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Episode 4 - Culture and Heritage in Ireland
Take a trip to Christ Church Cathedral in the heart of Dublin, Ireland on this episode of Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast series, in partnership with Tourism Ireland.
Join Rebecca Miles, the new host of Charitable Travel’s TIPs as she speaks to Susanne Reid who has worked at the Cathedral for over seven years. Journey through the Cathedral’s history, and uncover the stories it holds from the past 1,000 years.
Bec Miles: Hello, and welcome to Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast. My name’s Rebecca Miles, I’m a travel journalist and the host of this podcast series, otherwise known as TIPs. We hope to give you lots of great travel tips today, but most importantly we intend to transport you from wherever you are right now, perhaps you’re walking through the park, or maybe you’re squashed into a crowded commuter train, to a place that will inspire you.
Today, we’re traveling to Dublin. It’s a city I’m sure many of you are familiar with, but to help us get under the skin of the place and reveal an alternative side to it we’re talking to Susanne Reid, who works at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin – more formally known as the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.
The Cathedral has been at the centre of Dublin life for nearly 1,000 years. It celebrates its millennium in 2028, and Susanne has been working at the ancient building for seven of those years. While seven years to you or I is the time we typically spend at senior school, for Susanne, it’s made her appreciate that good things take time. The cathedral really was built to last.
Within the Cathedral’s grey stone walls, you’ll find one of the largest crypts in Britain and Ireland, lots of exquisitely detailed floor tiles, and many quiet corners. It’s these spots that Susanne finds most fascinating. And despite having worked here for seven years, she’s surprised at how often she uncovers new stories.
People come from all over the world to visit Christ Church Cathedral, because they’re religious or interested in the architecture or the history, and all the stories this building tells. Its position in Dublin, on the edge of Temple Bar and 10 minutes’ walk from Trinity college, makes it a must when exploring the city.
But you don’t want to hear me tell you all about this. I’m going to let Susanne the talking and share with us, her insight into Christ Church cathedral and the city of Dublin.
So welcome, Susanne. Thanks so much for joining us. Now. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Dublin and visited Christ Church Cathedral. Can you take me back there? Metaphorically? What does it look like? How does it smell as you walk in? What can you hear?
Susanne Reid: I think Bec, even if it has been a long time since you were at Christ Church, I guess a building that has stood at the heart of a city for almost a thousand years, there’s that reassurance and comfort in that we don’t do dynamic or enormous changes.
So, there would be that comforting familiarity as you return to see us for another time. It’s right in the heart of Dublin city, surrounded by roads, and buses, and traffic, and city life. But once you come through the gates to the cathedral, It’s really a different time, and place, and space.
So, you’re, you’re coming into really an oasis in the city. You’ll, you know, there will be birds. We have two beehives in our, in our Chapter House ruins now, and there’s a lot of planting. And at particular times of the year, the, the colours change in the cathedral grounds. When you come into the cathedral, I suppose, there’s that comforting smell of again like beeswax and, and you see candles and you know, gentle lighting, and just an overwhelming sense of calm in that place.
Bec Miles: I can feel my shoulders dropping a few notches already just hearing you talk about that sort of peaceful calm place.
Susanne Reid: That’s it, and I think too, depending on what time of the day you’ve chosen to come in and see us, you know, you might catch one of our organists rehearsing, or you might catch the choir rehearsing.
Or you might even be there for one, one of the lovely song services that happen throughout the week as the choir maintain the centuries long pattern of song liturgy in the cathedral.
Bec: Gorgeous. So, when visitors arrive at the cathedral what’s the first thing they’re greeted with?
Susanne Reid: So, I guess I am slightly contradicting myself here because we’re always working on something at Christ Church and that’s what keeps it so relevant and vibrant in the city. So, when you come onto the grounds of the cathedral, now there is a lovely viewing platform which allows visitors to really take in the expanse of the cathedral and its precincts.
And also just, you know, it’s a great space for those photographs and the sort of setting of the scene, if you like. When you come onto the viewing platform, there is some bone conduction technology there, which allows visitors to use their own bones and cutting-edge hearing technology to feel and experience some of the sounds of the cathedral, the base sounds of the heavier cathedral bells, and also some sounds of the organ.
We then also have a new installation there, which is a bronze of the cathedral and its precincts in the 1370s, which sets the scene again for the visitor. They have some sense of the, you know, some of the buildings that are not in perfect repair on the grounds, what they would once have been, and some sense of the footprint of the cathedral at that time.
We’re very keen on being inclusive to all at Christ Church. So that bronze for example has braille on it and is it children’s height and wheelchair height so that anyone who comes on to the cathedral grounds can experience it and touch it.
Bec Miles: Oh, wonderful. I love the sound of that new cutting-edge technology, juxtaposed with this ancient building. So, do you have to actually wear the, is it a case of you have to wear something on your head to get the sound?
Susanne Reid: Not at all. It’s low tech in that regard. It’s your body that conducts the sound. So, you place your elbows on a railing, and there’s one at a children’s height and for those in wheelchair height as well, and by doing that you feel the vibration of the sound up through your body and into your ears. Yeah.
Bec Miles: Wow, how incredibly immersive.
Susanne Reid: Yes, exactly. Yeah. It’s certainly the only place we’re aware of it being used in Ireland, at the moment anyway.
So, then I guess we’re down onto the stone labyrinth, which people can use for a little bit of quiet reflection, what’s also very sweet is we see children using it just to kind of follow each other around in circles and the experience it in different ways. And then you’re coming into the building itself. I know some of you listening today will be wondering about bringing groups to the cathedral. and we welcome groups.
We have a web app which can be downloaded in advance. It’s available in five languages, French, German, English, Spanish, and Italian. And it takes the visitor through the cathedral and the stories and the interpretation there is in three different strands. Christ Church and the City, Power and Politics, and Music and Spirituality. So, visitors have the opportunity to do really quite a gentle Christ Church visit, which would take maybe around 35/40 minutes following one of those strands, they can hop between them or, they can spend hours in the building and do all three. But it really has brought the building to life. It’s done in an ‘eyes up’ way. So, you’re discovering and exploring as you walk through the building,
We’ve used the voices of the city, somewhat, in these audio guides. So, for example, we have the heart of Lawrence O’Toole in the cathedral, Dublin’s patron saint, and there is the member of Garda Síochána, the Irish police force who discovered the heart after it’s theft, who tells the story of it’s returned to the cathedral.
Bec Miles: Ah, brilliant. So, what’s it like working in such a historically significant building?
Susanne Reid: I think that sometimes, you know, people imagine when you work in a cathedral that it’s a very gentle space and that, you know, that there isn’t really, maybe that much to do. In fact, it’s, it’s quite the opposite.
It’s, a very busy environment to work in for those of us who are charged with, running the cathedral. Making sure it’s open 364 days a year, making sure that it’s kept to the standard that it needs to be, that it deserves to be kept to, and also delivering services, exhibitions, events, and tours for people coming on a daily basis.
It is an extraordinary building, and it’s quite a privilege to work in it because, as I wander round, my favourite time to come into Christ Church is very early in the morning, and sometimes when I come in, the organ scholar is there ahead of me playing, and it might just be me and this wonderful music in this historic space and you’re reminded of the purpose of the building and also of what a privilege it is to be there. Maybe I’m there seven years, just it’s a real snapshot. And you think, you know, how long the cathedral has been there, almost 1,000 years, it’ll celebrate its millennium in 2028.
So, we do find ourselves increasingly having those requests sometimes for groups to come in before the daily pattern of worship commences or the visiting starts, and they experience that maybe that dappled light coming in stained glass or just the peace of the building.
It’s very special to be there by yourself. I like that quiet moment before the day starts, it sort of sets me up to handle the tasks that will be coming as the day goes on, and I’m also often struck as I wander around looking at things, or if I’m attending something in the cathedral sitting somewhere where I don’t normally sit that you’re looking at architectural features or stone masonry, or something in the floor tiles, or a light fitting, or just some feature that you don’t really remember having noticed before. And I think for those who have come to see us, maybe in the past, it’s definitely worth a second or a third foray into the building because you will definitely pick up something that you didn’t notice first or second or third time around.
So, I think that, you know, when people construct something like Christ Church, it’s, you know, they built these buildings to last and unfortunately, the fortunes of the cathedral have fluctuated down through the centuries, But the most recent piece of work that was done in the cathedral. And when I say recent, I mean the 1870s was thanks to money given to the cathedral by Henry Rowe, who was the largest distiller of whiskey in Europe at the time.
And he donated around the today’s equivalent around €29 Million for the restoration of Christ Church. And at the time they went to London and street George Edmond Street was the ecclesia architect who was brought to Dublin for the restoration of Christ Church. In my office, I’m lucky enough to have some photographs dating back to that restoration, and it’s definitely a different health and safety environment to the one that people see today because there’s scaffolding with big bamboos you know, held together with rope and these very serious looking gentlemen wearing top hats and tails standing, observing the, the work scene.
Bec Miles: So, no hard hats.
Susanne Reid: No, not a hard hat in sight. And Street’s approach was not the careful conservation one that is taken today. When anything happens in Christ Church, he liked a minimal aesthetic in, in a building. So, any of the monuments that he didn’t like were either thrown away or moved to the cathedral’s crypt
The result is, is something quite spectacular, but we certainly wouldn’t be attempting to do anything quite so dramatic these days that’s for sure
Bec Miles: No. I mean there must be, oh, no you carry on.
Susanne Reid: I was going to tell you a little bit about our crypt.
Bec Miles: Yeah, do. I’d love to hear more about the crypt. It sounds incredible.
Susanne Reid: So, the crypt is right underneath the whole length of the nave of the cathedral and its Eastern chapels. So, it’s the largest in Ireland. And as part of the millennium project in 2000, they put a proper floor in it, because up until then it was just loose clay floor.
And it really is quite an eclectic mix mixture of things that are stored down there. We have a mummified cat and rat that were found in the organ pipes and James Joyce references them in Finnegans Wake. The story goes that they couldn’t get a sound out of the largest organ pipes, and when they took them apart, they found this fellow, this, mummified cat and mummified rat in the organ. So, they’re kind of locally been given the name, Tom and Jerry, but sometimes our north American visitors refer to them as Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons.
We also have Ireland’s oldest copy of Magna Carta in the cathedral crypt and it’s Magna Carta Hibernia the Irish Magna Carta. So, it has all those wonderful headlines. That no man will be denied the right to justice, and all those great principles, but also they tell us who’s allowed to fish on the River Liffey down the hill from the cathedral and it’s situated
Bec Miles: Love the detail.
Susanne Reid: Yeah, [the Magna Carta is situated] just beside the Williamite commemorative plate, which was presented to the cathedral after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, its entirely priceless. And the Silver Salver, which is the centrepiece of the, the plate is one of a pair. The other’s on display with the Crown Jewels in London, but for our visitors, I think it’s always interesting to remember that this, I suppose is a testament to the sort of the power and the politics of the cathedral, but also was not designed as an ornament.
It would’ve been put out on the high altar on highdays and holidays, big feast days like Christmas and Easter Sunday. Our visitors can get very close and see it in great detail and in general, there’s no time pressure for having to move all along. Like you, you do when you’re on the conveyor belt with the Crown Jewels.
Bec Miles: Yeah, absolutely.
