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Valletta...Malta...long holiday?

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We are researching accommodation in Valletta for the winter...early Jan. to late March. Our traveling style is to immerse ourselves as much as we can into the culture of the country. We will take numerous side trips from our apartment base to other locations but other days will just wander in the city or sit on a bench and read. It is very low key. With this in mind, is Valletta a good choice for this type of holiday? Have you had any experience with this city?

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    Are you asking if Valletta is a good base for Malta or if Malta is a good place for a long holiday?

    Valletta has the most sightseeing of any town on Malta and many restaurants. Valletta closes up by 11:00 in the nice weather. Don't know how it would be in the winter when it's dark at 5:00. Probably dead by 8:00. St. Julians has more activity and night life.

    You can get any place on Malta by bus but they don't run late at night.

    Unless you have a very high boredom threshold I would not spend 3 months on Malta. I visited for 12 days and that was a good amount of time and I really enjoyed the island. I saw everything I wanted to see. Malta is about 17 miles by 9 miles so it's very small. I'm a leisurely traveler but I would be totally bored with 3 months on Malta. I would want much, much more activity and more choices.

    << will just wander in the city >>

    There is no city on Malta - just towns and very small ones at that.

    Perhaps if you tell about other long-term holidays you've taken that would give more of an indication of what you're looking for. Malta may be what you're looking for but I would go crazy. All the buildings are built from limestone so they are all the same color and there is little vegetation and no animals grazing so it's not a diverse landscape.

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    I think that you can split your time between Malta and Gozo. Gozo has everything that you are looking for and is actually really nice in winter. It is greener than Malta, more rural and with really nice places to visit. But it is small.
    Valletta is i quite busy during the days but there are places which are more low key. You have three beautiful gardens to relax in there all with amazing views, Upper Barrakka Gardens, Lower barakka Gardens and Hasting gardens. You have the sea, nice will enjoy it :)

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    Not so long Holiday in Malta is my advice... 10 days are more than enough also for a style of travel you think, especially in the period you choose!!!
    I Think is better another country... I don't no... Italy? Siena?

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    We were on Malta for 5 days, staying at the hotel just at Valletta's gates. This was in March a couple of years ago. Valletta was dead by 9pm and we had to struggle to find a restaurant open to eat dinner after 6:30pm.

    The island itself is fairly uninspiring apart from the touristy areas which aren't inspiring either, whilst Gozo is a day trip. 5 days was plenty for us and the thought of 3 months?? Definitely not!!

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    We've also been to Malta. It's a nice place for a week but 3 months? In the winter? No way! There isn't that much to see or do and it's not the most interesting of islands (culturewise....). I would reconsider your choice if I were you.

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    Last year the new bus service called Arriva has been introduced in Malta. All the other buses were scrapped. The new service has many new routes, run till later, and some routes are direct from one area to the other, and on weekends they run during the night-time till 4am from St. Julians to all towns and villages of Malta, and of course to Valletta. There are now direct routes to airport, Cirkewwa, to St Julians, Bugibba and to the south of Malta.

    Malta has very ancient history since it is in the centre of the Mediterranean, it was ruled by the Turks, the Byzantines, was under the French, the Knights of the Order of St John, was for many years under British rule, etc, so throughout the centuries it was influenced by many nations which all left their heritage to the island.

    Valletta is a city built by the Knights of St. John. It is a nice city to visit, but if it were me, I would not find accommodation there (not many to choose from anyway), as in Wintertime, it would be literally empty by 9pm or so, in constrast to during daytime. There is plenty to see during the day, some of which are St. John's Cathedral which houses the famous Caravaggio painting of the Beheading of St' John the Baptist, the magnificent harbour - all captains of cruise liners say that it is the loveliest port as it is all surrounded by ancient towns, cities and bastions. There are two lovely gardens, overlooking the harbour, many historical museums, some in the surrounding bastions on the harbour, others in the centre, churches and historical sites and buildings built by the knights, the Fort St. Elmo, etc.

