Malta, 7 Days in May

May 20th, 2019, 06:01 AM
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Malta, 7 Days in May

We had been to Malta only once before, on a cruise ship visit, maybe 10 years ago. Our son has been here multiple times and always found it to be an inexpensive place to get to and an affordable place to stay.

We had just wrapped up a week with out daughter, mostly in northern Italy. We originally booked a round trip flight from the US to Copenhagen. We were open to places to go from (Milan) Bergamo where we parted with our daughter. We knew we would be cold (since we are Floridians) in Italy in early May, so we looked at places where we could go for our second week that would be warmer. Ryan Air had low priced tickets to Malta, and Norwegian could return us to Copenhagen for little more. Perfect.

Where to Stay? Our son normally stays in the St. Julian’s area; we also found that Sliema also was popular. Both had lots of apartments (our preference) for under $100/day. Many had water views. We liked Valletta but remembered, at least during the day, it could be crowded, and places there were priced higher. We also remembered that when our cruise ship navigated the channel adjacent to Valletta, we were impressed with the fortress feel on the other side of the channel. There are three fortified cities, simply known as the Three Cities (Birgu, Senglea and Bormla and to confuse us, each has a second name as well). We found an apartment there, had good communications with the host, an Aussie flight attendant, and went with that.

For us, this was not a beach vacation (we live in Florida and can do that any time), but we know that is a key part for many vacationers there. Having said that, for the first five days (although weather was perfect, and there was hardly a cloud to be seen), it was seasonably cool (maybe 72 highs) and not swimming weather.

Getting Around. We often rent cars in Europe. As Americans we decidedly did not rent a car on Malta where they drive on the left side of the road. The right side steering wheel also means that the prevalent manual transmission cars require left hand shifting. On top of that, the roads in Malta seemed a bit crowded at times in quite a few places. Not for us.

We used Bolt (their version of Uber) with great satisfaction. And, besides ferries, we relied on buses. There are tons of buses (especially starting and ending in Valletta) and frequent service all over the island. But most of the 400,000 residents, and many, many visitors, are also using those buses. And, they can be crowded. Really crowded. The people of Malta are some of the friendliest we have encountered in Europe, until you over-stuff a bus. I don’t know why an older woman with a broken right arm would ride a bus or why she would sit in an aisle seat, with her broken arm facing the aisle, but when I was repeatedly pushed into her arm, she repeatedly shoved me. Or when I was squished against one of the many buzzers that signify you want to get off at the next stop and kept providing false alarms, the driver screamed and yelled, as he did to try to get people to sandwich themselves to let even more people on board an already full bus. For the most part, most passengers were civilized; and we saw locals giving up their seats to the elderly on a regular basis. Just know, you could stand on a bus from Valletta to say the northern tip of the island for nearly two hours. And, if you are on a stop, say midway from the ferry near Gozo to Valletta, on a busy day, like our upcoming Saturday, one bus after another may simply have to pass you by.

We also did not visit two places that most might want to consider: Marsaxlokk, a fishing village, good seafood, colorful small fishing boats that have a Greek island feel (it’s a half day visit that we had done on our earlier cruise ship stop); and we did not visit the Blue Grotto (although on our cruise ship visit we did stand above it since it is a dramatic spot). We had considered doing both on our seventh day, but decided instead to mostly relax and pack that day for our return home.

Photos are view from airbnb and photo of the Grand Harbor from our plane on departure. Report follows.










whitehall is offline  
May 20th, 2019, 07:30 AM
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Day One

We had arrived the night before and arrived via Bolt taxi (Uber competitor in many places in Europe). We used Bolt four times, and each time had a great experience, inexplicably always the same price 10.70 euros (despite 3 different routes), and a pick-up one minute after booking each time.

Our apartment, which was in the middle city of the three (really big neighborhoods) Bormla, had three very long flights of stairs, slick with new paint and well worn and requiring due care to navigate. It was super spacious, one private staircase to get to it and then three levels above including a giant laundry and huge rooftop deck on the top floor. As with many airbnbs, we were greeted with all kinds of food and drink.

We hadn’t paid attention to the volumes of info our host had provided, but quickly found, within a 5-10 minute walk, a fabulous passenger ferry that operated every 30 minutes to Valletta. The actual ride (and we never tired of it because it is so scenic) was little more than five minutes.They sold us a weekly, unlimited ticket for a mere 10 euros each. Otherwise you can pay $1.50 (euro) per trip.

