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April 27th 2012
Published: April 27th 2012
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MALTA



Strictly speaking, this isn’t our first trip of 2012 as we were lucky enough to have 3 weeks in Spain in February. The weather there was glorious and we met up with friends and spent a lot of the time walking in the mountains and socialising. We had hired a car as well so were able to go to the lakes and El Chorro and at last did a Field Club walk where we found the Arab Steps – an old set of steps cut into a mountain, which was built as an escape route for the Moors when they conquered Andalucia. Fantastic views, as there is on most of the walks we do in Spain......



Anyway, our first glimpse of Malta from the plane was very clear and we were able to pick out Buggiba, (where we were staying!) Valletta – the largest natural harbour in Europe and Mdina, the original Capital City of Malta as well as the islands of Comino and Gozo!

We stayed at the Buggiba Hotel, Bugibba and although it feels very much a students/budget hotel, the room was clean with a balcony and the food was good – actually quite excellent! Ok so the plaster has blown on the walls in the corridor and the rooms are a bit dark and gloomy, but it’s all ok really! Room service is good and hotel staff extremely friendly and helpful.

We also bought a weeks bus travel ticket which means for 12 euros each we could travel anywhere by bus, and if we were lucky, even get a seat!!! We certainly made use of it and even if we did get on the wrong bus, they all end up at Valletta so difficult to get lost!!! Quite a lot of bus diversions also so we made endless detours around tiny roads viewing quite a lot of the countryside, including the film set for Popeye!

The week was very relaxed as no-one hurries about too much on this island! Spent a couple of days in Valletta just wandering! (The no 12 bus journey takes about 40mins from Buggiba unless you are lucky enough not to hit traffic! But it’s a fairly pleasant bus ride along the coast, passing through the seaside resorts of St Julien, Sleima and Floriana.) The architecture in Valletta is very pleasing, lovely yellow stone with closed in glass balconies and the narrow streets with views of water or churches each way you look, with the Fort of St Elmos at the end of the peninsula, where we caught a re-enactment of a battle between the St Johns Knights and Napoleons army! Worth the 3 euros each and better value than the Malta Experience, which although is a 45minute interesting history film, at 14 euros each it seemed quite pricey! Cathedral is worth a look inside and if you go on a Sunday its free!!!

Walked around Floriana and admired the huge Catherine wheels they were putting up (Its firework fiesta week in Malta) and also the Upper Barracca gardens at the top, which gives wonderful views of the harbour and at 12.00 every day they let a cannon off!

Went to the market on Sunday at Marsaxlokk –( No 81 bus from Valletta) had a wander around the old fishing village, gazing at the colourful fishing boats and the colour of the sea!

Visited Mosta, where there is a church that proclaims to have the third largest dome in Europe and was made famous as in 1942 by a bomb that tore through the dome during a church service but didn’t explode, a replica of the bomb is at the back of the church.

Stolled around the old walled city of Mdina, also called the silent City, that has historical records going back to 3500BC. Many impressive old buildings, narrow streets and old squares to admire and then visited the St Agatha’s catacombs where we ducked along the narrow underground passageways, past human remains until we reached the oldest underground place of worship in Malta, dating back to 4BC.

Rabat also has a massive church and St Pauls Grotto where it is said that St Paul preached to crowds and has such significant importance that two Popes have made recent visits.

Caught the bus one day to the Blue Grotto ( No X3 to Mdina, then 201) – unfortunately it was closed as the sea was ‘choppy, choppy’ according to the local restaurant owner! Had a very pleasant walk back along the cliffs, past some old temples until we reached the quarry and an outcliff which appeared to have no way to walk over it so we took the bus around it and continued our walk along Dingli cliffs, past an old little chapel, into Dingli and then continued walking into Rabat! I reckon it was about 7kms and mostly along the roads, but it was pleasant enough with all the wild flowers and lizards darting about, and also not too much traffic until we got to Dingli!

Another day we did the forts! First we visited Wignacourt Towerbuilt in 1610, which is the oldest of the 136 that are dotted around the coast. It has been extensively ‘renovated’ but good views of the bay from the top and some interesting old photos displayed in the tower. A bus ride took us to Cirkewwa, the extreme north of the island where we took a ferry (10 Euros each) to Comino,( the smallest island of the Maltese archipelago), and had an hours walk to St Margaret’s Church and to the fort at the top of the hill. The ferry docks in the Blue Lagoon which is absolutely stunningly turquoise clear blue water, with caves and holes, its quite spectacular and definitely not to be missed.

The third tower was the Red Fort, just outside Mellieha built in 1649 and dedicated to St Agatha. Great views from the top but we were also lucky enough to spot about 20 orange-winged bee eaters migrating from Africa to Spain. There are not a lot of birds on Malta, as the locals still shoot them as a sport and have shot all their native birds of prey, to extinction. There are no seabirds or even seagulls around the coast!! There are a group of volunteers who come from all over the world during the spring migration from Africa to Europe, who monitor and try and protect the birds, with limited success.

Had a pleasant 5kms walk along the Marfa Ridge on an old road that leads out to Qammich Point on the west coast and gives views of the north coast and the bays.

We decided to catch the bus back to Mellieha in the evening to see the Firework Fiesta on Wednesday evening. Excellent atmosphere with local singers and bands, food stalls, drinks and of course the fireworks. Missed the finale as we had to get the last bus which left 15mins before the end of the show so we still haven’t seen the huge Catherine wheels in motion!!

Our last day was spent in Gozo! Up at 7.15am hoping we could get a good start, but by the time we had breakfast, caught the 221 bus to Cirkewwa to watch a ferry just leaving, caught the next ferry and got to Gozo by 10.30am!

We had already purchased for 13 Euros each the Hop On, Hop Off red bus so we duly headed to our chosen first stop on the west of the island – Dwejra.

Dwejra was a roundabout with a few tourist stalls but you could walk a little way onto a headland to get a view through the ‘Azure Window’. Also walked down to the inland sea where a boatman can take you through a cave to get to the open sea.

On to the capital of Gozo – Victoria, or Rabat as the locals still like to call it! We had lunch in the very pleasant main square with its tourist stalls and umbrella tables before walking up to and around the old Cittadella and around the old narrow streets of Victoria.

Our next stop was the world famous Neolithic temples of Ggantija believed to have been built in 3500BC making them the oldest freestanding temple in the world – older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids! Had a slow wander up to the Ta Kola windmill, built in the 18th C and still has original old wooden workings.

As it was a really hot day (must have been at least 30 C!) decided to stop off for an hour at Ramla, famous for its red sand. As there wasn’t a lot else there we got the bus back to Mgarr to catch the ferry back to Malta. (4.65Euros each)

Missed the fireworks in the evening and had early night as we had to be up at 3.30am for the flight home to UK, reluctantly leaving behind the hot sunny weather and back to the rain!!


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29th April 2012

Beautiful
That sea is so clear. You should have tried some snorkelling! Lucky with the weather and a beautiful place - very jealous!

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