    However, I would only find accommodation in Valletta area, not really in Valletta but in Floriana, which is just outside the city walls, if I were staying at the new Hotel Excelsior, a five star hotel overlooking the Grand Harbour. But the area would still be too quiet in the evenings, especially if you would not be hiring a car. Saying that, in Valletta, a short walk down to the harbour, the Valletta Waterfront has been developed. That is the one area in Valletta where it is always lively Summer or Winter all day. It has bars and good restaurants and a nice small promenade with the breath-taking view of the harbour, the surrounding bastions are lit up in the night and they create a really unique atmosphere. It is close to where the cruise ships dock for tourists to do a day trip.

    I would opt to stay in either Sliema or St. Julians, St. Julians would maybe be livelier than Sliema in Winter (and Summer) as Paceville is the entertainment area where there are bars, nightclubs, cinemas etc close by. Plenty of restaurants both in Sliema and St. Julians everuwhere you go. There is a long promenade all the way between these Sliema and St. Julians, with rocky beaches below it, the promenade has been upgraded again recently, it would be nice to sit down and read a book on a bench on a nice sunny day.

    On the other side of Sliema there is another promenade that leads to Msida, it is on the other side of the harbour facing Valletta, also upgraded and liked by tourists, it is where ferries leave for small cruise tours around the harbour etc. There is also a public ferry service that crosses the harbour from here to Valletta waterfront, a good option instead of taking a bus. At the Sliema end there is a peninsula and it has been developed into a large mall with many shops of renowned international brands, restaurants and apartments, facing the harbour. Really lovely and high-end. This complex has been opened just over a year ago.

    There are buses, even direct to all parts of Malta from this area, even to the airport, Cirkewwa, and to major tourist attractions etc as I already said, that cater especially for the tourists, so again I would recommend that you find a nice apartment in a quiet area in this zone.

    Then there is the tourist resort of Bugibba, Qawra is adjacent and is where there are many apartments catering for tourists. This area is very touristy, but quieter in the Wintertime. There is also a long promenade that stretches from St. Paul's Bay through Bugibba, ending in Qawra. It has also been upgraded, new piers etc have been built, etc and it has lately cost the Govt. millions of Euros. Another nice day's outing for sure, with a book in hand on a bench on the seafront facing the St. Paul's Islands!! There are direct buses from Sliema/St. Julians to Bugibba. A large sealife aquarium is also being built on the coast tip in Qawra, and should be open soon. Most restaurants here open both in Winter and Summer. It is much quieter in Summer though.

    There certainly ARE cities in Malta, even medieval ones, - the one of Mdina is said to have started being built around 600BC. It is a lovely medieval city built on a hill surrounded by bastions. It has the typical narrow roads and large square in the centre with a cathedral. There is a lovely view of the countryside from its belvedere at the back of the cathedral. It also houses some nice museums, and archeological site outside its walls.

    Then there is also the medieval city of Vittoriosa, (roughly built the same time as that of Mdina - in fact in that era Malta only had these two parishes) also a very ancient city (Valletta was built much later by the Knights of St. John) with the same typical features regarding the streets, bastions etc, it is on the other side of the harbour facing Valletta. The Vittoriosa waterfront has also been developed on the seafront with the lovely view of the harbour and bastions of Valletta, and there are pubs, restaurants, a casino, and a Maritime Museum. Adjacent to Vittoriosa there are another two harbour cities called Senglea and Cospicua, also built by the knights, so much later than Vittoriosa, and this peninsula is called the Three Cities.

    In February there is carnival in Malta - it is very well organized, and takes place in Valletta and Floriana area during the five days before Ash Wednesday. Many tourists come for this event - entrance is free. A much smaller one is held in Rabat Gozo.

    Also, on the 10th of February, the feast of St. Paul is celebrated. It is a very lovely feast, and much awaited, as St. Paul is the patron saint of Malta.

    Gozo is also a nice place to relax. It has lovely coastal scenary, like the Azure Window curved out of rock by the weather. Marsalforn, Xlendi etc are lovely coastal villages, where you find lots of bars, restaurants and apartments to rent out Gozo is much quieter than Malta, but so many tourists actually prefer it to Malta - it is greener and quieter, although in the last few years it has developed greatly with many more shops and malls opening, especially in its capital, Victoria. In Victoria, on a high hill is the ancient part of the city built by the knights. It houses a prison museum, used by the Knights, and ruins of houses that were built during or before the Knights of St. Joh. From there you can get a 360 degrees view of the whole of Gozo, Gozo is so green, and it has also three distinctive hills. The sea is so clear in Gozo and is a popular destination for divers who come from all over Europe.

