The trip to Malta is always a great opportunity to meet new friends, visit the beautiful island of Malta and build memories to look back on.
Each trip tends to be unique in some way, with one year being remembered firmly in people’s memories as the year there weren’t enough seats in the mini bus, another year being firmly remembered with a collapsing seat in a restaurant, and one year the hi-light was when we accidentally almost burnt down a restaurant. Anyway, you get the idea. Something always happens, somewhere that makes the trip unique.
So, we start the trip of 2019 with eager anticipation as to what might be about to happen this year.
We left a very rainy and overcast Great Britain on the Thursday, and when arriving at the airport, had to run to avoid torrential rain, with our cases behind us and with what can only be described as spray coming of the wheels as we hurried across the carpark.
Once safely inside, the next stage was to get through security. Everyone managed to get through without any issues, to the conveyor belts with Phil being stuck behind an elderly couple who were having a very serious domestic dispute at the barriers. At one stage I thought I was going to be stuck there forever, behind the feuding twosome. Luckily, they weren’t part of my group!
One of our group decided to announce to us as his case went on to the security conveyor belt that one of his part time hobbies was shooting, and as a result he had a secret fear that if at security his bag was to be swabbed, there is a genuine possibility that it could show up with gun powder residue. You can imagine my fear at learning this and thinking there was a real possibility that we could lose one of the people at security if the bag got swabbed! Luckily, his bag went through with no issues. Phew. That was a close one. I could not help feeling this was going to be unique trip with its own special memories.
Once on the plane, we were advised there could be some fairly heavy turbulence, but everything would be fine. Halfway through the journey the fasten seat belt lights came back on, and the captain announced on the intercom “cabin crew please sit”.
I’ve never heard that before, and the cabin crew did exactly as they were told, and pretty much sat down wherever they happened to be. An unusual occurrence, and anyone knows that getting Ryan Air cabin crew to sit down as opposed to selling you drinks, perfume and scratch cards, gave a clear indication that the turbulence ahead would be worse than expected. My goodness, it certainly was. It was like being on a white-knuckle ride at Thorpe Park, with the odd yelp from people around me, and probably for one of the first times in my life, I felt the need to pray whilst on a plane.
Luckily, the turbulence subsided, and we arrived safe and sound at Malta International Airport, where we found our minibus and driver, called Justin waiting for our arrival.
The 20-minute journey across the island bought us to our hotel where we were able to check in and then importantly get a pint of the local lager which is called Chisk and a late-night snack.
The following morning, everyone was up timely for breakfast which, if you have eaten with us in Malta before, you will know that food is a stable part of the trip, and the breakfast at the hotel is no exception with continental breakfast, pastries, cereals, and the full English fry up followed by fruit salad or yogurt. All this washed down with plentiful fruit juice and the choice of various types of coffee that would, we are sure, remove the paint off any car if spilt. Coffee just isn’t their thing in the hotel, but after about the first 10 years you start to get used to that.
We met up at lunch time and took a beautiful walk across the head land, past various restaurants which we have used before, some of which have since closed down, which is always a standing joke with people in Malta when I am there. The rumor is that whichever restaurant or establishment I take people to, there is always some form of disaster that it succumbs to following. I suspect this was from the earlier attempted burning down of a restaurant some years ago. But that’s another story for another day. We arrived at a fabulous restaurant with a beautiful view right across the Malta bay and consumed vast quantities of food, including a massive portion of lasagna, calamari and an eagerly awaited avocado and prawn salad. Our first issue was with the avocado and prawn salad, it was kind of missing the avocado. But that was soon remedied, and we carried on. The trip back to the hotel included a nice walk around the headland and past the national aquarium and finishing of perfectly with an ice cream with my very favorite mint and coconut flavours.
The sun beating down on us, our next trip was to the filigree workshop of Mario Borg down at Ta-Qali, Where we were treated to a demonstration of how traditional Maltese filigree is made and our gentlemen did the right and proper thing and treated the ladies to items of jewellery. Then up to the former capital of Malta, Mdina where Phil treated the gathered masses to the Maltese savory that is pastizzi available in cheese or pea (or was that ham?).