To get to the ferry, we passed the new American University of Malta (private college that is said to be American style) that occupies a magnificent re-purposed dock warehouse on the waterfront.

The ferry passes the docks where all the mega yachts are berthed on Malta. On our first day, this included a massive new Malta-based yacht being readied for the owner of the Washington Redskins. Dozens of workers were cleaning the sleek yacht which had a helicopter pad and giant hot tub. Another $125M yacht next to it was owned by a Russian oligarch. Because of privacy concerns, many yacht owners hide their identities, so we could only wonder who owned the ship we saw head out with a helicopter pad, all kinds of boats and water toys. We saw that, although it is a super yacht, it is just a supply ship for another super yacht, you know when you run out of storage space. We would have liked to see the yacht it was servicing.

Our re-visit to Valletta confirmed that it was still busy, especially during working hours. Some days there were no cruise ships; other days as many as four. Yet, pedestrian traffic on Republic Street, the main drag in the city, was always thick during the day.

At noon, crowds gather near the waterfront gun battery for the ceremonial cannon shot (that is repeated at sunrise and sunset). One quick shot and it’s over.

The last time we had been in Valletta, we were intrigued by an office for Libyan Airlines. We had remembered the PanAm bombing (Lockerbie Scotland) in 1988 and recalled that the bomb had come through that airline via Malta. But the office had a metal door that made it appear closed, even in the day. We again noticed the office was still there, in a prime area of Republic Street, still with its metal door down.

We like to cook and prepare some meals in our airbnb apartments and sought a food market. Valletta does have one modern food market, an upstairs food court with some nice options and a downstairs gourmet -style grocery store with some individual vendors such as a baker. That gave us a start.

We soon realized that everyone speaks English as a second language to Maltese. We did not encounter one local person, and we interacted with many, who did not speak English. School kids on buses usually conversed with each other more in English than the native tongue. Malta was a British colony for about 150 years until 1964, and that influence is still seen with such things as the red British telephone booths, driving on the left and the high number of UK tourists.

whitehall is offline  
May 20th, 2019, 07:54 AM
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You DO know the 1964 movie "7 Days in May"?! Thanks for your TR, whitehall. Nice photos and good info.
TDudette is offline  
May 20th, 2019, 08:06 AM
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Nice trip report so far - looking forward to the rest. We thoroughly enjoyed our slow-travel trip to Malta a few years ago, and agree that getting an apartment in Sliema area is a good location.
Good info about Bolt. When we were there we relied on buses, ferries, and taxis. Buses were cheap, frequent, but slow. Taxis were plentiful, fast, but expensive. Nice to see my boat is still anchored safely in the harbor. Thx for posting her picture.
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May 20th, 2019, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by TDudette View Post
You DO know the 1964 movie "7 Days in May"?! Thanks for your TR, whitehall. Nice photos and good info.
Yes, of course. And a much more serious one than Popeye that we will spend part of a day on later in this report.

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May 20th, 2019, 11:51 AM
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Day Two

We were still trying to get some fruits and veggies for our apartment, and noticed a Tuesday weekly market. This one is in Birgu or the second of the three cities, maybe a 15 minute walk from our apartment. The market takes up several streets, and, although there is some fresh produce and two fish vendors sprinkled in the mix, it is mostly a place where local people buy their clothes and stuff we might get in Walmart. And, there were a few vendors, a minor percentage, that offered the typical fake name brand purses and tennis shoes. We did buy some very sweet blueberries from Morocco and great strawberries that were said to be local. Our estimate was that 98% of the shoppers on this beautiful morning were locals.

The last time, we were on Malta, we took many photos of the signature yellow buses. Each of them was streamlined to mimic the styling of 1950’s American automobiles. We had never seen anything like them, and we were told that the individual stying was because these buses were individually owned. They are now gone, except in tourist souvenirs, like magnets, that memorialize them. During our week, we saw only one, probably used as a private tour bus, this one painted red, white and blue. Not sure what happened to the rest.

We decided this day we would focus on museums, although it was another postcard perfect weather day.

If you think you may go to multiple museums and historic sites, take a look at the Heritage Malta website. They have various multi-site passes at good discounts. They also have very favorable senior rates (same as students) for those 60 and over.

