Posted by: glenswatman | January 22, 2015

20150111-21 Of to marvelous MALTA

SUNDAY 11 JANUARY – Carol has booked us all into the Goldstone Wharf for a Sunday lunch. Joined by Pete we manage to put the world to rights. Since last seeing them Carol has been given an MBE in the New Years honours list so we are keen to learn how the presentation will be done. We all go back to Paul & Elaine’s where Steve plays pool with Pete. In the evening we chat to Paul & Elaine, mainly about holidays. They have a static caravan and we learn a few new things from them including the fact that even as a non naturist site Merryhill fees are still very reasonable.

MONDAY 12 JANUARY – Arriving at Telford we find Mark has a day off and is home. Good job as Netty is out doing her twice daily walk around the block. They suggest going to “The Meeting Place” at the town centre for lunch as Netty really likes the all day cooked breakfast and it gives us longer to chat. Netty has just booked to go away with Lauren and family so has that to look forward to. She’s still battling her illness but the latest tablets have improved things on some fronts. Arrive back in Keighley at 5.30pm.

TUESDAY 13 JANUARY – I do another sweep of the Keighley charity shops and pick up a party dress for £1.75. I’m only buying cheap ones so I can abandon them in Auckland after our cruise. Spend the evening at Keith & Sandra’s. A delicious meals as always – Keith has been to his butchers and bought gluten free sausages for me along with speciality ones for everyone else. They are off to Tenerife next month so we won’t see them again until they come over to Norwich in May. When we leave around 10pm we are surprised to find it a light covering of snow that has now turned to ice creating quite a job clearing the car windscreens. Must check on line if de-ice loses its power after a couple of years as we find it of little use.

WEDNESDAY 14 JANUARY – There’s been a bit more snow in the night and worse still strong gales are forecast for later. With the laundry out of the way I pack for our trip to Malta. At Mom & Dad’s I install Skype on her I-pad so we can have video chats whilst we are away. Driving over to Claire’s we notice quite a lot of snow over the tops. I cook up Viennese cabbage and roast peppers to go with the pork that Claire prepares. Whilst Claire takes Steve into Bradford to meet Richard for the football match I crack on with baking. To help with the Anthony Nolan fund raising people have been baking cakes and taking them in to Claire’s work each Monday and selling them for donations over 50p. Its Claire’s turn and I make plain, cherry then cheese scones for her to freeze for next week. Lying in bed the wind is howling and I wonder whether we will be able to fly out in the morning. Steve arrives back just before 11.00pm and has really enjoyed watching Bradford thrash Millwall.

THURSDAY 15 JANUARY – It’s very much a rude awakening at 4.15am and we’re pleased not to hear the wind. Claire drives us to Leeds Bradford airport and will continue to work and do an early morning run. According to the news this is a lull in the weather and snow is due later today so we are really lucky. There are very few queues and we are soon aboard our Ryanair flight with seats in the middle of the aircraft. It seems very warm on board and Steve begins to get flustered but I realise and get some ice and water from a flight attendant. We take off on time at 6.45am and our flight path takes us over Sicily with good views of Mount Etna. After just over 3 hours we land in MALTA. Again we sail through the airport and soon find our pre booked Resort Hoppa shuttle. We paid for a mini bus but end up in a private car with one other lady. Rene is from Riddlesden and stays in Bugibba each winter and tells us about walking groups that meet in the bus station each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Our journey takes us through the centre of the island and past the old town of Mdina with magnificent fortifications. Sunny Coast Resort & Spa is in Qawra (pronounced owra) and right on the waterfront. We’ve booked a land view 1 bedroom apartment but are a little shocked to find the land view is actually looking directly across the road into other buildings. The receptionist shows me one higher up which is slightly better but I explain that although we have booked for 1 week we may stay up to 6 if we really like the apartment. I wrote and put in a special request for a quiet south facing room but their rooms face west land side and north for sea view. She shows me a 2 bedroom one with sea views and other than it not getting the sun it is really lovely. We can have it for this week at no extra charge and then work out later what we want to do for next week. As we’ve only paid £107 for the week it’s a real bargain. Whilst they are preparing the apartment I leave Steve relaxing in the lobby whilst I take a walk. The promenade is lovely with rocky ledges and beautiful blue sea. The hotels are on the opposite side of the street to the swimming pools which are by the ocean. Clever photography in the brochures means you don’t realise! I see a busy waterfront cafe and check out the menu for later. Return through the back streets and find a few shops and lots of bars and eating places. It seems strange being in an obviously foreign place but with signs and people speaking English. Arrive back and Steve is in the apartment and ready to go out to lunch. Our meal at Champions Kiosk is good with chicken, salad, couscous and chips for me, homemade lasagne for Steve. Hot drinks are all Euro1 (80p) and the meals a reasonable Euro5 (£4) each. At the next table are English Nigel and his German wife Ingrid. Nigel used to live in Malta and is able to give us lots of info. He’s a really interesting character and we may return on Sunday to meet them for lunch. We walk as far as the aquarium then Steve feels weary so we cut up the back streets to get back and pick up some water (6 x 2 litres Euro2.40). They desalinate sea water here and although it is perfectly safe to drink it has a strange taste. Fresh Maltese crusty bread (rice cakes for me) ham, cheese and tomato make a lovely tea. We’ve been given a fan for the room as the heating is only on a certain times of day and we are soon really warm. As darkness falls we appreciate how nice the promenade looks all lit up. There are just a couple of English channels on TV so we settle for a movie on the laptop to round off the evening. With a choice of a double and twin room we opt for the twin room with Steve saying he will move into the other one if his coughing gets too bad.

