Malta

Malta

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  • Day1

    After an unnecessary, but unsurprising, 3am wake up for both of us, the taxi arrives bang on time at 05.45. Security is efficient, we buy supplies and very quickly it seems we're belted into seats 3a and 3b.

    The flight leaves on time but we're delayed starting our descent into Malta due to the depression that is sitting over the island preventing us landing. We're warned of probable turbulence during the approach and landing, to the extent that the staff are hanging out extra sick bags! In the event, the turbulence clears and Captaim Eammon executes a textbook landing.

    It's raining. A lot. Yuck.

    We whiz through this tiny airport and are in our taxi to St Julians within minutes. We drop our bags at our apartment at midday but cannot stay long as the cleaner is due but do step quickly onto our terrace to check out the view.

    Then we potter off into the grey damp with the prospect of several hours to amuse ourselves. Thank goodness the rain has eased so we wander round the harbour checking things out for a while. Eventually it starts raining more again so we dip into Bar Moak, opposite Balutta Church, for some cold local beer, Cisk (pronounced Chisk), and some lunch, mussels for me and just tomato bruschetta for John, who had only recently eaten his Gatwick all-day-breakfast sandwich. We move on to the Irish pub, The Dubliner, for another beer until, finally, we can take possession of our apartment.
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  • Day1

    We settle in and gradually the clouds begin to break up. We're not talking clear blue skies but enough to give us a teaser of what to expect. A small glass of red improves matters and I can see this terrace getting a lot of use over the next week.

    Our dinner reservation tonight is at Wigi, just next to where we ate at lunchtime. We need to arrive early if we're going to get one of their coveted window seats. We do! And by five past seven all four window tables are gone. We have a lovely view across the water to Balutta Church.

    We enjoy Thai style calamari fritti and beef carpaccio with celeriac ribbons for starters. I retract my avowed dislike of celeriac and redesignate my dislike to cooked celariac. Main courses are a local fish called meagre, in a delicate olive oil and lemon sauce and pink rack of lamb served with Moroccan spiced vegetables. Mmmm. Predictably, I am defeated too soon, leaving John with some of the fish and most of the lamb to deal with...

    Then back for final drinks on our terrace, before an early night.
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  • Day2

    As we leave the ferry in the rain I spot a sign for a free exhibition, "Fort Builders" so we duck in there. It's a detailed and interesting exhibition about the development of the fortifications of Malta over two millennia. Malta has been so historically significant in the Med due to it's superb location in the channel between Italy and North Africa, dividing the Med into the east and west basins, it has been blessed with a magnificent harbour and is easily defendable so that maintaining strong devices has been of paramount importance to its many occupiers.

    We leave and, hey, no rain! So we start wandering the streets to get a sense of this city. After a while we swing by Ortygia, a Sicilian restaurant, for lunch and enjoy a platter of meats and cheeses. Stepping outside afterwards it's clear we have, again, escaped the rain!

    We check out the city gates, the massive walls, wander the streets and finally end up in Upper Barakka Gardens shortly before the firing of the evening gun at 4pm. This cannon was traditionly fired twice daily at noon and 4pm to advise any ships in the harbour of the correct time.

    We drift down the city, passing the arrival of a bride at a church, ending up right at the end where the massive St Elmo's Fort guards the harbour entrance. No time for a visit today so we head back to the ferry.

    One's in but there is such a huge line waiting that they leave without a lot of people. We join the remaining queue for the next ferry and are 74th and 75th in line (some of us have too much time on their hands!). This crossing the coveted seats are outside on top and we get two of the last. We're straight on a bus after disembarking, and crawl back to San Giljan in the evening traffic.

    Next, a couple of asides...
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  • Day2

    As you wander the streets of Valetta, take the time to look up and you will see the unique Maltese balconies in abundance. Their origins are vague but one thought is that they were acceptable forms of decoration for the Knights whilst Valetta was being built. Others believe an Arab influence seems likely and it is a popular thought that women in the 18th century could sit hidden up there and watch the world go by.Read more

  • Day17

    Malta - so many superlatives, so few paragraphs!

    We have stayed for a week in Haz-Zebbug, a village in the interior of the island well known for... well, not its tourism industry. We would walk through town on the way to the bus stop each morning and be stared at as if the Martians had landed, although maybe that was due to the number of slabs of beer we bought from the local convenience store (the owner has now retired and is living in Monaco).

    Our villa, though, accommodating all thirteen of us, was excellent, a labyrinth of bedrooms, sitting rooms, kitchens and stone spiral staircases leading up to the roof and down to basements unknown. All in all it was a good fun base from which to terrorise the locals and explore the island.

    Valletta has a beautiful setting on a peninsula with a harbour on each side, incredible fortifications all round, attractive buildings and enough souvenir shops to drive the economy of a small city. It also has so much history it just about oozes out of the stonework, from the bloodthirsty knights of the 16th century to the incredible hardships of World War 2.

    We got out of the capital a bit too, visiting the old capital of Mdina (yet another fortress), the 200 metre high Dingli Cliffs, the Island of Gozo (yet another fortress) among others.