We purchased a three-site pass in Birgu to go to Fort Saint Angelo, the Inquisitor’s Palace and the Malta Maritime Museum. The senior price was 9 euros each, less than the cost of paying for just two of the museums.

The Inquisitor’s Palace claimed to be the only Inquisition site open to the public anywhere. The Palace was home to the chief Inquisitor, and has a torture chamber and prison cells. The Inquisition on Malta lasted about 200 years.

If you have a fondness for ships, especially naval ships, you will enjoy the maritime museum, but be prepared for a huge, poorly lit facility whose displays are very old-fashioned.

Fort Saint Angelo, which served as a protector of Malta for hundreds of years including WWII, sits at the entrance to the country’s grand harbor across from Valletta. There are a lot of ramparts, etc., typical to a fort, all with magnificent views, but there also are several historical areas, each with films depicting significant historical events.

All three places had few other visitors when we were there.

Perhaps, the one “must see” in Malta is St. John’s co-Cathedral in Valletta. The Baroque church is breathtaking, not so much on the outside, but the interior is ornate beyond words. Fortunately, we got an audio guide, because the art, the decorations, the statues, the side chapels, the ceilings, and the magnificent floor tombstones make this a very slow visit. In a separate room, there are paintings by Italian Renaissance painter Caravaggio including his massive masterpiece “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist.”









whitehall is offline  
May 20th, 2019, 01:15 PM
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Nice to hear about a place that is (somewhat) off the standard tourist path. I also was in Valetta years ago on a cruise and thought it would be fun to return.
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May 20th, 2019, 01:42 PM
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Have long wanted to visit Malta, do you have a link to your apartment?
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May 20th, 2019, 04:55 PM
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You won't be surrounded by airbnb's here. The area is all locals. You can click on the owner's name; he owns a few more rentals in the three cities.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1052940...en=0&infants=0
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May 21st, 2019, 03:31 AM
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Day Three

As indicated, the Cathedral is the one “must see” for most people coming to Malta, but the hottest ticket on the island is the Hypogeum. That means “underground” in Greek, and that’s what it is, an underground for the remains of 7,000 people dating back almost 6,000 years ago. It includes a temple, cemetery and funeral hall. You can easily visit much newer “catacombs” on Malta, but this site is one of the oldest such places in the world and one of the best preserved.

It was discovered in 1902 when workers were installing a cistern for a new housing development in this area a couple miles from our apartment. They don’t allow photographs, but from the outside, it looks like just an ordinary neighborhood with apartments above storefronts. But this storefront is where you present the ticket you normally have to purchase two months or more in advance to get a look down below. The sign on the desk on May 8 said next available date was July 5.

The scarcity of tickets is that the area below is cramped, and they allow only 10 persons per hour (the time it takes for the tour) or 80 persons a day to go through these subterranean levels. The pricey 35 euro entrance fee is reduced to only 20 euros for seniors.

Our airbnb host, upon booking, suggested we book this immediately. That was several months before our arrival. We walked through street after street of modest homes, many with enclosed and often colorful wooden porches that dominate upper stories of many Malta buidlings. While nearly every building on the island is constructed of a golden hued limestone, the blocks at times have little more texture than a concrete block. The porches and other embellishment is what provides the Malta architecture with its signature look. We were surprised at how many small business operated out of the lower floor of these buildings not only in this area but all over Malta.

A few blocks away, and easy to walk to, are the Taxien Temples. Discovered by farmers, plowing their fields 100 years ago, this is another 5,000 year-old complex, again confirming an ancient civilization on Malta. The stonework included carved animal figures and assorted other designs. Some of the original artwork has been moved to the archeological museum in Valletta, which we will see later in the day. There are other such temples on the island, but this one satisfied our curiosity.

Getting off the ferry to Valletta, we noticed numerous little wooden boats, looking like small specks underneath the massive bow of one of two cruise ships docked there today. The skippers of these small traditional boats hope to coax a few passengers to take a harbor ride.

The cruise ships don’t seem to change the crowd dynamics, since we had already discovered that, even on days when there were no cruise ships, the main street in Valletta always looked the same, packed with people. On this day, there were celebratory signs and balloons indicating that the Valletta Football (soccer) club had won some type of championship for the 25th time.

