Posted by: glenswatman | February 27, 2015

20150211-20 MALTA – Anchor Bay, The Red Fort, Valletta carnival, Xemxija Heritage Trail and more

WEDNESDAY 11 FEBRUARY – We both feel like we have colds coming on. Steve spends the whole morning in bed resting. It’s probably the hottest day so far and I enjoy a bit of sunbathing but find I can’t sit out in it anywhere near as long as I used to. I take an afternoon walk and guess many locals are still on holidays as all the waterfront restaurants are packed out.

THURSDAY 12 FEBRUARY – We take the bus to Anchor Bay, made famous as the area where the set for Popeye movie was built. Its Euro 10.50 admission but you can view “Sweethaven” from the cliff tops around the bay. We got a plan at the entrance and can pick out Popeye’s and Olive Oyls houses other features of the set. It’s a stunning location with the ubiquitous beautiful blue water in the bay below. Near Cirkewwa we take the buffet lunch at Riviera Hotel – Euro 16 (£12). Sadly it doesn’t live up to how good it looks. Almost all the cakes have that kind of greasy white mock cream , the ice creams has very little taste and the other desserts are glorified instant whips. The country bus to Ghajn Tuffieha gives us a fantastic ride. We do lots of loops around Mellieha passing through their bus terminus 3 times. Get off at the wrong stop and have to walk along country lanes passing an amazing prickly pear hedge surround a farm. Ghan Tuffieha is a golden sandy beach on the south of the island in a pretty bay. You reach it down steps but as it has clouded over so we just enjoy the view.

FRIDAY 13 FEBRUARY – Visit the casino for the Euro 5 (£3.70) lunch which is excellent value – main course, dessert and a drink. My pork loin is cooked to perfection, tasty and a little crispy on the outside but juicy inside. We use more of the Euro 20 for Euro 10 vouchers and leave after covering the cost of our meals and more. Now as much as I dislike gambling I do enjoy it when we can pull off wins like this. Today is the premier of the movie “50 shades of Grey” and with the afternoon senior special at Euro 4.15 (£3.10) I reckon there will be more than 50 shades of grey in the auditorium. The Empire is a lovely old theatre with many character features but modern auditoriums. Surprisingly there are less than 20 of us at the 4pm showing – maybe they have read what a mediocre production it is.

SATURDAY 14 FEBRUARY – We stroll to the shop then Gormina’s Bakery and get Valentines treats – Steve opts for pizza whilst I have a gooey cake. I’ve figured out that the occasional food with gluten is tolerable but still playing it cautious and eating gluten free most of the time. Topaz Hotel is putting on Euro 2 (£1.50) return shuttle buses to the Valletta carnival. Arrive in the city at about 5pm. The afternoon parade of floats has passed through but they are scattered around the streets as are many of the dancing troupes. The costumes are amazing, somewhat traditional and almost all with a musical theme and people wearing masks. The back of the costumes is as dramatic as the front. There’s a dance competition in the Main Square and lots of side shows. We’d been told this would be the quietest night with it being Valentine’s Day and it really is easy to see everything without being stuck in crowds. As it gets darker the second parade of floats begins and we also notice people’s costumes light up. We explore more of the city and enjoy stunning views from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Floodlit by night it is amazing how many more buildings we pick out including the stock exchange in what looks like a marble church. The St James Cavalier centre for creativity is within part of the fort. It has rooms on all different levels accessed down narrow curved roof corridors. One exhibition is “flying sculptures” by ELKA, a collection of photos around the island each with artistic flying debris. We have a fabulous evening even though we may not have had the full effect of the carnival on a busy night.

SUNDAY 15 FEBRUARY – As soon as the rain stops we hear screams from the outdoor pool. 3 young men are braving the obviously freezing water, maybe it’s a good hangover cure. After a bit of morning sunbathing we walk around to The Boathouse for lunch. It’s a lovely setting and sitting on the deck we could easily be on a ship. The restaurant serves gluten free Mediterranean and Chinese food but unfortunately the two different kitchens are not co-ordinated. Steve’s Chinese arrives 45 minutes before my meal. Stop off for a quick drink and divvy from the Casino before Steve stays at Apple Bar to watch the football. At the hotel I enjoy a swim and Jacuzzi indoors. Almost immediately after I develop cold symptoms and conclude that it is what caused us both problems before. The Valletta carnival on TV is manic with everyone stuck in crowds (Steve wouldn’t have coped) but there are more floats and they seem more animated than the ones we saw.

