Five days of zipping along coastlines, sipping on spritz and crunching abs, all in the golden glow of the Maltese archipelago. Now there's a getaway that hits all the sweet spots.
If you've been to Gozo before, you may be aware it's the largest island in the Maltese archipelago, standing proudly at 67km long, and the most southern holiday spot in the Mediterranean. If, like me a couple of weeks ago, you've barely even heard of it, there are three things to know.
Firstly, travel by tuk tuk. It's the best way to get around, if you don't want to go by foot or bike in 32-degree heat. There's nothing like hurtling through charmingly narrow, winding streets with the hot, salty air tousling your hair. Secondly, such warm sea air means the island is a prime location for wine production. After sweating through our daily barre classes, the balmy, languid evenings were spent sampling the fruits of the island's vineyards, most notably at the highly-acclaimed restaurants, Ta Philip and Ta Frenc. Finally, when you're compelled to abandon your sun lounger and venture from your hotel (try the dreamy Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz), a beautiful, jagged coastline is waiting to be explored - on foot, by sailboat or kayak, it's up to you. I recommend all three. The crystal waters on Blue Lagoon are best entered with snorkel and goggles in tow - the teeming, cloud-like shoals of colourful fish can't be missed. Evening wanders along the 350-year-old salt pans, however, are best finished off with a picnic feast - and a glass of rosé to boot, if you're that way inclined.
The main event: Barrecore
Never heard of Barrecore? Think a mélange of pilates, yoga and ballet, with minimal sweat but maximum muscle toning. What we lacked in an actual barre we gained in palm fronds rustling overhead, and the splish-splash of early risers in the nearby pools helped drown out our groans as we "bend and press"-ed to oblivion in the Mediterranean morning heat.
If you feel compelled to give it a go, there are numerous Barrecore studios around London where you can pop in. Don't be put off by the inevitable toughness of the first class - Barrecore's motto is "shake today, strong tomorrow" for a reason. And it only takes four classes of lunging, squatting, shaking and quaking to notice results - that, I can vouch for.
The food and drink
Being vegan in the Med is always less than ideal, and Gozo was no different. Fresh local sheep's cheese and colourful seafood abound - in Ta Philip, baked bream is even served straight from the salted tray onto your table before your eyes.
But it's not all cured meat and crustaceans, luckily for me, and restaurants were more than happy to prepare ad-hoc vegan meals when they menus lacked options. Many of these involved aubergine prepared in various ways - roasted with gremolata dressing, chargrilled with chilli, drizzled in copious amounts of olive oil produced in Gozo itself...nowhere has mastered Aubergine 3 Ways like Gozo has.
Of all the island's gorgeous spots to eat I was lucky enough to sample, the most memorable had to be dinner at the Citadel. The island's sandy lego block buildings spread out for miles beneath you, gleaming under the evening sun, and if you chance a little detour round the winding laneways before dinner's served you might happen upon the dreamlike melodies of the cathedral choir, singing in the evening with gusto in the village square.
Whether you're pining for a spot of island hopping in a lesser-known location, a leisurely retreat far from everyday life or an aubergine-heavy cliffside feast, make Gozo your go-to. Its crystal waves and curious caves await.