Malta

Extracts from a holiday diary: Malta
August 2015

Some names changed to protect identity. I have no idea why……..

Saturday: Taxi at 5am. Always stressful as everyone has set alarm for 4:30, knowing it will take half an hour to get ready. Lots of tension over bathroom space. Except for Mario. He had decided it wasn’t worth going to bed. Husband gave him a 3am deadline for being packed ( visions of him falling asleep, not packed, at 3:30.) I just love the whole ‘male territory’ thing.

Taxi and flights okay.
Mario announced in taxi he has a note on his phone: ” Reminder to future self. Rae does not need a window seat. In 2010 she had a window seat and she shut the blind and went to sleep.”

We flew with British Airways. R had the window seat.

Landed in Malta. Hired car through Avis, a Mazda 6. A very battered Mazda 6. As we left the airport, understood why it was battered. No one stops at junctions, you just have to try hard to avoid them.

Son 2 map read. Not easy as map had no road names and there were lots of unexpected one-way roads. Also roundabouts were marked on map but did not appear to actually exist. R and M gave regular input, husband ignored most directions. No idea how Son 2 remained calm ( this is why I REFUSE to be the map reader.)

Malta has lots of flat roofed buildings made of pale limestone. Reminded me of being in Palestine ( not that I’ve actually ever been to Palestine.)

Arrived at Meridien Hotel. Nice lobby. Had drinks while they prepared our rooms and looked at views, which are brilliant, across a bay to a church.
Rooms nice. Walked around town and bought water ( water in Malta tastes horrid, though is safe to use for ice, washing salads, cleaning teeth, unless you are particularly sensitive.) Even at 6:30 pm, it was really hot, sweaty within minutes.

Ate in Villa Restaurant, which is part of the hotel. Meals around €30 per head for starter and mains. Very nice. We sat on a veranda overlooking water, tiny lights in trees, beautiful. R told me that next to the sea you don’t get mosquitos so wont be bitten. This is not true.

Sunday: Breakfast. Amazing buffet, had pretty much everything. Need to lose weight before nephews wedding or will need bigger dress – was not a good start.
Family sat and chatted to each other on fb.
Planned day.

Hotel is at St Julian ( which explains why I couldn’t find it on map in Valletta. Another reason why I no longer map read.)
Valletta has a Crusaders fort. Caught bus. Very easy as Valletta is end of the line. Tickets cost €2 each and are valid for two hours (so you can get on and off buses with the same ticket within that time.)

Valletta was interesting, busy and hot. More limestone flat roofed buildings, flags, cafes, gift shops. Malta has lots of Festa – each town has a Saint and one weekend each year they decorate the town, have a parade, let off fireworks and are generally festive.
We looked round the free bits of the fort because the bits you pay for are basically museums and we don’t much like museums. Plus we could see lots just from the free bits. Great views. Loud canons at midday.

Fort built in 1556 by the knights from the Order of St John. Later, in 1798, Napoleon invaded and kicked out the knights. The Order still exist today – in the UK they are St John Ambulance Brigade, though the order itself is based in Rome and answers only to the Pope. ( Good book, ‘Malta and Gozo’ by Juliet Rix explains it all.)

All hot, so decided to go to Mac D’s for lunch. Got enticed into a cafe by man on the door. Had nice lunch in warm air conditioned dining room ( was less hot but not really cool.) Prices in menu differed from prices advertised outside but not by much ( worth always checking though!) Food nice and cheap. Toilets nasty. Service friendly. V rude American lady made a fuss because her margherita pizza had tomato sauce, not fresh tomatoes. When she left, waiter laughed and raised his hands!

Went round the Grand Masters Palace. Cool painted ceilings and suits of armour. Lots of ‘Do Not Touch’ signs. ( If you’re tempted to try on a helmet when no one is looking, don’t bother – they’re glued onto the modals.) Weapons room had lots of weapons ( not unexpectedly, you might think) and was very hot.

