Monday and Tuesday, 4 and 5 August, 2016 – Days 19 and 20 Malta to UK

Monday and Tuesday,  4 and 5 July 2016  – Days 19 and 20 – Malta to UK

Monday, 4 July, 2016  – Day 19 – Telford 

I had my wakeup call at 4.45am. Dressed quickly and down for a cup of coffee before my transport arrived at 4.45am to take me to the Malta Airport. Arrived at the airport by 6.00am. I booked my 16.7ks case through and then wrote some postcards until it was 8.00 am when I went through Security and passport check.  Boarded flight KM116 from Malta to Gatwick. I exchanged seats so as to sit with David and Margaret who I had met and sat with on way over to Malta. We left at 8.40am and arrived at Gatwick Airport at 12.30pm.  It was a bit of a wait at the passport check and then said goodbye to David and Margaret who had waited for me to get through passport check.

I was going to get the Gatwick Express but the railway assistant told me it would be better to get an ordinary train to St Pancreas. The train was delayed by 35 minutes due to a staffing problem so I eventually arrived at St Pancreas and got a taxi to Euston Station. I thought I was in time for the 3.15pm train but my ticket was for a different company so had to change my ticket.  The woman was very obliging and did not charge me extra so I boarded the train to Wales. Had to change at Birmingham New Street station. A kind guy took my case and me to the correct station for my next train that arrived in 10 minutes. Boarded the train and arrived at the Wellington Station at about 6.10pm. Warren and Anthony picked me up and it was to their place in Wellington and then it was hello to Emily.

We chatted over a a lovely spread and was good catching up with them.  Met these lovely people in 2014 at the Birmingham Airport.

The night ended on a frustrating note as my IPad went berserk and wouldn’t let me activate it after attempting to put in a passcode so left it and went to bed at 10.30pm disappointed.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016 – Day 20 – Telford and into Wales

Up at 7.30 and after breakfast drove into Telford to pick up my hire car and brought it back to Warren’s. We all then went into the Town Centre to see about my IPad but with no success. We then called into the Coed Poeth shop for some stores and then onto the Parc Farm Holiday Park where Warren has accommodation. The park is set in the Clwydian Hills midway between Llangollen, Mould and Ruthin, with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Emily has done a lot of work in the little garden.

It was then into the lovely historic market town of Ruthin (Rhuthin) via LlandyrnogIts position on the River Clwyd, between the Hiraethog Moors and the Clwydian Hills has led to many bloody battles between the English and the Welsh who fought for centuries for control of this important agricultural area. Before going in for lunch, we went into the Craft Centre – had many interesting displays and I bought a book consisting of the “Welsh Place Names” – Ruthin is mentioned and says  – Probably a corruption of rhudd, red, and din, town. So called from the colour of the soil.

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Give us a cwtch means Give us a cuddle. Still cannot understand the Welsh language.

We went into the Castle Hotel, an old coaching house and is located in St Peter’s Square. It is a Grade II listed building erected in the 18th century and named the White Lion and owned by the Myddelton family of Ruthin Castle. In c1885 it was renamed the Castle Hotel incorporating what is now the Myddleton Arms next door. Sir Hugh Myddelton, who bought this house in 1595, provided London with its first supply of fresh water.

The Castle Hotel is in a stunning location, in a town which boasts more listed buildings than any other in North Wales.  The premises have been refurbished by JD Wetherspoon in January 2012. We all had a nice lunch and I had Welsh sausages, peas and potato.

Warren, Anthony, Emily and I in the Castle Hotel in Ruthin, North Wales

Warren, Anthony, Emily and I in the Castle Hotel in Ruthin, North Wales

There was a copy of a lovely tapestry called the Wine Market that was woven in Flanders in the 15th Century. The original now hangs in the Cluny Museum in Paris.  Also in the hotel were several photographs of Charles Darwin. In August 1835, Charles Darwin, then only 22 years old, came to North Wales on a geological tour and stayed in Ruthin. He reputedly spent a night in the Castle Hotel. There was a painting of Darwin that was made 50 years later.

Before leaving Ruthin, we had a little wander and came across the “Maen Huail” which said – “On this stone the legendary King Arthur is said to have beheaded Huail, brother of Gildas the historian, his rival in love and war”.

