Friday, 24th January 1997
When we booked at this holiday a couple of weeks ago with its 6:55 am flight from Gatwick, we didn't realise the full implications! After much discussion and many changes of plan, we finally decided to catch the 2.00 am bus from Oxford, thereby leaving the Metro at Headington for Emma to use.
We hadn't banked on it being frosty at 1.00 am, when we left Hermitage, either! We had managed to stay awake until then, watching the European Ice Skating Championships on TV for some of the time and had a trouble-free drive to Oxford, posting the spare keys through Emma's door and leaving the car near the bus stop at Headington.
It was pretty chilly standing at the bus stop, and we were relieved when the bus arrived. I fell asleep immediately and slept continuously, if lightly, all the way to Gatwick, waking only briefly at Heathrow, where the only other passenger alighted and another got on.
On arriving at Gatwick I felt pretty yuk – cold and half asleep and full of sneezes, which luckily didn't last long. Even so I could see the funny side of the following scenario –
We located the lift, after a short diversion, pressed the button, but before the lift ascended the door opened again and several "wrinklies" from a recently arrived bus, piled in. Finally, after much more pressing, the jammed full lift ascended to the next floor. Much discussion "is this the right floor?". One or two "wrinklies" decided that it was, began piling out, yanking their luggage after the, then decided that it wasn't and tried to pile back in again, by which time the lift door was trying to shut, squashing people and luggage! Back down to ground level – door open – lots more “wrinklies” waiting. Back up to the next level – yes it was the right place after all! Everyone piled out.
The booking-in lounge, devoid of any people or any activity at 4.00 am is unrecognisable! However, with this sudden onslaught of people arriving, the booking-in desks began opening up and everywhere began to look normal.
When our turn came we were "randomly selected" to have our luggage security x-rayed at a unit several hundred yards away. We hope that our specially selected luggage, now separated from the rest, would find its way to our plane (it did!).
I then slept some more until we decided to have a cup of tea and a roll around 5.30 am – the airport was quite awake by now. We had bought a small guidebook on Malta and a steam train magazine for Adrian (no motorcaravan magazines) and it was now time to go to the departure lounge.
The weather had been very foggy for our drive to Gatwick (although I saw little of it) and was still so as we boarded. We were given a free Daily Express on boarding and saw that the temperature in Cape Town, where Tom had just flown to, was 28°C!
The seats on this Britannia flight were crammed in, but otherwise service was good. We had a strange phenomenon soon after take off when we saw the full moon shining from the foggy darkness, but below us! Adrian reckons that we were turning, but with minimal visibility we were not aware of this.
We were served breakfast and then I slept again for most of the time. It had become light soon after takeoff, but was cloudy, with wonderful candy floss clouds.
Now we were descending over Malta – looking very attractive at first sight with pleasant green land much cultivation and interspersed with whitish towns and huge domed churches.
The sky looked very grey and it was very windy as we alighted. Having met up with our luggage again (my suitcase was about first, so great relief) we made our way to Thomson's coach number five for the half hour journey to St Paul's.
We even had a bit of rain at this point but things quickly improved. We were interested to see many plants growing, similar to Spain and Portugal – hibiscus, bougainvillea, Norfolk pine, datura, the yellow daffodil weed, prickly pear and even oranges and vines and later ponsettia.
The courier told us several interesting facts as we drove along. St Paul's, where we are staying is where St Paul was supposedly ship wrecked. We were both surprised to realise that "Maltese" people are a very ancient civilisation and that the language is very strange – lots of X’s and Z’s and J’s (like Basque).
We were well impressed with our room – actually done up as a self catering apartment, so well equipped and quite spacious. There is a bathroom and also two small balconies which overlook St Paul's Bay, just below us. So far so good!
However, we had no money and needed some lunch. We could have changed some at the hotel, but Adrian decided to go in search of a "hole in the wall". After a fruitless search in one direction, we returned and set off around St Paul's Bay. By now the sun had come out and it was very pleasant.
We were enjoying just soaking up the atmosphere – the flat roofed grey/white/cream houses, full of character. The cars of many ages "Austin A30, Ford Anglia etc.) and the wonderful old noisy orange and cream fumey buses, which passed us in abundance.
Unlike Spain and Portugal, as Malta isn't in the EEC, the fronts and promenades were not all being done and we revelled in their wonderful decadence. We did eventually find a bank (not a "hole in the wall", but we passed one of those later).
Now, armed with some money, we were able to have lunch.
We hadn't seen much evidence of eating places or shops open – we didn't know if it was due to siesta or "out of season", but we now came to a waterfront bar where we enjoyed a small beer and an excellent omelette and chips, which we were well ready for. It came to about £7, but the chap was more interested in watching the tennis than taking Adrian's money!
We continued further and further round the bay, enjoying seeing the delightful blue and white fishing boats and the variety of balconies – often like ones we had seen in Spain.
Eventually we decided to return, arriving back at Porto Azzurro at 4.45 pm, where we then spent some time settling in.
Our first evening meal showed promise. There was a choice of three starters, main courses and sweets. We both had asparagus soup followed by stewed steak then Adrian had creme caramel and I had gateau. We had a bottle of Maltese wine, which was excellent – rather like Chardonnay. The restaurant was busy and the service good. The tablecloths were a pretty dusty pink.
Towards the end of our meal some music started up – a chap on a keyboard and a male singer. He started with "My Way" – not a favourite song of mine and it sounded pretty awful. We soon retired for an early night, having had no "proper" sleep last night.
Adrian 'settling in' after a night with no sleep
Boats in St. Paul's Bay
Saturday, 25th January
We both slept well, despite being a bit cold – there is only one blanket on the bed, so Adrian today got another.
We enjoyed a cup of tea in bed, then went down for breakfast – expecting just a “continental breakfast". In fact there was a cooked breakfast or scrambled egg, then toast. All pretty good for the price we are paying, even if the orange drink was diluted squash and there were problems with not enough hot water for the tea and coffee.
Afterwards we had a look in the minimarket and bought fresh rolls, cheese, ham and butter for lunch plus a small bottle of water – good size for picnics. I made up the rolls for lunch, then it was time to go down for our "welcome party".
We listen to the various trips, told by John, the Thomson's rep. He was from Malta and luckily said this early on, as we hadn't had time to recognise the sing-songy accent which sounded a mixture of Welsh and South African. He reminded us both of Mr Richards (of Downs School). We found that we can have a free half day trip, so booked for that and gave the others a miss.