    Malta has very mild Winters, most of them are sunny days. In fact it is not unusual to see tourists sunbathing or swimming in the Wintertime on a warmer sunny day. It is also humid, so that is why it feels colder than it actually is. But throughout Winter it is only a few days that the temperature falls below 10 degrees celcius - in fact Malta was voted for having the best climate in the world by International Living Magazine with the longest hours of sunshine even in December!! So I would say reading a nice book somewhere on the seafront with the sun on your face on a day in February is sheer bliss!! Better than the rainy and dull cold weather in many other countries for sure!!! Of couse I still travel abroad for holidays during the Wintertime for a change. I clearly remember a few years ago, I had phoned up Avis Car Hire in the UK as we were visiting England for the Christmas holidays, and the person who I was dealing with when I was giving her my personal details, spontaneously exclaimed to me "What on earth are you coming to England in this freezing weather, when it is so nice and warm in your country. Apparently she visited Malta a few times as she had relatives here, and on the day I phoned up it was really cold and freezing. In fact, we had gone up to even Wales and we hardly left the car, it was so cold everywhere outside for us, so we now usually go to Italy during the Wintertime, some regions are much warmer - although I love the UK so very much!!!!

    Malta has a few archeological site, one of them is the oldest in history ever discovered!! It has to be prebooked as it also includes a guide and a video of its history, and so that everything stays intact only a certain number of tourists are allowed every certain time. Gozo also has a pre-historic archeological site.

    The south of Malta would make a nice visit, as besides the archeological site, there are many seaside towns and villages, for example the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, really quaint, the harbour full of the typical Maltese fishing boat, and like Marsascala, a seaside town with plenty of bars and restaurants, very much visited mostly by those who live in the south of Malta.

    Then there is the Blue Grotto in Zurrieq, a cave on the caost, the sea is so lovely and clear, there would be boat trips to the cave available for tourists.

    There is also Ghar Lapsi, limits of Siggiewi, a cave or rather a rocky inlet on the coast, naturaly weathered by time, really really beautiful, and also frequently visited by tourists, even for a nice swim in the clear Mediterranean waters.

    Not too far from Mdian there is a village called Dingli, and on its outskirts are the Dingle Cliffs, which are very high rugged cliffs with the most lovely open views.

    Then there is the village of Mellieha, also very high up on a hill with nice country/sea views on one side, but reaches down to sandy beaches on the other.

    I can think of quite a few other places but I think I would stop now for a rest, lol. One thing I must stress though - Malta makes a nice change from other countries, if nothing for its lovely relatively warm weather during Wintertime )it can even go up to 20 degrees celcius_ - even though it might feel colder due to humidity. You would for sure have clear blue skies, I am not joking, I have never seen anywhere yet such a rich dark blue clear sky colour anywhere not even in Spain - probably because we have no mountain ranges here so no heavy clouds, except on rainy days that is - the same goes for the lovely Mediterranean sea, an incredibly lovely blue colour - again, in many parts of Spain I went to on the coast, probably becaus of plenty of dirty rainwater flowing down from rivers from the mountains into the sea, you can see the difference. But of course there are many other countries with beautiful clear sea or ocean waters. But I just love the Mediterranean.

    Plus, it is an extremely safe country to stay in, inexpensive, and nearly everyone speaks English, (due to the fact that until 1964 it was an English colony - we do however have our own language) as well as other languages (most speak Italian due to its close vicinity - only 60 miles away from Sicily) and many also French or German. We are multilingual.
    In fact we have many language schools here for international students that want to learn English, as well as having their Summer holiday - they come from all over Europe, including Italy, Germany, Switzerland etc, Malta is literally invaded with them in Summer, mostly in St. Julians/Paceville area. Some stay in hotels and guesthouses, others with host families.

    Forgot to add - talking about Sicily - you can also take the ferry to Sicily, it operates both in the Summer and Wintertime, it is just an hour and a half ferry ride to Pozzallo.

