2019 Malta and Sicily

Saturday 22nd June

A long day of travelling, we left home at 12.30pm - Gatwick to Malta is only 3 hours. We landed at 9pm, check through was fast but it took the woman at Hertz car hire over an hour to sort out car hire for the 2 people in front of us. We eventually arrived at Elena & Alfred’s lovely apartment by the sea just after 11pm! Alfred showed us around, then we sat on the balcony for wine and sandwiches before bed. We had only eaten one quick meal at the airport before the flight and were so hungry. We will explore tomorrow.

Sunday 23rd June

I’m on the balcony with the sea in the distance with a coffee at 7.30am and it is 27C already, hot and very humid. Bought cigs beer wine at a little outlet, man was very friendly there and gave us some holiday tips, including take the car to Gozo as it’s much cheaper than using taxis when you get there. Back to the apartment then to pop the beer in the fridge. Andrew decided we’d go to Mistra Bay on the seafront where we had lunch at Palazzo Rosa, Margo’s fantastic wood fired pizza for lunch. They grow all their own produce, make their own sausages & smoke their own bacon etc there. Decided we must try pudding as their sorbets, creme caramels etc are all homemade too. All delicious. Our next stop was the national aquarium of Malta where I fell in love with a gorgeous albino stingray who was very friendly and swam really close to me almost touching my arm. Took some video of him, he apparently got caught by some fishermen & lost his tail, hence now living at the aquarium. We had a drink by the sea at the aquarium piazza bar before wandering around the artisan craft festival which is on this weekend. We bought a beautiful Dragon’s Vein Agate pendant from Sam Selby who makes gorgeous jewellery, I’ve never seen this type of agate before & love it. We then bought a higgle de piggle painting by Alessandro Alvalenti for our collection at home & one of his jigsaw fridge magnets too. Back to the apartment then to relax for a while before going out for dinner locally at Il Conte di Monte Cristo. Another Italian restaurant 2 minutes walk from the apartment where we both ate spaghetti accompanied by a lovely local red wine. Espresso to follow and the lovely waiter gave me the espresso cup & saucer in a gorgeous luminous dark blue when I told him how beautiful they were. Apparently his uncle who owns the restaurant makes them himself in Napoli! A lovely first day in Malta. And so to bed…. Fell returning to bed in the night after a visit to the loo in pitch dark as I didn’t want to disturb Andrew by turning the lights on & perched too near the bottom of the bed. Slid off on to the floor from the corner of the wooden bed. Terrifically painful & knelt on my bad knee to get up! Woke Andrew anyway up falling and screaming as I knelt on my bad knee. Will not be doing that again!

Monday 24th June

My poor bottom is black & purple bruising is very bad & goes all the way to the front! There is a huge lump where I landed, a haematoma which will take weeks to heal. After coffee & painkillers we got ourselves ready, then drove to M’dina to spend the day there. We decided that we’d have a ride on the magic train as it’s a great way to get our bearings. This town is called the Silent City and is featured in Game of Thrones. We wandered around beautiful M’dina, St Pauls church was closed, but we explored the catacombs. Lunched at Palazzo Castelletti and had a glass of Mureda organic wine which was delicious & really spicy, a fabulous wine. Wandered around the beautiful ancient back streets of M’dina looking at the fantastic old architecture before driving back to the apartment. Siesta time as neither of us slept well last night & my bum hurts from sitting on it. Later we went back out to try Shaukiwan the local Chinese restaurant where the food was delicious & they make their own fresh pancakes for the crispy duck, utterly delicious. Time for bed…….

Tuesday 25th June

Coffee on the balcony and wrote up this diary. When Andrew got up it was time to check the map & make decisions. We are going to explore Sliema today. The parking here is terrible, but eventually found a spot, free when you do eventually find one. Lunched at Fresco’s on the promenade, a salad with avocado, chicken and pecan nuts for Andrew & a superb salmon & avocado risotto for me. We had a walk around the promenade and found the famous cat statue. Walked up Adrian Dingli street a recommended place to visit here to see the art deco buildings & found a barber who cut Andrew’s hair & Maypole a bakery where we bought cakes for later. Drove back to the apartment then to have a relaxing evening in with leftover Chinese for dinner followed by the cakes. Read on the balcony for a while before bed.

Wednesday 26th June

We’re off on the ferry to Gozo today. Sorting out tickets & how to take the car over was much more difficult than it should have been, but we got there eventually. The trip over is just under 25 minutes, so not too bad. We drove across the island to Victoria the capital and parked by the market. It’s always difficult to find a place to park but normally free when you do which is a bonus. Had a little look around the market which was mainly food. Walked around the historic town which has fabulous old buildings mainly a type of sandstone & most with beautiful balustrades. We had brunch at the Black Cat cafe, which is really tiny. There’s only 4 little tables but the staff were really friendly and the food was homemade and delicious. Continued walking through the quaint little streets & found a great hippie shop reminiscent of my favourite in Canterbury where we bought a lovely blue patchwork skirt. We bought a lovely blue Gozo glass candle holder further on. We then went up to the Citadel, a stunning old building which has been renovated over the years. Wandered around that and took photos of Gozo from the top with it’s many churches. We then headed back to the car to drive to the craft village where most of the stuff was disappointingly amateurish, but the glass shop has some really stunning pieces. We bought a beautiful vase there from the Midnight range, glazed in blues, turquoise’s & purple overlaying silver. The pattern is really stunning. We drove to the shore where the Azure Window a famous natural rock similar to the Dirndl Door near Lullworth was advertised, only to discover that it collapsed 2 years ago, although they’re still advising people to visit it! Returned to the ferry then and caught one with 5 minutes to spare. Back at the apartment we relaxed for a while before getting ready to go to il Conte de Monte Cristo restaurant for dinner again, the only place in walking distance. Another excellent dinner there, the man who runs it welcomed us back and remembered what drinks we had last time too. A last drink on the balcony before bed…..