It was now midday, so we got ourselves organised for a walk out from the hotel around the peninsular north of us. The day was dull and windy but not bad for walking.
We started by walking along Shipwreck Parade, which didn't really go anywhere, then towards Mistra Bay where we stopped to have lunch. It was very peaceful, we saw only a few people while on our walk. We particularly enjoyed the wild flowers – there was a tall pink star like flower growing quite profusely and later we saw lots and lots of miniature narcissi growing in groups or drifts and heavily scented.
A bit further on we looked across to St. Paul's Island – where St Paul is said to have been shipwrecked. The small islands are uninhabited – there is just a statue of St Paul.
Star like flowers & Narcissi on our walk
On the shore near here were old salt works, set in the yellow clay. The sea was very clear and we imagined how lovely it would look on a sunny day, but today the sun only came out once and very briefly – it had gone by the time I got my camera out!
On the salt flats we saw an amazing sight; through a couple of small holes in the rocks, the sea came spurting through from underneath, sending a huge spray into the air, which was caught and blown by the wind. Coupled with the enormous roar this made, it was like a mighty monster from the deep and all the better for just coming across it unexpectedly.
We continued around the north of this peninsular. Only once did we really loose our way – (or the path forgot to be there).This just happened to be the time when we had a minute or two of rain and also when Adrian slid down a slippery path!
The intrepid Bowers put all to rights and we found our way along the coast and finally coming to Mellieha. We came first to holiday accommodation along the front in the form of stone beach huts (best described as!).
There were lots and lots of them with garage type front doors all locked up for the winter. They didn't look particularly attractive, neither did the rest of this resorty bit.
We climbed a long way up to the town itself, crowned by a huge pink domed church. A service was going on. We peeked inside – the church appeared very simple and devoid of windows.
By now the time was getting on and it was beginning to get dark. We found our way out of the town and with some difficulty we found a track back across the hills and arrived back at our hotel at 6.00 pm in the dark – just in time one might say.
The best thing now was a soak in the bath, with a welcome cup of tea and a bit of chocolate.
We were ready for our evening meal – we drank beer with it tonight. Adrian had mushroom soup followed by lamb then gateau. I had oriental rice (good but a bit sticky), cod(not good) then creme caramel. The potatoes and marrow – both slightly undercooked, were excellent. Afterwards we had a drink in the bar. I had local whiskey. The bar was full and busy, but the advertised karaoke didn't take off so we returned to our room.
Adrian looking across to St. Paul's Island
Trip to Malta January 1997
Sunday, 26th January
We awoke late to hear the sound of cars on the wet road. The sky was grey and not very inspiring. We went down for breakfast and decided that we might as well go for a swim in the indoor pool of the "sister" hotel at Mellieha. This was free to us, with courtesy transport at 10.30, also free. The only other people going there were a young couple and their two children. However when the transport arrived, it was not large enough for all of us, so we had to wait longer for a bigger vehicle.
The Seabank Hotel was quite imposing opposite a rare sandy beach. The rain had now stopped and it was sunny. The pool was large for a hotel pool but as well as the 6 of us, 4 others arrived at the same time. One of the two men (English) asked Adrian where we were staying. He replied Xemxija (pronounced Shemsheea) “oh yeah” said the chap pretending he knew. “we’re at the Port Orosso”. Adrian didn't realise he meant Porto Azzurro (our hotel). I chuckled!
We had a short swim. There were no real changing rooms, just loos and a shower. We had discovered that the return transport wasn't until 4.00 pm and had not come prepared to do anything else, so after a little deliberation, caught the bus back to our hotel and had lunch in our room.
We decided then to catch the bus into Valletta – the buses were frequent, and cheap and old! Adrian loves them. Valletta was fairly quiet, as we expected, being Sunday and it was also quite chilly and windy again. We alighted at the terminus by the gate into the town and Adrian revelled in seeing the numerous bright buses all painted gold, orange and white and of various stages of antiquity.
The town of Valletta is very ancient and built on a grid system. I was thrilled by the prolific and varied enclosed balconies on the buildings.
Valletta 'bus depot'
We were able to walk around the shady Palace courtyard and then continue to Fort St. Elmo, which is only open at the weekend so for £1 we went ‘in’, if that is the right word. The Fort is at the end of the Valletta peninsular and affords wonderful (if blowy) views all around the surrounding peninsular, mostly crowded with habitation and ancient fortifications. We listened in once or twice to a guide and learnt that Malta is made of sedimentary rocks (layers of clay and limestone), unlike Sicily which is volcanic. We also looked down at a group of young people rehearsing dancing, for the Carnival. Valletta was bedecked with large garlands of light green (looking like M&S carrier bags) – presumably also, for the carnival.
The great fort like cathedral was closed today, but you could go into the church of the Shipwreck of St. Paul – and amazingly ornate church of silver, deep crimson fabric with gold braid and vast chandeliers and many paintings.
We visited the Upper Barrakka Gardens, but they may be more interesting in the summer. As we returned to the bus "depot", we bought a piece of cake from a stall at which point it began to rain heavily. We managed to locate the number 45 bus and sat behind the driver. The glass of his window was broken and I thought I might get wet. Also he had no windscreen wiper (that worked) or a speedometer. However Adrian thrilled to our half hour, 20 mph maximum journey on this crowded museum piece of a bus.
Supper tonight was of chicken soup, braised beef, fruit salad and ice cream (A) and pasta, cod – pan fried tonight and better, then creme caramel (R). Desserts are a bit limited!
Afterwards we had a drink at the bar and were entertained by an unlikely looking, but good, leather clad country singer(female), accompanied by a chap on keyboard. He was actually a dwarf (no, that isn't a joke). We stayed until 11.00 pm when they stopped.
Monday, 27th January
We awoke to find it sunny and we had a very reasonable day, good for walking.
After breakfast we organised ourselves and went down to catch the bus.
We could see the buses approaching right around the Bay, but they showed no intention of stopping. By the time the third one came, we decided to flag it down whatever, although we really wanted number 45 only, which went further. Today we had decided to walk around the "hammerhead" of Marfa Ridge, the most north westerly area of Malta.
We boarded the bus – number 44, which only went as far as Mellieha Bay. The bus was full and again we sat behind the young driver with his big painting of Jesus in front of him. The driver was smoking as he drove along. I felt that he didn't want to stop for us, as the following bus (a 45) then overtook him. However after negotiating some of the narrow streets of Mellieha, he stopped and asked everyone to get onto the other bus as he was going no further. This suited us, the other bus took us as far as the boat terminal for Gozo, which is where we were starting our walk. It also gave us a chance to see the Gozo ferry, as we plan to make that trip another day, and with much difficulty to locate a timetable.
