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Quick Trip Report - MALTA/FRANKFURT

Old Oct 13th, 2014, 07:27 AM
  #1  
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Quick Trip Report - MALTA/FRANKFURT

I’ll work up a full trip report later, but thought I’d put my initial thoughts together while I had the chance.
My wife and I spent 8 days in Malta and a 2 night layover in Frankfurt on the way back. It was a great trip (lots of good food!) and I’d recommend a similar itinerary to anyone.
Malta is a neat place. It’s very compact and I was amused that every time I put a location into my GPS (more on that later) and it said it was under 20 minutes away. It combines a wide variety of things and everyone should find something of interest. These include ancient temples, baroque churches, WWII history, hiking and swimming/snorkeling/scuba.
As for Frankfurt, it doesn’t deserve it’s ‘not a tourist destination’ reputation. While I wouldn’t spend a week there, it’s an interesting place and if you get the chance to spend a day or two there, I’d jump on it.

Now the details…

The itinerary was:
• 3 Nights in Valletta, Malta
• 3 Nights in Ghasri, Gozo (including a trip to Comino)
• 2 Nights in Rabat, Malta
• 2 Nights in Frankfurt, Germany
• We used a cab to get from MLA to Valletta and then back to MLA to pick up a rental car to get to Gozo (via the ferry). In Germany, we used the train to get from FRA into the city and back.
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 07:28 AM
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LODGING:

VALLETTA, MALTA – Casa Cornelius (3 nights, 59EU per night prepaid)

This is an interesting place situated in a 600 year old building right in Valletta. My wife and I enjoyed our time there and it’s quite inexpensive for the area, but it’s probably not for everyone (especially anyone with mobility issues). The location is very good, down a small alley about 4 blocks from the center of town, but is a bit of a hike from the bus/taxi stop (probably ½ a mile up and down hilly streets). The lodging is somewhat of a combination of Bed and Breakfast and Self-Catering.
The property has 5 rooms and 3 (I believe) shared baths. This may be a problem for some, but we never really felt we were ‘sharing’.

There is a full kitchen (with pots and pans) and it is stocked daily with all of the essentials for breakfast (eggs, cheese, ham, bread, yogurt, butter, jam, fruit, tea, coffee, milk, cereal). You’re just on your own for making it. There is a nice table in the kitchen and a beautiful room terrace for dining. The only issue we ran into was a lack of clean dishes at times, so we had the ‘hardship’ of washing our own.
The rooms themselves were very nice. Our (Room 5) was very large with a nice little balcony. There is no AC, but fans are provided.

The only other caution I would offer is that the kitchen is on the highest level of the property, up a few flights of steep stairs, so those with mobility issues should probably avoid staying here.

GHASRI, GOZO – Maria’s B&B (3 nights, 75EU night, cash only)
This is an excellent Bed and Breakfast in a 300 year old farmhouse just outside the town of Ghasri on Gozo (Note: you’ll probably need a bit of help finding it the 1st time, Maria will have someone meet you at the church and guide you there).

The standard rooms in the main house are huge (Room 4 was great) with nice modern baths (Note: sit down shower) and there are several really nice common areas in the house. In addition, there is a great pool area (where breakfast is served). A refrigerator, coffee, tea and cake are available around the clock as well.

Breakfast is excellent with all the standards (cheese, ham, salami, bread, yogurt, butter, jam, fruit, tea, coffee, milk, cereal and homemade cakes) plus cooked eggs and bacon available as well. The setting around the pool can’t be beat.

The location feels like it’s a bit out of the way, but given the size of Gozo, everything is actually quite convenient. There is a grocery store about 3 minutes away by car and, while there is no restaurant in town, there are plenty of good options within a 10 or 15 minute drive.
There is also snorkeling gear and towels available for the beach.

RABAT, MALTA - Maple Farm B&B (2 nights, 80EU per night (discounted for cash))

This is another excellent B&B. It’s on the outskirts of Rabat (not far from the catacombs) and convenient to both Rabat and Mdina. It’s a modern structure with clean, neat rooms, a cozy breakfast area and a great outdoor pool and garden area. It’s also the 1st place with TV in the room (if that matters to you!).

Breakfast was very good with all the standards again (cheese, ham, salami, bread, yogurt, butter, jam, fruit, tea, coffee, milk, cereal and pastry) plus boiled eggs as well.