It was time to leave Ruthin to return back to Wellington via Oswestry and arrived about 7.30 after a lovely relaxing day until the fun began trying to close Em’s account and get into Yahoo. We finally succeeded at 11.00pm and then off to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 3 July 2016 – Day 18 – Malta to Sicily, Italy

Sunday, 3 July 2016 – Day 18 – Malta to Sicily, Italy

I was still awake at 2.00am this morning as just could not go to sleep. Nodded off and woke up just seconds before my wakeup call at 4.00am.  I dressed and went downstairs for a coffee and waited with three cats for my 4.45am pickup.  Made good time and arrived at the Valletta wharf at 5.50am.  After a short wait with a passport check, it was onto a Virtu Ferry, (the Jean De La Vallette).

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It was just like a cruise ship taking cars, trucks and caravans as well as passengers.  We set off at 6.30am.  We arrived at 8.20 in Pozzallo. – 50 nautical miles from Malta. We had to wait until all the vehicles disembarked and then the walk on passengers could then disembark.  We then joined Bus No.1 and set off towards Taormina.

On our way we passed by Ispica a baroque town rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake, Rosolini a typical rural town dusted back to Roman times surrounded by orange and lemon groves. We then passed Noto. The city was also destroyed in the 1693 earthquake and was rebuilt to become the Capital City of Sicilian Baroque city and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we had hills on the left and the sea on our right. There were many vineyards and wheat fields around this area. Next was Cassible. It was still continuing on to Siracusa, the hometown of Archmides and home to the world famous archaeological zone. In this area there was a huge oil refinery.

We continued onto Catania, an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea and sits at the foot of Mt Etna.  Catania is well known for its historical earthquakes, having been destroyed by many earthquakes and rebuilt. Catania is now a large city with a busy port and has a rich culture and history having many museums, restaurants, churches, parks and theatres and is well known for its street food.

As time was limited we did not get off the coach until we reached our destination of Taormina. Taormina is spectacularly perched on the side of a mountain on the east coast of Sicily. Taormina is Sicily’s prime tourist resort and was discovered by the British aristocracy in the mid 1800’s. Facing Mt Etna and the blue Mediterranean, this peaceful panoramic resort, 206m above sea level was colonized by the Greeks who built a theatre in the Hellenic period – 4BC. The present Teatro Greco, altered by the Romans is the venue for classical plays every summer.  As we climbed we passed the narrow stretch of sand known as Isola Bella that connects to the mainland. It is a nature reserve and there were many swimmers going off the rocks.  We were given a couple of hours free time to wander around and have lunch.

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Taormina is a beautiful city perched high up on the mountainside and had gorgeous views down to the sea and out to Mt Etna.

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There is a cable car that ferries tourists to and from the seaside resorts down along the coast. Cary Grant and Greta Garbo were regular visitors to Taormina. I wandered along taking in the views and enjoyed going along the narrow streets with their cafes, boutiques and restaurants. The main street, the Corso Umberto, seems to be a bustle of nationalities.

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It was then time to board the coach for our next destination of Mt Etna.  We took a very scenic drive further up the mountain and the views out over the sea were absolutely spectacular. It is just amazing how the coach drivers negotiate these narrow windy routes. If we meet another coach, there is only about 6 inches between coaches.  We made our way to Mt Etna.

Mt. Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily in the Province of Catania between Messini and Catania. Elevation is approximately 3350 metres and is the tallest active volcano and is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. Was designated as Decade Volcano of the United Nations. In June 2013 it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage.

The top of the volcano is actually a series of craters. Because it erupts frequently, the landscape is constantly changing. Most recent eruption occurred on 26 October, 2013. Twentieth century eruptions occurred in 1949, 1971, 1981, 1983 and 1991-1993.

We were climbing through picturesque villages and an ever changing landscape. The lower slopes of the volcano are extremely fertile with groves of lemons, oranges and other Mediterranean flora and of course vines which produce Sicily’s best wines. We drove through forests of chestnut trees which gradually gave way to oak, beech, birch and pines. We finally got to Refugio Sapienza where we purchased our tickets for the Funivia dell’Etna cable car up the mountain to 2500 metres. It was then onto a 4 wheeled vehicle that took us up to the spot where we got off and had a short but steep walk to one of Etna’s crater. We were at about 2920 metres high.