Susanne Reid: So, the other thing that I would possibly mention, in the crypt is the have a lovely, dress up area, which we developed as something we thought would be used by, by children and by families. In fact, we find that it has huge appeal for all ages. So we see people dressed as strong bow or as a monk, having sword fights with each other in, in our crypt from time to time, right beside the costumes that Joan Bergen designed for the TV show, The Tudors which was filmed in Christ Church.
Bec Miles: Oh, my gosh, you got spanning all the ages. It’s fabulous. I imagine as well, people must visit the cathedral for all sorts of different reasons. I mean, if you’re particularly religious, what are the best bits to seek out? Or perhaps if you’re particularly into your history, what are the must-see’s?
Susanne Reid: So, I think I would really recommend that people who are interested in coming for worship purposes would try to choral service. The choir is we’ve maintained a professional choir for over five hundred years. It’s an adult mixed voice choir, adult men, and woman, and really considered to be the foremost church choir on the island of Ireland. No false modesty here.
Bec Miles: No, sing it loud.
Susanne Reid: Yeah. Loud and proud. So I would encourage anyone who has an interest in choral music or who would like to come for worship to come when the choir are singing.
However, sometimes people are drawn to the building, not because they want to participate or be part of a formal service, sometimes they really would like a quiet moment. And I would say then to maybe find the Lady Chapel or the Chapel of St. Blood and just have a moment or two to yourself there. And again, at the start of the day or, around lunch time tend to be quite quiet times in the building and they’re a good time to come for that purpose.
For visiting. I would you know, I think our audio guide really has enhanced the visitor experience for so many who come to see us. But please do also take the time, we have vergers who are like the caretakers of the building. They’re robed have a chat with one of those. Talk to our welcome desk team. Talk to the gang down at the gift shop because they love to tell the stories of the building to interact with the people coming and going. That’s why they’ve chosen to work in somewhere like Christ Church.
I would also say for those who are fit and able, it’s worthwhile considering taking one of our tower tours as well. Christ Church has nineteen bells which are rung in full circle. They added 2 as part of the millennium project and are now listed in the Guinness Book of Records, as the cathedral with the most bells, rung in full circle, anywhere in the world. the tower tour takes around 40 minutes. It’s really behind the scenes. So the Cathedral is always immaculate, beautiful serene, and people tend to behave quite formally when they’re in that space.
Bec Miles: Yeah.
Susanne Reid: We take them then up a winding medieval staircase, 86 stone stairs. They go across the roof at the level of the south transept(?) roof. So you have views out over the Dublin mountains, over Dublin city. Then you’re in a little tiny door. I always call it like a Hobbit door into the ringing chamber and that, you know, it’s quite informal, there’s a kettle, there’s a couch and our ringers are there for practice on a Friday and they ring on a Sunday. And also, for any major occasions.
Those on a bell who are learn about the numerical sequences of ringing, but also they get to have a go at ringing the cathedral bells as well.
So that’s wonderful.
Bec Miles: I love that sound.
Susanne Reid: Yeah, it’s quite special, you know and obviously, you know, photographs possible and, you know, we can see that. That people really enjoy getting behind the scenes a little bit, under the skin of the cathedral.
Bec Miles: Yeah, definitely. So, does that run every Friday?
Susanne Reid: It runs pretty much every day throughout the summer season. And then it’s definitely worth having a look at our website for other times of year. If you’re traveling out of season.
Bec Miles: Brilliant. Okay. Now we’ve touched on a few, but there must have been some really interesting characters throughout the history of the cathedral who were your favourites?
Susanne Reid: I think. You know, since I, I love the, I love that story of the, the heart of Lawrence O’Toole, you know, I love the idea that he was so fond of Dublin and of Christ Church, that his supporters brought his heart back from France. When he unfortunately passed away there, and this is in the 12th century,
We have a large lead heart-shaped object on display in the cathedral. This is the heart attributed to Lawrence O’Toole. And I love that story of people hiding in the cathedral in 2012 and the heart returning to us in 2018 and the, you know, the policeman in charge of the investigation taking the whole thing. So, so personally. I also love the, the story of Henry II coming up the Liffey in a flotilla to attend Christmas mass at Christ Church in the 12th century.
And [I’m] also fascinated that it was the, the cathedral of choice for the coronation of Lambert Simnel. One of the two pretenders to the throne [of England].
Bec Miles: I guess he would’ve had his pick of places.
Susanne Reid: Well, you would’ve thought so, but significant perhaps that it was to Ireland, he came for the coronation.
Bec Miles: Fabulous. Yeah. It sounds like there’s just so much to explore. I mean, and as you say, visit once twice, three times more as you’ll always find something new. But once visitors have finished exploring Christ Church cathedral, where should they head to next?
Susanne Reid: Oh, I mean, I think that’s one of the great beauties of Dublin.
I had a friend here over the weekend and I think that’s what really struck him was just how we could get out and about very easily. It was so walkable. And it really depends on, you know, what, what people are interested in doing. But I think we’re right beside Dublin Castle and the, the great visit there. We’re right beside Teeling’s distillery across the river from the old Jameson distillery. So if people like to taste the whiskey and tour distillery, that very possible as well.
For those who are more into the heritage and that level, that side of culture. I would recommend a stroll from Christ Church down through temple bar, the little cobble streets, maybe a coffee or a glass of something on the way. And then through the front arch, into Trinity college where it it’s so lovely to walk through the college grounds and, and then perhaps visit the old library was the Book of Kells.
I then like to go out and over to Merrion Square, and I’m not one for spending a day in an art gallery, but I do love to pop in and they’ve restored the gallery quite recently.
So, the 18th century rooms are just beautiful. You have a real sense of grandeur and of people who knew how to construct things to last and of quality, but also, you know, you might just pop in and see a Caravaggio, or there are always ongoing exhibitions there, which the last one I went to was Vermeer, and it was excellent, but there’s always something to catch your eye in the National Gallery.
I love, myself, to pop in from time to time to Marsh’s Library. It’s the first public library in Europe. And I suppose we’re all quite used to, you know, picking a book up here or there even downloading one onto our Kindle, but there I think we’re reminded just how precious a commodity a book was. So Narcissus Marsh who founded the library, had some of the books are in chains and still are, and readers were put in cages so they could consult them, but not make off with them. So, it’s quite an interesting little spot to visit too.
There’s a relatively recent Museum of Literature, MoLI on Stephen’s Green. And for those who have a fondness for Dublin, the Little Museum of Dublin on Stephen’s Green is gorgeous. Everything from millennium milk bottles to bits of YouTube memorabilia and always worth calling in there to see what else they’ve decided to put on display.
Bec Miles: Awesome. I mean, it just sounds like it’s such a city for all the senses. You touched on those distilleries. Where else should we be if we’re wanting to eat and drink our way around the city? Where else are you heading to?
Susanne Reid: Well, I think just because where I’m situated, I tend to, you know, I love, it’s a weakness of mine, a nice cup of coffee and a bun or a nice cup of tea and a scone.
Bec Miles: Yes
Susanne Reid: So there’s a gorgeous bakery café just around the corner in Temple Bar from the cathedral called Queen of Tarts. So if you fancied a bowl of soup and then a lemon meringue or something delicious and homemade, I would recommend there. And throughout the summertime, when people are there in the summer, they have tables outside. But a gorgeous cosy interior throughout the year as well.
I think, there’s a lovely boardwalk on the Liffey now, so you can get right down the Liffey and stop off in other places, a gorgeous restaurant, just for quite a special lunch, would be the Winding Stair again, major focus on Irish produce, great selection for vegans and vegetarians as well. And for those who like to have a little glass or something lots of different and unusual wines by the glass.
Tomorrow night we will, in Christ Church, we’ll be having some people to come and do the tour, and at the end of that, we’re working with the chipper, which is across the road, Burdock’s chipper. They’re just across the road from the cathedral really. Tiny little fish and chip shop and they have some of the finest cod and chips on the island. I think. So people love to just get a takeaway fish and chips and come across and sit in the grounds of the cathedral and eat those.
But I think for anyone who likes seafood, or a good pint, or a social environment, Dublin has any amount of choice. I would also say that, you know, it’s very easy as well. If you’re a second- or third-time visitor to the city, it’s so easy to hop on a dart, or a bus and, and get to the seaside. You know, the dart is the local train that goes right along the coast at Dublin Bay. There’s some gorgeous scenery there and very easily you could be in Howth for a walk along the cliffs, or you could be out Dùn Laoghaire, which is a, a port just to the south of the city and get a little, a lovely walk at the Victorian harbour there. And of course, a nice ice cream or, something that lets you know, you’re on holidays at the end of that.
Bec Miles: Definitely what a brilliant mix.
Susanne Reid: Yeah.
Bec Miles: I mean you are so lucky to, to live in the city, live in the heart of it, but if you just have one day free to spend exactly as you wish how do you do it? What do you do?
Susanne Reid: So I would probably start at the, at the seaside and have a dip in the sea for, for, because in, in, on my perfect day, the weather allows me to do that.
Bec Miles: Yeah, absolutely. The weather is exactly as you wish.
Susanne Reid: Exactly. Then I’m having a nice coffee and a scone and getting the dart into the city centre. And probably because I am, I love bookshops, so I’m probably calling into the Gutter Bookshop on Cow’s Lane and probably calling into Dubray Books on Grafton Street. I might even pop into you know, just some of the old, some of the second-hand bookshops around time.
Then I’m meeting a friend and we’re, you know, we’re, we’re maybe doing a little bit of the sightseeing that I haven’t done in some time, or we’re going to experience one of the, the newer things. Like we might take an afternoon tea on the Double Decker bus with the Vintage Tea Time tours.
Bec Miles: Oh, wonderful.
Susanne Reid: On the tour of the city. Yeah. Or maybe I’m getting on the Viking splash tour and taking a World War II Duck or Amphibian through the city roaring at the rest of the people.
But, but really, I’m probably catching up with pals and certainly walking around and maybe just having a, you know, going to Stephen’s Green, which is always beautifully planted throughout the year. And people watching there for a while.
Not really, not being under any time pressure at any point in the day. And just, I suppose a bit like my own version of Ulysses, just having a stroll through the city and noticing the signs and the smells and the people and taking my time to do that.
Bec Miles: Oh, that sounds heavenly. Thank you. You’ve transported us perfectly.
To find out more and book your next holiday to Dublin. Visit www.charitable.travel. Remember that when you book your holiday with Charitable Travel, you can donate 5% of the cost of the trip to a charity of your choice, completely free.
And if you’ve been inspired by Susanne and want to find out more about Christ Church cathedral, visit www.christchurchcathedral.ie, or follow Christ Church Cathedral on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Episode 3 - Atlantic City
Famous for it’s golden beaches, retro boardwalk and glamorous casinos, Atlantic City, New Jersey is one of America’s most beloved seaside resorts.
For this episode we are joined by Heather Colache, Director of Tourism from Meet AC and Meg Lewis, Executive Director of Marketing for Resorts Casino in Atlantic City.
Laura Gelder, Editor of Charitable Traveller Magazine: Hello and welcome to Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast. My name is Laura Gelder and I’m the editor of Charitable Traveller Magazine and the host of this podcast series otherwise known as TIPs. Today, we’re going to whisk you away to the U S for some vitamin C, spelt S-E-A of course, because we’re going to be sharing some great travel tips for one of America’s most beloved seaside resorts, Atlantic City.
