Merħba lil Malta!

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April 13th 2012
Published: April 14th 2012
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Air MaltaAir MaltaAir Malta

Capital of Culture edition!
Well it’s certainly been a 24-hour journey! At 4:30pm Boston time I was heading out from Faneuil Hall catching the Blue Line toward “Airport” to face my flight to that illustrious island of Malta. After almost two years working with EC my trip to our Central Offices was finally under way!

The trip itself was fairly underwhelming – no major delays or traumas that I’m accustomed to. Boston-Heathrow via Virgin Atlantic was quite pleasant. I had never flown them but was definitely a fan of the entertainment selection – I ended up watching Almodóvar’s latest, “The Skin I Live In”, as well as an episode of the revamp of “Absolutely Fabulous” on BBC and the first half an hour of “An American Horror Story”. Food was edible - I had the beef slop adorned with some sort of polenta/potato mixture and vegetables. and a glass of wine. Breakfast was a bagel with cream cheese, orange juice, and a honey-oat bar. I had slept maybe 2 hours overall, but I was still doing ok.

Once at Heathrow I took a bus over to terminal 4 and checked in for my Air Malta flight at
From the British HotelFrom the British HotelFrom the British Hotel

View across the Grand Harbor of the Three Cities
an abandoned ticket counter. My ticket was Alitalia, but the woman assured me AirMalta was operating the flight. I spent three hours in Healthrow drinking ovepriced drip coffee, checking email and facebook, and browsing duty-free shops before finally a gate was assigned for my 10:50 flight. The flight to Malta was 3 hours long, and we got off to a late start for whatever reason. I got in another hour of sleep, had a meal of chicken, olives, tomatoes, zucchini and potatoes floating in some kind of liquid, and read a bit more of my ‘Lonely Planet Malta & Gozo’ book. I also had my first extended-listening of Maltese thanks to the cabin crew . For those unaware, Maltese is a Semitic Language (like Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic…) with heavy lexical influence from Italian and English. Very cool.

As we got close I could see a bit out my window, and at first glance the landscape looked rather arid and rocky and reminded me of both Menorca and Sardinia. After a bumpy landing I was finally in Malta – we deplaned directly to the tarmac and took a small bus over to the airport itself. It was then that I realized that my plane was specially painted for Valletta’s (Malta’s capital) nomination as European Capital of Culture for 2018. EC had arranged a pick-up for me, so I had a driver waiting for me as soon as I grabbed my luggage, which came out immediately. This luck means disaster will certainly come on my way home.

It was a maybe 15 minute ride to the capital, where I was staying, and the fact that “Call Me Maybe” was the first song I heard upon arrival signified that this would be an amazing trip. The British hotel, where I’m staying, looks right over the Grand Harbor toward the “three cities” – Senglea, Vittoriosa, and Cospicua. The place itself is a major throwback to 1970s England (and served as a filming location for “Munich”) but it’s adequate and inexpensive. I had made plans to meet up with two colleagues for dinner and drinks at 7 in St. Julian’s, but I had a bit of time to kill after showering, etc. so I headed out into the city.

The narrow, gridded streets with beautiful, old limestone buildings are gorgeous. It’s a mix of every other southern Mediterranean city I’ve been to, except that there’s a status of a Saint on what seems to be every street corner. Malta, what is I believe the most densely-inhabited place in EU, is extremely Catholic and churches are everywhere. Divorce was only made legal a few months, if that’s any indication of their morals. I started out walking up along the perimeter next to the Grand Harbor until I hit the Lower Barraka Gardens, a nice, shady retreat with a Doric temple commemorating Sir Alexander Ball, the naval Captain who took Malta from the French in 1800. Walking further along, I hit the Siege Bell Memorial. This tall, pillared cupola commemorates those who lost their lives in the convoys during the 2nd World War. Malta undertook an incredible amount of bombardment from the Axis powers and the entire island was eventually awarded the George Cross from England.

I continued to wander about, eventually hitting the Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck. St. Paul was purportedly shipwrecked on Malta in 60 AD and introduced Christianity to the islands, hence the church, St. Paul’s Bay, etc. I also stepped into another church with an absolutely frightening, bloody crucifix that was supposedly “miraculous”, but there was a man praying in front of it so it would have been rude to snap a picture. It was getting closer to 7 so I found my way to the bus area and hopped on the 12 bus to St. Julian’s, where my friends/fellow EC employees were, and where I’d be staying Sunday night through my departure.

The bus wasn’t too painful, but thanks to no overt notification of stops (coupled with the fact that I didn’t really know where I was going) I got off a bit too soon after a maybe 35 minute bus trip. By some crazy aligning of the stars, as I stood there looking bewildered, the EC Sales Manager for Asia who works out of the Malta offices, Adrian, was driving by picked me up and drove me the few blocks to the hotel. I’m sure I’ll be running into a lot of EC people like this – very small world/island!

At the hotel was John, who works out of EC New York and whom I had actually met randomly last year at a party in New York through mutual friends, and Lykai,

Loves a good shot tray!
who works out of EC San Diego. The hotel was super nice, but since EC isn’t paying for my pre-program accommodation, I opted for the cheaper option in the capital. We were hungry and thirsty for booze, so we headed out in to St. Julians’ to find a spot to eat and drink at. St. Julian’s/Paceville is a shopping, eating, and drinking area.

We settled at a place where i enjoyed sone Cisk Maltese beer and a pizza with onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and Maltese sausage - pretty decent. Then came the bar-hopping. Long story short, this ensued until 430am. The area is insane with packed bars and clubs. What's the best part? Parting with tweens! Thanks to a national drinking age of 16, Malta is definitely a teenage party destination. Oh well!

I eventually cabbed home, totally getting ripped off but at 5am I wasn't in the mood. Calies Chris and chatted a bit, then passed out for the night.


14th April 2012

The Getaway
Hey! Got an e-mail that you had updated your blog and I am so glad you did. Malta looks amazing! So beautiful and peaceful. I really want to go. Carly Rae playing is a good omen for the rest of the trip :) Have fun with the tweens and you better bring back one of their well-known falcons.
14th April 2012

Thanks for 'Merħba lil Malta!'!
I'm rather new here and haven't read very much. But Jeff, Your entry is what I think a such post should be. First of all it's very artless, unsophisticated - the text is informativ and detailed but flows so simply and naturally. It's just delight to read it: 'A fan of the entertainment selection', 'Food was edible', 'checked in for my Air Malta flight at abandoned ticket counter' 'This luck means disaster will certainly come on my way home'. Short and clear without any irony though with elegant nonchalance. Envy it! Good luck in Malta and elsewhere! From the British HotelFrom the British Hotel From the British HotelView across the Grand Harbor of the Three Cities an
14th April 2012

Off to a great start!
I'm fascinated by island culture and Malta looks intriguing. Looks like your trip is off to a great start. Seriously, 16 year old drinking age? That should make for some interesting bar hopping stories. Weather seems beautiful. Enjoy.

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