Why we chose Malta
Hubby and I were late starters as far as foreign travel goes. We finally booked a holiday abroad that included a plane journey back in 1991. It was to Yugoslavia.
As we excitedly returned home the turned on the TV we were greeted by the sight of unrest in Yugoslavia. This quickly turned into a full scale conflict and we were left wondering just what would happen by September when we were due to visit.
Our £100 deposit would be lost if we chose to cancel and so we sat it out.
When finally later in the year the UK foreign office advised its citizens not to travel to Yugoslavia we had our deposit returned but where would we choose to visit with such short notice?
Having finally plucked up the courage and found the money to travel abroad we were determined to have a two-week vacation in a 'foreign' land.
Malta was the choice for a multitude of reasons.
Did we enjoy our holiday?
People the world over will tell you that you will either love or hate Malta and thankfully we loved it.
We flew out of Manchester airport and both Hubby and I were absolutely terrified believing we would run away when faced with getting on the plane. Somehow or another we managed it and had a fairly settled night flight to Malta.
We arrived and disembarked the plane around 7am
Despite the time and the fact that it was early September the weather was hot. It was very humid and the temperature was in the high 70s fahrenheit.
Most people had told us that it was a different heat abroad to that experienced in Summer in the UK but the weather in Malta for our vacation was similar to back home as it was so humid. Apparently it was unusual for Malta. The heat though was nothing like the UK summer and as the temperature began to rise each day we sizzled.
We had also been informed that Malta was very British and that you would come across old English telephone boxes and the like. Well, although this is true, Malta felt very foreign to us. It was our first encounter with armed army personnel in an airport and they looked very scary. The skyline of Malta was full of TV aerials and had a strange feel to it. Also, if our first glimpses of Malta were anything to go by it resembled Beirut during its worst bombings.
Our accommodation was in Bugibba, which is in St Paul's Bay
We stayed at the Santa Maria Hotel and it was fine. It was not the best hotel we have ever stayed but nowhere near the worst. As it was toward the end of the season there were a few minor problems in the room but reception tried to get things fixed. We were on a half board basis which meant we had breakfast and an evening meal in the hotel each day.
The sun was very hot each day and the air dry and dusty. The first day we browsed the books outside a nearby shop we thought that the colours were faded but itnwas as they were all covered with a fine dust.
The buildings are all pale coloured anyway as they are constructed from local stone.
The local buses are fun, if not a bit of a white knuckle ride. The driver usually have lots of crucifixes, pictures of saints and the like hanging in their seating area adding to the quirky feel.
The bus fares are quite reasonable. The main bus station is in Valletta, the island's capital.
The Sunday market in Valletta is huge but it does get very crowded.
You may see small wild birds, hi g high outside of residential properties in small cages. These are captured as they fly over Malta to migrate and make a sad sight. But worse still Malta continues to have a bad record for shooting and killing migratory birds as they wing their way over this island.
The locals speak fluent English and are very friendly.
Malta can suffer from power cuts
One night during our holiday even the street lights went out. This happened around 8pm. Any beer for sale was warm as cooling equipment stopped working. Everyone was sweating profusely.
Following a friend's advice before our vacation we had packed a torch in our luggage and were glad of this. We usually slept with the large ceiling fan switched on all night to keep cool. The power suddenly resumed at around 4am and the fan shot to life nearly frightening us to death.
We avoided tours offered by the reps as they were quite pricey
We opted for TIS Tours, which stands for tourist information. The vehicles were smaller and the excursions more personal. However the back seats of the mini vans were very bouncy and not for those who do not travel well.
The Malta Experience, in historic Valletta, details the fierce battle these plucky islanders put up against the German Nazis. Walk around Valletta or take a horse draw carriage ride. Remember to barter for the best price available.
Hubby was fascinated by the seemingly ancient models of cars being driven around the island. It would seem that Malta's dry climate has extended the life of these cars by years.
We visited Sicily and Mount Etna on a day trip. It is a long journey. Overall it was not a great visit. A better option would be an overnight stay.
We used the local bus to visit Mosta, Valletta, Sliema and took a tour to Mdina.
In Mosta there is a famous domed church which still has the huge second world war bomb, in situ, that dropped through the dome whilst the church was full. Thankfully it did not detonate.
Remember if you want to enter a church in Malta ladies must cover their shoulders and men their knees. So, women no strappy tops and men trousers, not shorts.
Our trip to Gozo and Comino was part of an organised TIS tour and the price included the ferry ticket plus transport on themislamd of Gozo.
Golden Bay has a beautiful beach area and will be perfect for those wanting a quiet vacation.
Bugibba was fine in September but does get busy and commercial in high season.
St George's and St Julian's Bay have a great nightlife if you like clubbing, loud music and a European feel. It was not for us.
We visited Mellieha quite a few times on the bus and enjoyed the sandy beach. Most of Malta's beaches are not sand. From Mellieha we took the short walk to Popeye Village on the south of the Island of Malta.
This is a small theme park built around the set of Robin Williams film Popeye. The beach here was a lovely soft sand and the waters a clear turquoise blue.
Although the water in Malta is safe for using to clean your teeth and the like it is advised that you buy bottled water.
At the time of our visit canned drinks were not sold. Drinks such as Coca-cola came in bottles which you could return to the shop when empty. We had to buy a small bottle opener though so if this is still the case it might be worth packing one.
At the time of our vacation Malta had an unfinished feel to it. There were cranes all over the island and half finished buildings. However fellow travellers told us they had visited ten years earlier and it had been the same.
Of course all of this building work means that Malta may be completely spoiled by now.
Malta has a year round tourist trade with many older people taking an extended vacation through the winter months. It does however have something for all ages.
If you accept Malta, warts and all, it is a great place to visit.
Note: Although our visit was some years ago a relative visited tecently and it seems little has changed except that in 2008 the country adopted the Euro as its currency.
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