Malta in March…My Malta Review

Malta in March…My Malta Review

I still have no idea why I suggested Malta, but here is my Malta Review.

At the time, following a previous holiday where BA Late Deals had messed up our Dubrovnik trip, we had some BA credit to use up and for some reason, I thought Malta would be an interesting trip to spend it on. After succumbing to the seamless marketing of VisitMalta, Kerrie agreed it would be worth a visit.

We flew from Gatwick to Malta with British Airways and landed in the Maltese capital of Valetta (more on Valetta later). We arrived to one of my typical ‘no one’s ever heard of them’ car rental desk.

A rather abrupt gentlemen processed our booking and worked to up-sell every product he could including a sat nav. Schoolboy error number 1, I chose to go with a sat nav as we were due to stay on the opposite side of the island and I had no idea how to get there.

I looped the airport about three times whilst Kerrie tried to find some satellites on the satnav I had foolishly paid for. Ok, satellites located, great work – our hotel won’t come up… hmm… I pulled over convinced I would work it….Nope, the only language loaded was Maltese and I had no idea how to spell our hotel name, in Maltese.

I decided, from memory, to  head west… you can only get so lost, can’t you?

As we descended into St. Paul’s Bay it started raining pretty heavy so I turned on the wipers, and to my surprise, the rubber part fell off and left the metal arm to scratch across the windscreen. After a further 20 minutes of driving, with my head virtually out of the window, we arrived in Ramla Bay, my hair dripping wet and we could see the hotel, we just couldn’t get to it!

I had booked the Ramla Bay Resort based on it’s 4 star rating (confirmed by TripAdvisor) and its proximity to the Gozo ferry port.

After I had resorted to Google Maps on my phone, we had to leave Ramla Bay and re-enter on another road, as the Hotel entrance is not in Ramla Bay but at the top of the hill on what looks like an un-made road.

When we arrived, there were very few free parking spaces and we were directed to park out of the hotel grounds on some scrap land and walk back to the hotel with our luggage.

The reception ‘first impression’ is a bit underwhelming. A fairly standard reception with staff who were fairly helpful. We checked in and went to our room. The room was fine, again, fairly average and the hotel feels a little ‘tired’.

The following day, we decided to go straight to Gozo and see what was there. From my research, I saw there was a UNESCO world heritage site – Temples of Ggantija which looked amazing.  The ferry port was a 10 minute drive at most and we got straight on.

Ferry from Malta to Gozo
Ferry from Malta to Gozo

 

At Gozo island, after getting a new wiper blade, we drove up into the islands interior heading for the Temples of Ggantija. We found a discreet sign pointing to these but it is not obvious. Entry is through the tourist centre and museum for the Temples – and less than 10 Euro each for museum and temple visit, it’s not a bad price either.

It was underwhelming to say the least. The temple is in a strange state of disrepair and repair. The temples are a lot smaller than they look in the photographs (around 2-3 feet tall!) and the tour guide was very clear when she explained that they had been rebuilt in the form that the discoverer believed they originally were. They are in the middle of a field and there isn’t much to look at.

Temples of Ggantija
Temples of Ggantija

I am all for monolithic sites and I appreciate the sense of significance with sites like this, but once they have been rebuilt and marketed as hard as they have been, the awe can wilt a little.

When we left Ggantija, I managed, for the first time, to get the car over 30mph – which was a real mistake as the steering wheel started to wobble violently and the car shuddered. Being a mechanic, I climbed underneath and saw the steering arm had a rather impressive bend in it and the tyre had a big chunk missing on the inside edge… Do we lose a day and get it swapped or just carry on…..carry on of course!

Whilst on Gozo, the Azure Window was always a must see and in a genuinely beautiful area until…. two weeks ago, it fell into the sea!! 

Azure Window, Malta
Azure Window, Malta

This is a giant arch carved into the rock by the sea’s wave action and is surrounded by lots of erosion caused rock formations (including another much smaller arch)

Azure Window, Malta
Azure Window, Malta

On the way to or from Azure Window, it is worth heading along the coast roads that run to some of the beaches. On these, you will find shallow squares cut out of the rock shelves that the beach meets.  These are the Maltese salt farms. The water washes up over them at high tide, at low tide, the sun dries them out and the salt can be harvested. Not a tourist attraction but interesting to see.

Gozo Salt Farms
Gozo Salt Farms

In the sandstone banks at the edges of the beach, huts have also been carved out in some placed even with doors fitted too!

Malta Review
Rock Buildings, Gozo

 

On Gozo, there are a number of nice churches to see and some quaint little villages too. We spent the day and went on the ferry back that evening.

Next day we drove up to see what the fuss is about with Popeyes Village…and after visiting, I’m still not sure.

Popeye’s is an ‘intentionally’ derelict looking town in a windswept cove. It is an original film set from the Popeye film which is significant but for me, it didn’t do much.

Malta Review
Popeye’s Village, Malta

At first we thought it had been destroyed by a storm and was closed but it turned out to be open. Having no children, we decided not to venture down but I was asked for my thoughts by Popeye’s village and I gave them the above. Their response was :

Dear Dan, 

We thank you for finding time to visit Popeye Village during your stay in Malta.