Given the size of Malta, it’s in a nice location and gives you lots of easy options for sightseeing, restaurants, etc. and is convenient to the airport.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY - Le Meridien Parkhotel (2 nights, free using Starwood Preferred Guest points)

Excellent hotel about 2 blocks from the train station. The staff is great (Thanks, Victoria!) and, since we were travelling for our anniversary, had us upgraded to a beautiful suite (with chocolates and champagne). Ask for a room in the older Palais section.

Food is typically pricey (especially for breakfast) but there are a lot of good bakeries right in the area. There are a few homeless and beggars in the area (typical of a train station), but nothing aggressive. Convenient to a lot of restaurants as well. About a 15 minute walk to the Romer, 2 blocks to the riverfront.
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 07:29 AM
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TRANSPORTATION:

AIR – Lufthansa - outbound (PHL to FRA to MLA), Lufthansa – inbound (MLA to FRA, 2 night layover in FRA, FRA to PHL). Coach on all legs. Good flight crews and meals, only issue was a mechanical which forced a change to a smaller aircraft on the FRA to PHL leg. They got enough volunteers (at 600EU each) to go on later flights, so only resulted in a 1 hour delay. All legs involved buses to and from the plane to the terminal (a bit of pain) but nothing major.

TAXI – MLA to Valletta (and return). You pay inside the airport for the cab (15EU to Valletta). Driver was fine. Cabs not allowed into Valletta, so you’re dropped at a common taxi/bus area. Returns pick up in same location.

CAR – Hertz through AutoEurope – nice clean car (Opel Corsa). Rented an automatic since not very good with a manual in a right-hand drive car. Cheap (72GBP). While the Malta bus service is good, given the cheap rental rates, I’d recommend getting a car. We only used about 10 gallons of gas (at $7.50 per gallon) for the 6 days we had it).

FERRY – Malta to Gozo (and back). Efficient, on-time and inexpensive. Takes about 25 minutes and costs around $25 roundtrip (for driver, car and one passenger). You only pay on the Gozo to Malta (return leg). Cafeteria and convenience store on-board (reasonable prices).

FERRY – Gozo to Comino. Around $15 per person including a tour of the caves (worth the extra few dollars). There are discounts available at a lot of the hotels and B&B’s. Small boats and a quick 10 minute ride. Easy and convenient.

TRAIN – FRA to Frankfurt Central Station – Around 5EU per person each way. Credit card readers were a little problematic, so make sure you have exact change. Pretty easy and convenient. Follow signs for the S-Bahn (you want the S8 or S9). About 15 minutes (3 stops). They don’t actually check your tickets anywhere, so it’s an honor system for the most part.
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 07:30 AM
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FOOD!

VALLETTA:

BLUE ROOM – excellent Chinese food (around $50 for two entrees and a ½ bottle of wine). Pricey for Chinese food (by American standards) but the good was excellent. Recommend if you need a change of pace.

LEGLIGIN – fantastic prix fixe tasting menu and a great way to sample typical Maltese and Med. dishes. Quite cheap for what you get (22EU per person, we ended up at under 60EU including a bottle of wine). Menu varies every night. On our trip, we had:

• Bread and olive oil
• Vegetable soup
• Tapas - two roast veg spreads, smoked swordfish, goat cheese, olives
• Gnocchi with mozzarella and sundried tomatoes
• Pork meatball
• Bragollini
• Fish plate - tuna and sea bream
• Meat plate - quail breast, sausage, pork with honey cumin thyme glaze
• Rabbit with white wine and garlic
• Chocolate truffle
• Appertif

We ended up staying there for four hours… eating, drinking and chatting with Chris (owner, waiter, part time chef, bartender). It was a great meal.

CRIANZA – nice little pizza place in the middle of town. Excellent pizza with great crust (artichoke, ham, egg, olives) and salads (mixed greens, pears, walnuts, tomatoes and a ton of melty blue cheese). Around 30EU with a bottle of wine.

GOZO

JEFFERY’S CAFÉ (Gharb) – great tiny café (about 5 tables). Food was excellent and reasonable (about 50EU for two entrées, bottle of wine, water, coffee and dessert). Seafood pasta was loaded with seafood and the Brogoli were excellent. It’s a really small place, so call ahead in busy season.