We then set off on our delightful walk We went first south westwards. It was very quiet and remote, just us and the wild flowers and the views across the sea to Gozo, Caminho and the west coast of Malta. We particularly today liked a little pink star like flower, like a tiny Osteospernum whirligig!
View from the bus stop by the hotel
We climbed up quite high and at one point had quite a hairy climb having initially followed a path which disappeared in old allotments & hides from where the Maltese shoot birds – a pursuit we can't go along with, but have to accept.
We stopped to have our lunch (lovely fresh rolls from the hotel mini market – the only place we have been able to shop at) at the south-western extremity, high above the sea. We chose a place out of the wind and enjoyed the absolute isolation, the views and the complete quiet. There was not a sound until we heard a helicopter in the distance over Gozo.
Pink starlike flowers
We made our way back to the centre of this peninsular before doing the eastern, lower side. Much of the rock was ideal rockery stone, with plants – heathers, a type of Hypericum and many more growing out of the holes. I often thought the rocks looked like pelvis bones with holes for the hip joint!
Back near the Red Tower we saw what we took to be a mimosa in flower, but on closer inspection it was more like a type of long leafed eucalyptus.
We continued now north easterly, often looking across the Mellieha peninsular, where we walked on Saturday. Towards the north easterly edge the waves were crashing against the rocks, sending spray high into the air.
We took a track down to the north east / south west coast and passed a rubbish tip where Adrian did over the old car remains and I explored the crashing waves. This northern shoreline which we now followed back, was full of the Maltese "beach huts", initially of various shades of green. They were a ramshackle conglomeration and included several old caravans boarded round and painted. With no one around, it was a strange sight. There were one or two sandy stretches here – we tried to imagine how different the place would be in summer. We followed the coastline back to the centre point on the north of the coast and waited a couple of minutes at the bus stop. We flagged down the first of the three buses and got on – he asked for 60 cents – on the other bus it is 26 cents. This bus was an express! We got off quickly and boarded the next bus which the driver had hooted at to stop. We arrived back at 5.00 pm at our hotel.
Supper – I had tomato soup, chicken and gateau. Adrian – corned beef salad, chicken and crème caramel. Afterwards we chatted to a couple from Blackpool returning home tomorrow.
Rosie on the walk at Marfa Ridge
Tuesday, 28th January
we were going out on our free trip!! this morning so knew that we had to be up reasonably early. Once up, it was nice to look out over the Bay. The morning was fine and showed promise, but was actually quite cool. Several people wore skimpy summer clothes and must have frozen!
I asked for a continental breakfast, expecting to get a roll but in fact got cheese/ham/salami and toast. The ham and salami will do for lunch another day.
We actually had time to spare before our 9.30 am pickup, so I washed some pants and socks. We then joined the "coach party" going first to the "craft village" set up in the old British nissan huts. We stopped first at the glass factory and enjoyed watching the men at work, far more than the finished products, which we thought were rather gaudy. We looked around the shop and then returned to watch the craftsmen at work. There were lots of other tourists watching and we became aware that they were wearing different stickers from us. We found our way out to the coach and found a slightly irate courier waiting for us and a coach load of glaring faces! We can only think they were all in the shop and returned to the coach together. Memories of Hastings in 1947 came to me and a song kept going round in my head "I'm not like everybody else".
We moved onto the silver and gold workers and I actually bought two fine Maltese cross necklaces – one for me and one for Nicky's birthday. We looked briefly around the other craft shops, most of which were ‘kitsch’ (rubbish).
Our other stop was to visit the blue Grotto, but you had to pay for the actual boat trip – about £5 each, so we didn't bother. Instead, after a look around the steep cove, we had a cup of tea/coffee and a ham/cheese roll which served as our lunch.
We asked if we could be dropped at Rabat/Mdina on the way back and this we were able to do. The trip only served to reinforce the fact that we dislike coach trips intensely – although the courier gave us many useful pieces of information – the best being the name of the little yellow flower – Cape Sorel.
Mdina is an ancient walled town and we enjoyed walking around its quiet streets. The Cathedral wasn't open first time round, so we did another tour of the town. It is a very ornate Baroque church of the red and gold – lovely if you like that sort of thing. The floor was covered in ornate graves.
Schoolchildren had been gathering outside waiting for their transport. They looked very smart in uniforms of Royal blue jumpers, blue/grey checked skirts, navy blazers and most wore black tights.
Rosie at an entrance gate to Mdina
A street in Mdina
We walked on to the adjacent town of Rabat and here visited the church of St Paul and the caves beneath the church where St Paul supposedly spent three months of winter in 60 A.D. It was quite humbling to think of the history and the significance of this place. Close by were the St Paul's catacombs – a maze of ancient burial tunnels underground, which were fun to explore.
Looking out from Mdina
Looking back to Mdina
Having wandered some more around Rabat we decided to walk to Mosta to catch the bus back (most buses only run to and from Valletta, which would mean a double journey). It was a mostly pleasant walk in the late afternoon sun, although once or twice we had to walk along busy road which wasn't much fun.
We reached the junction near Mosta and decided to turn left and find a bus stop. We did this and had been waiting 5 or 10 minutes when a lady with a little girl called over to us that we were at the wrong bus stop. Instead we had to walk back into Mosta and catch a bus from outside the church. It was now 5.00 pm and very busy, but we managed to get on the second bus (it was the same bus, with the broken window and speedometer, that we had returned from Valletta on before).
Supper wasn't a great success. My pasta (with mussels) and Adrian's oxtail soup were okay and his pork was good and my place reasonable, but the mashed potato was artificial and inedible with unpleasant carrots/cabbage and sweetcorn. We had to fill up on bread. Then Adrian got me a glass of wine which wasn't at all to my liking – he kindly exchange it for a crisp dry wine so save the day. It was quieter than quiet tonight – there was a flight home today, but also a flight in. We sat in the bar briefly then had a short walk out up the hill, returning for an early night.
View to Rabat and Adrian in St. Pauls Catacombs
Wednesday, 29th January
The early night wasn't such a good idea, but meant that we were awake fairly early, so decided to do a fairly long walk on the far side of the island.
