A week in Malta
Let me start by saying this is a personal view of our family trip to Malta in October 2012, and by no means a definitive guide.
We wanted a week in the sun during the autumn half term. We didn’t want to stray into a possible war zone, or for it to be full of British ham, egg & chips and we wanted the journey to be straightforward as we have 2 young children and it was their first trip abroad.
Working through a short list of ideas; Sardinia, Sicily, Greece, the island of Malta leapt out. With a little research (5 minutes) and a heavily reduced Villa price from ‘James Villa Holidays’ our week away was booked.
Overall impression of Malta ... some of the most amazing European architecture I’ve ever seen particularly the city of Valetta, the history of the Knights of St. John and their reign over Malta for 200’ish years makes for an extraordinary history. This was followed by an accidental take-over by Britain to boot the French out and they ended up staying 150 years until 1964. The architecture is southern European with Arabic place names and British phone boxes, 3-pin plugs and driving on the left hand side of the road (and of course, they all speak English, often with a disconcerting British regional accent).
As you drive around you pass numerous early 1980’s Ford Escorts and Morris Marinas, all in perfect condition, it starts freaking you out after a while. The whole country feels like it’s 1980 again, electricity failures, bad internet connectivity, 7up signs (or is that just the Mediterranean?).
We were disappointed in the beaches and facilities for children but they were very welcome in the restaurants. We eat at a wonderful Maltese restaurant called ?, the food was Maltese, a fusion of European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. The service was great, the food was great, the children ate the food ... it was a wonderful evening out. To balance that, we also went to a Chinese restaurant local to the town we were staying in, it was dire, bad service, bad food, but the children eat everything ... they love Chinese.
It was, however, a safe, friendly, warm and pleasant place to be from the moment we got off the plane, at no time did we feel unsafe or harassed ... as a country, for a first overseas trip for our family, it was a good choice.
What the children thought
The children thought it was great. It was their first time in an aeroplane, first time swimming in the sea, first time abroad, first time on a coach (transfer to/from the airport at Gatwick), first time having their own swimming pool to play in, ... They took all of it in their stride and had their horizons expanded.
Amazing architecture built by the Knights of St. John; lovely, welcoming, relaxed people; easy transport links between UK and Malta; hot, sunny weather; the Britishness of so many things makes things seem familiar. We learnt about history we didn’t have a clue about before which surprised and delighted us.
Sights of Valetta
Shockingly bad roads, full of pot holes and a total lack of adherence to driving rules, if there are any, although it’s done in a very non-assertive way. Crowded, very few usable beaches ... the coastline is very rocky, the local habit of shooting birds is disconcerting when, as happened to us, they start shooting just above the beach. Really scruffy rental car (booked through James Villas), boot wouldn’t open, petrol cover lock broken open and a €35 petrol charge for €20 ½ tank worth of petrol when we arrived to collect it.
Things to see and do
Valetta, the 3 Cities and Mdina
The rest ... not so good, few shops, beaches or sights
We found one good beach but down an steep uneven track of broken concrete and bird shooting 200m away, all other beaches were either rocky drop offs or beside a busy road
OK ... mish mash of cuisines and nothing really stood out. Lots of british favourites in shops. A few very good restaurants
Getting about by car
There seems to be an awful lot of buses, so we’re assuming that public transport is good and regular.
Signage is poor, driving is difficult with all the pot holes, it has the highest accident rate in Europe, tailgating and blind overtaking but it’s all done with such good humour you can’t be offended.
Expected a bit better from James Villas, tired, bits broken and a night without electricity due to poor wiring but spacious, clean and a lovely pool . Frustrating to not be allowed into the house till 4pm, six hours after arrival but have to be out by 10am on departure day
Will we be coming back ?
It lacks that something special that would keep us coming back for more, we’ll probably risk mangling our Italian and go to Sicily or Sardinia next time. Although, I’d make a special day trip to see Valetta again.