Since this was another museum day for us, we headed next for the Grandmaster’s Palace on Republic Street. Two Palace guards in their white jackets, navy pants with a red stripe and white pith helmets flanked the Palace. The Grandmaster was the top guy during the 200 year-long Order of St.John (Catholic military religious order) rule in Malta. Although the Palace was worth the visit, it isn’t Versailles. The most interesting part was the Armory, loaded with shining armor of all types.

We followed this visit down the street at the National Archeological Museum, which had many of the items uncovered from the Hypogeum and the temple ruins we visited earlier in the day. This included a 5,000 year-old famous clay figurine of a “Sleeping Lady” lying on a couch unearthed in the Hypogeum. We got a photo of the Sleeping Lady, although photos in the mostly empty Hypogeum were strictly prohibited.

We were disappointed that our ferry passes weren’t good on the line from Valletta to the more modern and busy Sliema, but it was worth the $2.80 round trip to explore things there. It is a very busy area with lots of newer high rise condos and apartments, numerous

boat excursions and peddlers selling them. We took a walk through an older more modest neighborhood over to the adjacent St.Julian’s, a similarly popular and busy option for travelers to stay. We walked past a little village of bright and varied cat houses, the first of several such small shelters people have created for stray cats on the island.

We walked the beautiful esplanade between St. Julian’s and Sliema, where the beachfront is largely flat rock. We ended the afternoon with a nice early dinner at Fortizza (looked like an old fort that was converted to a restaurant) overlooking the sea.
















whitehall is offline  
May 22nd, 2019, 03:40 AM
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Day 4

We got an early start to Valletta to catch a bus. We noticed that there were a number of booths at the entrance to the city this morning for “Europe Day” in Valletta, which was to promote local involvement in the scheduled May 25 European elections.

Our agenda today was less ambitious than other days. We wanted to visit two cities, located right next to each other. Several movies have been filmed in both cities, including scenes from the Game of Thrones.

Rabat has a small village, perhaps a bit less touristy than the walled city of Mdina next door. We found a little bakery, for example, in Rabat. It was dingy but had several employees covered in flour. Clearly there for local people and not tourists, so we enjoyed one of their excellent donuts.

But Rabat is mostly about catacombs. We are still a bit confused, since there are several sites and maybe some competition. We first went to what we believed to be St. Paul’s catacombs. At St. Pauls’ Cathedral, we bought tickets to see the sprawling underground catacombs, also used as a WWII bomb shelter. It was quite the maze, where, at least briefly there may have been a bit of panic as it seemed easy to get lost. There also was an upstairs hall with rooms of impressive religious artifacts and artwork. We were the only visitors there. Down the road, we noticed another entrance to what we believe was another part of this giant underground complex. Instead we opted to go to St. Agatha’s catacombs across the road. This site was not operated by Heritage Malta. You had to wait for a tour guide, and waiting included a visit to a museum of sorts, with displays more like a giant antique flea market (although the items weren’t for sale), some of it interesting, some of it likely quite valuable. It was like a junior version of the archeological museum with decorated stones, maybe 500 years old, ancient coins, and art and religious artifacts. Photos were not allowed in the catacombs where Saint Agatha spent some of her time.

Mdina is a very impressive walled city; no wonder filmmakers often go there. The city is manicured and well-kept. Before Valletta, it was the island’s capital. It still has some of the island’s priciest real estate, since the families of early nobility still own much of the village. We had a nice lunch in Rosmarino, which is part of an old palazzo.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was built on the site where St. Paul met the Roman governor after St. Paul was ship-wrecked on Malta. The baroque Cathedral has been re-built a couple times due to earthquakes.

Our time in Mdina was spent mostly walking around gawking at architectural details, door knockers and perfectly manicured everything.

Upon our return by bus, we took a quick walk around Valletta, bought a few food items. And, we noticed that across from the Palace, in a large square, thousands of colorful flowers had been planted as part of the Valletta Green (as in environment) Festival. Surrounding all the beautiful flowers, almost as if floating adjacent to the beautiful flowers, was a large sea of garbage, mostly plastic. Something to ponder.

























whitehall is offline  
May 22nd, 2019, 06:37 AM
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Love the report and photographs. Malta’s on my list, although I haven’t made it there yet. Thanks for sharing.
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May 22nd, 2019, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by tripplanner001 View Post
Love the report and photographs. Malta’s on my list, although I haven’t made it there yet. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you. Malta seems to be off the radar for most people. Maybe because it's a tiny speck way out there. But there are frequent and inexpensive flights from all over Europe. We found lots to see and do, friendly people; it quickly felt like home.
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May 23rd, 2019, 02:41 AM
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Day 5

On this morning, we noticed that everyone arriving to the city carried a single rose wrapped in plastic. Someone or some company was passing them out mostly to people coming into Valletta. Never heard what that was all about.