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As we walked along there was the black lava sand, volcanic gravel and rocks crunching underfoot. It is an amazing site looking down into the crater. Hard to imagine that anything can grow in these surrounds but there are lots of little plants and pines growing.  Was amazing also, looking up to the summit of Mt Etna with its smoke rising up to the sky. This area becomes covered in snow and is a very popular skiing area. As we walked back to the jeeps, there was still some frozen snow along the way.

The jeep took us all the way down to the waiting coach. We had another stop at Zafferana and called into a large shop, Oro d Etna to sample  the local honey, nougat and wine. I did buy a couple of products. It was then back to Pozzallo to get the ferry back to Malta. It was a smooth ride back to the mini cab that took me back to my hotel arriving at 12.30am.

It was an extremely long but interesting day.  I did my packing for tomorrow as I fly back to England and bed at 2.00am.

Sadly, I have not any of my own photos of beautiful Taormina or Mt Etna as my Ipad decided to play up and I could not retrieve anything off it. To reactivate my Ipad, everything on it had to be deleted. I shed some tears but nothing I could do about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 July 2016 – Days 16 and 17 – Malta

Friday, 1 July 2016 – Day 16 – Malta

Up at 7.00am and booked out of my lovely little apartment, Number 20 and at 7.45 Alfie picked me up to take me to the Panarama Hotel in Mellieha. We arrived at 8.45 as there was quite a lot of traffic already. While waiting for my 9.00 tour bus, I took in the lovely view of the sea and surrounds.

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Vincent, the tour guide came and escorted me up the little incline in a very narrow street that the coach could not negotiate. On the coach and we picked up a few more passengers on the way. The countryside is extremely dry and many stone walls and a few little primitive houses. We arrived at the ferry wharf  at the Mgarr Harbour for the short 20 minute ferry ride to Gozo at 9.30. We were then onto the coach for our tour of Gozo. The population of Gozo is about 30,000 and the lifestyle is quite different from Malta. Very quiet and relaxing and many Maltese folk go to Gozo for their holidays.

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The first temple dates back to about 872 BC when the Phonecians came to Malta. After the Phonecians were the Carthaginians and the Romans. Many Maltese came from Lebanon so the language is Arabic also. The main reason they came to Malta was for business in the area. Malta is in the Mediterranean between Africa and Europe.

Our first stop on the tour was at the Ggantiju Temples. The Ggantiju or as it was commonly known in the past, The Giants’ Tower, is the best preserved and by far the most impressive prehistoric temple. It is probably the finest of all the ancient remains on these islands and can compare with Stonehenge for grandeur. It was uncovered in about 1826.

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These are regarded to be the oldest free standing structures in the world. The largest megalith to be found at the Ggantiju Temples weighs about 50 tonnes and its walls reach a height of around 7 metres. After a long walk back on the coach again.We passed Marsalfon Bay. In the year 60AD the Christian Apostle Paul was shipwrecked around here and stayed for about 3 months. Legend has it that he was on his way to Rome from Malta and his ship stopped over in Marsalfon. It is now a popular seaside resort. At about 11.30 we headed to Victoria (Rabat).  During the Arab period, it used to be called Rabat, but the Bishop of Gozo obtained permission for it to be called Victoria in commemoration of the jubilee of Queen Victoria.  The relation between the British and Malta was amicable.

We had a long wander down lovely little well kept inhabited alleyways.

There was not enough time to visit the Citadel so David, Maddie, Brian and Heidi and I had a refreshing beer at a nice cafe and then it was onto the coach to go to the Downtown Restaurant for a nice buffet lunch.

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After our lunch, it was back onto the coach to go to the Ta’Pinu Basilica. This is a national shrine and a centre of pilgrimage for both Gozitans and the Maltese. On this spot there was a 16th Century chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, with an altarpiece painted by Amedeo Perugino in 1619. The old chapel with the original painting can still be seen at the far end of the church where votive offerings, including silver objects, crutches and pictures are displayed in the church. Our Lady of Ta’Pinu is believed to have miraculous healing powers. The interior of the church is beautiful and some of the holy pictures are not hand painted, but mosaics. The Basilica is affiliated with the Vatican in Rome.

