The day dawned sunny and bright, and we executed our second-best-laid plan to stay in the apartment in the morning. We first explored the offering of the hotel restaurant’s buffet breakfast, but decided we didn’t like the look of that, and wandered out into Gzira seeking nourishment. Our third-best-laid plan – breakfast at Ladybird Café – went the way of our first, when we quickly googled and found that they didn’t open until 9:00am. Instead, we selected Café Jubilee, who were both open and delighted to serve us breakfast. They delivered a top-rate eggs Benedict and some sort of muesli and yoghurt concoction for herself (from the “healthy” section of the menu).
We’d taken our time over breakfast with the intention of using the pool before heading out for the day’s activities. We found it almost unoccupied at 10:00am, thank Bob, and had a leisurely swim before embarking on the day’s venture.
First port of call was the tourist information place in the Bayview Hotel, where we booked ourselves onto a trip to Gozo and Comino for the following day. That done, we made the mistake of going to the bus stop for a bus into Valletta again. As full bus after full bus passed us without stopping, we went back to the hotel reception and got them to order us a taxi instead.
The driver dropped us at the entrance to the old town of Valletta, and we wandered along the main drag before branching off to the side streets to explore a bit further. We’d noted the position of the Archaeology Museum and hoped to visit that later. Once we’d had enough of our peregrinations we settled on D’Office as a handy place for lunch, and shared a Maltese Platter, washed down with a Cisk beer.
|A picturesque alleyway|
After lunch, we took in the Lascaris War Rooms. The guide there gave us a detailed story of the war in Valletta, how Malta was vital to the North African campaign, the role of the RAF and the Royal Navy in supplying the island, and how the war was won by Malta, singlehandedly. Our guide was very animated as he explained about how Malta was almost defeated by the German blockade, how the convoy barely made it through to resupply the RAF with aviation fuel, and how they were then able to affect Rommel’s campaign by cutting off his logistics. The war in the air, instead of being fought over Malta, was pushed back to Sicily where the German and Italian planes were based, as the Maltese radar system gave early warning of attacks. This resulted in fewer successful bombing raids on Malta as the bombers were shot down, or jettisoned their payload before reaching their targets. Later on, Malta was the base for the Allied attack on Sicily. Whilst successful, many of the tactics used and lessons learned were later employed in D-Day.
|"You can't fight in here! It's the War Room!"|
It was getting on a bit by then so we took in a quick walking tour of St. Elmo’s Fort, and then headed back into the centre of town to take a look at the Archaeological Museum, which contains Stone Age, Bronze Age and Phoenician artefacts from Malta’s distant past. We fairly raced around this (to be fair, there’s not a great deal here, just the usual collection of pots and “ritual objects”).
|No, YOU'RE a ritual object!|
We went back to the central bus station and found standing room on a bus to Gzira. It was 5pm by this time so we mixed in with all the commuters (who were probably saying “bloody tourists!”) and got off at Gzira.
We walked along the seafront to locate where our boat was leaving from the next morning, and also explored the restaurants up this end of town, which we’d ignored so far. One was called Il-Malti, and promised Maltese cuisine, so we decided to give that a try. I had rabbit, which is a local speciality here, and Nicola had a stuffed squid. Again, way too much food (we’d taken the precaution of not having starters), and frankly, you can keep the rabbit. It’s important to try these things, but it’s not compulsory to like them.