Last day in St. Julian and Sliema.

Saturday the 9th of March and my penultimate day i.e. last full potential sightseeing day on Malta before flying home on the Sunday and so what to do? Go and visit one more of the many sites I still had not managed to visit. Maybe make a flying visit to Gozo which I still had not reached despite best intentions but they do say the road to Hell is paved with them. Six years after the event I rely on looking at my daily images to piece together my day but in this case the honest truth of the matter is that I have no idea according to them as my first image is timed at 2253!

Dick's Bar, San Giljan, Malta.
RIP Dick’s Bar – gone but never forgotten.

I do not remember now but I have no doubt the day did not start too early due to the amount of red wine consumed the previous evening (see the entry before this for full details) which always has a shocking effect on my head, much as I love it. I obviously did not go anywhere of note but I do have a distinct memory of taking my leave from the sadly now closed Dick’s Bar in San Giljan where I had spent so many happy evenings and whiled away some of the stormiest days when sightseeing just wasn’t an option. I really did love this place, still run by the second and third generations of the original Dick’s family and easily the best bar of the many I visited on the island. A history begun in the 1930’s is now lost and Malta is very much the poorer for it.

I must have spent a good long time in there and I remember the warmth of the sendoff I was given (including several free local drinks) which was much appreciated. There were the usual assurances that I would return soon and come and see them but unfortunately that does not seem likely now unless I can make local enquiries to see if they have opened up elsewhere in which case I shall make a beeline for the new establishment.

I mentioned above that I did not take any images this day as there are only so many angles you can photograph a cosy little bar from and so, without apology, I am recycling some images I have used earlier in this series.

One other thing of note is that it was election day there on the island, an event which had been hotly debated the whole time I had been there. The Maltese are a very politically minded people with the turnout in this contest a staggering 93% which is a figure unheard of at home in the UK. Basically the Nationalist Party, whose colours are black and white and who had been in power for some years were going head to head with the Labour Party who march under a red and white banner. A few independents and tiny parties made up the numbers. It was the Nationalist Party whose rally I had inadvertently stumbled upon a few days before and which I described in a previous post in this series.

It appeared, if the polls were to be believed (which they are not always – witness the Brexit referendum in my country for a fine example) Labour had a commanding lead with the final poll before the election giving them a 12% lead. On polling day there were a few vehicles driving about with flags flying out the windows and some more broadcasting messages through tannoys but it was nothing compared to what happened the next day as you shall see if you read the final instalment of this group of entries which follows this.

Le Malte restaurant, Sliema, Mlta.
Le Malte taken the next morning.

Again, I fancied a bite to eat and again I had left it pretty late in that it was nearly 11 when I got back to Sliema and headed to the Le Malte restaurant adjacent to my apartment for my final Maltese meal. I had previously earmarked it as the menu looked good and not likely to break the bank completely. I was not too worried about the hour as it was a Saturday night and even off-season Mediterranean countries tend to eat much later than we do in the UK so I was fairly confident it would be open and thankfully it was although not too busy at that hour.

Le Malte is a thin, long restaurant which is not that big even with the terrace area to the front. The decor is a bit quirky with mostly old-fashioned Maltese artefacts juxtaposed with a rather large plasma screen “painting”on the wall which I found slightly incongruous. Very odd but very cosy. Apologies for the quality of the images but even though it was nearly empty I am still loath to use flash when people are eating. Hopefully they give an idea of what Le Malte is about.

A quick perusal of the menu suggested to me soup du jour and then something rather special. I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts that I had fallen quite in love with ravjul (ravioli) and if you are looking at the images you are probably thinking, “Oh no, he is not at spinach and ricotta again, is he”? Indeed no, I was not. How does ravjul stuffed with prawn and lobster served with a lobster sauce sound to you? It sounded extremely good to me and that is what I ordered.

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After the previous evening’s excess and the fact that I was flying the next day you would have thought I would have learned my lesson but there is no fool like and old fool and I am certainly that so I asked the waiter to recommend a Maltese red. Yes, I know it should traditionally be white with fish and seafood but I believe that old chestnut is going out of style somewhat these days and I do much prefer red to white. Without hesitation he recommended Carissimi which was indeed a very decent drop to my Philistine palate and again it was only whilst researching this piece that I found out a little about the winemaker.