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We were then back on the coach heading to the Ta’Dbiegi Crafts Village.  Situated beneath the shelter of Gozo’s highest hill, huts and workshops furnish local unique handmade crafts such as the famous Gozo lace, sweaters, blown glass, pottery and ceramics, limestone marble, onyx and alabaster, silver and gold, paintings and wood pyrography, leather, candles and also local liqueurs, honey and preserved fruits in the traditional was. We visited one such outlet and sampled the wine and honey. I did make a couple of small purchases here as the products were so nice.

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Our next get off stop was at Dwejra having one of Gozo’s most important natural landmarks.  These are the coastal tower, the Azure Window and the famous Fungus Rock.  I decided not to do the optional trip to the Azure Window as I thought it would have been similar to my trip to the Blue Grotto. I enjoyed a quiet sit and coffee until the other passengers returned.

Shortly after boarding the coach, we stopped at a beautiful lookout where we could see Valletta, the island Comino and other islands.

We then travelled back to join the 4.30pm ferry. David and Maddie are staying at the same hotel. On our return to the hotel we had a relaxing time sitting outside enjoying some refreshing drinks as still quite warm and listening to some keyboard music and a chap singing.

Today was a very enjoyable and informative day. I went to bed reasonably early.

Saturday, 2 July 2016 – Day 17 – Malta

Up and had breakfast with David and Maddie and then it was a complete relaxing time chatting, in and out of the swimming pool, having a few beers and watching the activities out on the Mellieha Bay.  For lunch I had a nice omelette and then did the same activities as in the morning. Very lazy but a good rest.  We adjourned to David’s and Maddie’s balcony for a last drink with them. David was very good at being Maddie’s and my “servant” tending to our refreshments requirements throughout the day. Thanks David. At 7.30pm I said goodbye to them as it was going to be a very early pickup once more for my trip over to Sicily.

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Thursday, 30 June 2016 – Day 15 – Malta


Thursday, 30 
June 2016 – Day 15 – Malta

Woke at 8.00 to another warm day. Down and caught the local No. 2 bus having been told it would stop at the Valletta wharf but instead it stopped at the Valletta bus terminal. Luckily I had time to walk down to the Valletta Waterfront to catch the 9.30 T2 South (the blue lined route) Hop-on-hop-off bus. We set off and the first bus stop was at the Tarxien Temples and Hypogun. There are various chambers that are kept at controlled temperatures. Now a UNESCO site.

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My trip today on the blue line bus route

Now we came to where I started from this morning, at the Vittoriosa Waterfront but I wanted to make sure of the earlier spot to be picked up from. Our commentary when able to be heard gave us some information on the Maltese cuisine, including soups, pasta, fish dishes and rabbit stew (Venkata). There are many pastitsi (bakeries) and were reconmmended. Maltese wines were also mentioned and are being well received globally. We passed quite a few vineyards.

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We had a short stop at Marsaxlokk which is a nice looking fishing village. Our Lady of Pompeii is the patron saint of fishermen. There were quite a few fishermen sorting out their nets as they were up early selling their varied catches – swordfish, tuna and lampooki – to the hotels and restaurants.

We passed through Birzebluga and Gudja. The bus kept going and we passed Malta’s only airport, Luqa.  Air Malta is Malta’s own airport but many other airlines fly into Valletta. There were some very deep open cut limestone quarries. Zurrieq was the next village we passed through.  The feast of St Catherine was mentioned. Many of the villages celebrate their special feast days with an abundance of fireworks displays as well as street decorations and processions with the statue of their patron saint, accompanied by local brass bands, traditional snacks and nougat. Evidently these fireworks displays are quite spectacular. I did not see any, but heard them going off one night.

The countryside around this area is extremely dry and it is a  wonder anything can grow but vegetables, grapes and many oleander shrubs do. Our next stop, at 10.45 was at the famous Blue Grotto.What a gorgeous spot.  This was my first getting off the bus. On my way to purchase the boat ride to the grotto cave, there under a tree were four Falcons so I had my photo taken with the biggest one called Nina. Took the short walk for my ticket for a 25 minute boat ride to the beautiful grottoes. The water is such a gorgeous blue, hence the name. We went into several little inlets.

 

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Made our way back to be dropped off. As the little walk was quite steep, I paid a well spent euro for a buggy ride to a cafe for a drink before boarding the bus back to Valletta.  I just wished I had my swimmers as the natural protected pool was an ideal spot as safe and as not crowded as on the beaches.

