Gil’s Malta Trip

Fodorite Gil Feibleman recently wrote such a compelling trip report on his recent adventure in Malta that we had the bright idea of making it the first in a series of trip reports created by Travel Talk’s intrepid users. If you’re interested in sharing your most recent travel experiences (and photos), drop us an email at [email protected].

Why Malta and Sicily? Our son is a U.S. Marine serving as a Marine Security Guard at the U.S. Embassy in Valletta, Malta, after a six-month stint at the Baghdad embassy. Each year the Marine Corps. plans a formal ball at each foreign embassy to celebrate their anniversary where the guest of honor is the sitting ambassador. Our son suggested that we “pack the tux” and come to Malta. How could we refuse our only son? Then we realized that Sicily was a mere 60 miles away. If we didn’t go then, when would we? Next, it was simply a matter of adding a flight out of Rome to finish the trip.

What was your favorite part of the trip? It is hard to choose as we had two favorite parts that were so different. The embassy ball was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it was a terrific party. We were so proud of each of the five young marines. But equal to that experience, yet so different, was our second night in Palermo. We were attempting a conversation with the couple at the next table and we ended up eating and drinking together, even though the husband spoke no English (though he did know the word “Scotch”). Next thing we know they’re taking us to a club where a friend’s band (“The Ed Sullivan Show”) was playing. These young Sicilian men specialized in Beatles’ songs and were great. We ended up staying till 2 a.m. and then our new friends, now 10 in number, returned to our hotel with us. A great night of connecting.

What surprised you? How beautiful the Grand Harbour was in the daylight and at night. The Harbor defenses on the Valletta side and on the other side at the “Three Cities” were just haunting, and at night they glowed. When you learn the history of Malta and realize WWII is just a blip on the historical radar, the significance of these defenses means even more. It is so easy to imagine the Knights of St. John defending the towns, and the photos try to capture their beauty.

What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again? Plan ahead to find musical performances that we could attend. During our 2001 trip to Italy we frequently stumbled upon musical events, even a recital in Bevagna. We assumed the same luck would follow this trip and it did not. Every performance was always either before or after we arrived somewhere. A little advance planning would have solved this problem.

What advice do you have for someone going to Malta? Get a private guide with a car for at least a day or two, particularly if you do not have unlimited time. There is so much to see on the islands, and though the island bus system goes everywhere you just cannot see enough by bus with limited time. A guide can get you everywhere you want to go and take you where you need to go. You control the pace, and if you like to take pictures you will always be able to stop when you want. Even one of our best meals was at a little place on Gozo in the seashore town of Xlendi, which our guide knew about. We would not have ever discovered the town or restaurant on our own.

Malta bound? Check out Gil’s trip report for more information.