This entailed two bus journeys to start. We left at 9:30 am on the best morning so far – the sun was warm, sometimes hot – so it was very pleasant. The bus to Valletta was crowded and we had to stand to Mosta, about halfway. Adrian then sat next to a chap from our hotel who had last been to Malta in the war on an aircraft carrier. He was 73 now and said that you couldn't hire a car or Malta if you were over 70.
Our second bus took us round the east of Valletta to the coast near Fort St. Rocco. We then walked in a south easterly direction following the coast. The coastal area had often been used as a tip, which wasn't very pleasant, but the sun was warm and the sea clear and we enjoyed our walk. There weren't so many wild flowers as in the north west – no narcissi at all – but the bright Cape Sorrel everywhere.
We stopped and had our lunch overlooking Marsascala Bay then continued into Marsascala and then to St Thomas Bay. This area is very undeveloped, long may it remain so.
We continued round the coast to Marsaxlokk, missing much of the long thin peninsular to Delimara point as their footpath had been blocked and there was a power station there anyway.
Marsaxlokk is still a working fishing village with its profusion of attractive fishing boats and men sitting on the front mending the nets. There was some market stalls selling lace and embroidered tablecloths, leather goods and fans – we could have thought we were back in Spain!
We peeked inside the ornate church and then waited for a bus back to Valletta and then one back to Xemxija, arriving back at the hotel at 5:15 pm. There was a lot of traffic around Valletta so both going in and coming out took a long time.
Our meal was more successful tonight. Adrian had mushroom soup, cod and gateau. I had mortadella salad – I was expecting cheese not meat, thinking of mozzarella, so kept the meat and cucumber for Adrian's lunch! The salad was good. I then had beef curry, which I enjoyed and creme caramel.
The male singer from the other night was already singing. He was pretty awful, but kept going until at least 11.30 pm, when we left. We got chatting to the young couple with children (Kelly and Adam) and found that he works Southern Electric!
Lunch at Marsascala Bay
Adrian looking back to Marsascala
Fishermen at Marsaxlokk
Thursday 30th January
A day of mixed fortunes! We were up fairly early to a fine day with blue sky all day, but a chill wind out of the sun. We had decided to do a walk from Rabat.
People at the hotel have seemed very friendly the last couple of days, including a lady who came up to us at breakfast and greeted us and said she hadn't seen us for a few days and thought we'd gone home. The thing was neither of us recognised her!
We talked to another group at breakfast and last night who made us count our blessings. There was a woman in her 50’s, friendly if a bit frumpy. Her husband had a serious health problem – he had difficulty walking and had two hearing aids and needed to take drugs. There was also a handicapped woman who we imagine to be the lady's sister – she could walk and talk, but was unable to hold her head up. There was another lady, largish of limited intelligence. Quite a handful!
We waited first for a bus towards Buggibba, from where we hoped to catch another bus to Rabat. We alighted from the first us at St Paul's and asked the chap at the fruit stall, where we bought two bananas, where to catch the next bus. He helpfully told us the direction and in dashing there saw the bus coming. We waved at the bus and it stopped for us! On the bus were the group mentioned above – they had caught the bus into Bugibba all the way and then this one out again to the craft village near Rabat.
The bus actually stopped at Mdina, but the driver kindly indicated the way to Rabat. We really had difficulty in finding our routefor this walk right from the beginning. There are no footpath signs in Malta and our map is less than adequate, omitting some roads and not differentiating between paths, tracks and roads. Adrian was often not happy as we frequently couldn't tie up where we were with the map and the compass.
We walked in aI south-westerly direction from Rabat then north westerly roughly following the coast, but inland. Twice we followed concrete paths which just stopped – the first time we retraced our steps to the road, to be met by a herd of sheep being led along the road!
We had started walking at about 11.00 am but it was well after 1.30 pm when we stopped for lunch near Kuncizzioni Church looking out over the splendid view of the whole of the north Western end of the island. There were wild flowers everywhere today, with yellow being the predominant colour from the lemon of the Cape Sorel through to orange of marigolds.
There are a series of ridges in this part of the island with steep cliffs. We were aware of not getting into a situation which I couldn't cope with. Even so, we had some pretty steep climbs and clifftop walks.
At one point we saw the evidence of ruts made in the rocks were chariots of some sort had drawn blocks of stone – this being before the wheel was invented – so pretty old!
'Sheep loose in the lane'
On our way to Gnejna Bay – a beautiful bay of golden sand and obviously very busy in the summer – we had negotiated the cliff-like promontory of Il Pellegrin to find that the track we needed to take was of thick clayed mud. Trying to avoid this we walked through a long sticky field, but a growing ravine formed between us and our path. We came to the end of the field and still we couldn't cross the watery ditch, so decided to retraced our steps. We had seen one man further up the path on the other side and now we met a man and woman on our side. We imagined they were coming to tell us to get off their land, but no – they were walking too and also needed to get across the stream. Just at this point Adrian managed to find a place where we could get across and led us all safely through.
Old cart tracks
We then all continued to Gnejna Bay where we expect to find a footpath up to the Lippia tower, as shown on our map. We walked some way up the road and found no path. The tower was set high up on a cliff and there was no way through on the seaward side it would appear as there was another is the promontory just after it.
We started to retraced our steps and find a footpath, when we came across our Maltese couple again. They assured us that there was no footpath and that they would show us the way along the road. This they did (it took an hour!). He worked at the airport, driving the buses to and from the aircraft and on his days off, they like to go for a walk. They decided to walk all the way to the tower with us, although their car was parked some distance before.
Looking down to Gnejna Bay
It was 4.30 pm when we said goodbye to them at the tower and the sun was lowering over the sea. We then managed to find our way to Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, but it was difficult to the end, as we were still higher and had to find a path down, which we luckily did, getting to the bus stop at 5.00 pm. Two young girls assured us that our bus was due at 5 o'clock, but having waited 20 minutes in the now chill air, we were just deciding to get on an "express" bus which had just passed us to turn around at the terminus when a car stopped and a young chap and lady asked us if we'd like a lift to St Paul's Bay. At that moment they were angels sent from heaven! We arrived back at 5:30 pm.
We had had much discussion on the hiring of cars, as our Maltese couple told us that ferry fares to Gozo go up on Sunday. After much calculating, we decided to stick to our original plan and hire a car from Monday.
For supper I had rice followed by omelette. Adrian had tuna salad then gammon and we both had - surprise – creme caramel.
It was very quiet again tonight. We sat in the bar and played Yahtzee.
Sun setting near the Lippia Tower
Friday, 31st January
We woke to a dull damp morning and had a couple of spots of rain while waiting at the bus stop, but the day brightened and was quite pleasant.