This all-American playground sits on the Atlantic coast of New Jersey, just one hour from Philadelphia. And it’s famous for its golden beaches. It’s retro boardwalk with all the fun of the fair. And of course, it’s glamorous casinos, but Atlantic City has so much more to offer than this as you’ll discover, if you like your holidays, action packed, then keep your ears peeled for details of thrilling fun fair rides, wildlife watching excursions out in the sea. Water sports galore and a star-studded calendar of events and concerts to entertain you. If that makes you feel a bit tired, fear not. We’re also going to tell you how to kick back and relax in AC. There’s an incredible choice of restaurants serving cuisine from every corner of the globe, endless streets of fun bars and funky nightclubs and tax-free shopping of course, if retail therapy is your way of pampering yourself. So, sit back and relax. Get ready to take a wander down the world’s first boardwalk with us. I want you to feel the sea breeze in your hair, taste the sweet flavour of saltwater taffy, and hear the sound of the crashing waves mingling with the jingle of those amusement rides.
So today I’m joined by two Atlantic City locals ready to pass on their tips for getting the most out of their home. I’m delighted to have Heather Colache, director of tourism from Meet AC, which is Atlantic City’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Meg Lewis, executive director of marketing for Resorts Casino in Atlantic City.
Okay, thanks so much for joining us today, Heather and Meg. Heather, can you tell us what makes Atlantic City so famous and so unique? It seems to have this reputation as quite a quirky place, kind of an adult playground. Is that fair to say?
Heather Colache, Director of Tourism from Meet AC: Atlantic City actually is a year-round destination. We are an island surrounded by water, and our claim to fame is we are a destination with gaming. So, we have six casino resorts along the Atlantic Ocean and three in the Bay Area, add entertainment and amazing restaurants. And then you have the best adult vacation. However, we do have something for everyone. So Atlantic City and our attractions are legendary.
We have America’s first boardwalk, which is, I guess, a city street that is made out of wood. And it goes along five miles along the Atlantic Ocean there’s shopping restaurants, resorts, hotels, and a lot of things for families to do. So, we do have something for everyone.
Laura: So, it sounds like, it’s a real vacation kind of place. Is it easy to get to? And how would you recommend including it in a holiday Meg?
Meg Lewis, Executive Director of Marketing, Resorts Casino, Atlantic City: It’s actually very easy to get to. We’re centred between in Manhattan, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C, once a visitor lands in any of these areas. It’s very easy to jump on a train, [or a] a bus. Car rentals are very easily available. Another great airport to fly into is Newark Airport, which is actually right in the state of New Jersey. So, there’s four ways to easily get to us and then use us as a home-base to get to any of these other destinations, which are about two hours from us.
Laura: Sure. And how would people include it in a holiday? Do you think that they, they have it as a long break or a city break?
Heather: That’s a great question. And we do a lot of twin city tours with Philadelphia since they’re only 60 minutes from us. So Atlantic City is well-positioned. Atlantic City is within a day’s drive of a third of the nation’s population.
So, it’s an easy drive destination, a lot of our vacationers, especially Brits will come in, they’ll make Atlantic City their home base, and then they’ll do day trips to these different destinations. We also do a lot of packages and tours with Lancaster, with D.C, with different destinations that are a short drive from Atlantic City.
Laura: Obviously Atlantic City is the fun part of that trip?
Heather: We’d like to think so.
Laura: Yeah. So once we’re in Atlantic City, what are the sort of main areas to explore and how do you get about. Is it easy to get about? Heather?
Heather: Atlantic City is quite small and it’s easily walkable. Our legendary Atlantic City Boardwalk is five and a half miles long. It runs along beautiful white beaches, and the Atlantic Ocean. People can bike ride there. They can take taxis. If you want to go over to the Bay Area, which is about a three-minute drive from the ocean. Also, we have form of transportation called the jitneys and jitneys are little minibuses that run 24 hours a day, $2 and 50 cents to take a ride. They’ll take you anywhere within Atlantic City.
Another way to explore Atlantic City is by tours. We have several different, interesting tours. We have over 500 restaurants in Atlantic City so of course we have a fun foodie tour. You can go souvenir shopping. You can go bar hopping. We have a lot of neat and quirky attractions.
We have the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and the third tallest in the United States. We also have dolphin watching, biking tours, birdwatching. We have about 32 golf courses in and around Atlantic City, if someone’s interested in golf and of course fishing as we’re right on the Atlantic Ocean.
Laura: You mentioned that the Jitney I’ve never heard of that before, is that name exclusive to Atlantic City?
Heather: It was, it was actually coined in the early 1900s and jitney does have a meaning to it. And it’s, I think Meg, correct me if I’m wrong. It used to be a wooden nickel is what a jitney was called, and it was a nickel to ride the jitney back when it first started. So, it does have history in Atlantic City. It certainly has changed over the years, but they are a great way to see the city.
Laura: Yeah, it sounds. And obviously not as cheap as a nickel. But it’s still pretty cheap! And you mentioned quite a lot of restaurants and bars in Atlantic City. Could you tell us about some of your favourites, Meg?
Meg: As Heather mentioned, there are hundreds of restaurants and bars located in Atlantic City. I have three favourites that I could talk about right now. The Knife and Fork Inn, which is known for its lobster thermidor, which is absolutely delicious. It was originally opened in 1912 and its architecture and the atmosphere there is just amazing. The same owners that own the Knife and Fork also own a restaurant in Resorts Casino Hotel.
Meg: There’s Dougherty’s Steakhouse, and the name says it all. Steak and unbelievably delicious steak. One of my favourite casual restaurants is the Back Bay Ale House located in historic Gardner’s Basin, which is situated on the bay in Atlantic City. The outdoor dining is unbelievable there. It’s fun to order specialty cocktails and they have light fair there. And you sit outside and watch the boats come and go.
The beach bars in Atlantic City, you can’t miss them. There are five located right on the beach, along the Boardwalk. One of them, Landshark Bar and Grill is open year-round, and it’s the only year-round beach bar on the entire east coast of the United States. It’s located on the North Beach side of the Boardwalk, right in front of Resorts Casino Hotel. And it’s really fun to sit out there while it’s snowing and you can see the snow while you’re sitting on the beach, obviously there’s windows, but you’re nice and warm inside watching it snow over the Atlantic Ocean. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Laura: So would it be fair to say to Atlantic City is quite lively?
Meg: Very lively, and any cuisine you desire you can find in Atlantic City.
Laura: That sounds like a challenge.
Meg: We have the White House Cheese Steak Sub Shop that has been around since the 1900s. What do you think Heather? 1920s?
Heather: I would say 1930s.
Meg: 1930s. People from all over the world come for a White House Cheese Steaks. And they actually ship all over the world and that is definitely a hidden gem on one of the back streets in Atlantic City. That is a must try.
Laura: Did you say a cheese steak?
Meg: Yes. It’s chipped up steak with melted cheese and fried onions on a hard, long roll. And you eat it with French fries.
Heather: And what’s unique about our cheese steaks is that, Atlantic City has won awards for our water quality. I guess my thing is that when you taste the bread in Atlantic City, it tastes so much better than what you would buy in the store.
Meg: Like you cannot make Atlantic City bread say, in Florida.
Laura: Is there a special kind of bread in Atlantic City?
Heather: It’s a sub roll, which is like, it has like a hard crunchy outside, but it’s really soft inside. And that’s what they normally use to make all the cheese steaks. All the restaurants, get their rolls from these bakers. You know, it it’s just the quality of it.
Meg: We’ll have to mail you some of it.
Laura: Won’t be quite as fresh when at arrives, though.
Heather: All of the rolls that are used within not only Atlantic City, but South Jersey come from two bakeries. And literally you have to taste it. Sometimes when I come into work at seven o’clock in the morning, there’s a line of 30 people deep trying to get their cheese steaks for lunch.
Laura: Okay. That sounds like a must then. Yeah. And there’s quite a lot of breweries in Atlantic City as well is that right?
Heather: We actually have one brewery called The Seed. It’s actually an organic brewery. We also have a distillery, however, in our area. We have something called the Wine and Ale Trail within the surrounding communities. They have had breweries and wineries pop up that have won awards all over the world. So, there are certain tours that leave at different times of the day that they can go on these, The Wine and Ale Trial.
Laura: And, after all this food, then we’re going to need to do some activities. So Heather, can you tell us about some of the activities that you can do in Atlantic City? I guess there’s quite a lot of water sports?
Heather: There is. One of the main things I just want to mention is swimming. Of course, in season when we are on the Atlantic Ocean, we are one of the beaches that are protected. So, we have lifeguards that man the beaches, so everyone feels safe. We also have surfing, we have a surf school that will give lessons to teach people how to surf. We don’t have the big waves, like some of the other destinations, but we do pretty good. Fishing, again, we have back bay fishing, which is calm water. So, you don’t get seasick or for those serious fishermen, they can go out onto the Atlantic Ocean and fish for tuna. Dolphin watching, uh, golfing again.
We actually have outlets right in the middle of our city, which offers tax free, shopping on clothes and shoes. Again, one of my favourites, I unfortunately live very close to the outlets I’m there constantly. We have award winning spas. You can bike on the boardwalk and foodie tours again for all of our amazing restaurants.
Laura: And obviously there are some really impressive casino resorts in Atlantic City. Could you tell us a bit about them, Meg, and also what other accommodation options there are?
Meg: Sure, we have nine casinos in Atlantic City and every casino has its own uniqueness. You aren’t feeling lucky at one, it’s very easy to jump over to another one and change your day.
Our casinos are open 24-hours and they offer free beverages on the casino floor as well as designated smoking areas. The sizes of the casinos range from 900 rooms and 1600 slot machines to over 2000 rooms with, over 5,000 slot machines. So, there’s something for everyone’s price point. Of course, each casino has multiple table games and most have sports betting.
Three of our casinos are located in the Bay Area and six along the beach and Boardwalk. North Beach side of the Boardwalk features three casinos working together to promote fun and excitement. It’s a first and unique experience in the industry. Resorts Casino Hotel, Hard Rock Casino, and Ocean Casino have teamed up with Steel Pier, a historic pier located right on the ocean and Showboat Hotel, a non- casino hotel located in this section, these three casinos work together to promote the North Beach area do in such things as festivals at this end, fireworks, things like that to promote this end of the Boardwalk. The other two, as I said, where the Bay and the South Boardwalk. The South Boardwalk consists of three casinos as well.
There’s Caesar’s Casino, Bally’s Casino, and Tropicana Casino and Hotel down there. Over on the Bay Area we have MGM, Harris and Golden Nugget. There are many non-casino hotels in Atlantic City as well. In addition to the non-casino hotels we have, there are accommodations for every price point here. There are bed and breakfasts, hotels, casino hotels, chain hotels and actually right outside of the city, in our next beach town up, you can rent an entire house.
Laura: Obviously, the casino resorts I guess are, the focus of Atlantic City, and they differ quite a lot. Do they, do they have sort of a different feel and different themes to them? They appeal to different people?
Meg: You can definitely find different casinos. We have very modern, we have very historic. Because some of the casinos were built actually from historic buildings.
Laura: The other thing that I know about Atlantic City is that, there’s a lot of big bands and singers and acts that turn up in Atlantic City. So, entertainment seems to be quite big business. Is that fair to say?