My next get off, was at the”Maltese Experience” into which I intended going but it was a guided tour and had already started 5 minutes earlier so I gave it a miss.  I then purchased a ticket to go into Fort St Elmo and the National War Museum. The Fort was built by the Knights in 1551.  It was a steep entry into the 7 exhibition rooms and it had warmed up considerably.  After doing this climb, I discovered there was a lift!  From the top, you got a terrific view of the Harbour and the surrounds. Made my way into the different story halls except for the final one as the projector was out of order. I found this excursion was extremely well set out and gave one a wonderful story of Malta’s beginnings right up to the present day.  Two halls are dedicated to Malta’s important role in WWI, the Inter War Period and Malta’s historic role in WWII. The three most important icons of this Museum are the Gloucesterh Sea Gladiator N5520 Faith, one of the three airplanes active in the region at the beginning of the conflict, Roosevelt’s jeep, “Husky” and the Malta award for gallantry, the George Cross given to Malta by King George VI during the Second World. Concluding the walk through Malta’s military role in history are displays dedicated to Malta’s Independence, becoming a Republic, Freedom Day and Malta joining the European EU on 1st May, 2004.

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After thoroughly enjoying this afternoon at Fort St Elmo, I had a nice cool drink of beer before joining the Hop-on bus once more. I had it to myself as no other passengers and got off at the very convenient stop at Vittoriosa. Just had to make my way up more steps, along a little alleyway to the Birgu square.

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Went into a cafe for another cool drink and pizza. It was huge, so took half home for later. Then the very short stepped walk to my apartment to sort out my luggage as being picked up at 7.45am in the morning to go to the Panarama Hotel in Mellieha.  Went to bed reasonably early.

I loved my little apartment (except those 40 odd steps to my level 3) and I thank Renald for the milk, yoghurt, oranges and sandwich that you supplied and also for Ritianne for arranging my transfers.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016. – Day 14 – In Malta

 Wednesday, 29 June 2016 – Day 14 – In Malta 

Woke up to a beautiful sunny day.  I set off down all the stairs to the Harbour and got a water taxi over to Valletta. Another big cruise ship in at port.

Headed up to one of the main streets to find a bank and then headed down to the Bus Terminal to get on the T1 North Route hop-on-hop-off bus. (Blue lines route)

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I was told to wait for another bus as the one I was going to get on was reserved for people off the cruise ship but then it was decided, yes, I could get on.  After a couple of stops all the cruise people got off and I had the bus to myself.  A bit further along, then I needed to transfer to another one and the trip continued on.

We set off and passed San Anton Gardens. These gardens are probably the best known of the island’s gardens. The gardens were laid out by Grandmaster Antoine de Paule (1623-1636) as grounds for his summer residence. We headed onto Mdina, the old capital of Malta until 1530 and its origin may be traced back to 1500BC. Mdina has had many different names and titles depending on its rulers and its role but it’s medieval name describes its best – “Citta Notabile” the noble city.  The Arabs divided the Roman town of Melita (now Mdina) in two parts – the citadel which they named Mdina (the town) and the rest of the old settlement which they named Rabat (the suburb) names by which they are still known.  Impressive palaces that today serve as private homes line its narrow shady streets.

Mdina is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city and extraordinary in its mix of Medieval and Baroque architecture.

Both Rabat and Mdina are perched on a ridge dominating the whole expanse of the island  and of the sea beyond. Both centres have been inhabited for thousands of years. The main square of Rabat is dominated by the church of St Paul. Over the years it has been damaged by earthquakes and has been rebuilt. The present church was designed by Francesco Bionamici, the architect who brought the Baroque style to Malta and was built by Lorenzo Gafa between 1656 and 1681.

Rabat played a major role in Malta’s history. The large provincial township was part of the Roman city of Melita. The town is a commercial centre and acts as a market for its large agricultural hinterland. It is also well established on the tourist map due to archaeological and historical sites.

imageThe country side is so very dry and dusty over a lot of the island. We had a stop at the Ta’Qali Crafts village. This was the first hop off as we stayed longer here. The little shops had some lovely filigree and glassware handicrafts but I did not buy anything.  This was a former World War II military aerodrome and it has been converted into the hand crafts centre.  Along a little way, there is an Aviation museum displaying aircrafts. The museum is situated in a former RAF station and among the artefacts are a rebuilt Spitfire MkIX and a Hawker Hurricane LLa. There were lots of old hangars here.