GRAPES (Victoria/Rabat) – beautiful location on a little square (much better than Independence Square where many of the other restaurants are). Excellent pizza and good smoked fish plate (swordfish and salmon on mixed greens and veggies). Around 30EU with a bottle of wine and water.

TATITAS (San Lawrenz) – another beautiful location on the church square. Looks pretty formal but quite laid back. Not cheap but not overly expensive (60EU for starter, 2 entrées, wine and water). Excellent pasta dishes.

MALTA

IL-HNEJJA (Senglea) – Great pasta dishes in a beautiful waterfront location. Not much to look at from outside, but worth a visit. The area was recommended as where the locals go in the 3 Cities and was well worth the 20 minute drive. Friendly waiter, excellent food, great view and reasonably prices (40EU for starter, 2 entrees, wine, water, coffee).

IL VEDUTA (Mdina) – Ended up here on a Sunday night (beware, outside of the Valletta area, many restaurants are closed on Sunday nights, so options are limited). The view over the countryside is great and the prices reasonable. The food was good, but not great. Pizza toppings were good, but crust not as good as others in Malta. Lasagna was very good.

FRANKFURT

SELERA MALAYSIAN RESTAURANT – excellent Asian food with a variety of Malaysian and Chinese dishes. Around 35EU (starter, two mains, beer). Right near the train station.

LIEB AND SEELE – not our first choice when we went out, but other restaurants were full (Book Fair week). Staff was very nice and food good if not great (schnitzel and beer). Reasonable prices.
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 07:30 AM
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Sightseeing tips to follow...
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 07:57 AM
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FOOD! Part 2 (some random Malta notes)

WINE – Maltese wines were good and cheap. These aren’t the finest wines in the world, but very good tables wines for very little money. In the supermarkets and wine shops, you can get a decent bottle for under 5EU and we had some very good homemade wine for 2EU. In restaurants, you can find good local bottles for under 10EU.

WATER – Malta’s water comes from desalination plants. So, while perfectly drinkable, it’s pretty flat and not terribly good for drinking. Bottled water is cheap (under 1EU for 2L in the supermarkets, under 1EU for 16oz in shops, around 3EU per 1L in restaurants) and plentiful. Oddly (and nicely) they don’t overcharge in tourist areas, on the ferry, etc.

BEER – Good and cheap (you can usually find it at vending trucks for 1EU per liter). CISK and Hopleaf are the standard local brews.

FRUIT and VEGETABLES – inexpensive and good both at street markets and supermarkets

BREAD – Excellent and available everywhere. Excellent prices (well under 1EU for a picnic sized loaf)

PASTIZZI – GREAT steet food. Little pockets of puff pastry filled with Ricotta or a pea mixture. Hot, delicious and usually .30EU each (yes, under 40 cents US each). Locate your local pastizzeria, grap two or three each and you’ll have a great picnic… trust me. You’ll also find other meat and veggie ‘pies’. All are worth a try!
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Old Oct 16th, 2014, 12:42 PM
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interesting trip, Astein. We went to Malta [we actually stayed on Comino, believe it or not] many moons ago when our kids were small and we enjoyed it a lot. It was surprisingly easy to get around from where we were and we saw a lot of both islands.

I don't remember much about the food [we were in a resort type hotel where we ate most meals in] so i don't think we ever tried any pastizzi, worst luck.

it's surprising that more people don't visit, considering its merits - good weather, nice beaches, and plenty of interesting history. and better food than, say, Iceland!
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 11:02 AM
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We actually swam in front of the Comino hotel for a bit, so know exactly where you were. We liked Comino, but can't even imagine what the crowds at the Blue Lagoon would have been like in summer.

Food in general was great. Then again, we found really good food in Iceland (though quite pricey).

As for Malta, the mix of ancient history, early/mid-Christian history, and WWII history (along with good outdoor activities) in such a small place make it pretty unique.

It's definitely not a place on the radar for most Americans.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 11:20 AM
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I remember that you had a better experience with icelandic food than we did, Astein.

in the light of the WW2 history, I'm surprised that it's not more popular as a destination with americans.

There are some things I remember well about that hotel - nice food, a lovely pool, and being entertained every night by a singing group called, believe it or not, the Joy Boys.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 02:05 PM
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LOL, yeah I think we had a bit of a better time in Iceland (we'd go back in a heartbeat).

