The problem with package holidays is the bloody early start. We were up at 3.00 am very groggy and only four hours sleep a flight that left Manchester airport at 9:00 am. Not good for a growing lad like me. There is so much to do before you actually leave - bleach down the toilet, switch everything off, empty the bin, pack the car...
On the road for Manchester at 4.10 am and hit the M6 which is in permanent roadwork tourmoil. Five sets all the way average speed of 50 mph even at this early hour. Loads of lorries too which made our usual game of "Eddie Stobart" spotting more interesting. Found Jetpark very easily and transfer to airport was good, despite the bad weather.
Into the airport and checked in and then the gauntlet of "security" which is okay at Manchester as the people are pleasant, unlike East Midlands. We found somewhere to eat and then waited for the flight to be called, as usual the time drags. Boarding the plane and then finding to=hat Boeing 757's have very limited leg room. Good job this isn't too long a flight otherwise I'll be really complaining. We departed Manchester around 8.00 on the nose.The flight was quite smooth until we got over Italy when the plane started wobbling about with turbulence. Therefore landing was a bit hair raising for me as I'm not a great flyer desoite having flown continously for the past 20 years. Transfer by coach was fairly routine and we got to hotel by mid-afternoon. Not bad weather 14 degrees C. We found our room and then settled in and after some tea, explored the local area.
The obligatory "Welcome Meeting" a larf as we were introducted to the "Misery Sisters" - designer shopping et al. The rep. was unfamiliar to Malta having spent last season in Cyprus. So having done all the usual sales stuff to which we said "We'll use the bus" the two snobby asian women opposite caused me to gawp when they said " Where can we do some proper shopping? You know -designer". I could see that these women weren't going to find Malta that interesting, after all, if you're up for shopping of that kind, you go to LA, Dubai, Paris Milan, not Valetta. The Germans bombed all the designer shops in 1942 which is what Malta is all about - history. From the dawn of man onwards to today. I could see these people were going to be most interesting - not.
Very tired after this so we had a lie down and then found the bar to watch Man Utd -v- A C Milan, which offered us the other side of British culture - the footie fan and all that. Football shirt, lager drinking, glittering with gold and a certain smugness all markout the modern fan as the chav all over. Anyway, after sampling some of the local "Cisk" lager, we trooped very tired off to bed. Not bad though - 8 hours door to door.Wednesday 17th February 2010
Breakfast introduced us to "The Little Finch". Who or what is that I hear you say? Well "The Little Finch" was a small child who wailed like a little bird in the morning - as large as the breakfast room was, you could hear him everywhere. He sounded like a small bird rather than a child hence his nickname. His Italian family, especially Papa Finch and Grandpapa Finch, were left with the task of trying to calm him down. Hilarious as they hadn't much of a clue - he was actuially quite bored as he had no toys etc. to amuse him. Poor lad. Also in the room were the Misery Sisters whom we did out best to avoid so we didn't end up in a conversation about "shopping".
After breakfast we tried the Malta Bus (number 45) experience by going to Mosta to see the dome. This was shut so went onto Valetta. Malta buses are a real experience, as well described in Wikipedia. They are all old British buses, mainly Leylands and Bedfords. My Mum warned me of their antiquity when she visited Malta some ten years ealier.
Having arrived at the Valetta terminus, we disembarked and ran the gauntlet of horse drawn taxis, through the gate and down the high street heading towards the harbour and the Malta Experience. The streets are all quite narrow and quite delightful, washing hanging from lines strung above and ornate balconies jutting our from the three storey buildings. Not quite what you'd expect and whows the Matese put more effort into their architecture than say the Greeks or Cretians. Along the way, we found a small cafe for lunch and proceeded to follow the signs for the harbour.
We found the "The Malta Experience" and bought some tickets but had to wait 45 minutes so we wandered along to the commemorative bell that ajoins the harbour wall - a tribute to the fallen of WWII. Having taken in the magnificent view we returned to the underground cinema. The film gave you and overview of the history of Malta since Neolithic times which was interesting in that most people have conquered Malta and left their mark. Our was Red pillar boxes.
