Malta in November

Holiday Diary continued…

Thursday 24th November 2022

Woke to a cloudy morning, but not actually raining. Went for a run. There were fishermen today when we ran beside the coast, casting their lines into the grey sea. After a quick shower we walked round the corner, and found a tiny café next to the law court. We had coffee and croissants while watching the criminals arriving! (Rather fun to try and guess who was a lawyer and who was the criminal and what crimes they committed. Especially exciting if someone arrived with a police escort. I didn’t take photos, as I didn’t want to end up in court myself.)

I read some more of my Ethics book (this is part of my college course, and I have to write a review on it, and it is NOT an easy read. More like reading an encyclopedia than a textbook.) Gave up after a couple of hours, and we drove to Gnejna Bay. Much more fun than a boring textbook. It was windy, and there were kite-surfers jumping the waves. We ate ice-creams (not very nice ones, I think mine had melted and refrozen) and watched the surfers enjoying the wind.

Drove towards a red fort, which looked exciting from a distance but more like a public loo when we arrived. We could also see a pyramid, far away in the distance. We worked out it was on Gozo, but there was NOT a pyramid on Gozo, so we were confused. Husband stopped for a walk (not my choice) and we strolled across scrubby land towards a tower. Malta is full of towers. Some are beautiful, some are imposing, this was neither.

We then followed signs to Popeye Village. This was my choice. We weren’t sure what to expect — possible a hotel complex or water park, maybe just a hamlet with a cute name. It turned out to be a film set, used in the Popeye film. We didn’t pay to go in, as you could see it across the bay. It was rather fun. There was a car park with a restaurant (and toilets) and a surprising number of other people had driven down the narrow lane to see the village.

Dinner in Café Sei as Papannis was closed on Thursdays. We found it by using Trip Advisor, but I’m suspicious the reviews weren’t authentic. It was okay, and our food was pleasant, but it wasn’t worth the reviews it had received.

Friday 25th November

On the 25th November, Christmas arrives in Malta. We woke to sunshine. After our run, we had coffee and croissants on the balcony, looking across Republic Square to the blue sea in the distance. It was nice, though noisy as builders working on the Grand Palace opposite had their radio on full blast. Valletta IS noisy. If you live in a city you probably wouldn’t notice, but it was vastly different to our home in the countryside — not unpleasant, just different.

We drove to St. Paul’s Bay. This is where St.Paul was shipwrecked in Bible times. I assume there were fewer buildings in those days, though the hills would have been the same. We drove round the bay, and looked across the water to St.Paul’s Island (which has a giant statue of St.Paul on it).

We then drove to Selmun Palace. This was built by a charity who were raising funds to ransom Christians who had been enslaved by the Ottomans. The palace was beautiful, set on a hill top, and very ornate. I’m not sure it was very good use of funds though — I suspect the enslaved Christians would have preferred the money had been used to set them free. Apparently, there were so many people that needed rescuing that the charity had a lottery to decide who would be ransomed. Tough if your name didn’t get picked. The palace was used as a hunting lodge, and knights would stay there and hunt rabbits — the income was used to free more slaves. (Though I am deeply suspicious that the cost of the building was more than any income raised.)

Dinner at Papannis. Lovely. The bar under our apartment had live music tonight, which lasted until very late. Not so lovely.

Saturday 26th November

We woke to the sound of cranes at 6am. Short night. Yesterday, people were talking about heavy rain storms, but it was still dry so we went for a run. We have learnt that in Malta, if it’s going to rain heavily there is very little warning — a few drips and then an instant deluge. We therefore abandoned our normal route along the coast and ran in the streets near the apartment. We saw lots of Christmas lights, and a Nativity scene (as I said yesterday, Christmas arrives on 25th November in Malta). As soon as we felt the first drips of rain, we raced back to the apartment. We got inside just as it started to pour.

There was a big storm. It tripped the fuse so we had no electricity for a while, and the bedroom roof started to leak so I put a saucepan underneath to catch the drips. We ate toast and coffee in the apartment, and I tried (many times) to photograph the forked lightening over the sea, but failed.

After lunch, we walked quickly to the car park and collected the car. We drove to ‘Clapham Junction’ which is so named because there are lines of cart tracks in the rock. No one knows exactly when the tracks were made — some people date them back as early as the Phoenicians — at least earlier than 700 BC. They are at a prehistoric site near Siġġiewi. We parked (no signs, so needed to follow Google maps) and started to walk towards where we thought they might be. But then it rained, so we hopped back into the car. Drove to a viewpoint on Dingli Cliffs (basically all grey and windy). The rain stopped, so we drove back to look at the tracks. It took us a while to find them, but once we had seen them, and realised what we were looking for, they were easy to see — very deep grooves worn into the limestone. They were much deeper than I was expecting.

Nearby were some caves, which were part of a Bronze Age settlement.

Next, we drove to the Blue Grotto. There was a parking area, and a pathway along the cliff edge to a viewpoint. I spent a long time looking at a pretty cove and taking photographs. Husband then told me this was not the grotto, and directed me round the corner. The grotto was spectacular — much better than the pretty cove!

There were also some really interesting plants growing on the cliff. They looked like little trees growing from a plant not dissimilar to an aloe vera. When I got close, I realised that the ‘flowers’ on the ‘trees’ were actually baby versions of the parent plant. I think that the long stalk falls over, and deposits the baby plants at a distance to the parent, where they can then fall off and start to grow. (I spent ages trying to find them on the internet, but I never found them. If you know the name, please let me know.)

Drove back to Valletta and made it into the apartment before the rain started again. Malta reminds me of Cyprus, but with lots of churches and ancient forts and towers. Even tiny fishing villages have watchman towers, guarding the coastline.