But for the first time, we saw the Libyan Airlines metal (garage-style) door up, but no one was in the offices. Still not sure why they pay rent there, but that will remain a minor rental mystery compared to the one we will encounter on Day 6.

Today’s destination: Popeye Village. Forty years ago, there was a worldwide search for the perfect place to build a fake fishing village for a major motion picture. Popeye, the musical comedy, starred Robin Williams, and it didn’t do as well as expected. The village was more elaborate than they probably needed to do a film, and that discouraged eefforts to remove it. They also said there had been a fire, so it wasn’t clear how much of it is original.

Anyway, the long bus ride, two buses, and, for us, a long walk (although if the stars align, or the bus schedules, you might get to the entrance with only two buses). Although it took us about two hours, it was a good opportunity to see some of Malta’s rural and agricultural areas on very crowded buses. We walked from Mellieha, maybe a mile, through some farms, a narrow rural road past a small field of ripe strawberries, hay and other crops.

Popeye Village today is a theme park of sorts. The location is gorgeous. The park is over-priced, something like 9 euros for seniors. It’s small; there is not a lot there. We paid the entry fee to a counter operated by several young women who seem to be from eastern Europe and in training for an upcoming summer season. They seemed unsure, perhaps with a tinge of guilt about taking our money. Pointing to the map, they say there is free popcorn here, free postcards here and free photographs there. All you have to do is show your ticket. Which everyone needs to get in, so why show it? Or when they wrote our ticket number down when we got our popcorn, where they afraid we might go for seconds. And, were they really going to scan their list of handwritten numbers to see if we had already used ours?

All in all, we are glad we saw Popeye Village. The perfect weather day made it difficult to regret anything. Some people save the entry fee and simply walk to a high spot on the southern side of the cove and take photos There was a fairly decent film in the “cinema” about the making of the movie. Beyond that, aside from a very amateurish and loud “making of a movie” with guests (so they can try to sell them the final cut) and characters like Popeye, Olive, and Bluto, there are some shops and little more. In the summer, there’s a water park and sun loungers.

Lucky for us a bus was sitting there as we exited, and, with only one change of buses we got back to Valletta. And, feeling like bus experts, we picked up another one and returned to St. Julians to find some late lunch on the waterfront. On that side, we could see construction cranes everywhere.

We had a big night planned back in Valletta. A couple years ago, we were thrilled to go to a performance at the La Scala opera house in Milan. But when La Scala first opened, the ornate Teatro Manoel in Valletta was already 46 years old. The Valletta theater is spectacular, one of the oldest theaters of its kind in Europe. Five soaring levels of boxes.

Republic Street in Valletta tends to close up as most of the city does after the work day ends, but there are pockets of busy restaurants and bars. One area is the Old Theater Street where we found a bunch of restaurants that looked worth trying.We settled for a couple Aperol spritzes as we waited for the theatre to open. Watching people, wondering, among other things why those several guys, looking lost, were in purple jester costumes along with one male dressed like a Princess. Did they lose a bet?

Before we bought the theater tickets, we saw there was a show, some type of show. Went to the ticket office, stupidly asked if the show would be in English. Stupid, not because almost everything is in English. Stupid, as the lady suggested, because the single performance show was a “ballet.” We got great seats, 25 euros for seniors, and watched a performance that was more “dance” than “ballet.” When we studied the classics, I guess we missed the very popular German novel “Perfume”, the story behind this dance. It involved murder, orgies and cannibalism, not a perfect theme for the little girl who sat next to her Dad in front of us. At the end of the first hour, just as we were expecting an intermission, the eight dancers and six producer/directors took their bows to shrieking and thunderous applause. We could only assume that this crowd was all friends and families of those 14 people on stage.

Things were looking up since the nearby restaurants were busy, open and eager for business, and we were hungry. We picked a neat looking homemade fresh pasta place. Point to the pasta you want, select a sauce and wait. And, wait we did. For 50 minutes. After numerous promises that the pasta was coming out, we finally paid for our wine and walked.