    Probably the best thing about Malta, though, was the chance to share this adventure, and the odd Cisk beer and Aperol Spritz, with such good, warm and funny friends.
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  • Day3

    We wait and wait for the 202 bus to Mdina. Finally it comes round the corner but it's full and doesn't stop for us... Just great. And the next bus isn't for another hour so we have to call a taxi, instead of using our already paid for bus passes. The taxi is air conditioned and quick so there are advantages over standing, crushed, on a hot bus for an hour.

    We walk through the huge main gate into beautiful Mdina, once the ancient capital of Malta. We explore the narrow steets and alleys, enjoying how pretty it is.

    The Classic Cars are on display in St Paul's Square, in front of the cathedral, so we head over there. We enjoy a glass of Prosecco and admire all these lovingly maintained car, in the buzzy atmosphere.

    Then to Bacchus to share a Maltese platter of sausage, olives, sun dried tomato, cheese, octopus, bean dip, bread sticks and bruschetta for lunch. The restaurant is inside the old powder store with big arched ceilings.
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  • Day3

    First stop are the tiny catacombs of St Cataldus, where there is no information but we can take pictures.

    And then it's on to the much bigger catacombs of St Agatha. We join a tour and learn a lot about catacombs : nobles and the rich have the central tombs, the middle class are in tombs around the walls and the poor were in tombs donated by the rich but in areas like corridors. If two tombs are together but there is no wall between then, that depicts that they were married, a wall and they weren't, priests were in tombs in the chapels. There are still remnants of paintings from two thousand years ago. The catacombs are huge but we are shown only a small but significant part, there's nothing in the remaining section that we haven't seen. So interesting.

    After that we return to the Classic Cars again, and then visit the cathedral and the cathedral museums, which had a lot of stuff on display but not much in the way of explanations so we whistled through fairly quickly. As we came out the Classic Cars were beginning to leave which was fun to see and hear - vroom, vroom!
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  • Day3

    Would you believe it? A packed 202 has driven straight past the crowded bus stop again. Again, the next bus isn't for another bloody hour. We wince at the price of a taxi home from Mdina but a couple overhear us and ask if we'd like to split the cost with them which, of course, we do. Chatting on the way back it turns out they were on the bus this morning that didn't stop for us. As well, they were eating in the same restaurant as us last night. Small world!

    Back at the apartment we have a glass of wine on the terrace, before walking to Peppino's for dinner. We were lucky enough to get their tiny arched, sea view balcony with just the one table. Perfect! We shared a starter of razor clams and mussels gratinee , followed by sea bream and bass, which we split between us. We'd barely finished, when the traffic was stopped and a chanting procession celebrating Santa Maria came past. Always interesting to catch something local like that.
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  • Day4

    After yesterday's disastrous buses, we decide to use the hop-on, hop-off open top bus today, at a cost of 18 euros each. We're on it at 9, on the front seat at the top, and it takes us first to Slimea, then on through Valetta and across to Mosta, where I notice that there are really a lot of flagpoles. We hop off.

    We visit the Rotunda, the church with the fourth largest unsupported dome in Europe. It is 39m diameter across and 59m from the floor to the top. A German bomb went through the dome during the war but miraculously did not explode nor injure any of the congregation below!

    We follow brown tourist signs to somewhere. Sometimes we can't read signs as they also use Arabic letters. It turns out to be the Cultural Centre - it's in a pretty courtyard, there are some paintings and some old tools. That's about it. I think we'll just leave it as being a very minor tourist site...
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  • Day4

    We catch the next bus which takes us on to Mdina, which is where the time trials for the Classic Cars are taking place today. We can look down into the trench outside the city walls which is acting as the pits today. We recognise some of the cars from yesterday but there are a lot more than were on display in the concourse.

    We find a spot where we can see and watch as car after car sets off : Minis, Fiats, Jags, a wildly keen Honda which won last year, cautious drivers, keen drivers of lower powered cars...they're all here. We chat to a couple of big enthusiasts on either side of us. We laugh as the safety truck has to go the assistance of a marshall who fell over a wall down a bank and couldn't get out! He was unhurt but probably deeply embarrassed! And we learn that almost all these Classic Cars are from Malta itself.

    Then we find Is-Serkin for lunch. We sample pastizzi and qassatat, which are different types of pasties. We had four (ricotta, pea, chicken and anchovy) pastizzi and a pea qassatat plus two beers for less than six euros!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Malta, Malta, Mɔlta, ማልታ, مالطا, Мальта, Малта, Malti, মাল্টা, མལ་ཊ།, Malta nutome, Μάλτα, Malto, مالت, Malte, Málta, માલ્ટા, מלטה, माल्टा, Մալթա, MLA, マルタ島, მალტა, ម៉ាល់តា, ಮಾಲ್ಟಾ, 몰타, ماڵتا, Malita, Malitɛ, ມັນຕາ, Malite, മാള്‍ട്ട, ମାଲ୍ଟା, Insula Malta, Mâlta, මෝල්ටාව, Maalda, Maltë, மால்டா, మాల్టా, มอลตา, مالٹا, Man-ta, Orílẹ́ède Malata, 马耳他, i-Malta

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