Heather: Absolutely. We are known for our entertainment and it’s year-round entertainment. So historic Boardwalk Hall is a 13,000-seat arena and we’ve brought anyone from Lady Gaga. To a rodeo. We also do ice hockey in there and flag football. There literally are such amazing programs that they bring to, uh, Boardwalk Hall. They do Christmas entertainment. They’ll bring in Latin and Asian entertainment, really something for everyone, but it’s not just Boardwalk Hall, every casino has a showroom or has lounges that they do nightly entertainment in. Country/Western acts, we have beach concerts on the boardwalk and also Steel Pier which has been around for a very long time also brings in acts onto the Steel Pier. And one of our major events is Thunder Over The Boardwalk, which happens every August. It’s a military air show free to the public, but you can see it from any angle and anywhere you’re standing in Atlantic City, whether you’re swimming, whether you’re on your boat or just sitting on the beach, it’s really, truly amazing.
Laura: Okay. It sounds, you mentioned quite a few different seasons there’s it sounds like it’s year round. Um, but is there a particularly good time to visit? If you’re looking for, you know, lots of concerts and lots of festivals and things going on?
Heather: I would say the best thing to do is visit our website, which is atlanticcitynj.com into the calendar of events, because Atlantic City’s notorious for putting things on there last minute. We didn’t realize we were going to have beach concerts and then, you know, two months ago, a huge string of beach concerts popped up on the calendar. So, because everybody is promoting it differently, I always tell people to be on the safe side, check it out. Um, of course, summertime will be the most robust with entertainment, but truly you can see something in Atlantic City all year round.
Laura: Yeah. It sounds like. Okay. That’s a good tip. Thanks for that. So, when I think of Atlantic City, I seem to get quite retro images in my head and I get the impression that it’s quite quirky. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of Atlantic City’s more unique attractions Meg and, maybe give us some, some hidden gems that tourists might miss.
Meg: We have a lots of hidden gems. Heather has mentioned a couple already, but I can just go over them again quickly. We just absolutely love our Atlantic City, cruises, which does dolphin watching daily also does sunset cruises, which are very nice. And he does some Back Bay history. He can do some ecological tours that appeal to children and families of all ages. You can grab a beverage on board of that and enjoy all of the sites. We have actually two locations of miniature golf on the Boardwalk. One is located in the North Beach section and one in the middle of town in the Boardwalk. There’s a huge indoor arcade located at the Showboat, which is a non-casino property in the Northeast section. It was a casino at one time. And actually the arcade has taken over the casino floor there, and it will soon the showboat house, a waterpark and indoor go-karts. So that will be a fun place for everybody to visit. Right across from Showboat and the Hard Rock is this historic Steel Pier that Heather had spoken about. It extends about a thousand feet into the ocean and it’s home to amusement rides, fun Boardwalk games, a large observation wheel, a crab house, and grab and go snacks. It has two bars and live entertainment, seven days a week throughout the summer. Boardwalk Hall that Heather spoke about is another great historic site in Atlantic City.
It’s actually home to the largest and oldest organ in the world. The pipes of the organ are actually built into the walls of Boardwalk Hall. Um, they have free tours every Wednesday. You can go in and go into the back and see where the pipes are and it’s just amazing how it was built. And of course visitors can’t miss our lighthouse.
That’s located in the Northeast section of town. Heather had mentioned it’s the third tallest in the United States and it’s the tallest in the state of New Jersey. It has 228 steps to get up to the top though. I think it’s doable, but some good exercise. One attraction that you can’t miss is Lucy, The Elephant.
Lucy The Elephant is actually located in Margate City, which is about five miles south of Atlantic City. Very easy to get to though it’s a straight run. Lucy is a six-story high elephant. And it was originally built in 1881 and it was put in Margate to promote real estate sales in the area, though. It is a must-see you can actually go into Lucy The Elephant. Um, and sometimes they create a sleepover and Lucy The Elephant, uh, as a special event. And it’s just absolutely amazing to look at. And just a few more last, see attractions. We have Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, outlet shopping, the Windmill Farm, breweries, distilleries, axe throwing. We have jitney rides and fishing, golf. Heather has mentioned most of them. So, there is plenty to do here. I think you’d have to come for a month to catch it all.
Laura: Yeah, definitely. So, and what is inside Lucy The Elephant?
Meg: Lucy has stairs. It’s kind of like a lighthouse. It’s got a gift shop and when I was a kid, it actually had a little library in there. They’re actually undergoing renovations to her right now. Is that correct? Heather? They’re still doing that?
Heather: They are actually inside is a museum. Um, they play the history of how she came about, and then you can walk up to the howdah, which has a 360-degree view of Margate, Atlantic City and the surrounding area. It truly is unique.
Laura: Yeah. That’s certainly something I’ve not heard of before, but it’s definitely unique. I was going to ask about the Pier, the Steel Pier actually. Um, cause it seems like that’s quite an iconic part of the city and it sounds like it’s kind of like an old fashioned fairground.
Heather: It has rollercoasters. I mean, it has a lot of rides. It has like carnival games on it and then it has like the fair, like cotton candy, um, funnel cake. They have the observation wheel. They also have helicopter rides. Um, it’s one of the only helicopter pads in Atlantic City. I think the other ones at the hospital and it’s right in front of Hard Rock Casino.
Laura: Okay. So you, you can take off on a helicopter from the pier, is that right?
Heather: Yes! They do city tours.
Laura: And so, they just fly you up and down so that you can see everything?
Heather: They do it like a kind of like a skyline tour, I mean, because it’s such an iconic pier, it was opened in 1898 and Donald Trump owned it at one point. He leased it to a family for 99 years, then they ended up buying it. At the Catanoso family now owns it and maintains it and they’re always updating it with new and unique attractions.
Laura: Is there a kind of entrance price, like a theme park? Can you just go on and you just decide what rides you want to go on?
Heather: You can do a couple of different things. You can buy ticket books or you can buy day-long wristbands. So, where you can simply just stroll on the pier and check everything out before you decide what you want to do.
Laura: Have some cotton candy whilst you decide?
Heather: You can have cotton candy, or you can have cotton candy cocktail, because they have a bar.
Laura: So that’s alcohol. Cotton candy. That sounds dangerous. Well, my next question, Heather was going to be, could you take us through your perfect day and night, I guess? Um, since it seems to be a night-time kind of place in Atlantic city.
Heather: I would love to. So first thing, when you arrive at Atlantic City at your hotel, you can drop your bags at the bell stand and head out for lunch on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Just sitting there breathing the fresh salt air in taking in all the quirky people that are walking up and down the Boardwalk really sets the stage for Atlantic city. Stroll the Boardwalk, take in the unique sites. Uh, take a ride on Steel Pier’s Observation Wheel. I am afraid of heights, but I decided I was the tourism director and I needed to take that ride. It was amazing. I tried to pretend I wasn’t, 227 feet in the air, but to just get the view of Atlantic City and all the water that surround us was truly unique and it was in the evening. So you get to see the sunset, which was really beautiful. Or if you’re very adventurous, you can take a city skyline helicopter ride, then head back to your hotel, check-in dinner and a show is a must. Atlantic city, we are on the water so seafood is what we are famous for. Fresh seafood, right from the Atlantic Ocean.
And then after the show, which could be comedy, it could be a headliner, or it could simply be in one of the bars in the casino. Try your hand in the casino poker or slot machines. It’s a lot of fun. When you hear the bells ring on the slot machine it’s so exciting, whether it’s a dollar or a hundred dollars, it’s still exciting.
And the next day. The breakfast in Breadsticks, which is my favourite restaurant in Resorts because the views of Atlantic City and the beach and Boardwalk are beautiful. So, breakfast at Breadsticks, go to the beach or do a dolphin watching cruise. Have afternoon cocktails at a beach bar that plays great music, and then perhaps dinner at one of our local favourites.
And we have some truly interesting places to eat. And when you had said before, have you ever went to an interesting restaurant, I have to say in all my years in Atlantic City and I’m a native of this area. I did not know we had an Afghan French restaurant. I didn’t know what that food was and I thought I would check it out. It’s literally in the heart of Atlantic City, you walk in and the courtyard takes you to a different destination and the food is really lovely. And we had a wonderful time there. We do have some restaurants that you bring your own alcohol too, which is, I think very interesting. So you can enjoy your favourite cocktail or wine while you’re having dinner.
Or you can go to one that also serves and has a bar. After you have your dinner, I think that the best thing to do would be to relax in one of the bars in the casinos. Multitude of them, very interesting ones. There’s Margaritaville, It’s Five O’clock Somewhere. You have an eighties bar. Um, if you like jazz, we have a jazz bar. There’s also karaoke in Atlantic City. So, whatever you like, and then unfortunately you’d have to leave the next.
Laura: I know you talked about people watching, I guess, the casinos are very good for people watching and the Boardwalk is probably good for people watching. Is that quite a big activity in Atlantic City?
Heather: It is! along the Boardwalk, there’s a lot of benches. So, people just like to sit and sip a cocktail, just kind of take in the sights and, you know, there’s people from all walks of life and also street entertainers that go up and down the boardwalk. So you never know what you’re going to see. Uh, I think the last week I was on a boardwalk with my grandchildren, and we had an impromptu parade of people that dressed up as dolphins and sharks. It was a beach theme. I thought I got it.
Laura: You didn’t expect that?
Heather: No, but it was entertaining!
Laura: Um, did you have anything to add there, Meg, anything that Heather didn’t mention that you would have in your perfect day?
Meg: My perfect day is sitting on the beach all day and going to a concert at night. That’s my perfect day. So, Heather covered that.
Laura: Okay. So I’ve got a bonus question for one or both of you, and it’s related to Charitable Travel’s Make Travel Count Campaign. So, it’s all about getting people to think about how they can use their holidays to make a positive impact in the world. I just wanted to ask how our listeners can make trouble counts when they visit Atlantic City?
Heather: We work really closely for Charitable Travel. One of the things that Meet AC, which is the company that I work for, loves about that company, is that they give back to different places in the world. And I think just by booking your vacation to Atlantic City or any other destination through Charitable Travel really does make a difference. It’s so refreshing to see something as simple as a travel company, just giving a small percentage to make things better in the world. We love that.
Laura: To find out more and book your next holiday to Atlantic City visit charitable.travel/atlantic-city. Or you can ring up and speak to the team of expert travel advisors. For more information about Atlantic City, you can also visit MeetAC.com
Episode 2 - Bradenton, an unspoiled slice of Florida
Dive in to the beautiful Bradenton Area of Florida in this episode, as we speak to Kelly Clark, Chief Marketing Officer at Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Ed Chiles, a restaurateur, keen fisherman and sustainability expert from Bradenton. Listen now for a 30 minute holiday!
Laura Gelder, Editor of Charitable Traveller Magazine: Hello, and welcome to Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast. My name is Laura Gelder. I’m the editor of Charitable Traveller Magazine and the host of this podcast series, otherwise known as TIPS. We hope to give you lots of great travel tips today, but mostly we intend to transport you from wherever you are right now, perhaps your favourite armchair, or maybe squished into a crowded commuter train to a place that will inspire you.
Today, we’re hopping across the pond to America’s Sunshine State, specifically the Bradenton, Anna Maria Island, and Longboat key area. It’s Florida, but perhaps not as you know it because a holiday to the Bradenton area is like a trip back in time. Right in the centre of Florida’s Gulf coast, the Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat key area is only 45-minutes from the bright lights of Tampa and just two hours from the thrills of Orlando.
But the vibe is very much off the beaten path. Forget freeways, high rises, and mega malls Here you’ll find sandy lanes leading to the sea. Cute clapboard cottages and artisan shops and farmer’s markets. There’s plenty to do in the Bradenton area, but no pressure to do much at all. We’re going to hear about the powdery, white sand beaches, the pristine ocean, where you can paddle over manatees or sail alongside dolphins and the eclectic community that you can discover here. I’m also going to apologize now for making you hungry. As we discuss the mouth-watering seafood options that the region has to offer.