They did have a sign “Staff Needed” that we saw on many similar establishments in Valletta. The economy is clearly doing well there.

















whitehall is offline  
May 23rd, 2019, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by vickiebypass View Post
Nice to hear about a place that is (somewhat) off the standard tourist path. I also was in Valetta years ago on a cruise and thought it would be fun to return.
Don't expect Malta to be off the standard tourist path. During the season it's mobbed, when there are Cruise Ship berthed Valletta is packed, and all the best tourist sights crowded with ship's tour groups.

The Island is only 17 miles by 10 miles, with about 400,000 vehicles of all types. Construction work is relentless, albeit Valletta and the 3 Cities are more or less exempt. Construction cranes blot the skyline. Many lovely traditional one or two storey buildings along Sliema waterfront have been tastelessly built on top of.

Road works are everywhere, diversions are often completely inadequate. Many hotels accept big noisy groups [ homework is advised].

The public bus service is good, plenty of routes. But buses on all the popular routes become very full, very quickly. The drivers have a schedule to meet, and with road congestion, have trouble keeping to it, hence at every opportunity the driver will slam his foot on the gas.

It's a pity.....the history is still there in bucket loads....but there are a lot of greedy people who've got their finger in the Malta 'Pie'

I hesitate to post the following Link...

https://www.timesofmalta.com/sections/view/letters

But there's a lot of stuff in it, worth a read for anyone interested in what's going on in Malta.....The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Sorry, if I've hijacked an excellent thread, no malice intended.

Last edited by LancasterLad; May 23rd, 2019 at 07:21 AM.
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May 23rd, 2019, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by whitehall View Post
You won't be surrounded by airbnb's here. The area is all locals. You can click on the owner's name; he owns a few more rentals in the three cities.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1052940...en=0&infants=0

I stayed in Bormla many times and I love it. As to groceries: many small "hole in the wall" mini markets have these, including vegetables, but you wouldn't know from the outside.

Last edited by menachem; May 23rd, 2019 at 07:59 AM.
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May 23rd, 2019, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by menachem View Post
I stayed in Bormla many times and I love it. As to groceries: many small "hole in the wall" mini markets have these, including vegetables, but you wouldn't know from the outside.
We actually found some of the freshest chocolate eclairs in one of those dinky mini-markets.

(Nice to hear from you Menachem. We still haven’t made it to Amsterdam. But this trip we flew in and out of your beautiful airport there. Only problem is we had to run a mile to catch a plane and barely made it. We were flying on Delta but somehow KLM staff (who brought us to and from Copenhagen) needed to do 3 passport checks, even for the Delta leg. The official Passport control, on the other hand, was efficient, observant, professional and welcoming, even noticing both times an old Visa we once had because we own property on a Dutch island.)

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May 23rd, 2019, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by LancasterLad View Post
Don't expect Malta to be off the standard tourist path. During the season it's mobbed, when there are Cruise Ship berthed Valletta is packed, and all the best tourist sights crowded with ship's tour groups.

The Island is only 17 miles by 10 miles, with about 400,000 vehicles of all types. Construction work is relentless, albeit Valletta and the 3 Cities are more or less exempt. Construction cranes blot the skyline. Many lovely traditional one or two storey buildings along Sliema waterfront have been tastelessly built on top of.

Road works are everywhere, diversions are often completely inadequate. Many hotels accept big noisy groups [ homework is advised].

The public bus service is good, plenty of routes. But buses on all the popular routes become very full, very quickly. The drivers have a schedule to meet, and with road congestion, have trouble keeping to it, hence at every opportunity the driver will slam his foot on the gas.

It's a pity.....the history is still there in bucket loads....but there are a lot of greedy people who've got their finger in the Malta 'Pie'

I hesitate to post the following Link...

https://www.timesofmalta.com/sections/view/letters

But there's a lot of stuff in it, worth a read for anyone interested in what's going on in Malta.....The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Sorry, if I've hijacked an excellent thread, no malice intended.
No hijacking. I think varying perspectives are always a good thing. We can only comment on our own experience earlier this month; like many places, we know that the summer can be a different place. In fact, we assumed with all the buses, many as we noted were crowded, that few people have cars. But, you are correct, there are lots of cars, with one of the highest per capita totals in Europe (last count 283,000 in 2016). The noisy hotels are not a surprise, based on some comments we heard from some UK visitors speaking about others from the UK. One more reason to consider the quieter or more local Three Cities where we stayed.

