Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Merill Eco Tours- Olive Oil Tasting 2015

Last year, I had the good fortune of visiting Tan-Nixxiegha Olive Grove on a great tour led by Merill Eco Tours. It was one of my favorite excursions during our time here in Malta... and that is saying a LOT, because we LOVE life here.

A few weeks ago, they announced a new smaller tour (their attention to detail is stellar), one with a named venue/date/time, where multiple separate bookings could be made and all could meet up at one location for a group experience at a lesser price. This is especially appealing for families or those visiting Malta on a budget, or heck, even as a great opportunity for local Maltese who want to peek at a hidden natural gem in their backyard.

We got the girls to take a small nap and geared up for a fun night outside, exploring and being in nature. After the previous night's chameleon buzz, they were still reeling for animals and digging around in open spaces.

We met about 20 something other guests at tiny Bingemma Chapel outside of Mgarr, a rural area in western Malta known for its agriculture and natural setting, near Gnenja Bay. A bit early, we soaked in the scenery- the Victoria Lines, old cave dwellings, stunning orchards all the way to the sea and the wild thyme on the hillsides fully in bloom with purple. When time to meet, we all strolled a bit down the main road to meet at Tan-Nixxiegha.

Upon entering the grove, you're greeted by local flora and fauna, small ponds alive with life and a multitude of nature sounds. We spent the next 2 hours exploring fruit trees (plums, citrus, olives, pomegranates, carob, nasplene??/local fruits, etc), walking amongst plants that at times felt tunnel like, winding down hand laid paths. Several wells dot the landscape, while bee hives line the edge of the main orchard. A handful of chickens meandered about as we took our time to enjoy each area that our guide (and Merill founder) Jeanette pointed out to us. She led the children around, pointing out hidden fruits and explaining to all of us how the orchard was founded and how it has developed over the years (believe it is now 10-12 years in cultivation).
The tour rounded out back at the patio area, with a view for a king, where helper Stephanie offered local delicacies: mint lemonade, fresh Maltese bread with Chully's own olive oil, fruits, goat cheeses, tomato spread, caprese and wine. We mingled and enjoyed the view, while the girls flittered about and tried new foods (yay for new foods!!). I guess we starved them, as Ceti even ate the bread crust!!
Leaving was again bittersweet, but a successful day outdoors as a family was splendid! As always, we look forward to more days with Merill and rural Malta before we depart this fall.

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