As you are making your way through the village, one must appreciate that you are visiting one of the very few film-sets still fully intact after all these years – as usually, film sets are disassembled as soon as shooting is over due to copy rights, but luckily, the Popeye film set is still here for us to appreciate.

Please note that the shabby-looking village had to resemble a poor fishing village dating back to post First World War, where all its people had to do was to pay all their earnings to the commodore in taxes!!! Therefore, the designer that was engaged for this project had to take into consideration that the village had to resemble the original Segar’s cartoon drawings which were initially depicted in comics in the 1920s and 30s.

Thanks and many regards,

Events, HR & Customer Relations Manager

Fair enough I think. Could be worth a visit on a nice day with kids?

We carried on along the south coast and headed for Dingli Cliffs. Dingli Cliffs again had the ‘VisitMalta treatment’ and looked amazing in the photos. Having visited, they are just some cliffs. Full disclosure, I do live very close to the Seven Sisters Cliffs so I am probably desensitized to it a little… I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.

Malta Review
Cart Ruts, Clapham Junction, Malta

Very close by, difficult to find, is Clapham Junction Cart Ruts (called Misrah Ghar il-Kbir in Malta) but they are signposted as ‘Cart Ruts’ or ‘Kart Rutts’. These are hundreds of what look like horse and cart tracks actually carved into the rock floor. There are other examples on the islands but these are the best.

Malta Review
Clapham Junction, Malta

From the cliffs, head down the Triq Inżul ix Xemx (road), as the road forks, keep right and on you right, there will be a little field with a sign. Park in there and walk across the fiels in the direction of the coast road, you will come into a field where the Cart Ruts start. Walk around to your heart’s content – they’re everywhere.

Malta Review
Kart Rutts, Malta

I genuinely found these really interesting. I don’t believe they are ruts from carts as they come from nowhere (Dingli Cliffs) and go towards the fields. Why would you have that much cart traffic that it carved grooves (some a foot or so deep) into the rock?  Also, these grooves get closer together and further apart, by a big amount too. How is that possible with a rigid axle vehicle? Obviously typically we are told these were made in mud and became rock… I think these are something much more interesting but that is a whole other post! 🙂

From there, you can continue east along that coast and arrive at Malta’s Freeport. As I have worked in cargo and shipping, I can’t resist visiting large or important ports… if you are interested, go take a look!

Malta Review
Malta Free Port

From there, we headed back via St. Paul’s Bay to get some food, parking can be a pain here but there are some good restaurants in the bay.

Following day we chose to go and spend a day at the pool as it was quite warm and the persistent 10mph wind that had blown since our arrival had died down a little. Luckily, we went to check it out before donning our swimwear as when we arrived, the pools were empty and dry – not open until April…

There is an inside pool and spa facility at the hotel though… oh, that was closed too.

After scrapping that idea, we went to see St. Agatha’s Tower, Triq Tad-Dahar, or Red Tower as it is creatively called by the locals. Worth driving up to see, it was only a few minutes from our hotel and there is a route you can take on that road to see some of the beautiful western Malta. My route is here:

Malta review
My route, the dotted part is driveable…

From there, we spent the afternoon at Paradise Bay which was nice, a little busy but would be a great place to catch the sun in summer.

On our last full day, we wanted to go to Valetta, the capital. On the way though, on an island smaller than the city of London, much to Kerrie’s disappointment, I managed to find an Aviation Museum!

Between working in aviation and being a plane geek, I managed to find an excuse for us to go. What a treat!

Malta Aviation Museum
Malta Aviation Museum

Malta Aviation Museum-Ta’ Qali-Malta – Meteors, Sea Hawks, Vampires, Lightnings, this is the way aviation museums should be! All sorts of aircraft/engines in all states of restoration scattered around for you to look at your own leisure. This will make any plane geek’s day!

We swiftly proceeded to Valetta and parked up in the city centre parking (surprisingly hard to find). Valetta is a very old city which has been the only hub on the island for any significant period of time. The whole city is amazing, crafted sandstone in a kind of baroque style with huge city walls and a bridge to enter.

Malta Review
Valetta Street Musician, Malta

You could spend a few days wandering the small streets, some dating back to the 16th century, with their charming little cafés. As you enter the city, you will probably come across the ruins of the Royal Opera House which was destroyed in WWII.

Valetta Street, Malta
Valetta Street, Malta

The feel of Valetta and the people are just awesome.

Malta is an interesting place, the car and the weather probably clouded our trip a little. I feel Malta oversells itself a little and this maybe makes you feel about underwhelmed when you see the things in real life. Without such marketing they would probably have been pretty impressive.

Despite our hiccups, we had a great laugh and a good trip overall! The beaches are good and in summer, if you want somewhere, that’s good value, to soak up the sun, Malta would be perfect (just hire a decent car!).

Just another quick Malta review tip for any plane geeks, Malta airport offers a raised viewing platform mid-runway with parking too… take your camera!

Planespotter's Hideout, Malta
Planespotter’s Hideout, Malta

Will we be going back to Malta? Probably not.

Dan 🙂

P.S. The car hire company agreed the vehicle shouldn’t have been in that condition and refunded us a day as a good-will gesture…

Air Malta, Valetta
Air Malta, Valetta

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