The hotel did look pretty nice.

The war rooms in Valletta are well worth the trip (the included tour is really good). Things like the Mosta dome, and just the stories related to how Malt held out during the war (like how the continued to operate windmills and emergency flour grinders to keep making bread) were really interesting.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 10:19 AM
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Good to read, one of my many cousins has a stables, horse riding centre on Malta and I keep promising myself that we should go. Thanks for the write up
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 10:24 AM
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do go, bilbo, I'm sure you'd enjoy it. very easy to sight see in the mornings and swim/relax in the afternoons, when it can get quite hot. do you ride horses as well as bikes?
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 11:56 AM
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Thanks for the report on what I consider an under-appreciated place! It really does have an amazing amount of history/culture crammed into a small place. My favorite is the Hypogeum, but the War Rooms and just wandering Valletta were high up there.

(And I'd go back to Iceland in a heartbeat, too.)
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 12:26 PM
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ann, no, but I've had my bottom beaten by one "at the tolt" in Iceland http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_horse
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 01:39 PM
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Bilbo,

Definitely go... it's a neat place and the compact size makes it nice even for a quick trip.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 03:21 PM
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Malta---how interesting. I'll be watching for more deatails on your daily activities.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 10:14 AM
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Still working on the report for our sightseeing, but thought I'd add a few quick comments on airport lounges.

In Valletta at MLA, there are two airport lounges available if you're flying 1st class or have Priority Pass/Lounge Club.

1) On arrival, there is the VIP Club. This is located right next to baggage claim. It's a really small club but quite nice. Even with a newly arrived full Lufthansa A321, the club was empty except for my wife and I. There are a variety of drinks (including wine and beer), a few light snacks (cookies and crackers) and very nice bathrooms. The staff is very friendly and it's a nice place to wait until the bags start arriving (the staff will let you know when the bags are on the belt).

2) On departure, the La Valette Club is airside (there are special security lines for people with access to the club... just keep an eye out for them). It's a very nice club, quite spacious and was uncrowded until it came close to flight time (still plenty of seats available). There are a variety of chairs, couchs and tables, a number of Macs for public use, and solid WIFI.

For lunch, the food choices were very good with pastizzi and a few other hot Maltese snacks as well as cheese and crackers. There were also fresh sandwiches, excellent octopus salad, Maltese bruschetta, bean salad, fruit, cookies, cake and a few other items. The drink selection was plentiful with nice coffee machines, a well stocked good quality bar, local beer (CISK and Hopleaf), and a wide variety of softdrinks.

A bonus review:

3) The Sky Lounge at Frankfurt is also available for Priority Pass/Lounge Club members. I'm a bit confused by the location. It says for passengers only (meaning 'airside') but it's really groundside at terminal 2. So, if you're on Lufthansa at Terminal 1, you have about a 10 minute walk, followed by a 5 minute tram ride, following by a 5 minute walk to get there. In addition, you have to go back thru security when you return to Terminal 2 (though the security checks at that point had no lines at all).

That said, it's a nice lounge. Fresh pretzels, warm wursts, decent sandwiches, good cake, and a few other snacks. Beer, wine, champagne and decent hard liquor were available as well.
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Old Nov 1st, 2014, 09:55 AM
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I hope you are still planning to write up some of what you did and saw in Malta. Also, your overall impressions.

I'm just starting to think about including Malta on a trip next summer but if I did I would not be renting a car. Do you think Malta is 'worth it' or 'doable' by public transportation only? Thanks
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Old Nov 1st, 2014, 10:13 AM
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Amy
 
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I'm not astein, but I wanted to let you know that I did have a lovely trip to Malta without a car. I stayed in Valletta and walked or took a bus or occasional taxi to most of what I wanted to see, and then took a day trip to Gozo. One thing, though--this was October, and still quite warm. Summer, from what I understand, can be really hot there. The buses are very much a part of the experience, by the way! The central bus "terminal" (I use the word rather loosely) is in Valletta, so that's one of the reasons I stayed there, and I'm so glad I did. It's just soaked in history and atmosphere.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2014, 03:50 AM
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Thanks Amy. Good to know. Did you write a trip report? How long did you stay? Any tips you've got I'd love to hear. Thanks
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