Saturday, December 13, 2014

Day One - 30th Anniversary Hoiday

We were both awake at 7am local time (creatures of habit!), and after peeking through the curtains, it looks as though it’ll be bright and sunny.

First stop was somewhere for breakfast. The town was quite deserted and we spotted a McDonald’s, and so, for a hassle-free and predictable experience, we dropped-in. It was all pretty good – a double McMuffin Breakfast for me, whilst Ann settled for something more refined.

As we left, we saw a few people in military uniform, and after seeing a few more, it became obvious that something special was happening in Valletta today. We followed the crowds and ended up in the Town Square where, based on the number of people already there, and boys with big toys, clearly something was about to start. We learned that it was Republic Day, and after a bit of experimentation (and some minor pushing and shoving), we ended up with the perfect view of whatever it was that was about to happen!

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A few minutes later, we could hear the sound of drums, and not long after, a military band came into view and paraded around the Square.

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Malta’s Republic Day in full-swing

Then some of Malta’s finest arrived – including the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat (in a rather under-stated Skoda), followed by the President of Malta, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca accompanied by a parade of horses (we didn’t get their names, but we think one of the horses was called Dobbin!).

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Then it was more stirring band music, including a load of familiar marching tunes, plenty of renditions of Malta’s National Anthem – and then, a version of the Theme from Dances with Wolves with accompanying bagpipes – not as scary as it sounds, but actually rather moving!

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An hour later, it was all over, and as we left the Town Square heading back towards our hotel, we could see that it looked like to whole of Malta (and probably Gozo too!) had decided it was a good day to visit Valletta – it was now heaving (and a good time to leave!)

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We had a quick pit-stop for coffee and cake, and after a quick freshen up back at the Hotel, we decided to take the Bus, head in a westerly direction and spend the rest of the day in the town-that-looks-likeit’s-lost-a-vowel: Mdina.

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The easy part was choosing the right bus – there and back on a 51, 52, 53 or 54, all for around £1.25 each. We had already read about the bus-drivers of Malta. Trained in AS Level International Expletives (they’d make a London cabbie blush!), with driving skills honed at the Nurburgring, they didn’t disappoint, and confirmed that you absolutely must NOT think about hiring a car in Malta – you’d be dead from the hands of Malta’s answer to Stan Butler in less than five seconds!

Thirty minutes later, with nerves suitably frazzled, we arrived in Mdinaand what a town!! The now warmer weather helped, but it was absolutely gorgeous. Full of olde-worlde-goodness and completely unspoilt - its old buildings and narrow streets just felt magical.

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Scenes around Mdina

We were totally wowed by Mdina, and when we stopped and looked round the Mdina Glass shop, we were wowed some more. We weren’t familiar with this type of glassware, and to say it was colourful would be like saying ‘Maltese bus drivers like a bit of speed’.

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Mdina Glass – Prepare your Eyes for Over Exposure!

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Time for another pit-stop, and so we dropped in to Fontanella Tea Rooms. It was really busy, but we were really lucky and got an outside table with a stunning view of the countryside.

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Our view from the Fontanella Tea Room

After Mdina, we popped next door to Ir-Rabata lovely village, but it didn’t have the magic of Mdina.

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Err… Ir-Rabat

Then it was back on the Bus. Clearly, the driver was drug-crazed or new to the role, as we travelled back to the Hotel at sensible speeds and with no opportunity whatsoever to learn any new swear words!
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We booked a table in the restaurant for 8pm with the Concierge, and on getting to our room, we spotted that the Hotel had smuggled a bottle of fizz, into our room together with some fancy chocs. They’re going on ice until tomorrow! – our special day!!

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On ice until tomorrow!

Tomorrow is our Anniversary and we may travel out to the coast (weather permitting).