Breakfast was very disorganised – apparently there was a new chef and the normally efficient Alison was not in control at all! We had to wait ages for our toast – but at least it was hot then.
The lady who we hadn't recognised yesterday turned out to be a right misery and nothing was right for her – luckily they are going home today. One of our few complaints is people smoking at meal times – she and her husband being culprits!
We caught a bus into Sliema and then walked back around the coast – this took us the rest of the day. There are lots of small shops in Sliema, but we didn't stop except to buy some Maltese pasties for lunch.
We made our way to St Julian's, walking down Sir Adrian Dingli Street – we had to take a photo of Adrian there!
We ate our lunch sitting on some steps overlooking St Julian's Bay, having bought a bottle of Kinnie (orange drink tasting like cake) from a machine.
Just north of St.Julians, a large Hilton hotel was being built (finished in 2000!) and a whole peninsular area was blocked off. The next peninsular contained a huge casino complex being developed. There was an unpleasantly large number of out-of-keeping hotels in this area.
Luckily after St George's Bay, it was all wild land (used for shooting) and we were able to walk fairly near to the coast for some distance, but then we had a section where we had to walk beside the road, which wasn't very pleasant. Despite the 40 mph speed limit, cars seem to use any straight stretch with reasonable surface to go as fast as they can and the double white line appears to mean "let's see if we can overtake"!
We walked down to the eastern side of Salina Bay then walked across towards St Paul's. We had no desire to walk around the long Qawra peninsular with its increasingly modern development – the bus had driven through there this morning.
We made our way around St Paul's Bay, arriving back at Xemxija just after 5.00 pm and ready for a soak in the bath.
We had bought an ice cream on our walk from a "middle of nowhere" roadside stall. It was a "99", and came with a chocolate flake sure enough, but was of mixed of vanilla/chocolate flavour ice cream and came in a plastic cup instead of a cone!
A not very good picture of Adrian in Sir Adrian Dingli Street, Sliema
Saturday, 1st February
Today was like a lovely spring day, with an almost clear blue sky. The wind was quite strong and chill, but I actually spent much of the day in shorts.
We had decided to go for a swim at the Seabank Hotel again and then walk from there to Golden Bay. Two young couples shared our transport to Mellieha. They were finding Malta very boring with nothing to do. When we said we'd been here for a week they said "what do you do for a week?" We felt we had little in common!
After a swim and a short sit in the Jacuzzi, we set off walking at about 11:30 am. We walked at first to Anchor Bay, which still has the village there which was used as the set for "Popeye". We didn't bother to go in as it cos about £5 English each, but we could see the village well from the top of the cliffs. It looked attractive from a distance.
We walked down to the little bay then started to look for a way southwards. We stopped to talk for a while to a pleasant couple also out walking.
The footpath shown on the map didn't seem to exist but we found our way scrambling over the rocky ground and kept fairly near the coast. We had a pleasant lunch stop sitting out of the wind then made our way down to Golden Bay which is dominated by a large hotel but otherwise very pleasant.
Rosie near Anchor Bay
We lazed on the beach for a short time and I actually paddled in the sea. Two brave ladies went in for a swim!
We then made our way back across the island via the Bajda Ridge to Xemxija. We managed to locate a track after a while and part of the walk was very pleasant through a rare wooded stretch. At one point we could see the sea both in front and behind us. The inevitable happened though and the path ran out in the middle for some allotments. The whole valley here is very fertile and highly cultivated with plots of lettuce, cabbage, onions and tomatoes. A dog barked and luckily a smiling man appeared and directed us around the edges of the plots until we reached the track which came out just near our hotel. Had he not done so, we would not have had the cheek to keep going! We actually ended up at the back of our hotel by the underground garage and on walking up some stairs from them, found ourselves in the restaurant / bar – not the way guests usually arrive!
Supper was good – soup (A) and cheese salad (excellent – R) then roast chicken. I had jelly and fruit as did Adrian plus ice cream. It was karaoke night and we waited long enough tonight for it to get going. It seemed to be a "benevolent night for the locals", as all the mates, wives, unclesr or whatever of the organisers had a go at singing, with varying degrees of talent. Only one hotel guest – an oldish lady – sang and she was better than most.
I enjoyed having a singalong, particularly the old songs (my old man etc.) in between and we enjoyed seeing the words of songs on the screen – those words we could never work out!
We sat with the handicapped woman (or she came and sat with us). She loved the singing and joined in a lot. Her helper, who we incorrectly thought initially was of low intelligence herself, joined us to for some of the time. Also Joyce, the sister, stayed for a while but was very tired from continually caring for her sick husband.
We retired upstairs at gone midnight – the singing was still going on, but with some songs having a second run through, we thought it was time to go.
En route to Golden Cove
Rosie at Golden Cove
For supper we both had minestrone soup followed by lamb both of which were good, despite my reservations. Gateau (A) and creme caramel (R). Lino was singing again tonight but both the songs and the singing were better than before. He had his usual accompanist whereas the other night it was a different one. We stayed until 11.30 and he was still singing and we fell asleep to the distant sound of "My way"!
Rosie on the balcony at Porto Azzorro
Sunday, 2nd February
A beautiful day, with sunshine all day. After breakfast we caught the bus into Valletta and briefly visited the Sunday market which is held under the city walls. It was jam packed with traders and shoppers, but the stalls were of little interest – clothes, shoes, lace cloths, music, but all without a lot of character. We were dismayed to see the many birds for sale in cages hardly big enough to hold them. It seems incongruous that the Maltese have shot the native birds to practically extinction and yet many long to own caged songbirds.
We left and started on a tour around the city walls of Valletta, visiting both the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, but diverted to peep inside the amazingly ornate St John's Co-Cathedral, where a service was taking place. There were large banners across many of the streets and tickertape everywhere – all part of the carnival, which mostly happens next weekend, but there are some celebrations this weekend. Unfortunately they are too far away for us to visit as buses stop running at 8.00 pm.
It was lovely walking in the sunshine. Having almost circuited Valletta we spied the Sliema ferry, just coming in, so decided to catch it. Five minutes later we were in Sliema and soon found a pleasant pavement cafe, apparently Sicilian and very busy. We sat in the sun and enjoyed savoury pasties with a beer each followed by a delicious shared cream slice – total bill to £2.20 – about £4 Sterling.
We walked along a bit and found a seat to sit on, looking across to Valletta and both nodded off! Today, being a fine Sunday, was very busy with Maltese tourists out enjoying themselves.