FRIDAY 16 JANUARY – We’ve had a quiet night with Steve only getting up once. There’s a mini market in the complex so we pick up a few bits for breakfast. The Hoppa bus transfer company invited us to a welcome meeting at the nearby Qawra Palace Hotel. We know it will be selling tours etc but go along in case we glean some information – which we do. Steve’s struggling with his cold so heads back whilst I seek out the biggest supermarket around “Trolees” which is a Carrefour. It obviously started as a small shop that extended backwards, upwards and sideways so it’s hard to find things but they certainly have a good range. I buy as much as I can carry back. Steve has checked out our spa area which is really nice with an outdoor pool, indoor pool and Jacuzzi included and fees for sauna, squash and beauty treatments. After lunch I leave Steve resting and set out on a long walk. I gather information at the bus station then follow the coastal promenade and discover a bocci club. It’s the Italian version of petanque with interesting variations. Eric from Barnsley explains you throw a pea size ball then try to get near it with a mix of small balls and round wooden cylinders. For Euro 1 (80p) pp you can borrow their equipment and play as long as you like unless others are waiting. Cut back through the back streets which are so cock eyed they would be hard to navigate without a map. Steve’s a little better and after a cuppa we visit the spa for a soak in the not so very hot tub and for me to swim.

SATURDAY 17 JANUARY – It’s a blue sky sunny day so Steve is keen to do a walk. I lead him along yesterday’s route following Bugibba promenade then continue to St Pauls bay where we spot interesting ancient rock cut bathing pools with carved steps. Stop for a cuppa at a waterside cafe then continue almost to Xemxija. The whole walk is stunning with so many different bays with points of interest and we are constantly amazed by the clear water with different shades of blue. We consider catching the bus back but it is such a nice day that rather than pay Euro 1.30 (£1.05) for a 2 hour ticket we might as well buy a Euro 1.50 (£1.35) all day bus pass and take a ride further along. Xemxija is a south facing resort removing the problem of being unable to have a sea view and sun on the balcony. I check out Porto Azzurro hotel which might have worked for us except they work being carried out on the 6th and 2nd floors. The bus continues through the countryside and to the large town of Mellieha which is above Mellieha Bay with one of the few sandy beaches in Malta. It is pleasant enough but there is very little down on the coast and it is a very steep and long climb up to the town to find even a supermarket. Back at Bugibba bus station we stop at a nearby cafe for egg and chips Euro 2.85 (2.30). Steve wants to watch the Liverpool match at 4pm at the nearby Qawra Palace Hotel but I decide to make the most of the bus ticket and head off to the capital city of Valletta. The first bus past our hotel takes the country route which is really interesting. Pass the amazing Mosta rotunda and make numerous stops at the various hospital entrances before dropping down to the coast at Msida bay with a very busy marina. After about an hour the bus arrives in Valletta and I head towards the old town over a bridge with fortifications. I’m immediately impressed by the unusual old buildings and continue to be amazed as I wander ahead towards the fortress at the end. Colourful wooden balconies abound and each street seems to have something really appealing and it all exceeds my expectations. At the fortress I turn right to follow the coastal path with fine views across the grand harbour to numerous headlands with interesting buildings. Spot the Holland & America Rotterdam as it sets sail, what a fantastic cruise stop. I get back to the bus station at dusk and reckon that Valletta merits a good couple of days to do it justice. Arrive back just before Steve who has enjoyed the match with a win for Liverpool. He even snagged the free tea and cake at the hotel when he noticed everyone picking it up without needing to show the room key as indicated. They say Malta is a love it or hate it kind of place and we have really taken to it already.