    Bottom line, if you come to Malta, do try and find an appartment in Sliema/St. Julians and go everywhere from there.
    And Malta is a small island and in a way restricted due to its size, but it is very rich in history and ideal for those who want the nice weather and lazy relaxing life - it is relatively a slow life over here.

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    Since you are so interested in Valletta, I am going to give you some more attractions/events you may visit:

    The costumed re-enactment of the Great Siege of Malta, - the bloody battle of 1565 between the Knights and the Ottoman Turks - acted live every week at the historical site of Fort St. Elmo.

    The Museum of St. John's Cathedral

    The War Museum (in St Elmo area, near bastions

    The Malta Experience - an interacative film which goes through the history of Malta at the Mediterrranean Conference Centre in the St. Elmo area

    The Grandmaster's Palace

    A visit to the Manoel Theatre - the third oldest theatre in the whole of Europe!!! It had been restored throughout the year, but is still very authentic. Every weekend there would be a play, or musical, or orchestral, or opera etc. Well worth a visit.

    At the entrance of Valletta an open air theatre (amphitheatre, which will also house the new parlament building is being built and is now in its final stages. It was designed by the world famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, and cost the Govt. millions of Euros. On the same site prior to World War II there was a theatre built by the Knights of St. John, which unfortunately had been bombed during World War II.

    We also have excellent free medical care (which citizens of the EU also benefit from if anything should happen to them when they are in our country), and a new state-of-the art hospital with the latest technologies has just opened just a few years ago.

    Malta not rich in history or culture? People who say that must have just gone to the beach or stayed by the hotel pool, or wandered around in the streets or rested in coffee shops throughout their holiday, as many tourists do. Malta is called the tapestry of

    But saying that, Malta is a small country, so if you want to visit big cities or do long distance travels to different regions in one country, like in Italy, Germany or Spain, etc, you know the wandering type of traveller, then this is surely not the country for you to visit. It caters for those interested in history and culture, like the warm weather, and the easy life. Everyone here is Malta is welcoming and helpful, and education in Malta is of a very high level - even technology-wise.

    Malta is often known as the rich tapestry of archeological and historical treasures. It was first inhabited since it was settled around 5200 BC by Sicily - how older than that can you get??? Every single nation wanted to conquer Malta, because of its central stretegic point in the Mediterranean Sea, right in the middle of the great powers of the Arab countries and those of Europe. Malta was in the middle of it all.

    It was not even that easy for us to gain full Independence for England (we were heavily bombarded because of this in World War II) and become a Republic - the Bristish naval base left Malta in 1979. However, Malta also had many benefits, we do treasure till this day its influence on us, and our expertise in the English language, but no constitutional rights until we became independent country in 1964, follwed by being a Republic in 1974. Now Malta has been in the EU since 2004, is in the Euro zone, and enjoys all the benefits (or disadvantages lol) that come along with with it, as a lot of funding came in the last few years from the EU (which for sure we had to pay a price for again LOL) like for road improvements, and many new projects.

    Those who haven't visited Malta for a few years, should come again for another visit - if they liked the Maltese way of life that is.

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    Anna - if you want to consider a place with a population of under 10,000 a city then that's fine. It's not my definition of a city. I live in a town with a population of a bit over 20,000 and I consider it a small town. It has twice the population of Valletta but to me it's a small town.

    If you say that Valletta is a city the OP will expect a location much much larger than it is.

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    adrienne on Aug 30, 12 at 6:43am
    Anna - if you want to consider a place with a population of under 10,000 a city then that's fine. It's not my definition of a city. I live in a town with a population of a bit over 20,000 and I consider it a small town. It has twice the population of Valletta but to me it's a small town.

    adrienne, the definition of a city in Europe does not depend on the population so Anna is using the correct term.

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    Anna was not claiming that Valletta is a city but refuting my statement that there are no cities on Malta. I just wanted the OP to know that Valletta is not large like Rome, etc. But it doesn't matter since he hasn't returned in the past week to see any responses (or he hasn't acknowledged any responses).

    How does one define a village, town, and city in Europe if not by area or population; what criteria?

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    adrienne, Valletta is a city and yes there are cities in Malta.
    Your definition of a city (population greater than 10,000??) is different from mine and Anna's and I'd give the OP more credit as they mentioned that Valletta is a city.

