Issy says she's not sure why she's feeling so nervous about returning to the land of her birth and meeting lots of long lost relatives. I assure her that I'd probably feel nervous too if I was about to catch up a bunch of cousins I last saw fifty years ago when I was four years old, not too mention the many other relatives who weren't even thought about when I was last here.
The Santorini airport is very small and ridiculously overcrowded. I suspect an upgrade might be a few years off given the Greek government appears to be effectively broke.
We sprint through the Athens terminal to catch our connection to Malta; we hope our bags sprinted as well. The security is very thorough, and we're even made to take the lens caps off our cameras. I suppose it might be possible to hide a bomb in a camera. The bus to the plane is full of people of all ages speaking English with Maltese accents. This feels a bit weird. The only people I've ever heard speak this way before are of Issy's Mum's generation. I've had Issy's family drill into me for years how tiny Malta is. I notice that our plane has propellers, and I ask Issy if this is because the runway at Malta's airport isn't long enough for jets. I was being half serious, but I get the look followed up with a reminder about sarcastic blogging..
Issy's cousin Louis picks us up from the airport. Our first impression of Malta is that it looks very affluent. We pass seemingly endless blocks of waterfront apartments which Louis says all cost over a million Euros, and are mostly foreign owned, and there's no shortage of fancy and very expensive looking yachts and cabin cruisers moored in the harbour. Louis says that Malta's economy is booming. He says that there's virtually no unemployment, and some restaurants can't open as much as they want to because they can't find enough staff. He says lots of European students come here to learn English. I wonder why they don't go to England, but then I remember the weather.
Our hotel is on the waterfront right next to the casino. We wander down to the flat rocks along the shoreline, and I climb down a ladder to dip my toes in the water. It's a lot warmer than it was in Santorini.
We have dinner with Issy's cousin Sandra who's here on holidays from Melbourne with her husband and three young children. It seems a bit ironic that we haven't seen them for several years only to be catching up with them on the other side of the world. We're joined by some of Sandra's Maltese relatives from the other side of her family. The menu includes "spaghetti rabbit". I've never heard of this particular culinary combination before, but I'm told it's very common here. Issy orders fried rabbit, but they serve it to me by mistake and I eat it before anyone realises. The conversation then quickly turns to stories about killing and skinning rabbits. Issy says she used to help her dad kill these cute creatures, a fact that's probably best kept hidden from our animal loving daughter Emma. I'm not sure I'd want to be a rabbit in Malta, or in West Sunshine for that matter.
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