Carnival banners in the street in Valletta
We now justified ourselves by walking along the waterfront round the various promontories and inlets back to Valletta, passing through Ta’Xbiex, Msida, Pieta and Floriana. We walked through parkland to the city walls and located the Botanic Gardens which weren't much to write about but gave superb views over the surrounding area. We then made our way back to the bus terminus and caught a bus back to the hotel, nodding again after our day in the sunshine.
Back in our hotel room slightly earlier than usual (4.45 pm) we had tea and toast – the latter being made on a strange contraption looking like a tiny barbecue, laid over the cooker ring. We were annoyed with ourselves at not having bought any wine, as the minimarket doesn't open on Sunday afternoon.
However we bought a bottle to go with the evening meal of soup (A) and seafood salad (R) then roast beef, which was good. Creme caramel for A and gateau for R. Afterwards we sat in the bar and later the country singer and accompanist performed, but it was all fairly quiet. We chatted to Meriel and Jean – we found that Meriel lives on her own at home with the help of social services. We also chatted to the couple who swam with us yesterday – he started up the conversation by saying they had taken our advice and walked back from Bugibba (we had to think who they were!). They were from Southport – he with three daughters and she was younger. They got through a fair amount of wine during the evening but his main grouse was the lack of bars to go drinking. In bed 12.30 am.
Rosie in Sliema
Monday, 3rd February
We were up earlier than usual as we were due to have our car ready for collection at 9 o'clock. By that time we had had our breakfast (I had Continental, which gave us more than enough meat for lunch) and visited the shop to buy rolls, wine and water.
Our car duly arrived and by 9.30 am we were on our way. It was a fine morning which became quite hot for a short time, then large dark clouds lingered, but never over us.
We took the road across the island towards Golden Bay then slightly back on ourselves to view the Roman baths which weren’t too amazing, then to Mgarr with a huge domed church like so many of the villages. We stopped to look inside – there were six large chandeliers.
We then drove down to Gnejna Bay, which we had visited briefly while walking and thought worthy of a longer visit. It was quite lovely, being sandy, but rocky at either end and with clear clear water. This is the bay that our Maltese walkers said they liked best. There were very few people around, being still early. We walked around to the boat huts, set into the cliffs, and chatted to a delightful Maltese gents with a large D and a contented weathered face. He loved Malta and had the happy disposition of many of the Maltese.
Adrian by our hire car at Mgarr
A couple of English in a car called over to us and after 10 minutes or so of conversation, I said where we were staying and with a surprised look, the woman said "yes, we know, we sat next to you for dinner last night". Oops!
They were driving round the coast, as we were and met up with them again at the Dingli cliffs. This was after we had done a couple of tours – one along a long road which ended at "Private" and one zigzagging a long long way but then stopping at the cliff edge with no way down to the sea.
We drove back through Dingli and stopped to have lunch near the "Clapham Junction Cart Tracks" – an area where there are lots of ruts cut into the rock made by prehistoric carts. We preferred the ones we had come across ourselves the other day.
Near here were the Buskeff Gardens, a wooded area overlooked by a fine Palace and maybe a Maltese people's attraction with orange groves and shade in the summer, but little to impress us. A bit further on we had a short walk to Laferta Cross with an adjacent Chapel set high up with superb views over the island and surrounded by fields of wild flowers. The British referred to this as Spitfire Cross as they used it to line up with from the runway to the southeast of it.
Rosie below the Lippia Tower at Gnejna
We followed another small road along the clifftops which ended at another Chapel above the sea, then we took the road down to Ghar Lapsi, a delightful little cove frequented by the Maltese in summer. The water was so clear and deep and very blue in places – we imagine similar to the nearby Blue Grotto, but devoid of tourists. There were lots of little boats above the harbour.
The Laferta Cross (Spitfire Cross)
We drove back up to the prehistoric temple site of Hagar Qim. The site was actually fenced and closed but we could peer through the railings. There was a walkway down to the nearby Mnajdra, another temple site, but a sign said it could only be viewed from a distance as there had been a collapse of part of the temple, so we didn't go any further.
We decided that it was time to wend our way back across the island, which we did via Qrendi with a big church and narrow streets where we nearly got stuck, Siggiewi – another big church, Zebbug, around Mosta to Bugibba, where we got some money from the machine and then petrol at St Paul's and arrived back as it was just dark at 5.45 pm.
For supper I had egg mayonaise then beef curry and creme caramel. Adrian had oxtail soup, place and creme caramel. We then drove out to see Malta by night to Valetta, Sengiea, Sliema but both felt rather tired. We arrived back at the hotel at 10.30 pm as Meriel and Jean arrived back in their minibus from the night tour. They had stayed in the bar until 2.00 am last night so were also tired.
We then had a fairly early night.
Tuesday, 4th February
We slept well, which was lucky as we wanted to be up early to go to Gozo. Hence we had breakfast with just one or two others there and said goodbye to the couple from Stockport who were going home today.
We were actually early for the 9.15 am ferry and enjoyed the 25 minute crossing. I had a cup of coffee and we bought two filled rolls and two doughnuts to eat for lunch later.
We disembarked at Mgarr (same name as on Malta) – the only "port" on the island. At this point it rained a little, but the sun soon came out and for a while it was quite hot, with dark clouds returning later and then a wonderful evening sky (Malta had rain).
We found Gozo to be much greener than Malta but also much better kept up. Everywhere looked well looked after and they went into tourism more and actually mildly hassled tourists.
Our first stop was Xewkija Church – a huge domed building started in 1951 and finished in 1981. We find it hard to think how these little places can afford such huge ornate churches.
We then drove down to Mgarr ix-Xini, a long narrow inlet with nothing there at all. We then made our way to Sannat and Munxar then on a minor road (aren't they all?) to Xlendi. This was a delightful cove with a few fishing boats under a rock. A sign by the harbour roadside said "reserved for Hawkers"!
We sauntered around in the warm then continued clockwise around the island but making our next stop going into Victoria – the capital, in the centre of the island.
Just on the outskirts of Victoria, we stopped to view the Knight's washhouse – an ancient wash place beside the road where a local lady was actually doing her washing. This was a tourist stop off place with an adjacent tourist craft shop.
Rosie by the Citadel in Xlendi, Gozo
Fishing boats at Xlendi, Gozo
We stopped briefly and were so glad not to be with a tour!
We found Victoria quite delightful. The British gave it this name in 1897 – Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The Maltese called it Rabat(meaning city!)