    Here's a definition from wikipedia

    Even within the English-speaking world there is no one standard definition of a city: the term may be used either for a town possessing city status; for an urban locality exceeding an arbitrary population size; for a town dominating other towns with particular regional economic or administrative significance.
    In British English, city is reserved for very large settlements and smaller historic settlements with a Cathedral (e.g. Lichfield), while smaller settlements without a Cathedral are called towns, and smaller still are villages and hamlets.[citation needed] In the US city is used for much smaller settlements.
    Although city can refer to an agglomeration including suburban and satellite areas, the term is not usually applied to a conurbation (cluster) of distinct urban places, nor for a wider metropolitan area including more than one city, each acting as a focus for parts of the area. And the word "town" (also "downtown") may mean the center of the city.

    According to wiki there was a US city in N.Dakota with 5 inhabitants up until its status was dissolved in 2002.

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    Even in other countries there are cities with smaller populations and they are called cities. That would be because they would have been called a city for hundreds if not thousands of years, and would always called so.

    I guess adrienne refers to a city according to population (or at least thought the OP was referring to population not to a historical city), but that is not the case. For instance, Attard and several other villages in Malta are considered as a village and they have a population of over 10,000. This is because they grew in population with time, but no matter how much village will expand, it will never be called a city. Some cities decrease in population but would still be called cities. This is because there would have been a lot of history behind them, because the way they would have been built and their importance, and because they would have a cathedral.

    Not only Valletta is a city, which is the capital and has a population of about 7,000 residents, but even Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa (The Three Cities) are called so. They were called cities hundreds if not thousands years ago, even in their original name (Citta' vecchia or citta' nobile). In the case of Vittoriosa, it was used by the Knights and fortified, but had been built mucearlier than that era - and was called Citta' Vittoriosa throughout the ages. Nowadays it is just called the city of Vittoriosa. Same applies for Valletta and the others. My mother is originally from Vittoriosa, and she would certainly not call it a town or village.

    But probably adrienne was referring to population size, not historically and the way they were built.

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    << But probably adrienne was referring to population size, not historically and the way they were built. >>

    I've already stated what I meant above - please go and read what I wrote. IMHO a city has a huge population (more than half a million) and a huge area. Think Rome, Paris, London, New York. I live in a small town and Valletta is probably one tenth the size of my town.

    The OP had some idea that he could wander around Valletta for 3 months. I guess he could but he would see the same things over and over, many times a day. You can walk every street in Valletta in a very short time. You cannot say that about London or Paris or any other large city.

    Again, if you read what I wrote I made no comment on the historic significance of Valletta nor of Malta. If you would like to know my opinion of Malta you can read my 50 page trip report.

    So let me retract my "city" statement. Valletta is a teeny, teeny, tiny city that you can walk the length of in 15 minutes or less (I can't remember accurately how long it took me so I'm guessing approximately 15 minutes) and the width in approximately 10 minutes.

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    There aren't just two streets in Valletta, Adrienne. There are many parallel streets both in lenght and in width - that is how Valletta is built, it was the way the Knights wanted their cities built. You must have then just walked on the main Republic Street, if you did it in 15 minutes (I doubt that you would manage to walk it all the way down to St. Elmo in 15 minutes, unless you jog it), and did not wander around to see its many medieval buildings. You JUST can't walk all its streets in 15 minutes!!! also even though it is relatively small in population to cities you mentioned, there are still thousands of inhabitants living there, not hundreds!

    Plus I am sure the OP had no intention to spend three whole months in Valletta!!! He must have made more research on the island than that for sure if he is planning to spend whole three months!!! I do agree that Valletta is not the place to stay. Saying that, property on the bastions overlooking the harbour are being restored all the time, and they are very much in demand (even by foreigners) and extremely expensive, so I guess each to his own. So are apartments or other property very close to and overlooking the new Waterfront in Valletta. If one does not like to be in the touristic area of Valletta, this area might alternatively be a peaceful place, close to Valletta for transport, and close to the bars and restaurants of the Waterfront. Tourists just love it, as all bars and restaurants overlook the Grand Harbour, and the surrounding bastions and towns/villages and cities all lit up make really nice scenary. The restaurants are always busy, lunchtime or dinnertime every day of the year.

