Travel 2007 – Malta

Wednesday, 21st March/Friday, 23rd March 2007 – Malta

We were in Malta for four days so I suppose I should talk about some of the trip right now…

We left home on Wednesday evening, heading for Gatwick (no sensibly timed flights went from anywhere nearer, and even that wasn’t particularly sensible, being a 7.25 departure). As Gatwick’s a two hour drive, and we couldn’t face the idea of a 3.30 start, we opted instead for staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Crawley, and having a five minute drive in the morning. Anyway, that meant we hauled out of bed at 4.30, dropped the car off at the airport and trudged through security (which was very tiresome in the usual way) and by 6.30 we were sitting at Chez Gerard with coffee and croissants, it being about the only civilised place apart from the Seafood Bar to eat at the airport (and we didn’t fancy sushi at that time of the morning)…

The flight arrived on time, and we were met at the airport by our driver and whisked to the Intercontinental feeling grimy and tired. As soon as we arrived things quickly got a whole lot better! The concierge met us at the door and whisked our bags away, directing them to our suite on the 12th floor and us to the Club Lounge on the 15th floor, where we treated ourselves to fresh fruit, some local sheep’s cheeses and a beer before heading down to our rooms to investigate. Very nice indeed…

I’ve been in hotel rooms that were smaller than the bathroom in this suite is all I can say (and the bathroom has a deep bath at one end and a large shower cubicle at the other. We have flat screen TVs in the lounge and the bedroom, a CD system, balconies all round, and a second bathroom off the lounge. There are the obligatory fluffy towelling bathrobes, and slippers, and lots of comfortable seating, including chairs on the balconies, and sun loungers. I could get used to this! And the service levels are excellent. We decided we wanted to eat out at one of the local restaurants on Saturday, so we asked the concierge to organise it for us, then wandered out for a stroll through the streets of St. Julian’s (and coincidentally hunted down Meg and Tony’s hotel, the Cavalieri, which is about 20 minutes away on foot at the same time). By the time we got back, he’d made the booking, organised the taxi we’ll need to get there, and came straight over to me as I stepped back into the hotel to tell me it was all organised. I’m impressed.

Meanwhile, my impressions of Malta as very favourable. It’s very densely built-up, or at least this bit is, and the buildings are seemingly overwhelmingly narrow across the frontage, and go a very long way back. They seem to be mostly two or three storeys high, with wonderful balconies, and doorways that make me want to just keep right on taking photographs. They’re mostly pale stone or brick, and there’s that distinct feel you get when you’re somewhere where two cultures have collided, and then rubbed along for centuries. There’s a very Mediterranean European ambience, but with just a touch of Arabic/Moorish in many things, so much so that you can’t miss it even if you can’t quite put your finger on exactly what it is. It’s lovely and the people so far seem to be very friendly and helpful as well. We’ve managed a walk along St. Julian’s Bay as well, looking at the brightly painted fishing boats, many of which have eyes painted on their bows to ward off evil. Some of the eyes are very stylised, and many of them look almost Egyptian in execution. I must find out more about this practice, as I’m now intrigued.

Anyway, we finally arrived at the Cavalieri, and located Meg and Tony. We caught up with them, then came back to the Intercontinental, where I checked out the gym (and knocked off a 5k run), before we dressed and went back to the Cavalieri.

Meg and Tony had booked a table at a nearby Chinese restaurant, the prosaically named New China House, for dinner, and we duly headed there. The chef, the not so prosaically named Hu Han Bang, from Hong Kong, did superb dim sum, so Lynne and I started with those, while the rest of the party opted for the more familiar (to them) mixed starters where everything is deep-fried (something I try to avoid these days for obvious reasons), and then moved on to steamed mussels with garlic, crispy fried pumpkin and satay beef. It was all very good, as was the rather fine Alsace Gewurtztraminer from Hugel Fils that we drank with it. And I ended up having a dessert (which I figured I’d earned with my run), partly because the idea of deep-fried ice cream intrigued me. It turned out to be a ball if vanilla ice cream, coated in a sweet batter with sesame seeds stuck all over it, fried very fast and very hot to make it crispy, and drenched in honey and syrup. It was excellent, and the ice cream was still solid in the middle. I have a few ideas as to how they did it, but it’s still damn clever! Oh, and the weather? Cold! Not at all what you’d expect… Thursday was the coldest day of the Winter with temperatures down around 9C, and a howling wind off the sea. Friday wasn’t meant to be much better, sadly, and duly lived up to its billing.

In conclusion, somewhere along the line we concluded a long time back that what every working woman really needs is an old-fashioned wife to keep everything running at home. Since our stay at the fabulous Intercontinental, we’ve changed our minds. What we need is a concierge… Now please!

1 Comment

  1. Lucky you. You happen to be in one of my favourite places. My grandchildren insist on taking me there every year even though I offer a range of alternatives. Always stay at the Mellieha Bay Hotel. Booked again for this October.

    Like

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