How lovely to park your car in a car park right near the centre of town! The roads are wider than Valletta and all other towns on Malta and felt far more spacious and less claustrophobic. Very nice to wander in, in fact.
We wandered around a bit more of Victoria. I bought a crocheted hat and we peeped into St George's Church, where a service was going on.
We left Victoria and drove through Kercem and took a road which wound over the hills near the sea and here we stopped to eat our lunch, sitting on a low wall. It was very peaceful. We could see a number of quarries where the yellow sandstone has been dug out.
Luckily our road went through to Dwejra – another tourist stop, but luckily quiet when we were there. From here boats take you to see Azure Blue, but we declined. We found plenty to see ourselves. The actual rock is fascinating, containing billions of fossil shells (none of the blurb even mentions this!) A huge archway is formed in the rock and the flat rocks contain numerous pools – lovely for a dip if the water was a little warmer. There is an "inland sea" – a cove formed through another archway in the rock. All in all a lovely place and beautifully warm when we were there.
A lady washing her clothes in Knight's washhouse, Victoria, Gozo
Time then ran away fast. We stopped at Gharb – again with a huge church, but in the "square" in front of it a weathered war Memorial beside a Victorian pillar box, British red phone box and small police station with the blue lamp outside. We had to take a picture! All of these things are common on Malta, but it was great to find them all together.
Adrian at Dwejra, Gozo
Not far from here was Ta’ Pinu church – another large church but this time not even in the village. This one was built this century's on the site of an earlier church after a local woman had seen several apparitions of Mary. It is a place of pilgrimage as many miracles are said to have a happened of the people visiting it or praying to it.
The church itself was not particularly remarkable although it had some nice windows and lovely carved stonework. However in a side chapel were a lot of framed letters and gifts from people who had apparently experienced miracles.
We now drove through Zebbug to Marsalforn, the "resort" of Gozo, but very low-key. This is where the hotel was if we had stayed at a two centre holiday, which we were interested in but worked out more expensive than ours.
From here we drove south to Xaghra on route to Calypso Cave. The first road we took was the wrong one, then on the right road a policeman stopped us a huge crane was blocking the road. We had to find another way round, which we did. The road stopped by the cave – we had hoped that it went on down to Ramala Bay. Near the cave were several old men, one of whom followed us and directed us to the cave. This was our unofficial tour! The cave was quite an amazing place, set high in the cliffs above the sea. Apparently Ulysses lived here for several months, according to legend. We had to climb down some steep and uneven steps into a little grotto. After climbing over some rocks to look out to sea, we were directed inside, each with a candle to hold and had to crawl through and under rocks to view the internal small cavern – quite an experience!
Rosie in Gharb, Gozo looking like old England
I gave the old chap the last of our change before setting off on a roundabout trip to the attractive Ramala Bay with its deep golden sand.
From here we made our way south to Hondoq – a lovely bay on the south side of the island, and quite iddylic in the fading light looking across to Comino. There was nothing here at all.
Now it was time to make our way back to Mgarr and the ferry. Darkness fell as we waited for the boats depart. A short crossing and we were back on Malta and then short drive back to our hotel.
It had been a lovely day, and we put Gozo with our store of treasured memories. Certainly a paradise island.(sadly as I transcribe this in 2022, I only have a few memories of it. - Ed)
For supper tonight we both had minestrone soup – good. There was only one lot of pork left, so Renauld (the boss) offered one sirloin steak. Both were good (with synthetic mashed potato inedible). Gateau for Rosie and creme caramel for Adrian.
We got chatting to another couple – he, we had nicknamed John Denver. She was like Lois/Sue Sankey. We chatted for the rest of the evening. Bed midnight
Rosie in Calypso Cave, Gozo
Wednesday, 5th February
It was a beautiful morning. We left just before 9.30 am and took a different route to Nosta over the Wardija Ridge. We stopped to take a photo looking back down to Xemxija.
We stopped in Nosta and viewed the huge magnificent church renowned for the three bombs which pierced its mighty dome on 9 April 1942 and didn't explode. The church was full of people at the time, but no one was hurt.
We then headed for the three cities and explored them a bit in the early morning sunshine, having a wander around Vittoriosa and peering into the large church which had renovations going on and walking along beside the harbour and then driving around Senglea, this time in the light.
We now headed for the long peninsular to Delimara point where we walked the other day we drove right to the end and then drove back a bit and stopped at a lovely cove for lunch with long flat rocks and blue blue sea and waves splashing up.
Looking back to Xemxija
There was an abandoned house, Adrian reckoned army property as there were signs saying MOD. It had a real "Miss Haversham" feel about it – possibly Long Bay.
We drove around and stopped at Marsaxlokk and walked around again enjoying all the brightly coloured fishing boats, many of which were being painted. It looked lovely in the sunshine.
Rosie near Delimara Point
We located Ghar Dalam after some difficulty. There was a small Museum here and cave which we visited. It showed the different levels at which prehistoric animal remains were found. Unfortunately at the entrance to the cave was a bees nest of very large and noisy bees which was rather off-putting!
The whole place was very low-key. There were terraced gardens which had rather been forgotten. The buildings were being extended, so maybe they were working on it!
Just south of here was Pretty Bay, which isn't very pretty as a large container port has been built next door. There were attractive pastel coloured houses along the front and a large sandy beach, but it looked a bit neglected.
South of here was Hasans Cave which we visited. This was a cave set in cliffs high above the sea and for 35 cents each we paid for the privilege of borrowing a torch and crouching down and scrambling through dark and uneven tunnels!
After this we drove across the disused Hal Far Airfield and then tried to take a small road around the coast but a friendly road worker told us that it only went to the quarry so we found the road to Zurrieq.
Then we tried to make our way northwards across the island and in doing so drove through and around Qormi where we saw a strange sight – a wide surfaced road which ended in nothing, but had two low footbridges going part way across it. We had two thoughts – maybe it was sometimes a river or maybe people raced horses and traps along it.
After this we got hopelessly lost and found ourselves heading for Valletta but eventually sorted ourselves out and then took the same road back after Mosta as we took this morning.
We continued passed the hotel and up to Selmun Palace – now the hotel / restaurant but there were nice views back to St Paul's Bay in the late afternoon sun.
We arrived back with our car just before 5 o'clock.
The evening was rather an anticlimax. The meal was not very good and the restaurant crowded. Adrian had soup then liver then chocolate blancmange which looked like an another splat of liver. He was offered fruit salad to go with it. I had ham and mushroom pasta which was very nice but the first vegetables which followed were not. I filled up on gateau.