Sunday 27th November

Our last day. We had to leave the apartment by 10am, and our flight was in the evening, so we were homeless for a day. In the sunshine, this would have been a treat. Not so much in the rain. We drove back to see the ancient cart tracks, because we had realised that we never actually found the main set. This time we followed the map, and found them — lines and lines of tracks, running to the edge of a slope. Then it poured with rain, and we were completely soaked running back to the car.

We found a hyper market, and used the facilities, and tried to think of somewhere that would be fun to drive to in the rain. Gave up, and went to the airport. Camped in the corner of a food hall for a few hours (I tried to read more of the stodgy Ethics book that has defeated me all holiday). Eventually it was time to check-in, and leave Malta.

If you fancy visiting Malta in November, it has some lovely scenery. There are fewer people, so parking and visiting attractions is much easier. Valletta is beautiful. If you are lucky with the weather, it will be warm and sunny — but we had lots of rain, and it gets chilly. It’s a fun place to visit, but personally I prefer it in the summer.

By the way, the ‘pyramid’ we saw on Gozo turned out to be the Citadel when seen through binoculars!

Thanks for reading. Have a lovely day, and take care.
Love, Anne x

(And if you can name the plant, please tell me!)

If you enjoy my travel blogs, you should read my book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary

Available from Amazon as a kindle book or paperback—it makes a great Christmas gift!

(You can read it for free if you have a kindle.)

A November Trip to Malta

Malta Holiday Diary

Sunday 20th November, 2022. Late.

Arrived in Malta. The Airbnb is a 20 minute drive from the airport. Staying in Valletta, which is pedestrianised, so parked in multistorey car park and wheeled our suitcases through the city. Rain was forecast but never appeared, so felt very thankful.

Dumped bags in the apartment and went to McDonald’s. Sometimes, when you’re very tired, you just want something very easy/familiar. It hit the spot. We were the only people, including the staff, who were over twenty!

The apartment is weird. It’s all on one level except for the bedroom, which is reached via a steep spiral staircase. The bedroom contains a bed—nothing else. We left our bags in the sitting room, changed in the kitchen. Very odd.

Monday 21st November.

We woke early and went for a run. (Well, ONE of us woke early, and then had a hard job waking the other—but we did both go for a run.) The apartment looks better in daylight. It’s right in the centre of Valletta, and has two balconies that overlook the city. The bedroom, whilst odd, is also wonderfully light and has a view of the sea. Husband carried up a small set of shelves, so I can put a few things up there.

We had breakfast in Eddie’s Café in Republic Square. They didn’t serve croissants, so I tried a Maltese pastry—which was flakey pastry (quite greasy) filled with cheese. I wasn’t a fan. Husband had Eggs Benedict, which was much nicer, so I ate some of that.

It then basically poured with rain all day. The bedroom has a tin roof, so I read an Ethics book while the rain rattled above me. The sea turned from blue to grey and then disappeared from view. We walked to a little Italian restaurant for dinner: Papannis. Great food and wine, with friendly service. Returned to the apartment feeling happy.

Tuesday 22nd November

Not raining. Brilliant! We ran through the Victoria Arch, along the coast, then up the hill to the apartment (one of us walked up the hill). Showered, then had coffee and croissant at Caffé Cordina in Republic Square. Perfect.

We can see a big dome from the apartment, so we walked there (it’s a big church, rebuilt after the war. A LOT of Malta needed to be rebuilt after the war.) We found our way down to Boat Street, and had a lovely walk next to the coast. As we passed the imposing city wall, we could see where the bricks had been cut from the rock. When the knights arrived in Malta, they must have cut the rocks into bricks (thus lowering the base) and built the wall right there (hence not needing to transport the bricks very far). Clever. The wall is now weathered, but I still wouldn’t fancy having to climb it to attack the fort.

The weather was windy (needed my woolly hat) but sunny. When we sheltered from the wind, it was very warm—tee-shirt weather—but mostly we needed a jumper and coat. This was unexpected, I had assumed Malta would be warmer in November.

Returned to apartment and I read more of my Ethics book (quite heavy-going). Fell asleep while reading, and woke up to feel the bed shaking—thought it was Husband trying to wake me—realised it was an earthquake! It didn’t last very long, but there was quite a lot of movement. I checked Twitter (which is always the fastest way to confirm an earthquake I have learned). The earthquake was measured at 4.4.

Dinner at Papannis again. Lovely.

Wednesday 23rd November

Lots of wind and rain (and church bells) during the night, so woke up tired. It was grey and windy, but not actually raining, so we went for a run. I love running next to the sea, there’s something that makes me feel like a child again.

Breakfast at Caffe Cordina again. Today the pigeons were annoying. They’re very aggressive, and as soon as they see food they try to fly onto the table. If people leave uneaten food when they leave, the table is instantly swarmed with pigeons. Not very hygienic. I don’t like city pigeons much (they’re like rats).

Went back to apartment and I tried to read more of the Ethics book. Managed to not fall asleep. Gave up, and we went for a walk along the south eastern coast. We could see warships and a cruise ship and more of Malta across the inlet. Malta is distinctive, with its cities of golden stone and steep walls rising up from the coast, and so many churches—domes and steeples in every direction. Which means lots of bells. The bells near the apartment were fairly random in when they rang, and some of them rang throughout the night.

Dinner at Papannis again—we will have to eat somewhere else tomorrow as they shut on Thursdays.

I will tell you more about our trip in my next blog. Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

If you enjoy my travel blogs, you should read my book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary

Available from Amazon as a kindle book or paperback—it makes a great Christmas gift!

(You can read it for free if you have a kindle.)


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…….