26 January 2008 (posted 12 March 2008)
On a Friday night back in January, congestion at Heathrow delayed our departure to such a degree that I had flashes of our own version of Kath & Kel’s “holiday at the airport” episode.
Finally arriving at 3:30am, our hotel was a fantastic choice. Gay owned, cheap and highly rated by tripadvisor.com, the room was basic, even a little tacky, but the small bathroom was new. Our late arrival was all in a day’s work to the proprietor who, at this early hour, personally explained the controls: Shower, lights, airconditioning etc.
In the morning, my wake up shower did its job far more effectively than intended. After briefly flowing hot and strong, a quick lesson on the boiler’s limited capacity was VERY effectively delivered via a torrent of cold water from the shower head. There is plenty of hot water; The proviso is that you don’t flick the mixer tap straight up and hence empty the boiler's entire contents in one splash!
The downstairs breakfast room doubled as a bar in the evenings and we stopped in several times for a drink. Our fellow guests were mostly gay British couples also taking advantage of the cheap flights on offer. The exception was a lovely Canadian woman on an Irish working holiday.
Adams Apartments' prime location is just a couple of streets up from Spinola Bay. Having slept late, a leisurely stroll down the hill delivered us to a relaxed lunch on the roof terrace at “Paparazzi”, as recommended by Lonely Planet. From our vantage point above the bay, with the warm January sun and a gentle breeze playing on my skin, I was temporarily transported home.
Malta’s latitude is almost identical to Perth’s, though mirrored through the equator. The quality of light, the ocean smells and the gentle zephyr of a warm winter’s day all combined to serve up many of the things I’ve missed about home. But more than that, they served as a reminder of my good fortune in the accident of my birthplace.
But Malta is so much more than its geography. Not much bigger than Rottnest yet home to 400,000 people, this island is the most densely populated country in Europe with one of the world’s highest rates of car ownership. It’s absolutely brimming with history, with ubiquitous references to the legacy of its historic British ties, but at the same time wonderfully contemporary and cosmopolitan.
And nowhere is far away on this pint-sized island. By car, you can reach all parts of the island in minutes. You can always squeeze something else in.
From Spinola Bay, we passed a glorious Saturday afternoon walking into the capital, Valetta. This citadel constantly surprises the visitor; Around every corner is another aquaeous vista glimpsed along another narrow, cobbled street from atop its rocky, peninsular perch.
Leaving Valetta, our bus driver alerted us to the fortuitous timing that placed us in Malta on the very night of their selection trials for the Eurovision song contest. In that coincidence however, we exhausted our Eurovision luck. Initially turned away from the non-epos box office, cashless, after scouring the surrounding suburbs for an ATM, we returned only to find ticket sales had closed!
Back at the hotel watching live on local TV, the bar exploded with excitement when someone's friend emerged as the winner. It seemed she'd also performed live with Chiara earlier in the night. And we missed it! So close...
Overall, an eventful day.