    However, I do not know OP and I have no idea of his preferences, but if I were a tourist (considering my own personal preferences) staying for 3 months I would not stay in Valletta. I would stay either in Sliema/St Julians area, or St. Paul's Bay, (which is close to Bugibba yet much quieter and still many apartments are on the coast) little towns or villages, whatever, very close like Ta' L-Ibragg, Pembroke, Ta' Xbiex or Bahar ic-Caghaq. Probably, the rates would be much cheaper if on a budget, yet OP would still be very central.

    We also have old friends that repeatedly come to Malta every year, and prefer to stay in some village for peace and quiet, like Mellieha or even Gozo. We also own an apartment in a quiet area in St. Paul's Bay, which we come to every now and then, very close to the sea, and I would say that half the residents in my street are foreigners who purchased property here. It might not be Florence and Siena - but last year in the months that OP mentioned, it was heavily snowing in those provences, many parts of the country had problems and many roads needed to be closed, whist we were basking in the sun!!

    As sassy_cat said, (and proved to you by quoting wikipedia etc)that it is not only population or its size that makes a city - you can never call a city a town, even though it is teeny weeny!!!! But you must have used the word "town" to show him that Valletta is a small city - but IMO it still should be called "city" - maybe teeny weeny compared to London or New York, but still a city. I am sure Grandmaster La Vallette would agree with me, lol!!

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    rootbear - forgot to add - Good Friday and Easter is celebrated in a big way here in Malta. This year Holy Week is going to fall on the last week on March, so if you do plan to come, try and include this week as well. Many displays of the Last Supper and the passion of the Christ would be exhibited in many villages, towns and the few cities (lol) that we have in Malta and Gozo.

    On Good Friday there are various processions, with statues of the passion of the Christ and msny people dressed in costumes, in some towns or cities, namely, Zebbug, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Cospicua, Valletta, Mosta, Qormi and others in Gozo in Xaghra, Nadur and Zebbug. There are very dedicated people who run these processions (people dragging chains as a sign of devotion behind some statues), and some even include some live animals like horses and sheep - especially the Gozitan ones.

    Then on Easter Sunday there are processions that celebrate the resurrection of the Christ, in some places, like Vittoriosa, the statue is run down a hilly road, with people running behind, there would also be bands playing etc, a big party - very spectacular. For those who like religious functions, on Maundy Thursday there is the traditional mass with the washing of the feet, representing Christ's washing of the feet to his apostles.

    Forgot to mention that the feast of St. Paul on 10th February is celebrated in Valletta. On the morning of the feast (as well as two evenings prior to the actual day) there would be bands playing and partying, and in the evening the procession with the statue, fireworks, bands etc.

    See, I am filling up your three months stay little by little LOL

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    Anna - I never said there are 2 streets in Valletta. Once again, you are not reading what I wrote.

    You need to stop constantly misinterpreting me and stating that I said something that I never said. This is ridiculous. If you do this again I will report you to the editors because I don't like anyone else stating I said something I never said. I'm not doing that to you.

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    adrienne - how very downright rude of you - I think it is you who should be reported as you are giving misinformation - (even sassy_cat agreed wholeheartedly with me) - you should yourself be more careful that check out important information carefully!!!like that there are no cities in Malta, or that the Maltese bus service does not run till late - check out the Arriva night bus service - they run till 4am on weekends!!!

    Another one - Valletta is a peninsula (with two natural harbours on each side, and from the lateral sides, you would not walk it in 10 minutes for sure, from one side of the peninsula to the other, it is a much much longer walk than the main street of Valletta, there are very steep elevations on both sides of the roads, and you would have to pass through the residential roads on both sides - I would challenge anyone to do it in the time you mentioned, most probably not even the most professional runner!!!

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    To rootbear - if you are still interested in staying in Valletta let me know and I'll fish out the details of the self-contained studio where we stayed. We had about 10 days on Malta and explored a lot, all by bus, and had 5 days on Gozo which we also loved.

    I think if you want a really relaxing time, you could spend 3 months there. I'm wondering if you are from the UK and wanting to escape the winter. We used to live in England and know exactly this feeling! Hopefully you have checked the historical weather for winter in Malta, to see how warm/cold it would be. If you want a website to do this, sing out.

    Best of luck with your plans.

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