As I slid open the balcony door a loud twittering invaded the bedroom along with hot sunshine and the heady aroma of suntan lotion mixed with seasalt. Peering over the railing I could see guests lazing next to a bright blue, curvaceous swimming pool and more people toasting gently on the nearby beach, where turquoise water lapped against the shore. Oh, how I had missed that divinely soul-warming heat of the Mediterranean.
I'd just arrived at the Azure Golden Sands Resort & Spa on Malta and was in great need of some RnR. Here I was, no longer in chilly England but sunny Malta and already feeling more relaxed than for ages. On my arrival, I was offered a refreshing glass of orange juice by Henri Diacono, the â€˜Guest Relations Co-ordinator' a fancy title for a charming, helpful and highly knowledgeable man for whom nothing is too much trouble.
After my balcony moment I had a meeting with friendly Sarah and Martina, from the Azure Marketing department. We sat on the Mokka Bar terrace surrounded by holiday makers enjoying a leisurely lunch, chatting, reading or simply sitting back and enjoying the sun. Sarah explained how Azure has created a 5* quality timeshare resort within the Radisson Blu Golden Sands Resort & Spa, so that members get all the benefits of a luxury hotel combined with the flexibility, convenience and choice of the Vacation Clubs.
A quick look at some of the rooms and suites was enough to convince me that there's no skimping on comfort here. The standard rooms are large, have great views over the beach or countryside. â€˜The Heavenly Collection Suites' are just that – beautifully designed rooms with every comfort you could wish for, with tasteful art work to complement the contemporary dÃ©cor. The 4 bedroom one has a dining area fit for a queen and an enormous roof terrace.
Everyone has access to pool area, delicatessen, children's club, fitness centre and indoor pool, spa and beauty centre, 9 bars and restaurants. Azure members also have access to the Azure Members Lounge and their own pool area. There’s also a private section of the beach with Water Sports and Diving Centre. With accommodation to fit every budget and flexible pricing options to suit different lifestyles I was able to see just how far timeshare has moved on in recent years.
My favourite place to eat at Azure was Agliolio Italian restaurant. Wanting to try something different, I had the octopus and squid in fresh pasta which has quite simply the best pasta dish I have ever tasted. Maybe being so close to Italy helps â€¦ I also had a celebratory Bellini made with local bubbly and tried the Malta white wine which was surprisingly (to me) very good.
On another occasion I ate at the Mokka restaurant and had their Speciality Burger – an absolutely enormous, tasty beef bap with chunky chips. What’s good is that with such a variety of options, including sophisticated restaurant Essence and companionable Swizzles Bar, there is something to suit every budget and taste. Breakfast lovers are spoilt for choice every day in Flavours Restaurant and I indulged in a poolside cocktail at the Lagoon Bar.
On my last day I had a real treat – the Sun Lover's Full Body Wrap at the Myoka Spa. I was cocooned in a sweet-smelling concoction of aloe vera, cucumber and camomile then given a head massage by Bulgarian therapist Jana. The rhythmic massaging and tranquil surroundings of the luxurious spa centre lulled me into a state of hedonistic bliss.
I had a truly relaxing four days. I did see some of the sights on a tour bus, including historic Valletta, the pretty fishing village of Marsaxlokk and on a boat trip to the Blue Grotto. However, I very much appreciated the leisurely time spent by the pool (even going in for a swim though the water had yet to warm up quite enough for me) and on the beach, which really does have golden sand, unlike many other Malta beaches which are often rocky.
Many thanks to everyone at Azure Golden Sands Resort & Spa for a refreshing and really enjoyable stay. Back home in England the memory of those birds tweeting in the palm trees beside the blue lagoon calls me back for just a few more days' relaxation at gorgeous Golden Sands â€¦