So, I’m not going to tell you all about this. Instead, we’re going to hear it all from our guests. Kelly Clark, chief marketing officer at Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Ed Childs, an entrepreneur keen fishermen and sustainability experts. Kelly and Ed are both Florida born and bred. So, they’re going to offer us a unique and crucially an insider perspective on the Bradenton area.
Thanks so much for joining us, Kelly, and Ed, I’m just going to do a little brief intro to both of you. So, Kelly, you’re the chief marketing officer for Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, as we’ve already said. You’ve been, a member of the team there for 10-years, and you’re also one of the few people we might speak to who actually grew up on Anna Maria Island.
So, tell us a bit more about that and about your background.
Kelly Clark, Chief Marketing Officer at Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau: Yes. Well, thank you, Laura. And thank you so much for having us on the show today. Yeah, I’m one of the few and far between that are actually born and raised in the Bradenton area. There’s not many of us, so I always feel very proud that I’m working for the Visitors Bureau and being able to talk about the area and I think that really brings up passion because I was born and raised here and went to school here, went to college here, um, university. And I just never left because such an amazing place. So, I think that speaks volumes
Laura: And Ed, your prominent figure in, in both the Bradenton and Anna Maria Island communities, and you play a really active role in promoting sustainable tourism. So, could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Ed Chiles, local businessman and sustainability expert: Laura, I also want to thank you for having us today and, I wish you were here interviewing us because it is a absolutely perfect day. We’ve had a string of them here lately, but it is just gorgeous here in the Bradenton area. I’m kind of like Kelly. Obviously, I’ve been around a lot longer than Kelly, but I don’t ever remember not being on Anna Maria.
I was, raised in Lakeland, Florida, which was about an hour and 20 minutes from here in Central Florida. So, this was the place that everybody came. When I got out of college and, uh, chose a place to live and raise a family it was here by choice. This is paradise, and it is a very sensitive place because we’re right here on the coast.
You know, we sit here today on the edge of the largest Gulf in the whole world. And we are the only place in the country that has three national estuaries on our border. Those estuaries are in very large part, the nursery for the whole Gulf of Mexico. So, they are critically important to our environment. And as we all know, no matter where we are, in this whole wide world today, especially if we’re near water. There are issues, uh, that are becoming more of concern with climate, uh, with water quality, with development and things of that nature. So, sustainability is critically important here, and we believe that we can be a model here for what we do with the intrinsic resources we have. The fact that we are, uh, that we live in this area on these three national estuaries to promote state, uh, sustainability and to promote coastal resiliency. And we work a lot on that.
Laura: Thank you for that intro. Yeah, I can, I can hear the passion coming across already, but what we’ll get back to that. But we’re going to start with them with the basics, I guess. So I’m sure a lot of our listeners have been to Florida because as you know, the Brits love the sunshine state.
So, Kelly, could you tell us a little bit about what makes your destination different to the rest of Florida?
Kelly: Sure. So, um, like you said, the, uh, the Brits and the international market, generally when they think about Florida and the Sunshine State, um, they’re thinking about Disney World, they’re thinking about Orlando, Miami, those big high rises on the beach.
But what makes us special and unique is that we have an Old Florida feel, but with modern day amenities, So, when you come to the destination, you won’t find chain hotels and chain restaurants, and high rises just blocking the beautiful views of the beach. You have that Old Florida low rise feel here. There are some areas where the palm trees are actually higher than the buildings.
And we do have a law restricting that you cannot build higher than three stories on the Island. So that is something that’s never going to change. Um, our beaches are some of the best in the United States. We have that sugar-white, soft sand. It just feels like powder when you walk through it, the beaches are beautiful turquoise with a low surf, which makes it a great place for families and with young children who want to feel safe, they don’t have those high waves on the east coast of Florida.
You know, it makes it a great all-around destination. We also have some of the best parks and preserves in Florida. We’ve got several trails and biking paths and there’s so much to do here. And I think people just don’t realize that it’s so easily accessible, um, in the state. So the other thing too, is that the one thing you’ll notice when you come to our destination is that we exude a southern charm.
We’re known as the friendly city. So when you come, you feel like you’re actually at home and I think that’s what makes our area very special.
Laura: Sure. Yeah. And when you say old Florida, would you say there’s a bit of a, kind of a retro feel to the area?
Kelly: You know, it definitely has a retro feel or a vintage, Florida feel you’ll see all the beach cottages and their clapperboard style.
We have a lot of buildings that are from the 1920s that have been retrofitted, lots of colours. The character of the island is really where you’ll find that old Florida feel. Ed can speak to that too. Yeah, he was on a big project. That’s Pine Avenue one, uh, the, one of the areas on the island. And that is very well visited where there were lots of buildings that were from, you know, the early 1900.
But they retrofitted them, and the amenities are all modern day, but it still has that Old Florida feel.
Laura: And what about the geography of the area? Because we’ve, we’ve mentioned Bradenton, we’ve mentioned Anna-Maria islands and Longboat key, and those are the three key destinations, aren’t they? Within the wider area. So could you explain how it kind of all fits together and the main places that people should know.
Kelly: Sure. So just to kind of give you an idea, the Bradenton area is located on the west coast of Florida on the Gulf coast, as Ed said, um, it’s about 45-minutes south of Tampa. And it’s about two hours away from Orlando.
And, not that far about three and a half to Miami, Fort Lauderdale area. Just to give you an idea geographically, where we are. Um, we like to say that, you know, we’re close to all the major attractions and big cities in the state of Florida yet when you’re here, you feel miles and miles away, definitely what you want or feel when you’re on vacation.
So, the area is made up of three main parts, Longboat key, which is more of an exclusive island that resorts. And, um, some of the best dining in the area, Bradenton is the mainland. And that’s where you’re going to find our urban city beautiful river walk. The Manatee River is flowing right through it of strong cultural and arts district come up. The parks and preserves are found in that area. And then of course, Anna Maria Island, which is the crowning jewel.
Laura: Okay. Well, we’re going to get back to that in a second, but I’m going to move back to Ed now and go back to that, sustainability subject. Because one of the things I find quite exciting about Bradenton and Anna Maria Island is how important sustainability seems to be to the area, which you touched on before. Ed, could you tell us a little bit more about, um, the projects that you were involved in?
Ed: So local seafood is what we’re all about. And sustainable seafood is the coin of the realm. 90% of the seafood that we eat in this country now is imported and 50% of that is aquaculture. And yet in America, we’re only making 1% of our aqua culture.
So, we’re working on those things, we’re working to promote our local wild, sustainable seafood, and that sustainable is critical. So that it’s not a, a fish that is over-fished. Uh, I think we do a very good job of regulating our seafood and in Florida now, and making sure that, that we are sustaining our stocks. When you talk about sustainability clams, great
in our restaurants, great for fresh Florida seafood, that is so healthy and so tasty. But great for the environment too, because clams filter water. And they clean water and by cleaning water, they clean, they promote light coming down through the water column and promote sea grass. They fertilize sea grass through their waste stream.
They promote forage fish. So, we’re working on biological mitigation strategies here for coastal resilience, and that involves, uh, projects for restoration of our sea grass beds and our clamps native clam stocks here.
Laura: So, could you tell us a little bit more, obviously clams are the major part of your sustainability project and you, you actually have, a charity that you’re, that you’re working with. Is that, is that right?
Ed: Well, it’s a new an initiative, Laura, and thank you so much for asking all, uh, your listeners need to do is go to the internet and go to All Clams On Deck. And that’s our project. Uh, that’s our project for using these three national estuaries as a big macro laboratory to prove out the science and to gather the data on the nutrient mitigation and the things that clams do to benefit coastal resiliency.
And it’s a project where the more jobs we create, the more water we clean and the better the environment is. The more, the, uh, happy that our tourists are and the better that our property values are in the better that quality of life that we preserved, that Kelly and I treasure so much and that everybody that comes here gets stuck too. So, sustainability is very important to us.
Laura: Okay. Brilliant. Thank you for that. Okay. So, um, Kelly, can you tell us a little bit about what there is to do on Anna Maria Island, your home?
Kelly: Anna Maria Island being acquaint, smaller destination. There is so much to do there and there’s something for everyone. There are so many water activities, whether it’s fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking, jet skiing, there’s something there for everyone. Having time in the water is definitely, um, one of the largest or the biggest activities you can do on Anna Maria Island. And we also have boutique shopping. Like I said, there’s no chain stores out on the Island.
So, you can find all these independently owned small boutique shops that you could go in and spend your money, but you can feel good while you’re doing it because you’re supporting locals. There are two major piers on the island that have just undergone some renovation that are great. You can go out and have a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise. And I also like to say that we have a trolley or a bus service that goes up and down the Island, that’s absolutely free. So it’s a very multi-modal city. You can rent bikes or golf carts, or like I said, take the free trolley so you can easily get around. And of course, one of the number one thing you can do on Anna Maria Island is watch the sun set.
Absolutely beautiful. Every night there’s a show and waterfront dining. I mean, Ed has two amazing restaurants that are directly on the Gulf of Mexico. You can actually dine with your toes in the sand. It’s a unique experience that everyone should try once in their life. And yeah, it’s absolutely amazing. Although there is a lot of things to do on the island. I like to say sometimes the best thing you can do, is nothing. Go to the beach. And enjoy your time.
Laura: Would it be fair to say that this is a barefoot destination where you can kind of leave your, your shoes in your hotel or in your recommendation?
Kelly: Yeah, Laura, that’s a great way of putting it.
Yes, definitely a barefoot destination. It’s very, uh, we’re not pretentious here. Everything is laid back island time, island vibes. So yes, everything is very relaxed here.
Laura: So back to Ed, could you tell us a little bit about the wildlife that we can expect to see in the Gulf, around the Bradenton area in areas? I know Kelly just said that water sports are a big part of what you get up to, but presumably you can see some, some wildlife from your paddleboard?
Ed: Oh, absolutely. You know, both, uh, Marine and inland here, you know, just a wide spectrum. So, you know, if you’re out on the water, you’re going to expect to see porpoise here, dolphin, uh, every day you’re very likely to see a manatee, our sea cows, which are just absolutely fabulous to watch. Uh, you’re going to see the rays out in the water, schools of rays uh, our bird life is incredible. So you may see in a day, you could see ospreys, you’ll see numerous ospreys. Very likely you might see an eagle, especially if you’re a little bit further inland. Roseate spoonbills here. It’s a fairly rare bird. Likes a tropical climate, just gorgeous bird. Night herons, terns, black skimmers on the beach, all the little seabirds that are so funny.
It’s like a Pixar movie to watch them scurry around as the waves come out and they’re digging around in the sand. So, you know, being out, if you’re going out on one of the pontoon boats or you go over to Egmont Key. Uh, it’s a rich tapestry of wildlife here, both, uh, you know, in the marine environment
You’re going to see wild pigs. You’re going to see deer, uh, you’re likely to see Turkey.
Laura: How do you, how would you recommend a visitor and make sure they see as much wildlife as possible? Is it good to do a tour? Are you okay to just kind of walk around and kayak and everything’s just there?
Ed: Yeah, absolutely. You know, how far do you want to go?
If you want to go into the bay areas or one of the boat tours is great. If you want to grab a kayak and go into one of the many areas that Manatee County has. When you talk about, we’re known for sustainability, because they’ve done so much with environmental land, so you can go to Robinson Preserve, you can go to Myakka State Park, you can go to Rye Park. Uh, you can go to numerous places around this county and, and get a kayak, go up into the rivers and do a canoe trip. You’ll see alligators when you go up in the river, you may see otters when you go up in the river. Uh, so there’s just this all kinds of choices.