Having done all this it was time to find the 45 and return to the hotel for our afternoon snoozy. The bus cost us 54 cents or about 40 odd pence. Having awoken, I tried a novelty for me these days - a bath! I haven't had a bath for a few years as I had mine repleced by a walk-in shower. Ablusions completed, we partook of Dinner in the pizzaria followed by more football in the bar. Arsenal this time. Feeling still quite tired, we retired to bed to look forward to another great day in Malta. This place was beginning to interest me greatly.
Thursday 18th February 2010 Woke up to brilliant sunshine and decided that as the weather was so good, we would spend the day on the beach. So we loaded up shorts, towels and suncream ( can you believe that in February) and off we trotted to the 45 bus stop, next stop Mellieha Bay.
We found a picth and go two sun loungers for € 3 each and settled down the difficult task of understanding R V Jones's "Most Secret War". Well worth reading even if you don't like WWII history. Lunch was a simple affair of chicken burgers and chips. I managed a very cold paddle in the sea - some Japanese bloke went the wholes hog and went for a swim but that was way out of my league. He looked fairly cold when he got out. I noticed the locals didn't look tempted either - they we still wrapped up in coats. 20 ° too cold for them!
As the sun went down we wound our weiry way back to the hotel - stopping off for a small beer whilst the bus turned up. Returning to the hotel, Karen caught up on her sleep and I tried out the sauna and pool - very nice. In the eveing we had a very large meal in the pizzaria and having had the obligatory beer in the pub, went to bed warmed up at last after the cold of England.Friday 19th February 2010
Today was Karens 49th Birthday. After breakfast and our normal encounter with "The Little Finch", we caught bus to Mosta and then onto Mdina for the "Mdina experience". Everything is an "experience" in Malta apparently.
Mdina is a real film set of a place - built by various conquerers starting with the Phoenicians. The Normans had a go at the fortifications which makes it look very impressive as Mdina sits on a hill that overlooks the surrounding area quite imposingly. From the cafe that we stopped at, we had a great view of the National Football Stadium! We wandered around the streets taking in the Baroque architecture following the trail in our AA tourist guide book.
"The Mdina Experience" was a short film about the history of the place from the first landings by man up to WWII. Not bad really for the money and we got a sit down for an hour in an air conditioned theatre.
We sought out the bus back to Mosta and managed to get into the Mosta dome - very impressive and so is the replica bomb! Apparently, it fell through the roof and rolled out through the door! The dome ceiling is very impressive painted blue and white and it's a massive area with the usual church trinkets.
After a good look around we returned to the hotel for the now obligatory bath and short sleep and made ourselves pretty for our dinner at "Guiseppe's". This was a small restuarant that promised much and delivered greatly. I started with Ocotopus. I've never eaten this and it tasted a bit like liver to me. I didn't enjoy it that much but the traditional Maltese Rabbit was great. I was going to pass on pudding but Apple pie.....Cost me a load of money but well worth it - and it was Karen's Birthday!
We rounded the evening off as usual at a quiet local bar and then meadanered home.Saturday 20th February 2010
After breakfast, caught the bus to Valetta for the Archeological and War Museums. The Archeological museum was great although small and contained some really strange artifacts that were representations of women, the most famous being The Sleeping Lady. This strangly shaped piece reminded me of the aliens in The Fifth Element. I have to say that this is one of the best museums I've been to and interested me the most. I've been to others but this one really grabbed my attention.
After that, we walked down Valletta High Street and found the War Museum which was absolutely excellent, especially as it had "Faith", one of the three Gloster Gladiators that took on the Luftwaffe in 1940 - 1942. It also had many artefacts from Operation Pedastal including the wheel from the Ohio, the ensign from the Brisbane Star and Melbourne Star. Absolutley brilliant place.
After returning to the hotel, I had a very quick swim in pool as Russian attendent said the pool was "Clozed" in 20 minutes. I was disappointed not to get in a sauna. We the tried another restuarant and Swordfish was on the menu. I had eaten Swordfish once before in Portugal and thought it was great. However on this occasion, I was most disappointed despite the place having a most and entertaining humourous chef.
We walked back down to our local and ordered some beer and vodka. It was a different barman tonight, a chap who liked to impress his knowledge of the trivia upon you which was entertaining in itself as the couple next to us where completely taken in but managed a sample of all the local liquors! Having listening to this for an hour, we called it a night and went off to bed.Sunday 21th February 2010
Waking up early today to bright sunshine, we decided that a day or morning by the poolside would be in order as it was so hot! 22° today and little wind!