Carissimi is one of the brands produced by the Emmanuel Delicata vineyard which is the oldest on the island although it was only founded in 1907 so there is none of the heritage of, say, France, Spain or Portugal. If I had been asked before visiting Malta I would have said that I did not think the very rocky ground and relatively poor soil would have been conducive to viniculture but apparently it is if given enough attention. Not only do they produce wine and import various types of alcohol but they are also responsible for having saved two varieties of indigenous Maltese grape, namely Gellewza and Girgentina, from extinction so fair play to them for that.

The meal was rather special and I have since found out that even on Saturday Le Malte closes at 2330 and I know I was there a lot later than that but, as in previous late night restaurant visits, I was not rushed at all and took my leisure with the bottle of wine. I genuinely would have been quicker if I had known the closing time but I didn’t and there were still one or two others sitting about and obviously in no rush to go anywhere. After paying the bill which was remarkably easy on the pocket it was a journey of literally about 25 yards from table to bed and a setting of the alarm for my journey home on the morrow and so to sleep.

N.B. The image above was obviously taken the next morning and the restaurant was close but at least it was daylight so you can see it should you wish to seek it out and I suggest you do although reservations are probably a good idea in season.

In the next and final post in this series I head back to UK so if you want to know about that and my closing thoughts about my month on Malta then stay tuned and spread the word.

Busy doing nothing – but enjoying it.

The 17th was a Sunday so I didn’t reckon there would be too much going on and so it was to prove. I have mentioned that there were no windows in my apartment so I made myself decent and opened my door for a look out into the small courtyard which indicated that it was indeed a bright sunny day, and about time too.

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Pretty deserted for a Sunday afternoon.

I knew there was also a reduced bus service on Sunday so I decided to stay local and have a look round Sliema. Apart from my initial walk from the bus in the pouring rain and a very brief exploration when I found the wonderful Hole in the Wall pub all I had seen of the town I was staying in was the main seafront whilst walking to and from San Giljan. Having had a coffee and performing my ablutions I stepped outside, got about ten yards and immediately retraced my steps as the weather had totally fooled me. Certainly it was sunny but there was no heat associated with it and it was bitterly cold with a biting onshore breeze. Having amended my clothing to virtually sub-Arctic levels I had another go and instead of turning left as I normally did I went right in the direction of the town centre.

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That poor child must have been chilled to the marrow!

On a Sunday lunchtime anywhere in the Med. I would expect people to be out walking along the front as it is just the done thing but, as the images show, there were only a few hardy souls braving the elements and most of them appeared to be tourists /expats. The locals obviously had enough wit to stay warm indoors. I decided to brave it and tried a spell of sitting on one of the numerous benches provided to watch the world go by but that lasted all of five minutes before I was in danger of hypothermia so only one thing to do and that was find a pub.

There were a few to choose from although not as many as I would have thought and they were all obviously totally geared to tourists and expats with names like Times Square and Compass Lounge. There was nothing wrong with any of them but they were so totally unremarkable that I did not take a single image which is very unlike me. The attraction of expat pubs soon wore off so after I had warmed up a bit I decided to wander on a bit and it was whilst doing so that I came upon the one thing of note the whole day which was the memorial to the men, women and children of Sliema who had died during the Second World War.

I have a great interest in military history of all periods and also war graves and memorials and so I naturally stopped for a look and to pay my respects.

In it’s long history the island of Malta has been subjected to two major sieges which I suppose is hardly surprising given it’s strategic importance slap bang in the middle of the Med.  The first was in 1565 when the Mohammedan (i.e. Muslim) Ottoman Turk forces of Sultan Suleiman, assisted by a large group of corsairs (pirates) besieged this very area for three months before being eventually repulsed at great cost to the defending Knights of the Order of St. John aka the Knights of Malta.  They were supported by a number of mercenaries from all over Christendom (i.e. Western Europe) as well as the local population who came out virtually unarmed in Birgu (across the harbour from modern Valletta) and helped to tackle the invaders where they had all taken shelter. It is not hyperbole to say that this really was a war for religious control of all of Europe and was a pivotal moment in the history of the continent.