MONDAY 16 FEBRUARY – It is clearly half term week here and in UK. A group of Welsh teenagers and their teachers are here, fortunately staying in a different block to us. We are woken by the sounds of them being thrown into the swimming pool, one is even fully dressed. There is also a group of younger Maltese children here all wearing the same tracksuits so it’s pretty busy. Walk to the casino for a Euro 15 (£11) payout. We have a really bad night. First Steve is awake for almost an hour nonstop coughing and then a big thunderstorm starts with claps of thunder directly above us and then torrential rain.

TUESDAY 17 FEBRUARY – In between the morning downpours I nip out to the chemist to get Steve some linctus for his tickly cough. Medicines seem pretty pricy here with a small bottle costing over Euro 7 (£5) but if it does the trick who cares. On line I learn that Mum is really quite poorly and not improving. She’s not eating well so Netty has cleared her freezer out and ordered Wiltshire Farm Food deliveries of homemade meals. We will now consider going down to visit before heading back to Norwich. I manage an afternoon stroll to the supermarket as my patient is hankering for green tea and dark chocolate. Unfortunately the Cadbury’s Bourneville doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as the very dark chocolate we have been buying in Lidl. Steve manages to get up for an hour or so to play cards but mainly spends the day in bed. The weather is so bad that the grand finale carnival parade gets cancelled. Around 1am there is an almighty clap of thunder and a short burst of the hotel fire alarm. For almost an hour the storm hovers nearby with cycles of lightening, a rumble followed by a mega clap of thunder and the hotel alarm going off. When this stops the rain starts and noise outside as some idiots take to the pool.

WEDNESDAY 18 FEBRUARY – No surprise that the Internet and TV’s are not working. Turns out our hotel was actually struck by lightning during the storm. It’s a pretty miserable day with lots of wind and rain but fortunately dries up before we head out for the evening. At Ghandi Tandoori restaurant we meet up with Nigel and Ingrid and their new friend David. He’s from Northumberland and recently moved into a chalet on a holiday park after his wife died last year. Sadly she was just getting over ovarian cancer when she got leukaemia and died within a week from pneumonia – scary. The food is no match for the Yorkshire curry houses but the company is good and we have a nice time.

THURSDAY 19 FEBRUARY – With the storms behind us it is nice to be able to spend the morning basking in the sun. After our casino lunch and flutter we stroll along the promenade then sit and appreciate just how lucky we are being in such a nice place.

FRIDAY 20 FEBRUARY – Take the bus to Xemxija and alight by the roundabout where we have been intrigued by the Olympic rings and torch stand. The park is dedicated to the modern Olympics and even has a podium to stand on. Using a guide book for the Xemxija Heritage Trail we begin by walking uphill to the Roman Road. An old man is coming down the road spraying all the weeds and it turns out he is one of the people who thought up and created this walk. There are 20 points of interest and we immediately see the road and drainage channels, dry stone walls, a menhir (large standing stone) and caves. There are many apiaries on the hill side and within you can see the alcoves where arches create niches with shelves holding terracotta beehives that face the small openings to the outside. An information board tells us about the old carob tree, about 1000 years old, and explains how the seeds were used as weights hence carat being the measurement for diamonds. Everything on the tree has some useful purpose. As a Pilgrims Way the roadside has a wall with crosses etched on to it and chains to fasten people to – not sure what that is all about but brings to mind 50 shades of grey! At the top of the ridge we have views down to St Paul’s Bay and across to Mellieha. We visit a Neolithic temple, corbelled huts that would have been used by the farmers, a Punic tomb, farmer’s huts and more cave dwellings. There are many Neolithic tombs where people were buried in a crouching position so the entries are narrow and you need to be careful not to accidentally fall down one. It’s interesting terrain, the views are fabulous and the weather is perfect for walking. At the far side of the ridge is a world war 11 defence post and remains of roman baths that were only discovered in 2000. It’s suck a lovely day we catch another bus and walk up to the Red Tower at Marfa Ridge. This time we have view of Mellieha Bay, the Gozo Channel and the south coast. The tower is linked in with National Trust so we get free admission. The most striking story is that it is a shrine to St Agatha an Italian martyr. She is the patron saint of breast cancer patients after having her breasts cut off during torture and surviving. Return to St Pauls Bay and walk the coast to the casino. Not only do you get free non alcoholic drinks but you can have complimentary sandwiches or toasties. We are there for the afternoon prize drawer (based on free tickets each time you visit) and Steve is lucky to win Euro 25 of credit on his betting card. Manage to turn this over and walk out with Euro 22 so another good result – having said that if I wasn’t with Steve he would have carried on gambling the whole lot! My cold seems to be reviving so we skip going out in the evening in favour of a bath and an early night. Neither of us seems to be able to completely shake off these colds and hacking coughs but at least it isn’t stopping us doing too much.


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