After a much needed lie in & a bowl of Frosties we were off out – our destination was Valletta, the capital of Malta. One bus journey later & we had arrived at the bus depot where Anthony immediately made a beeline for a street food seller. His mind was completely focused on Imarqet (Date Fritters). Not being a fan of dates I wasn’t sure but being a fan of Anthony I was willing to try! They weren’t bad at all, pastry part was lovely, the date filling inside was sweet. Couldn’t eat another straight after but glad to have tried one. Anthony was happy to eat my second along with his!!
A short walk past the Prime Ministers office and we were at the Upper Barrakka Gardens which provided a panoramic view of the Grand Harbour and Saluting Battery. The panoramic view I tried to capture on the phone’s pano setting but let’s just say my ability to keep the arrow in the centre was a little lacking – Anthony managed it. We then watched the guards set up the cannons (with blanks luckily for the tourist boats passing below) and music from the film Titanic began whilst ‘voice over man’ explained the relevance of what we were about to see.
Having watched the cannon fire we walked down to Lascaris War Rooms via St. Anthony Street – photo opportunity for Anthony. On entering the war rooms by a tunnel dug deep (and through) the limestone foundations of the city, we started by watching a 1940s era news excerpt on the convoys to Malta. It told us about the struggle of a convoy to Malta which, the curator explained, was one of many that delivered supplies to the island for three years. Without them, the island – that for two years was under constant bombing by German and Italian aircraft – would have been forced into submission. He then talked us through the well-publicised apathy between General Patton and Field Marshal Montgomery through the context of Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily by the Allies. It was fascinating to hear about the key part Malta played in its conflict and to see restored the rooms from which the Allies’ efforts were commanded. A key highlight was the sector operations room, where aircraft were coordinated in the air defence of Malta – this was also where Anthony’s Great Aunt worked during the war, plotting the movement of aircraft for the controllers to see and take action.
Leaving the war rooms behind we headed back up into Valletta itself where Anthony got me to try yet another local Maltese delicacy – Pastizzi. Now this was something I liked a lot! It was a flaky pastry with cheese inside – not sure what type of cheese it was but later on found out from Roly that it is ricotta – never even knew I liked this.
We wandered around the capital like only a couple in love can, seeing nothing & everything chatting about anything that came to mind. Walked past the Grand Master’s Palace. It was here that we saw the George Cross citation recognising the honour that had been bestowed on the island and her people during the early years of World War Two. Continuing on past school children returning home for the day (at 2pm!) we eventually made it to Lower Barrakka Gardens where we saw the bell which rings daily at noon (like the cannon fire we had seen earlier).
Just before boarding the ferry back to Sliema I had to go and buy my usual postcard – not far from triple figures now and this one depicted the Grand Harbour. Was nice to have the breeze in my face and also to see the various boats and yachts also crossing the water. On our return to Sliema we decided to walk back to the apartment and after a quick drink changed into swimwear and headed round towards St. Julian’s Bay where there was a little sandy beach. To say it took a while to get into the sea or that it was a little cold is an understatement.
I was glad to get back to the apartment to have a warm shower and Anthony was much better when he had removed all of the sand from in between his toes! Roly wasn’t feeling 100% and decided to stay in and relax while us girls (and Anthony) headed out towards St Julian’s Bay for some food. Ate at a place called Paul’s Sea Breeze. I was determined not to have my usual – chicken or my back up – a burger – so turned to the fish section. Ended up ordering tuna which was absolutely fantastic in a garlic and mint sauce served with chips and a mixed salad. Was even more proud of myself as I tried swordfish for the first time ever (ordered by Anthony). The swordfish tasted a lot less fishy than I thought it would – it was similar to the tuna with regards to texture and something I think I would order for myself in the right restaurant in the right location.
Had a lovely stroll back along the promenade with all the restaurants, hotels and bars lit up. Stopped along the way for more Imarqet (date fritters) – Miriam ended up buying two boxes of them as it seems they are a bit of a favourite for the whole family. Got an early start tomorrow (leaving the apartment just after 5 am) as off to Sicily so off to sleep now.
Claire & Anthony