It was time to board the bus again and we continued on to Mosta. It lies at the heart of Malta and is a busy market town. At its centre is a magnificent domed church dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady and is called St Mary’s. The Rotunda is currently the 4th largest in the world and the third largest unsupported church dome. In World War II (1942) the church took a direct hit from a German 200kg. bomb that pierced the dome landing in the midst of 300 odd congregation but failed to explode. There is a replica of the bomb on display. The original was dumped at sea.

We made our way north west of the mainland of Malta to the small town of Mgarr. It was formerly known as Mgiarro. Mgarr is a typical rural village situated in an isolated region, west of Mosta and is surrounded by rich farmland and vineyards and strawberries. Over the years Mgarr has built up a reputation for being one of the best places where one can eat stewed rabbit and snails in garlic, considered as Maltese specialities. Most people of these restaurants are situated around the Mgarr Parish Church, built in 1912 and dedicated to St Mary and is known for its unusual egg-shaped dome.

Although the country is very dry, there were lots of vegetables such as squash, cabbages and others being grown plus lots of rabbits.

On our way to Golden Bay we pass Roman Baths but this heritage site is temporarily closed. There seemed to be heaps of cars here and the beach looked quite crowded. Together with its adjoining beach, Ghajin Tuffieha, it is unspoilt and secluded. This point was our most westerly side of the island.

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We headed northeasterly to St Paul’s Bay. This is the quaint location of the original Fishing harbour known as “Il Menqa” flanked to the left by Wignacourt Tower built by the Grandmaster (-1622), the oldest standing watchtower of the period of the Knights of St John and to the right St Paul’s Chapel revered as the spot where the locals lit a fire to warm and welcome St Paul on his unforeseen arrival on the island.  We then weaved out way through Bugibba. Bugibba and its neighbours Qawra and St Paul’s Bay are Malta’s largest seaside resort towns. The coastline has been developed into a distinct resort with numerous hotels and holiday apartments. The water in n both verges of the bay is not deep and is ideal for swimming off the rocks.

Now we were travelling eastwards for quite a few miles to St George’s Bay, Paceville and St Julian’s. This area is a very upmarket spot with quite a few huge new hotels and modern development. It is a major residential and tourist centre. St Julian’s merges with Paceville, Malta’s main nightlife centre with clubs, casinos, restaurants, cafes and bars. We weaved in and out of the bays and hotels. You could see the beach was absolutely packed with many colourful umbrellas and lollabout lounges and swimmers packed in like sardines.

We then headed past Spinola Bay towards Balluta Bay. This is a small bay between St. Julian’s and Sliema. Its shores are full of cafes, kiosks and restaurants. The skyline is dominated by the Carmelite Church and the Victorian Balluta Building. The next stop was Sliema where I decided I would get off as it has been a very long trip. Didn’t realise it was going to be this long. Sliema is Malta’s main coastal resort. It’s a centre for shopping, restaurants and cafe life. Sliema is also a major commercial and residential area and also houses several of Malta’s most recent hotels. The coastal promenade, which runs for several kilometres from St Julian’s to Gzira and Ta’Xbiex is ideal for walkers and joggers.  The bay is full of little boats and several ferries. From here you could see Manoel Island. It is a small island fortified by Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena, who also built the theatre in Valletta. The architect of this project was Frenchman Francoise de Mondion, who was also the architect of Louise XIV. The island is now vexing conserved and converted into an exclusive residential area.

I sat and watched the activities along the promenade for quite awhile and then caught another hop-on to the Valletta Waterfront to get a Water taxi back over to Vittoriosa.  As it was very warm I stopped off at the local cafe for a couple of beers before returning to my apartment.

It was quite a long day, but got to see a very extensive part of the countryside along with the different villages, beaches and bays and certainly heard lots of information about Malta.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016 – Day 13 – Malta

Tuesday, 28 June 2016. – Day 13 – Malta.    

Woken up by my delivery of milk and oranges at 9.15 after having had a good sleep.  Went up to the nearby information centre and Tania was ever so helpful. Made my way down to the ferry terminal.