Got bus back to St Julian. Friendly lady on bus told me that you can buy a weekly ticket for €21. Actually, everyone on Malta is friendly. Apart from the rude American lady. And some journalists who were waiting outside the Courthouse with tv cameras and who wouldn’t tell me who was inside ( they just said “criminals” when I asked. So I took photo of them instead.)

Son 2 informed me his shoe ( just one) is too big so he was wearing three pairs of socks. Sounded both hot and high impact on the laundry front. Bought him a shoe insole.
Walked to next bay and checked out restaurants. Everyone seemed very young and trendy ( am informed that the use of word “trendy” proves that I am old.) Ate ice creams next to sea.
Swam in hotel pool.

Walked around bay to Eat restaurant ( not part of the UK fast food chain.) V nice starter. R and I had cocktails which looked nice but mine was fairly low alcohol. Main courses okay but not great. When bill came, waitress said their credit card machine didn’t work. M ( the economist) informed me this was a scam. Either that or she was a bit daft to not tell us at the beginning as we may not have been carrying enough cash.

Monday: Nice breakfast. Family communicated by mobiles again. Might take a book tomorrow.

Drove to Mdina and Rabat. Mdina is the walled city within Rabat. Son 2 in charge of map again. Lorry ahead of us hit a tree branch which then fell and blocked the road. Son made up detour. Arrived in Mdina, which was surprising as Son admitted that at no point was he sure which road we were on. Did not stop him making decisive decisions at every junction, we were fooled. Apart from M, who labelled him the ‘Helen Keller of map readers’.

M requested that we not walk around in the midday sun. We arrived in Mdina at 11:50. It was hot. He hardly mentioned it at all.

Walked to St Paul’s grotto in Rabat. It started to rain. Was only about five drops but all males complained. Fear we may be holidaying in Sahara next year.

M complained that the name ‘Rabat’ is stolen from Morocco and St Pauls Cathedral is stolen from London. Walked around muttering about looking for the Maltese Eiffel tower and Statue of Liberty. We ignored him.

St Paul’s grotto was interesting, cool and dark, especially the catacombs. Not good if you don’t like confined spaces but excellent otherwise. Some of the best stuff is down narrow unmarked tunnels, so worth taking a boy with a clever phone or a torch. Tall males complain a lot.

Used toilets in museum. Nasty. Toilets in Malta also rarely have paper, so worth carrying your own supply.
Bought cushion cover for my collection. Has Maltese cross on it. Happy.

Ate lunch in Bottegin, Palazzo Xara in Rabat. Was okay and cheap.

Drove home. Got thoroughly lost. R took over map reading and took us in a big circle past some bamboo. Fired her and reinstated Son 2/Helen Keller, who took us all around the coast. Was scenic if not exactly direct.

Played new board game in the bar. I never actually understood the rules but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Drank beers ( which helped.)

Tuesday: Breakfast at 9 (8 for me, am keeping to UK time. Mainly because it annoys the males.)
Husband collected a plateful of Maltese food ( pickled herrings, pea pastries, cheese). Ate a few mouthfuls, then collected a plateful of English breakfast food to ‘dilute’ it with. Told him he’s getting portly. He did not appreciate feedback.

Didn’t go to the Hypogeum in Paola as you have to book and there are no vacant slots for the next 20 years.

Drove to Hagar Qim to look at Mnajdra temples. Arrived 11:55. M hardly mentioned “midday sun” at all. There was an interesting 4D film before the monument ( my kind of history, short, informative and no long boring information boards to read.) Temples were unusual. And hot.

Drove back to St Julian with no detours. Son 2 told us, ” it helps if you know where you are when you start.” Explains a lot.

Checked out and ate lunch in hotel lobby. Nice food.

R said she needed to recharge all her electronics as her plug converters didn’t fit any of the sockets in her room. We pointed out that Malta has the same electricity as UK so she didn’t need any converters. R went quiet. Briefly.

Drove to ferry at Cirkewwa. I cannot begin to tell you how my family pronounce the names here…….

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