Here now, so what to do?

I awoke well-rested on the morning of the 14th February, showered and went downstairs. Declining the proferred complimentary breakfast I collected the keys to my apartment which had been immaculately made up as I hope the images show. If this makes little sense because you have just randomly landed on this entry, I suggest you read the previous entry where it is all explained. This was to be my home for the next month and very comfy it was too so I suppose this is as good a time as any to tell you about Miranda apartments and, again, the text is an edited version of the review I wrote for Virtual Tourist at the time. The hyperlink is for the Europa Hotel and you should go through them to book.

img_1822
A comfy place to spend a month, wish my flat was as tidy!

When I had been looking for an off-season stay in Malta I checked on several of the usual booking sites I used, finally deciding on the Miranda apartments and there were several reasons for this. The location seemed good with easy access to the nightlife etc. of nearby St, Julian (San Giljan) and also easy transport to Valletta plus the bonus of a small kitchenette. Staying for an extended period, eating out every meal was going to knock the budget a bit so the thought of a little self-catering was attractive. The clincher though was the price which was absolutely right. I ended up paying approximately £13 sterling per night which was a snip and even lower than the prices published on the official notice in the apartment.

img_1826
I’ll bet Michel Roux could work that kitchen. I did!

The rental apartments are all on the ground floor with the upstairs floors being occupied privately and this leads to a sense of it being a “home” rather than just a holiday resort place. Security is as you would expect in a private residence and you actually have to negotiate four doors to get in your room, so that is not a concern. If you like it, you can rent a safety box in the hotel but I really didn’t feel the need. You can also get wi-fi in the internet cafe in the hotel if you want although there is none in the accommodation.

So what is it like? Well, I do not require much from the places I stay, I just need somewhere to sleep, wash and, in this case, eat a little. The images probably do it justice and it was perfectly comfortable. Being an apartment rather than a hotel, I was expecting the room to be made up about once a week with new laundry etc., but it was immaculately made up every day I was there. It was a twin room that I had sole occupancy of and the bed was comfortable and big enough for my rather tall frame. The toilet was small but adequate and clean although the shower cubicle was a bit tight for me.

The kitchenette consisted of fridge, sink, two ring electric burner and microwave. I don’t know how many people they expected in a twin bedroom but the pots were huge, you could have fed ten from them. My only slight complaint was a lack of implements, there was really only kitchen cutlery and a couple of plastic spatulas etc. but this was explained to me when I met the former owner by chance one night. He explained that the guests keep stealing everything!

It is not a problem for me, having travelled in Asia where it is common, but there is no window in the room save for a tiny one high up on the wall to allow ventilation. I know this may be an issue for some people. I loved it there and would certainly stay again.

img_1829
You have been warned!

Having stowed my kit I decided on a wander round the local area before venturing off further afield and just turned left out of the door along the seafront and began walking with no plan at all. Almost the first thing I saw was the sign you can see pictured above which raises a couple of issues. The first is that the local authorities really are strict about the topless bathing regulation, not that it was anything like sunbathing weather never mind sea bathing. I believe there are topless beaches elsewhere on the island but this is effectively a residential area so I suppose that is fair enough. The second matter is that of the currents which I was told later can indeed be treacherous and have claimed casualties, so you have been warned.

img_1833
One off the Redin crusader towers which are to be fount all along the Maltese coast.

Not too far along I came upon the rather imposing structure you see here. Initially, I was unsure if it was a genuine historical building or a modern reproduction, such was it’s state of repair. It really was in good order and looked like it could have been erected a few years ago. I have seen other such facsimile buildings on the island.

A little research, however, established it’s provenance as one of the 13 towers built by the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta called Martin de Redin in 1658 – 1659. Redin was an Aragones knight. These were in addition to five towers built by his predecessor Grand Master Lascaris and formed an excellent defensive and warning shield around the island. The towers were all visible to the next one in the chain all the way from Gozo to Grand Harbour so an alarm of potential invasion or Corsair raid could be raised all along the coast. The alarm was raised by means of smoke during daylight hours and by bonfires at night.

I believe some of the so-called Redin Towers are accessible although this one appears not to be. I should point out that I visited off-season so maybe it does open in summer, I can find no information on this. I did find it rather impressive in it’s wonderful state of repair although it is not large. The last image shows a more modern view and indicates the very seaside town out of season nature of Sliema in winter. Worth a look if you are passing. Just pause and think of the soldiers manning the tower watching for the possibility of imminent battle from the sea.