A walk around the beautiful city of Mdina which is also known as the Silent City, whilst taking in the views from the ramparts. Interestingly, Mdina is the setting for filming of the television program Game of Thrones, and whilst there it was apparent there was filming going on. This brings me to the lovely Jenny, who seemed like a very quiet sedate lady and suddenly came in to her own by gate - crashing the filming asking lots of questions about was being filmed and what was going on. It was clear Jenny was not as quiet and reserved as we initially thought. We moved on to a favourite haunt of the CDC on Tour trip which is Fontanella, a fabulous coffee and cake stop high on the ramparts of Mdina where we treat ourselves to hot drinks, and despite the saying that we wouldn’t, one or two of us just managed a tiny bit of cake, which size wise was rather more like a breeze block. Beautiful, plentiful and dare I say it, rather fattening.
We did however, notice that people who came in after us were being served before us, and suddenly Jenny came in to her own and became somewhat aggressive, leaping up, shouting across the restaurant “young man, young man” before getting frustrated and returning to “oi, oi!” needless to say we got served pretty quickly after that. Well done Jenny, who will always be known as “young man…………”. We enjoyed a further view of Malta as the light faded and you could see right across the island from the top of the ramparts and we were treated to a very impressive electrical storm high above Valletta. An amazing sight, and not one I will forget for a long time.
On to our favourite Italian restaurant in Rabat where Hugh had ordered a calzone. I have never seen a pastry as large in my entire life, it was about the size of a swing bin that appeared on his plate and there were genuine gasps from the assembled people as to how he was going to attack this mammoth calzone. That together with everyone’s huge pizzas we managed to muddle through before collecting the boogie bus and heading back to the hotel on the other side of the island, where we were treated round the pool to a magic show unlike any other magic show I have ever seen. Everything seemed to work ok, but it’s just like visiting the 1970’s, with the glamourous assistant Rita in her high heels, sparkly dress and long hair almost being whipped of her feet when she tripped over the magicians microphone lead. It was just going to be one of those evenings! This was followed by Freddie, the local singer, when I say singer it was more of a mime if I’m honest. But he obviously had a talent and affinity to Elvis Presley songs, and every time an Elvis song was coming on, he would put his black collar up around his neck and become Elvis Presley – but only in his own mind. It was a very funny night, but a very interesting night and a bit of dancing went on. But then before we realized we had lost our Jenny. Where had she gone? Suddenly she’s out on the floor doing a duet with Freddie the singer. Marvelous, but I am not sensing the X-Factor to soon for Jenny. It was more like Peters and Lee!
The following day started with the generous helpings of breakfast and a bit of a walk during which, one of our merry men, the lovely Jayne, wanted to prove incase there are any talent scouts out there that she could take the place of the next James Bond stunt double as she walked along the side of the water. She showed that she could fall and roll with doing minimum damage before springing up and swearing. No real damage done, just a few bruises and a few grazes, nothing that a drop of arnica can’t put right, and a drink of course, and a lesson learnt to all to avoid the green algae!
Next up another trip on the boogie bus to Little Armier Bay and our table right next to the sandy beach with half a dozen people on it. Heaven. The sun beating down, the boys immediately stripped to their swimming shorts and were straight in the water. A beautiful meal there, several pina coladas followed by another episode of swimming in bath like temperature water, before laying on the sun loungers on the beach and drying of and then heading back to HQ for a shower, with a brief stop at the ice cream shop to top up the mint and coconut cones.
Saturday evening consisted of a bus trip into the center of the island to visit our dear friend Tony Lawrence for a dance night at his dance studio. Through the course of the evening there was an international competition involving three highly experienced judges, one of which was struggling to stand up after many Bacardi and cokes – yes that was me – with our own Garry and Jayne flying the UK flag and representing Great Britain in this mammoth event. A very respectable 2nd place for Garry and Jayne, and I do believe that the earlier injuries sustained just stopped them making the 1st position. A great night with great dancing and new friends before returning to the hotel for snacks at midnight.
Sunday morning, we woke to a heck of a storm, right through until midday before finding our boogie bus for the last time to take us down to Marsaxlokk on the south of the island for some fresh fish and of course the customary Chisk refills.
As always, it was my pleasure to show people around the island, and to various places off the tourist route shall we say.
So that is it for Malta 2019. Time to start planning Malta 2020 me thinks!