What is your idea of the ultimate luxury? Mine would probably be an exotic location, white sand, crystal clear seas and one of those huts on stilts with a private pool. A cliché, no doubt, but a luxury nonetheless. Yet the more I think about the concept of ‘luxury travel’ and what it truly means, the more my idea of it changes…
On a recent holiday in Malta, my boyfriend Rob and I had hugely looked forward to our day at the Blue Lagoon, on the island of Comino. Comino is an island right by Gozo, just north of Malta, relatively uninhabited (by that I mean it has 4 permanent occupants). I’d been recommended to go there, and having seen the photos of the stunning lagoon I did not think twice.
As we got off the bus at the Ferry terminal at Cirkewwa we were bombarded by a number of Maltese ‘sales men’. Men who were practically begging us to let them take us to the Blue Lagoon on their ‘ferry’, thrusting colourful leaflets in our hands. ‘United Travel’ won us over. The trip to Comino took less than 30 minutes. The clarity of the water and the beauty of the lagoon took me aback. But as we clambered off board and I had a good look around, I noticed that we were not alone. Far from. Every level bit of rock was covered in deck chairs. People were draped over every sea front rock. The excuse for a ‘beach’ was teaming with screaming schoolgirls, joining together to pose for a photo. To immortalise that perfect moment in their, and what had been my, luxury piece of paradise.
We settled in our deck chairs to engross ourselves in our summer reads, but I couldn’t really concentrate. Utopia was quickly becoming dystopia. Loud teenagers splashed around in the water, a large group of drunk men (clearly on a stag-weekend) made their presence heard. And the people just kept on coming.
We left early. Only once back on ‘mainland’ did I realise how relieved I felt. And also how disappointed I was. It’s bad enough to have your day spoilt by a huge mass of people destroying the peace hoped for. It’s even worse having them destroy an idea, an image of how it should be. And this led me to question what luxury really is. Is it that clear blue water and the startling beauty of the lagoon? Or is it a special moment and place, shared by you and those you want to share it with, and just by you? I think I would much rather have been on an average beach with just Rob. To have had some privacy. And to have enjoyed the riches and beauty of Malta without (what seemed like) half the world sharing it with me.
Of course I am well aware that I am one of the many tourists that destroys the fragile beauty of Comino’s Blue Lagoon. And of course the Maltese see a great commercial opportunity in the Blue Lagoon which they, understandably, cannot resist embracing. Likewise unfortunately we just have it come to grips with the new and expanding accessibility, and destruction, of what were previously secret paradises.
But silently I hope that some places remain inaccessible. Remain hidden. And I hope that for the majority of us our secret paradise & our ultimate luxury remains untouched and just for us…
*I would still recommend you go to Comino and see the Blue Lagoon. Just go early. Try and get there for around 9.30/10 am and leave before lunch. €10 return ferry from Cirkewwa, North Malta.