Walking on in a fairly leisurely fashion and ignoring the obvious delights of the talking telescope (no, I had never hard of such a thing either) I discovered this rather interesting sculpture, if that is the correct word for it.

In my relatively short time in Malta I was struck by how fond they seem to be of public statuary. Virtually every ten yards you will find some sort of statue, either old or very modern. I suspect it must be something in the Mediterranean psyche that likes such things.

img_1840

Relatively modern (2007), it was not a static piece but the globe was revolving, apparently moved along by the water. I did see another similar piece later in Valletta so I am not sure if this is simply a popular form here. Basically the globe rotates, fairly fast, but not as you might expect along an axis through the poles which is how the Earth apparenty moves but the other way, through an equitorial axis. It threw me a little but it was still a very impressive piece. As the image shows, there are some fairly thought provoking pieces written around the base. I was slightly taken aback to find a Red Indian (yes, I am of an age where I can still use such terms) proverb in the middle of the Med!

img_1839

The globe statue is technically just in Sliema although few yard further on I was to find myself in San Giljan (St. Julians) for the first but certainly lot the last time as so let me give you my impressions of it.
It is located on St. Julian’s and Balluta bays a few miles North of central Valletta it seems to me to be completely tourist orientated. When I say it is a few miles from Valletta, that is as the crow flies. The many inlets on the Maltese coast and the sometimes heavy traffic can make it a bit of a journey to actually get there from the capital. Boat might be best!

I don’t actually know how the place evolved, I am guessing it was a fishing community once although little evidence of that exists now. This is “party central” for Malta, specifically the area known as Paceville where it appears loud music seems to pump out of bars constantly even in winter. I have no idea what it must be like in high season. In an indication of how geared to nightlife it is, there are nightbuses coming from places like Rabat and not even going to Valletta the capital. These only run at the weekend and are obviously designed for clubbers.

However, like anywhere else, I did manage to find a few less lively places that I liked and I used to spend quite a bit of time here. Apart from the nightlife and many restaurants and bars, there does not seem to be a lot to do here and it had the atmosphere of any off-season tourist place but it is pleasant enough and not completely manic off-season which suited me.

img_1856
A fine bar but just not my kind of place.

All this walking was making me thirsty obviously and so it was straight into the first bar I found open which just happened to be the Dubliner and I was not going to fall out with my company as I was the only customer. The Dubliner is fine and I have no complaint at all but faux Irish bars or “plastic Paddy pubs” as I call them are not really my cup of tea, or even pint of Guinness come to that, and so I contented myself with just the one and moved on.

img_1861
Sausage, egg and chips. Eat your heart out Gordon Ramsay!

A lot of the bars in San Giljan do not open until late afternoon as it really is a town for nightowls and so I had a bit of a walk to find one that was open and I eventually did in the form of Dick’s Bar which was to become like a second home to me. I am conscious that I have got a whole month’s worth of blogging to do here and many day’s when I did precious little plus which there are a few other places to tell you about today so I shall save my full review for a “slow news day” and just tease you with this image of my very traditional Maltese brunch! I do like to eat local food when I travel but I saw another customer having this and it looked so good I had to have it. Yes, it was as good as it looks.

img_1862
What does this name really mean? Damned if I know.

After spending the best part of an afternoon in Dick’s I thought it was time to maybe move on a little as I still had seen very little of San Guljian. It was dark by now and rather than retrace my steps I took off on up the hill away from the harbour, which is now really a marina as there is nothing in the way of commercial or fishing vessels there. I did not know it at the time but I was heading towards Paceville as mentioned above although the main “drag” is a little off the main road to the right. I took myself into the Rose and Lily bar and to this day I have no clue if the name represents the English rose and the French Fleur de Lis or the name of the two ladies who owned it. May even have been the names of daughters of the owner, who knows?

My initial suggestion here is not actually as fanciful as it may at first sound given the massive association the island had with the Crusader knights from the late 11th century onwards where just about every modern Western European country was represented in the supposedly holy cause of recapturing Jerusalem from “the infidel”. There will be much, much more about the Crusaders as this series of blogs progresses because Malta is so steeped in that history that you can barely turn a corner without finding some remembrance of their prolonged presence.