However a word about our daily routine. In the mornings I got up and after ablutions, made some tea and whilst waiting for her Ladyship, went out onto the balcony and read for a while. Her Ladyship properly attired, we went down to breakfast which was something of a novelty as we had to decend on the lift to floor 0, walk through the tunnel under the road that connected the two parts of the hotel, and took another lift to floor to the restaurant - from floor -0!. Today we were missing one of our friends - The Little Finch! Nowhere to be seen! What a shame! However, we were rewarded by being allowed into the "German" section of the restaurant in other words, the centre section that was higher than the rest of the room.
Breakfast was the usual three courses - I did put a lot of weight on - followed by a turn round the well-kept garden which was very nice. This had some orange and lemon trees as well as other semi-tropical plants.
After breakfast we returned to the room, picked up the essential sun-soaking gear - sunscreen, book, glasses and water and returned to the poolside for a few hours soaking up the sun. Just what was needed considering back homoe the runway at Birmingham was snowed-in! Having partaken of lunch, we decided that a walk around the back of Mellieha would be good as the local church looked quite interesting. Next to it we discovered the local WWII air-raid shelters but couldn't get in as they looked closed for the winter. The views from off the park next to the church over the Bay were fantastic and next to it was the local boneyard which we had a look around but had nothing interesting to note, just the locals.
Returning to the hotel, we of course dropped off to sleep for an hour and then the usual routine of food followed by beer was observed. Another day over and one step to closer to the cold in dear old England.Monday 22nd February 2010
Our last day dawned bright and breezy so after the morning ritual - I was now starting "Shogun" by James Clavell which my Cousin Ross had sent me over Christmas.Massive book of 1000 odd pages and having just finished R V Jones of 560 pages a bit bit but never mind! We went to the bus stop and caught the 48 bus to Buguibba.
I wasn't that impressed with Buguibba as it was full of time share touts and was basically a bit Blackpooly. Therefore, we ducked out and walked it up the Quawra via the coast road which was great as it was dotted with old fortifications and watchtowers. It was also punctuated by this theme of the solar system so in the railings you had odd planets with a description of what it was and how far from the sun etc. Thing was I couldn't work out where the sun was supposed to be....
We walked back to Bugibba thankfully free of touts and found a bus stop which we thoiught the 48 would stop at. We waited an hour for return only to find it didn't go that way! Bugger! However, 23 degrees and very sunny! Eventually, we found the 45 and the bus driver put us straight. However, the bus was so full we had to stand up and was rather a ski ride as the driver put his foot down and the antiquated Leyland rolled around the road causing us to sway accordingly.Phew! Safely back, we went to the shop and bought some water and something to calm us down - like a beer! I sat on the balcony and read a while and then turned my attention to packing uip for our trip back. A last meal in the pizzaria and a last beer in Bar 120 and that was it! Holiday over! Tuesday 23rd February 2010
The sad last day of the holiday and the return home. We packed up, paid our bill and were collected by the courier on the bus. We met up again with the Queens' Painter and Decorator whom we had spoken to on the way out. Quite an interestiung bloke but one who had done it all - and I didn't argue with him as he probably had. The nearest I got to the Queen was at the Derby in 2006. And before that it was Walsall for the Jubilee in 1977! Disembarking at the airport, we went through all the usual formalities and boarded the plane for blighty on the same cramped 757 we went out on. We had a detour on the way back as the French traffic controllers were on strike so we had to fly over the Alps and then Germany before reaching Blighty. The Alps were spectacular covered in snow and poking through the clouds.
Arriving at Manchester in temperatures of 4° but a smooth landing, we walked off the plane, found our bags, had a chat with the woman from Immigration for five minutes and then went to find the jetpark bus and find the car. I can tell you that from 22° in the morning to driving past Stoke -on- Trent in a blizzard was not my idea of a great welcome home. We reached home about an hour later, fire and central heating on, hot tea in hand and an extra jumper! The delights of good old Blighty in the worst winter for thirty years! When are we going back to Malta.............?
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