If you’re into that and you want to be doing hikes and you want to be doing the outdoor thing, you’re in a great area to do it here. And you love to say fly fish. Or you love the spin fish. You know, you want to catch the silver king. This is the place to do it. This is one of the best places to tarpon fish in the world.
Uh, if you want to catch snook, if you want to catch permit, if you want to catch a trophy redfish, uh, if you want to catch great fish to eat like Spanish mackerel, grouper, and snapper, we’ve got just a great, great, fishing, uh, area here and just lots of opportunities as well.
Laura: Well, I think I don’t know anything about fishing, but I know that if I was going anywhere with alligators, I think I’d want a guide.
Ed: Well, you can stay out in the Gulf. The alligators are all inland.
Laura: Okay. That’s good. I’ll stay there. Kelly, can you tell us a little bit about the accommodation options in the area and where we can stay?
Kelly: The Bradenton Area is known for having a range of accommodations. There really is something for everyone, but what we’re most well-known for is our vacation rental homes.
Beach cottages, villas, condos. The 80% of our accommodations are actually single-family homes. So, we do have on the mainland, quite a few hotel options, but on Island specifically, um, your beach cottages, your vacation homes, your smaller resorts that are boutique-style is going to be what you’ll find. And that’s great, I think for the UK market, because, you know, once you fly in, um, usually you get in a little bit later.
So, when you arrive in the destination, it’s great to have a place that you could feel at home, and you can really have your home away from home because you have your separate rooms, have your own kitchen. You can go out and you can go to the local fish market at Cortez. Grab some local fish and cook it up at home if you don’t want to go out every single night for dinner and you have that, that privacy in that space, most of them have their own heated pools. So, you do have the privacy of, that as well. And I think right now, um, in this climate, it’s more of a, it’s more of, of something people are looking for is to have that, that privacy and that space.
That’s all their own. It’s also great for families. I know I have a young daughter. I love going to places where I can rent a vacation home. Cause I have my own separate room. I have the kitchen, I’m able to make snacks and things for, for my daughter. So yeah, that’s, that’s one of the specialties of our area is our vacation rental home.
Laura: Sure. And I guess there’s a full spectrum there. So from a more budget and right up to the sort of luxurious, large villas with pools and that kind of thing?
Kelly: Yes, absolutely. And I mean, we have duplexes, we have condos, we have kind of your old vacation rental, beach cottages that like I said, have been retrofitted, but you know, there’s, there’s one bedroom, two-bedroom, three bedroom, whatever you’re looking for, we have it.
Laura: Of course, one of the best things about staying in, in accommodation like that, or being self-catering is that you have the opportunity to go out for dinner, wherever you like. So, I’m going to move on to Ed now, cause obviously you are the restaurateur, here. So could you tell us a little bit about the food scene and what were you going to be eating when we visit.
Ed: I think its varied. If you want sushi here, you can get there. We have a great sushi restaurant on the island, and we have good, uh, very good sushi restaurants in town. We’ve got a great German place on the island. We certainly specialize in seafood. Uh, and there’s a lot of great burger places, you know? Gosh, if you talk about the classic burger joint, you know, you’re looking at Duffy’s, uh, on the Island where I always went as a kid and it’s still doing them the same way.
Uh, lots and lots of casual places, lots of places where you can be comfortable outside a barefoot, as you say, uh, a lot of them will be on the way. Uh, but we have some really good seafood places here. And as Kelly said, we’ve got some really good, fine dining. Uh, if you want to get a reservation and you want to go in and you know and do it up with a white tablecloth and all of that, we’ve got some exceptional, uh, restaurants, some that have come in recently, like the Chateau, some that have got a tremendous history here, like The Bistro.
Great place for cocktails like The Doctor’s Office. Uh, and then great seafood restaurants. Uh, what John Horn does, what the Anna Maria Oyster bar. Um, we’re pretty proud of our three places. Uh, the Blue Marlin down in Bridge Street which in itself is a lot of fun and Bradenton Beach. Uh, there’s a daiquiri deck bar down there.
There’s a bunch of different kind of old-school bars down there and a number of, of neat restaurants down there. So a lot of variety. If you want a fresh seafood, you’re going to be able to get it in a lot of places. You’re going to be able to sit over the bay in a place called The Waterfront. Uh, that’s great.
You’re going to be able to go out to one of our two city piers and sit over the water and watch the fishermen. Your kids will just absolutely love that. You know, and if you’re staying in one of the places on the north end of Anna Maria, you’re walking in you’re and biking and you’re, uh, you know, you’re strolling everywhere, and you really can kind of leave your car.
Uh, Kelly talked about that. This is a place where you can bring your kids and you can let them loose, you know, and they can take the trolley and go down to the public beach. You know, and chase chicks and have fun and get to know people like we all did and when we were kids and have that kind of freedom and that spirit that you don’t find it, a lot of other places.
Laura: Is that while the parents are having the cocktails?
Ed: Yes, exactly. Right. Yeah. And you let the little boogers go, you know, not have to worry about, do.
Laura: I mean, tell us about some of the dishes. Is there a particular dish that’s famous in the area? Well fish sandwiches, you know, grouper sandwiches, for sure. Certainly, a lot of group or dishes, a lot of snapper dishes.
Ed: We do a lot of stone crab here. Laura, have you had stone crab?
Laura: I don’t think I have actually no.
Ed: Well, stone crab is fairly unique. It’s in a small geographical area, which is really southern South Carolina, the coast of Georgia, Florida and then down a little bit south of Florida. But really, we all think it’s by far the best crab, a blue crab is another crab that we have that is absolutely exceptional, but stone crabs are big and they’re meaty, uh, sweet.
Uh, they’re a great specialty that we have here. And, you know, I can’t talk about seafood without beating the drum about clams. So we, uh, we do when we’re talking about sustainability and we’re talking about the environment we’re talking about good food. And, and in sitting around and enjoy people with a great bottle of wine. And by the way, we make some wine called Lola too. So, we’ll serve you a glass of that. Um, we do what we call the oral presentation, and we sit around and have great Florida sustainable seafood, and we have a big bowl of clams and some of our fresh bread from the bakery and a nice dry white wine. And, uh, people get the message when we do that.
Laura: Okay. Stop. You’re making me hungry! Um, well, I mean, you’ve given us some really good tips on, on, I feel like I should have had my pen out there writing down all the bars and places that you told us about that. Kelly, can you give us a few other sort of hidden gems or local secrets, you know, the best place to watch the sunset or, um, what we’ve already got a few places to go for a cocktail, but maybe a few more?
Kelly: Definitely, um, you know, talking about the sun. I was born and raised here, and I’ve seen more sunsets than I can even count. But what I will say is; there is no place on the island that is a bad place to watch the sunset. They are absolutely epic. Um, you know, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it, but it is different every single night.
The whole sky will be a golden peachy, pink colour one night. And then the next, it’s this soft blue gold that you’ve never seen before. You know, Ed and I were from here. We’ve seen them. We’ve seen more than you can count, but, it’s breath taking every time you see it, there’s seven miles of land on Anna-Maria anywhere on that seven mile stretch is going to be an amazing place to watch.
You know, some of the secret spots, I think Dean Point be a good place to mention. It’s, it’s sort of a secret it’s a little bit hard to get to. There’s not really a good place to park there to find it. You, you have to, um, almost stumble across it. It’s the very north tip of the Island. You can see the Sunshine Skyway in the back, which is a huge bridge that connects on the Bradenton area with a St. Petersburg. You can see the Gulf of Mexico there. And, um, it’s the very tip of the island and support just thought some of the other places that I think would be a great place to take the family, uh, The store on pine avenue called Shiny Fish Emporium. It’s absolute magic when you walk in there.
Um, and what they do is they take a sand dollar, which is a sea urchin that lives here in the area. And you can find in the waters around Anna Maria. Um, and it’s like a disc it’s a round disc, it’s white, and it has a star shape in the middle. And, um, you can actually paint them at the shop, and you can put a little ribbon through the hole and take it home as a souvenir, a special souvenir that you can keep.
Um, that’s a little piece of Anna Maria Island. Um, I think that’s really a special place to go and kind of one of the top-secret places that I like to take people or family when they come into town.
Laura: And just to clarify to everyone, that’s, that’s, uh, an expired search in isn’t it?
Kelly: Yes, if you’re, if you’re in the ocean, if you’re in the golf and you are swimming around and you see one and it’s a bit on the darker side, that means it is alive and you should never touch.
Laura: I just thought I’d check that. No, I did know that. Okay. Ed, can you describe to us your perfect day on Anna Marie Island and what you would get up to?
Ed: Well, my perfect day would probably be to, uh, get up and get one of our great guides and get out on the water. Uh, and then you’d be out, uh, before first light.
So, you would see a sunrise on the water and as beautiful as the sunsets are, for the early birds, the sunrises are absolutely just as magical. So, if you want to be out in one of our parks, then taking a stroll and looking at the wildlife and listening to the world, wake up, you know, uh, in, in the morning and see those beautiful colours, but I’d be out there in that with the breeze and that cool morning, and maybe seeing a tarpon roll and getting a chance to throw to them.
And then come back in and, uh, maybe spend a little time on Pine Avenue, uh, looking at the shops and going around and visiting some of our friends, uh, buying something at the Anna Maria Olive Oil Company, where they have the finest, olives and cheese. Uh, maybe go into Grub the new, uh, uh, great artisanal barbecue place.
It’s on the street for lunch or Papos the Tacoria that is there. That’s a great little mission-style-tacoria that we got. Uh, I take a nap in the afternoon after school. Uh, and I’d go have a sunset dinner on the beach.
Laura: Oh, fantastic. I’m glad you got a nap in there. That’s good.
Ed: And after that dinner, I’d walk up to the North Point, uh, under the moon and the stars and, uh, and just smell that ocean, uh, that beautiful golf had listened to the lapping and, uh, and feel that cool breeze on my face.
Laura: And go to sleep again, presumably. Lovely. Okay. I’m just going to ask you a bonus question. I’ll start with you, Kelly. Could you tell us how we can make our trip counts in Bradenton?
And by that, um, what we mean is we want to make a positive impact in some way when we’re visiting. So yeah. Tell us something that we can do that’s positive.
Kelly: I think there’s a few things you can do when you visit the area. Um, we really pride ourselves, especially us being locals in that responsible travel. We have a whole campaign called Love It Like a Local. Which is geared towards educating vacationers on how to visit the destination responsibly, um, and Love It Like a Local is really all about telling people, you know, what to do when you’re in the destination, that can make a difference, whether it’s. You know, when you go to the beach, make sure you’re using reef-safe, sunscreen, cleaning up after yourself and take things and recycle and throw it away once you’re done at the beach.
If you dig a hole to put your sun umbrella in, make sure you cover the whole, we are a big, a sea turtle nesting destination. We have to be careful of those locals to protecting the wildlife, making sure that you know, you’re not going up and touching any of the wildlife or touch them when you’re swimming with them, keeping that distance.
And of course, you know, taking, look at spending your time in some of the local boutiques and shops and, you know, paying it forward by shopping local. Also spending some time learning about programs, like All Clams On Deck, where you can educate yourselves and learn about ways to protect the water quality of other island destinations like ours.