The second siege is much more recent, being within living memory, and was much longer than the three months, three weeks and three days of 1565 as long as that must have seemed to those involved. For virtually the whole of the Second World War the island was blockaded by the Axis fascist powers of Germany and Italy and it was only the bravery of numerous military and merchant seamen that prevented the island being starved into submission. As I mentioned in a previous entry in this series the sheer determination of the Maltese was so impressive that King George VI awarded the entire population the George Cross after the war which was the only time the medal had ever been awarded to other than an individual. This remained the case until 1999 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II similarly honoured the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The memorial itself is well-tended and stands on the seafront looking out over the Grand Harbour and the first thing that struck me on examining it was the sheer number of people commemorated. Even today, Sliema is not a huge place and presumably it was smaller in the 1940’s and yet there are hundreds of names inscribed here. Remembering that the memorial is only for this small area it really brings home the sacrifices made. I have not physically counted the numbers but I have included all four aspects here so you can judge for yourself. It really was quite sobering.

With respects paid and headgear replaced I struck out for the backstreets. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, I had seen pretty much all of the “promenade” aka Tower Road, secondly and, as I have described frequently in other writings here and elsewhere, I love getting off the main drag and seeing how people really live. The third reason was purely practical in that I reckoned (correctly as it turned out) that the buildings would protect me from that vicious cold onshore wind which was becoming really unpleasant. I really was surprised that somewhere as far South as Malta and with an obvious maritime influence could be so cold. It was never a problem as I am not a “beach bunny” and had not intended to be sunbathing, which bores me rigid, but it did catch me a little off-guard.

I did my usual and headed of vaguely in the direction of my digs but a few blocks back. I came upon a street which seems to be the commercial centre of Sliema although it is not large as I suppose everyone goes to Valletta which is so close and so much better served for shopping. The few shops that had opened on a Sunday were in the process of reversing that state of being and shutters were being pulled down left and right. That didn’t bother me as I loathe shopping with a passion bordering on the pathological! I wandered through a tidy little town with nothing remarkable to write about here although more worryingly with nothing in the way of an establishment where a man could slake his thirst. I had no fear of getting lost (I never do) as I knew if I turned right and kept going downhill I would get to the sea and I would know where I was. Simplest form of navigation known to man.

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Just what was needed.

I knew that on my slightly meandering route vaguely parallel to the sea that I had passed where my apartment was but I just kept on going. I although I did not do it consciously I think my homing instinct was guiding my feet back to San Giljan as I did rather like it there because it was certainly a lot livelier than Sliema but it gave me an opportunity for a pleasant walk there and / or back most days. I was very pleased with where I was staying so it all worked out nicely. Once in SJ I inevitably ended up in the wonderful Dick’s Bar which I have spoken of before here and had a lovely, if simple, feed as shown in the image. Nothing fancy but just what was needed to satisfy the hunger I had built up on my walk in the rather “bracing” conditions.

After another pleasant evening in what was rapidly becoming my “local” it was time for best foot forward on the walk home as it was still pretty chilly although thankfully the wind had dropped considerably.  I got back to the little bedsit that I was becoming increasingly fond of and had made myself completely at home in. I would happily live there if they sorted out an internet connection. I had a fairly early night as I had determined to do a bit of proper something or another on the morrow although what it might be I knew not.

In the next instalment I make my first proper trip to Valletta so stay tuned and spread the word.

Introducing WMDs.

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I cannot describe how tasty this was – proper pub grub.

When I am writing these blog entries, especially given the length of time since the events to which they refer, I rely heavily upon my images which I store on a daily basis and then piece the day together from the various writings a have scattered about all over the wasteland that calls itself my computer “filing system”. On Saturday, 16th February my supply of images runs to precisely one so I have given it pride of place here. It is homemade pie and chips and I can tell you it was gorgeous as I ate it many times and it always was. What this indicates to me was that I spent the entire day in Dick’s Bar in San Giljan (St. Julians) which was not an uncommon experience in the month I was on the island.