I checked with a man that I was heading the right way and he told me some instructions. He must have thought I may not have understood so he caught up with me an escorted me down to the terminal. The Maltese people re so friendly and helpful. Caught the 1.00 ferry into Valletta. It is colloquially known as ‘Il Belt’. Valletta is the capital of Malta and was built during the rule of the Knights of St. John. This baroque city is speckled with neo-classical and modern architecture and has been declared Europe’s Capital of Culture 2018. This prestigious title reflects the incredibly rich cultural heritage of this Baroque masterpiece.

Once the ferry arrived in Valletta, you then caught a very high lift that brought you out near the  Saluting Battery point. From here you are able to get a marvellous view of the Grand HarbourThere is an enormous cruise liner in at port, the MSC Preziosa.

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I went into Valletta’s first church, The Church of Our Lady of Victory. It is quite beautiful inside with all the paintings on the ceiling. There is a lot of restoration taking place and one of the items of the list is to reinstate the 18th Century Organ.

I then wandered along a couple of the streets and found the bookshop that sold bus tickets.

I then decided to have a horse and buggy hour’s ride that took me around to several points of interest. Past a very grand 5 star hotel, a once leper hospital, a little fishing bay, a war memorial, and quite a few others that are too numerous to mention. It was certainly worth it. The driver also took me down to the port to see the cruise ship at close quarters. I believe it sails out tonight heading to Spain and France.

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The three Cities were pointed out – Birgu, Bormla and Isla. The cities had their names changed by the Knights of Malta and are today known as Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Singlia respectively.

Malta has many picturesque winding streets and very impressive harbour views. One hears lots of bell chimes throughout the day. It is a very relaxed city and although there are lots of people, you are not being jostled into each other.

After my horse and buggy ride, I came back to the Saluting Battery again to hear the gun firing at 4.00.

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I then decided instead of taking the ferry back to Birgu/Vittoriosa, I would take a “gondola” back. Once more, points of interest were pointed out to me as we went along the Grand Harbour. It was very relaxing going along and there was a very pleasant breeze blowing.

Thought I was back in Venice on the gondola

Thought I was back in Venice on the gondola

Instead of going right up to where the ferry came in, I was dropped right near the square near my accommodation. I called into the Church of St. Lawrence. It was erected during the years 1681-1697 replacing the previous church which served for a time as the Conventional Church of the Order of St. John.

 I then went inside the tiny Oratory of the Holy Crucifix. This oratory or small church was built in 1720 on the graves of those that fell during the Great Seige of 1565. It was built by members of the Confreternity of the Holy Crucifix where they held their various meetings and religious functions. The fascade was rebuilt in 1950 after it was destroyed during World War II.

I then headed for the Cafe de Brazil and ordered a couple of beers and had a nice salmon penne.  Then it was time to tackle the 40 steps into my apartment.  The time has got away while doing this so I had better go to bed.  It has been a super day .    It certainly is a lovely city.

Monday, 27 June 2016 – Day 12 – London to Malta

Monday, 27 June 2016 – Day 12 – London to Malta

Up at 7.00 and said goodbye to Cynthia who was off to work.  It rained for a short bit but when the girls left for school, it had stopped. At 8.15 Mark and I left for the train station and then onto Victoria Station for me to get the Gatwick Express. Mark was a great help as I probably wouldn’t have taken this route without his help.

I arrived at the Gatwick Airport at 9.15 after the half hour journey. Booked my case in at 9.30 and then in line for Security. Was a long walk to Gate 33. Met and chatted to a lovely couple, Paddy and Rosie. We boarded our plane Malta ET645 for Malta. We had a delay of half an hour and eventually took off at 12.30.  We were served a nice roll and then it was smooth flying and we arrived at the Valletta Airport at 4.20.  Waited for a short while to go through passport control, collected my case and was met by my driver who drove me to my accommodation in Birgu. The owner, Renald met me and gave me some pointers about the surrounds.  My apartment is up 40 steps and a few more above is the top of the building so went up and took a couple of photos.

It was very warm, so had a shower, changed and went down the little alley way to Renald’s restaurant, Cafe de Centre for a beer, snails and a kids pizza.

As I was leaving, spoke with a John from Roumania so we had a drink, chatted and he showed me the marina before taking me back to near my accommodation.

It was now 11.30 so went straight to bed after a long day.