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May 24th, 2019, 04:49 AM
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Day 6

Today’s plans were literally developed after we got up in the morning. Another sunny day and what looked to be a fairly warm day. We decided to leave Malta, the island, and go to Gozo, the smaller island of 30,000 people.

That meant a bus ride of nearly two hours and a ferry just a little north of Popeye Village.

We were surprised to find a huge ferry terminal that services the large car/passenger ferries that make the four plus mile crossing. We saw three operating ferries either docked or in the water at one time. Each ferry had at least two decks of vehicles, a large cafeteria, an upscale convenience store featuring lots of UK products, newspapers and the like, and very spacious viewing decks.

The passage was free to get to Gozo island, but if you ever decide to leave, the cost was a remarkably cheap $4.65 (euros). Our boat was packed, almost seemed a little like a small cruise ship, so there was plenty of room for everyone. We rode past Cimino, another island that caters to excursion boats and beach parties and could see some turquoise waters close to shore. And, this Saturday was finally the first beach week-end of the season.

We usually avoid such things, bu we quickly realized that a hop on-hop off bus was the smart way, at least for us, to go. There were two competing companies; we signed on with the smaller company because they offered us a 15 euro passage if we booked through the ferry terminal (versus 18 euros regularly and 20 euros for the other company).

On the ferry, we met an older local man who made suggestions of things to see and told us a little about the island. He said he feared discussion of building a tunnel to the island, which he predicted would ruin the place.

Gozo has 14 communities, each with a large basilica and lots of undeveloped land between them. The bus made one requisite stop they obviously get paid for at a food manufacturing facility, with lots of local food and well-presented offerings.

Our time was limited and if you didn’t hop-off, the bus loop was about two hours, so we saved our one hop off for Vittorija, the capital, on the way out. Each time you hopped off, you had to plan on a minimum of 40 minutes until the next bus. They did provide a 10 minute stop at the gorgeous Ta Pina Basilica, which the Pope has visited. Gozo was like a mini-Malta with its limestone buildings (we even went by a massive limestone quarry), but we did notice that instead of wood, on Gozo the famous enclosed upper porches were made of stone, not wood.

Gozo in recent years has become a longer term destination for visitors who used to only day trip; one fishing village (Xleni) has been transformed into new high rise condos and hotels. There seemed to be plenty to explore, beaches, sea caves and more. It is so dry, things were brown; they say there isn’t enough water to keep cows.

We hopped off in Victoria. Had a late lunch on a second floor overlooking a little square in the village. We had a perfectly cooked pasta arriabata that was the spiciest version we have ever had; we think they used an entire container of red peppers. It was only $6.50. Wine was 2.50. Even the necessary extra bottled water was cheap.

The big attraction in Victoria is the Citadel, a fortress-like village with basilica and ruins of housing that we believe was from Roman days.

Down below in the village, we encountered two downtown malls, one closed for siesta and the other open and doing business. In a cafe near the fronton the one that was open, there was a glass floor looking down onto a shelf of cereal boxes. We went down and found one of the nicer grocery stores we have seen in Malta and even many other areas of Europe. We bought a large container of very sweet local strawberries for three euros.

Back on the bus, we saw what looked like a nice winery, a 300 year-old windmill, and a large Rio-like Jesus statue.

We finally paid to get off the island and took the long bus ride back to Valletta. And before arriving back to Valletta, the bus slowed in traffic near a car dealership with an old sign “—BARU”. The “S” and “U” of the obvious old Subaru sign were missing. Inside, the showroom was full of all styles of cars, a van, a truck. Maybe a dozen vehicles. The vehicles looked dusty, not shiny. Odd. It was as if the place closed down in the 1970’s, the vintage of the vehicles in the showroom. And, no one returned. But then who has been paying the rent all these years? After all, Malta is a busy place. We have no answer, but we did google this, just to be sure we weren’t crazy and found a blog observing the same thing.

We had to take a Bolt taxi from Valletta to get home. Until June 1, our little passenger ferry does not operate after 7 p.m.






















whitehall is offline  
May 24th, 2019, 05:33 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 2,294
Amazing how much is packed onto such a small island. Love the photos too.
tripplanner001 is offline  

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