Lino was singing again, but was not up to form and far more interested in a group of young people who arrived, than the hotel guests. We actually danced a little and I gave a rendering of the chorus of "I just called to say I love to you". We left at 11 o'clock when he started singing "My Way"!
Looking back to Marsaxlokk
Thursday, 6th February
The day started fine with a clear blue sky and was fine for most of the morning, but then deteriorated rapidly for our last day!
We were quite late getting going – breakfast was very slow and the normally placid Stellar was very agitated – we think it was the different chef again. We sat chatting to a couple from Hitchen who ran a home for mentally handicapped/disturbed adults. It sounded like hard work. He looked very like the chap from Stockport.
We had planned on doing a circular walk out from the hotel, and set off happily along the Bajda Ridge where we had walked back from Mellieha on the second day. We were wearing short sleeves and enjoying the sun, but by the time we had descended the ridge and started to climb the Wardija Ridge we could see a black, black sky.
As we reached the outskirts of Zebbiegh (we had driven through here yesterday) it began to rain and we made for a bus shelter. Although the sky was so black, it hardly rained for a long time. Then the overcast grey set in and it poured! Soon a river was running down the road! It became very chilly to. We were pleased about our shelter and decided to eat our cheese rolls for lunch.
We set off again as the rain receded, taking a footpath/track and for a short time enjoying the calm after the rain. This was short lived though and we soon made for a stone hut in a field and sheltered there for another half hour or so.
Rosie in the bus shelter Zebbiegh
Becoming bored with this restricted existence, we set off again. The map, as we have suggested before, was impossible to follow and we were soon walking we know not where, in heavy rain which dripped down our necks (we had caggies, but had long given up transporting waterproof trousers. Luckily Adrian had his hat!).
We took a track to the right and then felt that we needed shelter again, which showed itself in a half completed house and here we stayed for another half hour or so. We could make out part of the dome of Mosta church, and tried to ascertain where we actually were.
The sky slowly brightened, but the rain continued. We could see through the grey sky beyond. We decided to go for it and follow a track to the main road from Mosta and catch a bus. This meant retracing our steps to the last junction and following the track there. This very soon came to a village, with red domed church of course, which wasn't on the map! The track became a road and we now located where we were!
Adrian by the stone hut
We reached the Mosta road on a double bend and didn't know which way to go to find a bus stop. The road was very busy and not pleasant for walking along. We decided to turn right and before long came across a bus stop. When the bus did come it was packed full and we had to stand at the front by the driver by the open door! Everyone on the bus looked very glum!
We reached Xemxija and went up to our room, removed our wet things and made a cup of tea. We decided to catch a bus to Mellieha and have a swim at the Seabank Hotel.
It was raining hard as we left, but it was only a couple of hundred yards to the corner and we had a bus shelter to wait in. We seem to wait a long time for the bus – it had seemed so lovely waiting there in the hot sun early in the holiday.
Our bus to Mellieha was pretty antiquated and we doubted us making it. Even so the driver overtook on a blind bend going up the hill! We had our swim, but there were a couple of boisterous German children in the pool, plus a couple of other people, so it wasn't the best!
We caught a bus back to Xemxija – at least we had a couple of extra bus journeys for Adrian to enjoy! The sun was now peeping behind clouds so after we are alighted we walked briefly on to a little beach area of Xemxija – something we had planned to do on the first day! We returned to our room about 5.00 pm.
Our last dinner was reasonable – corned beef salad for Adrian, pasta dish for Rosie then chicken. For pudding we had a choice of ice cream (bright pink) and/or fruit salad! It was the first time I had ice cream here – Hobson's choice.
We chatted over dinner to a couple who run a pub in Lowestoft. They said that East Anglia was still feeling the effect of recession.
Afterwards we chatted to the other walkers. They lived in Worcester but he was a Scot from Fife, with mannerisms and turns of phrase which reminded us of Doug. She was a nurse, but was soon taking early retirement. We spend a convivial last evening returning to our room at midnight.
Typical Maltese transport
Friday, 7th February
We were up early so that we could get organised for our 9.30 am pickup. After finishing packing and then having breakfast, we were in good time. It was grey and raining, so didn't entice us to stay longer! We had heard that two young children who wait to be picked up by the school minibus from opposite the hotel. Today when we looked out (about 7.15) they were all dressed up for Carnival – the little girl in a flamenco type dress. The celebrations are this weekend, so we unfortunately miss them.
We waited in the hotel foyer with the others for our flight; – Kelly and Adam (who have been delightful) and family, the aircraft carrier man and his party, the other couple seemed very miserable; and the Sri Lankan lady and English husband. The lady's sister had joined them for one week, but had left today on an earlier flight. Both ladies were very attractive, with big smiles. We confused the two of them and had a chat with them in the bar last night. The sister did painting on silk. All the rest mentioned had been on our flight a fortnight ago. Our pickup was late – nearer 10 o'clock and we joined a coach load of happy holidaymakers to return to Luqa Airport. Unfortunately visibility was bad and the windows steamed up, so we didn't see much.
We booked in and she did it so quickly that we realised our seats were not together – the same row, but across the gangway and as it turned out one slightly in front of the other. This was rather annoying but what was worse was the fact that the visibility from the plane was excellent until halfway up France and we could hardly see any of it! We apparently flew over Gozo and Corsica – both of which we would love to have seen. We caught glimpses of the snow-covered Alps. I am not fond of flying, but what makes it worthwhile is for me looking out and seeing the geography of the land below. We really felt cheated!
The meal was mediocre and no complimentary drinks on this flight we had been given a free Daily Express to read though.
We landed at Gatwick around 2.00 pm British time to a dreary, damp England. We made it through to the coach station by 2.40 pm for the bus to Oxford, which left at 3.00 pm. We phoned and left a message for Emma. We travelled through the fog and gloom to Heathrow and then had an unexpected bonus. To avoid the boggled M25, the driver drove down the Stockley Road then up the Harlington Road – past the end of Lees Road – past Hillingdon Church to Uxbridge, then up Park Road – past the swimming pool. What a trip down memory lane! To add to it, the weather had cleared and the sun now shone on the wintry landscape. The trees stood out as silhouettes and we realised how we had missed them on Malta.
We reached Headington soon after 5.00 pm. A quick phone call to Emma and she came to collect us. We returned to have a cup of tea and a sandwich and a chat with her and then Stuart, then drove back to Hermitage.