Marvellous Malta

We have just got home from a fantastic break in Malta. Regular readers will know that this was something of a last minute trip designed to chase away the new year blues, and it really did, while we were there at least. I’m feeling somewhat dazed to be back actually. Why is it that travelling makes you so tired? This morning we were picked up by a taxi right outside our front door for a twenty minute journey to Luqa airport, then we sat on a plane for three and a bit hours to Birmingham where we were whisked home by my Dad. Doesn’t sound overly taxing, does it, but gosh my eyelids are feeling heavy. It’s all worth it though.

Where do I start? At the beginning I guess. It doesn’t seem like it was only Wednesday that we headed off up the M42 to East Midlands airport, but I’ve checked and double checked, and it was! The flight out, considering it was Ryanair (you can read about my opinion of Ryanair here) was actually very relaxing. Hubby and I were sat twenty two rows apart because of said airline’s policy of trying to force you to pay to sit together. We even boarded at different ends of the plane! I took this photo from the top of the front steps, of hubby waiting to board at the back!

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Once on board, we both had three seats to ourselves. We could have moved, but it made a pleasant change to have plenty of room and meant we both got a window seat, so we didn’t bother. I was quite content with my crochet and episodes of the Crown that I’d downloaded from Netflix. The time flew by (pun entirely intended!)

We arrived a few minutes early and got straight through customs and met our pre-arranged taxi driver who took us to our little studio apartment. It actually rained most of the way there, but had stopped by the time we arrived and we didn’t see more than a couple of specks of rain for the rest of our trip.

We booked our accommodation through Airbnb and it didn’t disappoint. It was, I assume, a house converted into separate apartments and we were on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the road. We had a decent sized kitchen, a very modern bathroom and a living room with the sleeping section off it.

The tiled floor was amazing.

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We did partake of a few alcoholic beverages (well we were on our holibobs!) but I wouldn’t want to tackle the stairs up to the apartment after too many!

On day one of our holiday we broadly followed a walking tour of Valletta that was in our guide book.

We strolled past the Triton Fountain to enter Valletta …

… and started to wander down Republic Street.

Our first port of call was the National Museum of Archeology. This was really interesting and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Valletta. It really put the island into context. The oldest artefacts displayed date back to 4000BC! That’s really REALLY old.

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I’m always amazed that ancient civilisations created items such as this that are more decorative than essential to staying alive (although I guess they may have felt they were essential in keeping them safe from external forces). In the words of Dr. Ross Geller they had concerns such as ‘gee that glacier’s getting close’. That’s not the right time period, but you get my point. I love the fact that there’s proof that humankind has always been creative.

After this we went into St. John’s Co-Cathedral. I’m not sure what a co-cathedral is – I’ll have to google it – but blimey this one’s impressive! It’s full of gold!

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The floor is completely covered by three hundred and seventy five tombstones, underneath which the Knights of Saint John (rulers of Malta from the sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century) are buried.

We took the opportunity to go up some circular stairs to a viewing gallery where we got a stunning view of the ceiling of the Co-Cathedral.

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We carried on away from the main touristy parts of Valletta taking our time and wandering down what looked like residential streets. Everywhere in Valletta is beautiful. I’d describe it as dilapidated chic. There’s paint peeling off walls, weeds sprouting up between cracked paving stones and rusty balconies, but it all adds to the charm.

Eventually we ended up on what I guess is a peninsular. There were fabulous views of Vittoriosa, one of the Three Cities, over the sea.

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We watched the Malta Experience here, which is advertised as a light show, but it’s actually a series of photos on a big screen. It was a really interesting whistlestop tour of Malta’s history and I’m really glad we watched it. We got a combined ticket for this and the War Museum. I don’t think we did the War Museum justice – we were a bit museumed out by this point, and I was starting to get hangry! I don’t think we missed out because the exhibits basically told the same story that we’d just watched in the Malta Experience.

On day two, after an epic sleep, we caught a local bus to Mdina, the old Capital. First we went to St. Paul’s Catacombs, a network of underground tombs dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries.

If anywhere’s going to be haunted, this place is it! It’s quite eerie down there, especially as, being out of season, we were often the only ones down there (or were we?!)

You can see how much smaller people were by the size of each resting place, and it was very sad to see how many baby sized plots there were. Indicative of the time, I guess.

We strolled over to Mdina Gate after this and entered the city. It’s very atmospheric and very beautiful. The King’s Landing scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed here, and as fans of the show, we could really imagine Cersei or Tyrian appearing round every corner. I was so busy looking at everything that I completely forgot to take photos around the streets!

We went for lunch at Fontanella Tea Garden which has a roof terrace with stunning views.

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This was complemented by the most amazing cocktail called a Bric Royale.

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I’m not a hundred percent sure what was in it, but I think it was some combination of pomegranate liqueur and rose wine and I’m fully intending to acquire both and do some experimenting!

Unfortunately I made a poor choice for lunch and was still hungry so I took this as a perfect opportunity to find another lovely cafe to have some cake and an Aperol Spritz!

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On our last day we decided to make use of the hop on hop off bus. There are two routes you can take, north or south, and we chose south.

On our way down to the Valletta Waterfront to catch the bus, we happened upon this little fella who seemed reasonably happy to pose for photos.

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The bus went through Vittoriosa which looked really pretty …

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… but we continued on the bus until we arrived at Marsaxlokk. This is a really pretty fishing village and we loved it! There’s not a lot to do here, but we really enjoyed  having some lunch gazing out to sea and then strolling along the front in the sun, looking at the little boats.

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We carried on round the route on the bus until we got to the Blue Grotto. There’s a series of caves here which you can get a boat into and the water is very blue and crystal clear. Unfortunately we arrived too late to catch a boat, we didn’t realise they stop earlier in winter, but we got to see the grotto from above and it gives us an excuse to go back!

It was really beautiful.

On the way back we got to meet this little Miss.

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So, that’s our little mini break. We had a brilliant time and will definitely go back some time because there’s a lot that we didn’t get chance to see/do. It was soul restoring to get a little bit of winter sun. It wasn’t really hot, but it was warm enough at times for short sleeves and to feel the warmth on our arms was just what we needed. Maybe we’ll go back in the early summer or autumn so we can experience some of the beautiful beaches and maybe even do some diving off Gozo. I would recommend Malta to anyone.