Laura: Like, so Ed, I’m going to challenge you to give me one thing, one thing that we can do to make a difference.
Ed: I think you can look at the ways that we are trying to work on coastal resiliency here. And you can see what are the intrinsic resources that you have in your community that you could work on?
So it may be that you don’t live on the coast, but you live in the upland areas, but there are things that every one of us can do in our community to deal with the environmental issues and to make sure that we preserve and protect what we’ve had so that future generations can have it
Laura: So thank you so much to both of you for joining us and for telling us so much about your home, it sounds like an amazing.
Ed: Laura, I hope you’ll look us up when you come and we’ll make sure you try some of these great local clams. And the stone crab too. That’d be in season
Laura: And to find out more and book your next holiday to the Bradenton area you can visit www.charitable.travel, or you can call up and speak to our team of expert travel advisors. For more information about Bradenton, visit their Twitter. @VisitBradenton.
Laura Gelder, Editor of Charitable Traveller Magazine: Hello, and welcome to Charitable Travel’s Travel Inside Podcast, otherwise known as TIPs. And that is exactly what we hope to pass on to you, our listeners, great tips on how to immerse yourself in some of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating places. Thank you so much for tuning in today. My name is Laura Gelder and I’m the editor of Charitable Traveller Magazine. You can read the latest edition of Charitable Traveller Magazine at charitable.travel/traveller. Much like the magazine, this podcast series is here to inspire as well as inform, transporting you across the world to exciting destinations for a half hour holiday and a unique insider view thanks to our knowledgeable guests.
On today’s episode, we’ll be journeying into a beautiful Mediterranean country, Malta. The magical Maltese islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, offer an impressive array of experiences and sights. Not only is this sun-scorched isle a much-loved holiday destination with relaxing beaches galore, it’s steeped in history, and has been a cultural melting-pot for thousands of years. Most recently making a name for itself as one of the world’s most LGBTQI+ friendly destinations.
Joining me today on our half our holiday, we have Louis Zammit of the Malta Tourism Authority and Clive Cortis a local Maltese guide with over 17 years of experience of sharing his vast knowledge with visitors from all around the world.
So, I’m lucky enough to have visited Malta myself, but some of our listeners won’t have had this chance yet. So, Louise, I know that you were born in Malta and now live in the UK. And I imagine you must find yourself thinking about the islands often, especially at this time of year when it’s dark and cold. So, for someone who’s never been to the Maltese islands before, how would you describe Malta, Gozo and Comino? And how can the islands be compared to other, other European destinations and other Mediterranean destinations in particular?
Louise Zammit, Malta Tourism Authority: So first of all, I just like to say, thank you very much for having us here today, and hopefully we’ll be able to pass on some nuggets about the Maltese islands to your listeners. I think that the Maltese islands are quite unique in their offering. We have over 300 days of sunshine. We have beautiful beaches, delicious food.
We also have five Michelin star restaurants. And that’s coupled with 7,000 years of fascinating history, I think really gives the Maltese islands that edge, and it’s offers something for everybody. And some of your listeners may not be aware of this Laura, but the islands are actually referred to often as one big open-air museum, particularly our capital city Valletta, which is one of our three UNESCO world heritage sites.
The fact that nowhere is further away than forty-five minutes just really gives everybody the opportunity to explore all the elements that the islands have to offer.
Laura: And how would you compare the islands to other European destinations?
Louise: You know, like I say because we have quite unique features in terms of our 300 days of sunshine, the beautiful beaches, the delicious food, the history, I think in this sense, it’s quite unique because with other European cities, I would say, for example, if you wanted to be beach holiday, you’d kind of need to go specifically for that beach holiday. Whereas in Malta you can combine all the different elements. I think that’s the key to how it varies from other European destinations.
Laura: One of the things it struck me when I was there is it’s really at the crossroads of history in Europe. Isn’t it? It’s had so many influences over the centuries from so many different cultures as well.
Louise: Absolutely. Yes. That’s definitely one of the key features. We have 7,000 years of history. As I mentioned though, it really is a huge melting-pot and that can be seen from our history and also from the food as well, the language is a combination of Italian and Arabic. So, it has quite a few fascinating elements.
Laura: You touched on the sunshine briefly, but Clive obviously you’re lucky enough to live in, in Malta. year round. So, for us occasional visitors, when would you say is the best time to visit?
Clive Cortis, local Maltese guide: So first of all, thank you for having us, as you said, here in Malta, we do have really nice weather throughout the whole year, even during the winter time, even for us Maltese, we grumble about winter, but the temperatures during winter, it will be only 14 degrees, 13 degrees.
So, the Maltese islands can offer all year-round experiences for our visitors. So from the summer, for those that want to have a swim, or go clubbing, or outdoor events to those that would like to go for walking tours, especially during March, April and May, that will be one of the best months being that it’s just after the wintertime.
So that’s just after the time when it rains. So, most of the countryside would still be quite green. So, while walking around the countryside of Malta, you will end up on cliffs. You can really enjoy nice sea views. One can enjoy really nice contrast of colours. The blue, sea, the blue sky, the greenery of our countryside, and obviously the dry walls, the yellow colour of our stone. It makes the whole setup quite amazing.
Laura: How hot does it get during those peak summer months?
Clive: Well during the summer months. Average, it’s always around 30 to 34 degrees.
Laura: Beautiful, beautiful. So, for people who want to visit, who want to avoid that peak heat, you already mentioned that springtime is a good time to visit, but what about off season is wintertime a good time to visit as well?
Clive: Definitely, especially for those that like to visit our cultural sites, you will go inside the 5,600-year-old temple, and there will be only a few people walking around and definitely for the sports tourism. If it wants to visit the island, we can really have some really nice sports tourism from cycling and even walking tours.
Laura: Louise, the size of the Maltese islands is, is definitely a plus. There’s three of them for starters. So how would you tell people to approach planning their holiday there to make sure they don’t miss anything vital?
Louise: Well, I think that planning your holiday in advance is really key to ensure that you get the best experience from your stay. Now, in terms of location, I would say that the Northern part of Malta is really ideal for families with younger children.
So, let’s take, for example, Mellieħa. This is where we have the longest stretch of sandy beach. And I would say the town is the bridge between where everything is happening, but at the same time, time stands still. And so, you have a really good balance here. You have stunning views and many restaurants to choose from as well.
Then there’s another really popular location, which is Sliema. And this is an active town with a buzzing scene bar. You have great shopping malls. Various restaurants. And actually, one of the main attractions is the beautiful long promenade. And the promenade is dotted with great swimming spots. And these are not actually sandy beaches, they’re rocky beaches, which tend to be much more popular with the locals and the promenade stretches all the way to St Julians.
St Julians is best known for the five-star hotels. For example, The Hilton, The Marriott, The Intercontinental, you have various lovely restaurants with stunning sea views as well. And St. Julians is actually the hub of the nightlife where the majority of the clubs are located. And there is a strip specifically called Paceville, where all the nightlife is happening. It’s obviously really great for those young travellers.
And then of course you have Valletta which has an extraordinary density of historical sites and whether it’s museums, churches, and more recent periods as well as the various bustling wine bars in Valletta. And I think that the best way to explore Valletta is actually on foot, you know, where you can discover the rich culture and the beautiful Baroque architecture.
And the city as well, has many stunning, beautiful boutique hotels as well, which are actually converted historical houses. And for those visitors looking for something more laid back, I would definitely say Gozo, which is Malta’s sister island. It’s located just 25 minutes over from Malta, and this is absolutely a perfect location for those wanting a more rural experience.
Gozo is home to Ramla Bay, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the world. With more history and beautiful landscapes, Gozo is definitely another one of our jewels, you know, with various accommodation options from three to five-star hotels, luxury farmhouse, and boutique hotels as well.
Laura: And what about the third island, Comino, tell us about that as well.
Louise: So, Comino is, I would say, mainly for day trips and during the summer, it’s surrounded by beautiful blue lagoon crystal clear water and is just absolutely stunning. Great for diving as well snorkelling. However, you wouldn’t actually stay in Comino.
You would stay either on Gozo or on Malta and Comino would be more for a day visit, but Comino actually is great also for the winter months, people tend to walk along Comino. It’s great for hiking because it’s just that 3.5 square kilometres island. So really, really great, you know, off the peak to walk around. The highlight is definitely the stunning crystal-clear waters, which surround Comino.
Laura: Would you recommend people ideally spending a little bit of time on Malta and a little bit of time on Gozo perhaps?
Louise: Well, yes, definitely. Laura, that’s one of the things that we actually do recommend because I just think that gives you a more holistic experience. I think that it’s like stepping back in time. So, you know, to get a more holistic idea of, of what the Maltese islands are about and what they have to offer. Being able to island hop between the two is a real huge benefit.
Laura: Definitely. And I mean, it sounds like there is a huge amount to do in Malta. I mean, we don’t even have time to cover all the things that there are to do. Is it a destination to visit for a longer time? Louise, or how would you recommend?
Louise: I think this is actually a great question, just because people have such a misconception that because the islands are small, you can see everything in a few days.
However, I think there’s so much to immerse yourself in, you know, be it the history, the culture, the outdoor activities, our beautiful Blue Flag beaches. So, let’s just take, for example, you know, exploring Malta’s cities, whether it’s Valletta, our ancient capital city Mdina, or the three historical cities, which are actually a trio or fortified cities. And they’re just based across the Grand Harbour from that Valletta.
Now each city, really offers a different experience, depending on if you visit by day or by night. You know, and like I said, combining your stay Malta and Gozo , this definitely gives you, you know, the best, the best experience from your stay.
Laura: So, Clive, you’ve spent many years helping tourists to discover your home, but what would you say is the best way to discover the authentic Malta. The Malta that, you know and love as a local.
Clive: Well, definitely there are various ways, and every year here in Malta that we organize our local festas, and these are all village feasts, which are celebrated throughout the whole year.
During the year we celebrated around 90 feasts. They’re all church related, but every single village in Malta, which we have about 68, organizes their own festa. Their own feast related to the Padre Sect. Uh, this is a religious thing, but when you walk around the streets of the village, you will notice that all the Maltese will flock to these festas and you see the old traditions. From the food stalls to the drinks, to even the small kids playing in the main squares.
And obviously you can explore our fireworks throughout the weekends, you will see a display of fireworks throughout even the day that the first fireworks would be eight o’clock in the morning, just for the bang and then at noon. And then in the evening, you will have the view of our beautiful, coloured walls for the whole night.
Around the main streets of our villages, you’ll see sometimes thousands of people. So, you won’t just go for the feast, but you will enjoy the main lifestyle too. You just go in the village bar where you will meet the locals and they start chatting to you, obviously, all the time and you will walk around the streets of our villages, which will be all richly decorated.
Laura: Fantastic, so how many of these feasts take place throughout the year?
Clive: There are around 90, but all of them are during the whole year, being that most of them are held during the summertime um, so they start from May, June, and then every weekend that will be a feast 2, 3, 4, or on the 15th of August there will be seven feasts on the same weekend. So, if one goes on the walls of Mdina which is the old capital city of Malta. Approximately around 200 meters above sea level and to stay on the walls and you will see fireworks from every single corner. There are restaurants there on the terrace, so just imagine having a nice plate with a glass of Maltese wine, enjoying the view and fireworks just in front of you. It’s just amazing.
Laura: Could you tell us about a few more Maltese experiences that visitors might want to add to their list for their holiday?