SUNDAY 18 JANUARY – We’ve arranged to meet Nigel and Ingrid at the kiosk for lunch. I don’t know whether we make bad choices or it is very busy but the food is not as good as last time. Nigel entertains us when his chips arrive cold. The Maltese lady on the next table says hers are fine but she doesn’t like them too hot to eat anyway. Nigel promptly picks up both dishes and feigns going round the tables asking people to try them both and express an opinion. They cook him another batch that he jokes are too hot but as he says you can wait for them to cool but it would be no good waiting for the others to warm up. Steve’s still struggling with his cold so heads back to the room whilst I set out exploring Bugibba whilst checking out other accommodation. Years ago Mom stayed at Topaz Hotel which is far away and in from the coast. The kindly Manager tells me they have a type of apartment which is really a 2 separate bedrooms, kitchenette and bathroom but for 2 people you could adjust the twin beds in one room to create a lounge. He shows me one overlooking the pool, with a slight inland view and where you would get sunshine on the balcony. I’m quite impressed as the Hotel has a beautiful indoor pool and Jacuzzi and is nicely appointed so surprised when they offer it at Euro10 pp per day reduced by 10% for long stay coming out at Euro 18 (£14.50) per day in total. Although we prefer being on the coast this would be a good back up plan. Return along the main road the through the Kennedy Gardens. Other than a small cafe by a grassy square it is basically tracks through a scrubland with a few trees.

MONDAY 19 JANUARY – Steve’s still struggling but feels he ought to make the effort for a walk. Catching the bus from directly outside our hotel towards Sliema Steve does well until we get to Paceville when lots of people board. He feels a panic attack coming on so we quickly battle our way through the passengers to get off. We spot the waterfront and head down to Portomaso a beautiful enclosed marina surrounded by luxury apartments. Following the coastline we find a kind of cat sanctuary where you are invited to leave cat food or make donations to help the strays. Given how many there are we personally think a better campaign would be to pay for them to be neutered. Spinoala Bay in St Julian’s has the lovely traditional brightly painted boats and in the corner the “love monument” with an upside down word in concrete and areas where people have put padlocks. Continuing to Balluta Bay we are accosted by a lady who assures us she is not selling timeshare even though it sounds similar. Her offer of 2 free hop on hop off bus tickets for Gozo (which we need anyway), a bottle of wine and drinks sounds a good exchange for about an hour’s spiel. We become interested when we learn that “Discover Access” holiday club offers 8 weeks late breaks (booked 2 months to 24 hours in advance) from £99 week plus 2 weeks of “dream breaks” booked a year in advance at £299 for or £399 for 6 people. Extra weeks may be available at £99 or even less if there is a surplus. Normally £3900 for a 10 year membership we talk him up to a 1 year for £1400 with the option of paying £2500 at the end to upgrade to the 10 year package giving a total of 11 years for the same price. He will also include 4 weeks now at the Riza in Qawra. Reading the small print there are one or two things that don’t quite add up so I insist on looking at the website as though I was a member wanting to book a break. Nothing in Australia comes up as late breaks and even checking England, Caribbean and other locations only a handful of places are on offer and all above the £99. The rep appears shocked and suggests they may have another website with more offers but we’re out of there. Stop for lunch at a promenade cafe and are joined by a family of 2 adults, 1 small child and 2 barn owls. Suspect their business is creating photo opportunities but I reckon they have missed a trick by not dressing their kid up as Harry Potter. On paper the waterfront hotels here look perfect as they are south facing so have a view and sunshine. In reality the area is very crowded mainly with Arab school children and doesn’t feel quite so good. Bay View have a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment which other than having a shower rather than a bath tub it ticks all our boxes until we hear the very special discounted price of Euro 1760 (£1400). Steve can’t resist the Subway deal of coffee and a freshly baked biscuit at Euro 1 (80p) and takes it with us on the bus back. We conclude that we prefer the Bugibba area.

TUESDAY 20 JANUARY – At Qawra Point we meet Dawn who shows us her apartment for rent, it’s lovely but has no view at all and is overlooked by apartments so not a contender. Just off the main square we can’t resist the breakfast deal at Granny’s, Euro 2.95 (£2.35) for 3 rashers of bacon, 2 fried eggs, tomato, baked beans, 2 sausages, toast and a drink. It takes about 10 minutes to walk the half mile inland to Topaz Hotel where Steve is quite keen on the 2 bedroom apartment that John shows us. Walking back we get a brief shower, the first rain we’ve had in what should be wettest months of the year. At Sunny Coast receptionist Lillian asks what we have decided and we mention the offer at Topaz at Euro18 a night and say that we appreciate the offer here of Euro 39 a night but it’s more than we want to pay. In the end the Manager comes out and agrees on Euro 150 (£120) a week with us staying in the 2 bedroom sea view for now but we may have to move over Valentines weekend. Still a touch call as Topaz rooms have the sunshine and the outdoor pool area is sheltered from the wind but overall the sea view and closer proximity to everything wins – better the devil you know. Steve has found a bar just below us showing the football. I’m not sure whether going out in the evening was a good plan as he has a terrible night spending most of it coughing and spluttering.


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