This is where my WMD comes in, in this case Weapon of Mass Deception although I may be doing myself a slight disservice there. Usually I write about places when I first encounter them as it is the only way I can keep on top of it and not omit anything but in this series I have been holding a few things back for just such a “slow news day” as this so I shall tell you about Dick’s Bar albeit I had visited several times before. The text, as always is an edited version of my original Virtual Tourist tip and the images are from various days.

” I found eating out in Malta to be a not inexpensive pastime and prices are certainly comparable with UK which is regarded as being expensive. I know Malta, some years ago, was regarded as a good value holiday destination but their accession into the Federal States of E and adoption of the € has seen to that as it has in so many places. With this in mind, Dick’s offers a good selection of local and British dishes but in truth, much of the Maltese cuisine is British orientated because of the long period when the British administered the islands. Does roast chicken and chips count as local or British? I have no idea.

I ate there many times and have always been very pleased with the food and the service. There is the usual tourist fare like burgers, sausage, egg and chips, “full English breakfast” etc. but there are also local dishes like roz al forno (a baked rice dish), timpana (a baked pasta dish) and various filled local rolls (ftira) which are similar to foccacia bread. These you can have as they are or toasted and tuna capers and olives is a favourite local combination.

First, a note about the image attached here. You will see a monstrous sign boasting about the best pizza in the world (it isn’t even the best pizza in St. Julian apparently) but this refers to Margo’s then newly opened restaurant on the upper floors. Dick’s Bar is the downstairs portion of the building, run by Richard (junior) and Marco, the sons of the original and eponymous owner Richard (Dick) senior.

The decor is just that of a typical Maltese bar / restaurant and is usually full of a good mix of locals and travellers / expats. The atmosphere can get a bit lively, especially when the football is on, which seems to be most nights. Probably not the place to to take your loved one for a romantic meal. The food, however, is excellent with many of the dishes being home-made by Richard on the premises. His speciality, of which he is justifiably proud, are his savoury pies (steak and onion, steak and kidney and chicken and mushroom) which really are amongst the best I have tasted. The steak and kidney is particularly good. He also makes a deep dish apple pie which is pretty special as well even though I am not usually one for desserts.

Sometimes, there will be something sitting in the chiller which is not on the menu. For example, one night I feasted on beautifully slow-cooked Maltese beef which was literally falling to pieces and absolutely so tasty. The guys here do not stick slavishly to the menu, you just basically ask for anything you fancy and they’ll knock it up for you. Actually, half times you would not even need to order food as the generous free bar snacks they provide like chips (fries), toasted Maltese anchovy and olive oil bread, Maltese sausage etc. would nearly fill you up, especially if you have a bird-like appetite like mine.
There is a good selection of both local and imported drinks and bottles of local wine from €6 (2013 price). If you don’t want alcohol, the coffee is excellent.

Dick’s is certainly it is not haute cuisine, nor is it meant to be but I do recommend you try at least one meal here, you won’t be disappointed.

Favourite Dish: A difficult choice as the beef was so good but I think I would have to plump for the homemade steak and kidney pie with chips. Proper pub grub.”

That was the review I wrote at the time and quite early in my stay but I certainly did not change my opinion later on, I really did like this place. If your wondering about the “Favourite Dish” sentence at the end of the piece this was a section in the old VT tips and I did not miss it in the edit but decided to leave it in as a piece of nostalgia.

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San Giljan harbour by night.

I did manage one more thing before the day was done and that was to capture a night image of San Giljan harbour. The fact that I said I only had one image for the day earlier is that this was well after midnight and I only discovered it whilst researching the next day’s activities!. Although my files indicate that this took a few attempts I am quite pleased with the result as it was taken with a cheap compact camera (a Canon Ixus which I love) hand-held and I had been drinking beer all day so no shaky hands there then!

There you are then, WMD successfully deployed and hopefully nobody got hurt!

In the next instalment I go for a more in depth exploration of Sliema so stay tuned and spread the word.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.