Clive: So Maltese experiences? There are various. Today the concept of staying in villages, it’s increasing quite a lot here in Malta. The fact small guest houses are opening up in these local villages, which in the past, you would hardly ever see a tourist with his own luggage walking around the streets of our old villages. I would suggest that instead of saying one of these big hotels, one should think to stay in these old villages, because just imagine after spending a day visiting the Maltese Islands, then in the evening, you send back to your room to a small guest house in the village and in the evening, you just have a stroll around the streets of our villages and tasting some of our local food, which is quite delicious and fresh.
Laura: And obviously you’re, you’re a tour guide and you must do a huge range of different tours. Do you have a particular tour? That’s your favourite or a tour stop that you really love to do
Clive One of the most interesting parts of the Maltese islands is that we do enjoy an ideal mix of cultural site sightseeing. One can easily to go scuba diving just stop for lunch in a fishing village, from visiting a 5,600-year-old temple. From visiting Caravaggio painting, who lived in Malta from 1607 for 18 months.
He spent his last three months in prison, you know, it was quite a character, this guy, but he left masterpieces here on the Maltese islands. So, to answer your question from my own personal point of view, and definitely I like most the Cathedral of St. John and Valletta. It was one of the most modern cities, which was built in Europe at the end of the 16th century and our temples.
In Malta we have megalithic temples, but they predate the pyramids by a thousand years and they pre-date Stonehenge by more than 1600 years. And these are recognized by UNESCO. So just imagine yourself stepping in and one of the oldest freestanding monuments. The original ones. These are not replicas. So, one can feel a strong presence of the past, especially if you visit the Ħaġar Qim temples which are situated exactly on the cliff edge, surrounded with countryside.
Laura: It just sounds like there’s so much culture and history in Malta. It’s almost mind boggling how much history there is, but one of the things that’s often overlooked is the huge range of events, which take place on the islands, which I understand appeal to a huge range of ages and interests as well. So, could you tell us what’s coming up on the events calendar for 2022 Louise?
Louise: So, you’re right. Laura, our annual events calendar has a really good blend of festivals with something for everybody. For example, there is the International Baroque Festival, which takes place every January.
And here you have over 30 concerts and they’re held in various historical venues, but these are closely followed by Carnival. Which is actually one of the oldest historical festivals. And it’s a five-day event where the streets absolutely come to life. We have huge colourful floats, and these are actually the pride and joy of Carnival.
You know, people start preparing these floats a year in advance. You can expect to see street dancing, colourful costumes, of course, late night street parties. And I think it’s one of the events which really brings the community together. You know, you have the young, the old, the locals, the tourists, everybody’s welcome here.
We’ve got the International Fireworks Festival, which is held over four days where you have beautiful fireworks. And they go off to a musical rhythm. And this festival has gained such huge popularity over the past few years, one of the main events is actually the fireworks that go off over the Grand Harbour in Valletta. We’ve got family focused events as well. So, for example, for this year, we have the L.O.L Dolls and they’ll be making their debut appearance in April, and then we have been the Nickelodeon Treasure Hunt with SpongeBob, that’s happening in May, which gives the young visitors a chance to learn about their favourite, Nickelodeon characters but also learn about the culture of the islands as well. So, a little bit fun and educational. Which I think is a really good combination.
June, you know, brings with it all the really popular music festivals Annie Mac Lost and Found. You’ve got Isle of MTV, Summer Days, Village Festival, and that’s just to name a few, July brings the BBC Orchestra Concert so yeah, really what’s going on Laura.
Laura: Wow. Yeah, that’s, that’s a whole lot of things. Isn’t it? And really eclectic as well. From Annie Mac to the BBC Orchestra. That’s quite a contrast. So, speaking of the younger travellers and perhaps some older travellers as well, I believe there are some exciting adventure activities available in Malta and the surrounding islands. Could you tell us a bit about those Louise?
Louise: Well, I think that every season brings a different opportunity on the islands. For example, let’s say autumn and winter, these really appeal to those explorers who enjoy kind of the outdoor adventures, you know, such as rock climbing, cycling, zip-lining, or even simply walking and, you know, just enjoying the stunning limestone landscapes of the island. So, I think it’s really appealing for those types of people. And then the summer months are great for those beach lovers, you know, water sports, and exploring the sights by Segway or quad bikes, you know, Jeep safaris, or one of the harbour cruises that we offer. I think that being an island, you definitely have to take advantage of this in my opinion.
So, as you can imagine, we have all the types of water sports, you know, from kayaking, jet skiing, paragliding, but I think one of the really important highlights here is that for six consecutive years, the Maltese Islands have been voted amongst the top three best diving destinations in the world. And you know, this is because of our water clarity. We have incredible rock formations, and we also have many World War II shipwrecks for the more experienced divers. Of course, you also have the opportunity here, you know, where you can take a paddy or a B-sec introductory course.
Laura: I was actually lucky enough to do a scuba dive myself. When I was in Malta, I did the Blue Hole Dive, which I don’t know how to describe it really. It’s kind of a lagoon, isn’t it? And you dive down, down into the depths and then you can float straight out into the, into the open sea.
Louise: I haven’t done that one myself I’ve done the introductory one, but yes, I’m looking forward to doing a few more to be fair.
Laura: So now on to one of my favourite subjects, which we touched on briefly, which is food. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in a country’s culture. I remember being fascinated by Maltese food, which isn’t commonly found in the UK really, not like Italian food, for instance, how would you describe the food and drink of Malta, Clive?
Clive: A very good percentage of the food is fresh. Being Malta, it’s a small island. So, most of the restaurants, they all buy from the local farmer or from the local fisherman. Though we do import quite a lot of things on the islands because with a population of half a million, that goes to 2.7 million tourists that visit the islands definitely the local produce is not enough for all these people visiting the islands. But with our local food, one should keep in mind the location of Malta it’s at the heart of the Mediterranean, 90 kilometres away from Sicily, 270 from north Africa. So, when you look into our food, it’s a typical Mediterranean kitchen.
So, we do have a lot of influences from, from Sicily, a lot of pasta, baked pasta, a lot of meats, but then inside our language we do have a lot of words that you find them still in the Arabic world related to food. So, if you go in a market and you ask for ‘klin’, which Maltese is, rosemary is the same word that they use in the Arabic world.
Just to put you in the picture. When we refer to the pig, you know, when you don’t eat it, we refer to it as ‘ħanżir’, that’s Arabic but then when we start eating it and we call it ‘majjal’, in Italian. So, our kitchen it’s mainly influenced by these two superpowers here.
Obviously then our Sunday lunch. It’s the most favourite one is the rabbits fried in garlic. We do as well have a spaghetti with rabbit sauce. That will be a starter by the way, and then you will have a main course, rabbits with some potatoes and fresh salads. For that everyday snack, we have the famous ‘Ħobż biż-żejt’, and that would be a flat bread filled with fresh onions, tuna, olive oil, and some of our sheep milk cheese, which would refer to it as ‘gbejna’. Delicious.
Regarding drinks, we do have our own local wines. We’ve been producing wines since the Roman times. Today we have the Maltese and the Gozan wines. And for those that like the beer, we have the famous Cisk Lager. It’s a 4.2% alcohol beer, and its perfect during our hot summer days,
Laura: So, do you have a favourite food yourself?
Clive: Well, I like all different kinds of pasta. I like most though the one that my mother does, ravioli filled with local sheep’s milk cheese.
Laura: Oh! That sounds delicious. And she’ll be pleased when she hears you say that.
Clive: Homemade, so one ravioli would be the size of a shoe, you know?
Laura: Louise, Charitable Travel are encouraging people to make it count in 2022. So why should a trip to Malta be at the top of their list this year?
Louise: I think you’re right. After coming out of such a challenging year, making it count will certainly be at everybody’s forefront. The Maltese islands are the perfect destination, just because, you know, you can experience a bit of everything.
You have the cities, the history, the adventure activities, scuba diving, gastronomy, wine tasting, and obviously the full events calendar, which we’ve touched on. And that’s also obviously where you have the year-round sunshine as well. You know, what better perfect combination would you want? And we also have a number of bucket list items for people to discover. Whether it’s the turquoise Blue Lagoon, you know, the oldest freestanding structures in Gozo, which Clive spoke about.
We have the Co-Cathedral in Valletta. So, yes. I think the fact that you can combine everything in one holiday is definitely a contribution to, you know, making it count.
Laura: Definitely. So final question is to both of you, I’ll start with you, Louise. If you had just one day in Malta, how would you spend it? So, what would you eat? What would you see? What would you do?
Louise: I would find it really difficult to cram in all my favourite things in just one day, like my agenda would definitely include eating some pastizzi, which I miss terribly, these are like savoury snack filled with either ricotta or mushy peas. Ħobż biż-żejt for lunch, this is the bread that Clive spoke about, you know, the local flat bread with olive oil, tuna you know, fresh onions. And then I personally love snorkelling, so I’d definitely want to go snorkelling. Ideally, I’d fit in a wine tour just because we have delicious wines and I’d want to catch a beautiful sunset as well. You know, there’s nothing more magical really than sitting down, sipping a glass of wine and watching a sunset. For my evening I choose Valetta just because it’s one of my favourite cities in the world.
Laura: That’s good, more food there!
Clive: I would definitely start by visiting Valletta, the capital city of Malta. Um, you start walking around the main streets. I stop at St. John’s Cathedral and the Caravaggio paintings. This church, it was built by the famous Knights of St. John that ruled over Malta for more than 268 years. At noon, the Barrakka Gardens you’ll enjoy a fantastic view of the Grand Harbour. And then you’ll see the Saluting Battery Cannon, which they fire the middle gun every day at noon, after that, it will be lunchtime. So, let’s drive down to Marsaxlokk, the fishing village. You sit down on an outdoor table, you’ll be one metre away from the sea and you want to enjoy some nice, fresh fish and some crispy white wine. That would be just amazing. After that in the afternoon, Blue Grotto, one of the best scenery spots with a 20-minute boat ride and then late evening Mdina, the old capital city of Malta. Imagine you walk through these narrow winding streets, which dates to the 15th century.
After that you stop in a cafeteria on a terrace and the enjoy a nice view, with whom? Definitely with a private guide.
Laura: Thank you so much. Well, when I go back to Malta, I will definitely be experiencing both of your special days.
To find out more and book your next holiday to Malta visit www.charitable.travel and speak to their team of expert travel advisors.
The islands have something to appeal to every kind of traveller, from families with young children, to groups of friends, looking for adventures, you can hop on a Segway to explore the cobbled streets of the Maltese capital Valletta, or jump on a Jeep, to safari over the rugged landscape of Gozo. Dotted all over the islands are incredible cultural landmarks.
Like the ancient UNESCO world heritage temples. Malta’s crystal-clear seas are renowned for snorkelling and scuba diving as well as kayaking and other water sports above the water. There’s vibrant nightlife too. With year-round music festivals, as well as wine bars and all-night clubbing followed by a lounge on the beach the next day of course.
You’ll find a plethora of atmospheric restaurants and cafes, serving mouth-watering Maltese cuisine, which is a unique blend of north African, Turkish and Italian influences. Malta’s three islands are easy to explore with ferries providing hassle-free travel from the mainland to the smaller islands of Gozo and Camino.
For even more Malta inspiration check out the Malta Tourism Authority, social media accounts and websites where there’s lots more information. So that’s @Visit Malta UK on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and www.visitmalta.com. Thank you to Charitable PR for their support in creating this podcast. I’ve been your host, Laura Gelder and thank you so much for listening, please like, subscribe, and share.
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