This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Malta – May 2008

Another trip from our pre-blogging days, very enjoyable although not in the way that we planned.

Friends of ours had booked on to Cunard’s new Queen Victoria for a cruise around the ‘med. We had declined for some reason or other – cost probably knowing us – but decided we would be at one of the ships ports of call to surprise them. Malta was the favourite so we went ahead and booked up – independently as was the norm for us – flights by sleazyjet and a cheap hotel through Travel Republic I think.

It was the middle of May 2008, and the Saturday afternoon before we left was the hottest of the year – it hit 29 degrees in our back garden and it was forecast to stay hot too. So much for going away for some sun. A 6:00am flight meant an early start Sunday morning and at 2:30am when we got up it was still 17 degrees. Remember that temperature.

Just before 10:00am local time we arrived at Malta and the temperature was – wait for it - 17 degrees. Not only that but it was cloudy and windy, making it feel colder. Our room wasn’t ready so we stashed our bags and hopped on a tour bus – on the open top deck obviously, we were on holiday after all – and the temperature plunged still further helped in no small part by  a spattering of rain. Not the best of starts but at least we had a taste of the island.

The hotel – positioned just across the road from the harbour in Sliema was certainly cheap and as usual we wished we had paid a little more. The views from the balcony were great but the bathroom was a bit of a let down, the shower merely dribbling tepid water and the loo wasn’t very enthusiastic about doing it’s er, job either. We should have asked for another room really but we didn’t. Later, after getting unpacked we headed out for some liquid refreshment. The beer was good, not all lager but some darker stuff too although still gassy. The selected hostelry also had the F1 Grand Prix on the big screen  and there was quite a sizable  audience. Not surprising given the weather.

The following morning I woke with a headache not entirely due to the grog and felt tired and pissed off. My mood was not helped by Trev announcing that it was cloudy and trying to rain. Thoughts of changing flights and going home early kept swirling around as we headed up to breakfast. The breakfast room on the top floor afforded great views according to the puff on the website – and it would have done had it not been raining and the windows filthy dirty. The ingest of tea, bread and pastries eased my headache and lifted my mood a little. We agreed that there wasn’t likely to be much sunbathing on this trip but would make the best of it, weather permitting.

Well, it did permit and we did make the best of it and thoroughly enjoyed it too. The public transport was excellent – as in plentiful although not particularly healthy. At the time the bus fleet was made up almost entirely of old British buses from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Old diesel engines hammered and exhausts belched fumes as gearboxes crunched. We went to the capital Valletta, up to the north to look over at Gozo and across to the ancient walled city of Mdina, once Malta’s capital. We had a night in nearby St Julian's, Malta’s drinking district and sampled some Maltese wine too. The weather improved too as the week went on and we done a harbour trip, making the most of the sun. Little time was spent shopping although we did poke our noses in to M & S as well as a few of Malta’s many independent menswear shops. Italian influence abounds here – hardly surprising considering Italy is one of Malta’s closest neighbours. Smart clothes but designed for those with much smaller waists or flatter stomachs than either of us could offer.

We were in place early to see the arrival of the Queen Victoria towards the end of the week but after a glimpse on the horizon it seemed to take ages for her to appear at the harbour entrance. She eventually eased in and as she turned in preparation for docking I went off to the loo. I emerged just as there was an almighty bang and lots of shouting from the quayside. The ship  - less than  six months old and costing Cunard some 270 million quid - had just been reversed in to the quay, sending large chunks of concrete flying and putting a considerable dent in the stern  too. Efforts were made to conceal the damage from prying eyes and cameras, but not before I (along with the local rags) managed to snap a few photo’s.

Our friends were obviously surprised to see us, but had little knowledge of what had actually occurred so I showed them the evidence. The ship’s departure was eventually delayed for over 12 hours whilst the damaged was inspected and a temporary repair effected. We had toyed with hanging around to see her leave but decided against it – just as well – it would have been a long wait!

So what started extremely disappointingly turned into a really good week. The plan was to sunbathe and do little else, but the early weather made us get out and about and see the place and I’m so glad we did. Malta – awarded the George Cross for the bravery and heroism of her people during the second world war, where she was subjected to a relentless 154 day bombing campaign - joined our ever lengthening ‘must do again’ list.

Sliema

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The buses

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Sliema again

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Mdina

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The Queen Victoria

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Doh!

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Harbour Cruise

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