left on Malta I knew that I had to take in the full experience of the Phoenicia Hotel. Nothing shapes a vacation quite like five-star hospitality. Smiles are a commodity, your comfort is a pleasure, the beds are like clouds and the fragrances are sumptuous. Detail by detail, the Phoenicia Hotel delivered on every expectation. With all of our luggage still in Sliema, we settled into our new home for the night. Bouncing on the bed like children, we were delightfully giddy at the new change of pace.
THE DEEP NATURE SPA
At a quarter to six, we hopped on the elevator and made our way down to the brand-new Deep Nature Spa, the hotel’s French luxury import. During our visit to the restaurant and the lounge, everyone swooned as they talked about the newly finished spa and insisted that we pay it a visit. We arrived and the spa was everything they said it would be. The Maltese stone walls, walnut timber, marble, flowing water and soft filtered light presented the perfect retreat from the bustling city of Valletta. We were eager to dive in, but the clock had struck six and the spa was officially closed. Seeing our pouting disappointment the gracious front desk host granted us a one-hour VIP pass to use the spa while they finished cleaning. Just us, an ancient wall, a French spa, and a Himalayan salt therapy room.
“This Is the life,” we exhaled counting our blessings, enjoying the swim in our nether garments. Only my second visit to the hotel; however, could prove just how amazing this Deep Nature Spa experience really is. The facility is devine, but the massage was on a whole new level. Having visited some of the best spots around the world between Bora-Bora back to Thailand. I can proudly say that this French technique is worthy of note. My masseuse’s hands moved fluidly, gently, and somehow made their way into every knot without disrupting the profoundly pacifying relaxation that overcome me. The aromas were a perfect gateway, the sounds a careful conduit, and the whole experience from “Welcome to “Have a lovely day” was benevolently complete.
It was a long and exhausting day in Valletta, so as our tummies rumble, we knew we’d reached our next opportunity to explore another side of the hotel: The Phoenix restaurant. We entered the restaurant just after 8:00 and it was empty. The room was vast, grand, and awkward, like the VIP section of an apocalypse. Nevertheless, we were excited to have all eyes on us anyway.
A rich native Maltese cabernet Syrah, sumptuous beef cheeks that melt at the touch of your mouth, a 500 calorie French-style potato puree and my diet was furious. My soul; however, was euphoric. We dine merrily as we spoke to our server about travel, culture, and her experience abroad. Then just before our evening concluded, we peeked into the club bar.
“I’m sorry that’s closed right now,” the restaurant and bar manager swooped in behind to stop us from entering.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I just wanted to see what’s in here. It just looks so beautiful and has such alluring energy. I can’t imagine what it must be like during normal business times,” I charmed, needing to get a closer look at the dark wood walls adorned with photos dating back to the hotel’s open.
“Yes, sorry,” he paused, regretfully, looking around. “It’s just that all bars are closed right now, but… let’s have a quick look,” he ushered us in with a discreet waving gesture.
“You know, the queen, when she was a princess, used to come here while she lived on Malta, he queried in his Albanian accent.
“Wow! No, I didn’t know. I had no clue,” we chuckled with great surprise. It was selling the grandeur of the bar in this magnificent hotel and we were happy to be sold. A quick look turned into a one-hour stroll down history lane. We finished dinner, waved goodbye to our new Phoenix friends, and made our way upstairs to our bedroom on the second floor.
THE ROOMS: CLOUD NINE
The halls were quiet, the room was crisp and the only sound that sang out over the conditioned air was the white noise of Triton’s Fountain – the bronze fountain designed by Vincent Apap shone brightly under the dark night sky lulling all beyond the city gate to sleep and we were next
“How blessed are we?” I turned taking in the tiny, but quaint room, full-sized bed, oversized rectangular pillows, the slender azure vanity all peering into the neutral earth-tone bathroom. I let my head sink into the pillow. As my body succumbed to the cradle of a mattress. One last breath of luxury, I exhaled, “Yep. Good to be home.”