Whatever the provenance of the name, it was a decent enough little bar showing the ubiquitous football on one of the many myriad satellite channels but there were only another couple of guys in there and so, after a couple more Cisk beers, which I was becoming increasingly fond of (still am), it was time for another ramble. Rather than just head back I knew that if I kept going downhill I would get to the sea and either get wet or get my bearings back home no matter what happened. I had seen plenty of taxis and I knew that if I got to the coast road the buses ran there so it was no great hardship to go for another wander round some backstreets.

I walked about a bit more and came upon Memories Bar and so in I went. Again I shall let my original thoughts on the establishment serve as memory (no pun intended) fails a little at my time of life.

img_1865
Go on Elvis, give it some.

“San Giljan (St. Julian) is a very tourist place with nightlife centred round “Bar Street” or “Pub Street” as it is locally known. Music policy here is mostly of the pounding modern dance music at huge volume type which is not really my thing but younger readers may appreciate it. Well, if it is not your thing and you think you can do better, for a little something different why not try your hand at karaoke which seems popular on the island? Many places will have karaoke on a weekend night but in Memories bar you can indulge your passion for Frank Sinatra impersonation all night every night.

I visited Malta in February and March which is extremely off-season and even then there were people crooning the evening away. I wasn’t actually looking for a karaoke bar, it just looked like a decent place for a drink but it soon became obvious what was going on. In the way of these things and with few other takers, I was persuaded to give a number or two. When nobody is singing, the DJ / karaoke man plays reasonable music and is happy to take requests. Even if you don’t fancy exercising your vocal cords, it is a decent and friendly place for a drink.
It is open 0900 – 0400 daily except Sunday when it is 1800 – 0400″

There you go, another old Virtual Tourist review saved. I enjoyed Memories OK although karaoke is really not my thing, especially performing it as I want a guitar in my hands and a good backing band loud enough to drown out my nonsense but these things happen although what they made of a bit of full-bore Ian Gillan era Deep Purple is anyone’s guess. I do get a bit lively on stage but it is what I do and if pressed to it then “Smoke on the Water” complete with rock screaming and that dangerous octave note, is my thing.

One thing to note in the photo. Remember I said I had come here looking for winter sun? Take a look at the jacket the local is wearing. I wish I had had it as it was still bloody freezing! In the event, I needed neither taxi nor bus to get home when I had bored the locals enough and had a very pleasant stroll back along the seafront (I did find it easily enough by another route) to my digs where my newly made up room proved to be very homely. The bed was great and I slept like a baby.

So what had I achieved on my first day in a new country? Quite a lot and nothing really. I had done zero of particular interest except gone for a walk and visited some bars and yet I had started to get a feel for the place. I had orientated myself locally, found a few bars I knew I would be welcomed in again and observed everything. I now know where the bus routes were merely by reading bus stops, I knew where to get a taxi if I needed one and a lot of the other minutiae of travelling. I know this may sound a bit ridiculous but it is the way I am, I enjoy getting to know a place a little bit better than merely being just another gawping tourist jumping on and off a bus at the behest of a tour guide.

Yes, there are plenty of Cathedrals, museums, Roman sites, Crusader castles and WW2 bomb bunkers to come so stay tuned and spread the word.

Author: Fergy.

Hello there and welcome to my blog which is the last attempt of a retiree and child of the 50's to overcome advanced technophobia and create a memoir of my rambles having had three commercial travel blog sites pulled from under me in just over a year. A learning curve like Everest! I am rapidly approaching a senior citizen bus pass and realistically I have more days independent travelling behind me than before so I intend to "do it while I still can" and am trying to cram in as much as I can now. Apart from travelling, I love playing music (guitar, vocals and a bit of percussion) as the profile pic suggests and sport, although my active participation is now restricted to the very occasional game of pool. I read voraciously, probably a legacy from my dear late Mother who was a librarian and encouraged me towards books from an early age. I'll read just about anything although I do have a particular interest in military history of all periods. I live alone in fairly central London where I have been for over 30 years since leaving Northern Ireland which was the place of my birth, youth and early manhood. Partially by necessity although more by love of the art I adore cooking and I can and do read recipe books and watch food programmes on TV / online all day. Nothing fancy and none of your nouvelle cuisine nonsense, just hopefully tasty, proper food. To my knowledge, I have not poisoned anyone yet! No doubt other little personal facts about me will emerge during the course of my writings here so stay tuned if you are at all interested.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s