Thursday 27th June

Relaxing morning at the apartment, drove to Valetta in time for lunch by The Barracks overlooking the sea. Went to the Upper Baracca Gardens then, lovely views over the harbour. We wandered around Valetta for a while looking at the church’s, shops & architecture. Later on we drove to the beautiful but a bit neglected Chinese Gardens of Serenity taking our time walking around this lovely tranquil garden. We headed back then ready for a 7.30pm dinner at the local Greek restaurant which was marvellous, our usual dips, yummy fried courgettes. Andrew had a fantastic pulled lamb in flaky pastry & I had equally delicious chicken & spinach roulade with feta cheese in a creamy spinach sauce. Back at the apartment for a drink on the balcony before bed.

Friday 28th June

We decided to visit St Julian today to go to the Cat Village - only found 2 cats, whom we stayed to cuddle for a while. Walked down to the sea afterwards and has lunch of Greek dips & salad by the shore. Across the road was Stone Market where we bought a wolf t shirt to share. Since there’s a costa next door we had coffee & I caught up with the diary while Andrew tried to book a massage. A fabulous hour long Thai massage relaxed both of us followed by a drink at the local bar. We found a cat charity shop next where I gave them the books I’d read & bought a couple of replacements. Drove back to Margo’s at Mistra Bay then for dinner. Another fabulous pizza each followed by Lemon & coconut sorbets for Andrew & rose sorbet and absolutely delicious orange & cardamom ice cream for me - all homemade again as our last visit. Back at the apartment we had a drink on the balcony watching the sea, as has become our usual end of evening routine before bed.

Saturday 29th June

After coffee & showers it was time to pack as we leave for our second destination of our holiday. Elena arrived at 10am to refund our £200 deposit & say goodbye. Returned the car & were delighted to find that our flight to Sicily would only be 12 hour long. All went well, but a taxi to Casa D’aria was quick but expensive at 40E when E20 was the normal apparently. Dismayed to find that our apart hotel room is 12 flights up & no lift. It has a pretty old fashioned charm, but is more basic than we thought it would be. There is also a very steep staircase {almost ladder} to get up to the main bed in a mezzanine. The wooden barrier is about hip height, hopefully I won’t fall over the top if I’m going for a middle of the night loo visit! Air con works, but there are no lights on the tiny balcony. No kettle has been provided although the contents of this place say that there is one. Receptionist has gone home so no chance tonight. There are 2 put you up beds instead of any comfortable seating in the main living area, not great due to my still painful behind. I unpacked then we went for a walk, found a nice little bar for a drink then walked for an hour or so exploring the area. Eventually returned to the square we’d started at for dinner. Fabulous prawn, saffron & fresh lime risotto after a capri salad at Nerello. Returned to the apartment then to discover that we are next door to a bloody night club. Can’t sleep as it’s so noisy & hot due to air con being ancient. 2am & nightclub is closed, hopefully Sunday evening will be quieter.

Sunday 30th June

Up at 6.45 & can’t get back to sleep. Down the “ladder” backwards as it seems safer. Andrew found a pot last night and there’s a gas hob so hopefully a chance of coffee. Gas not working, think the gas needs replacing. Coffee at last after Andrew got up & had to hold the knob down till water boiled – yay! Got the most beautiful birthday card from my Andrew, the lovely feather one that I’ve never been able to give away we will frame it when we get home! Off out back to the square for disastrous breakfast cold omelette for Andrew. I got salmon panini with disgusting strong cheese that even Andrew couldn’t eat, advertised as Philly. Walked on for coffee & sparkling water & sat at another cafe L’incognita. At the cafe next door the waitress was arranging chairs, putting the tables in the centre then standing back pouting to see what they looked like. Rearranging again and repeat - a great source of amusement. While she’s still pouting and shaking her hair upside down a man appears in a tangerine t shirt & microscopic tight black shorts on roller skates & starts dancing and pirouetting as if he’s on dancing on ice. Obviously thinks he’s Louie Spence, you get the picture? Another older man then appears taking a puppy for a walk in his handbag! The mirth at this point is unbearable! You really couldn’t write this stuff… Where have you brought me for my birthday Andrew? Later on we found Teatro dei Sapori restaurant for lunch, arancini starter to share, then Andrew had ravioli & for me fabulous salmon crusted in poppy seeds with a potato cake & avocado. We decided a siesta was necessary due to the lack of sleep last night. Relaxed with our books then until it was time to get ready for dinner. The Steakhouse was ok, we were not that impressed but the Nero D’avola wine was superb. Went to L’incognita for tiramisu afterwards then back to the apartment. Not too impressed with our first day in Catania & again can’t sleep due to night club…..

Monday 1st July

Coffee eventually as the gas is definitely on the way out. Off to the market where we wandered around, it’s a huge market, I bought 2 pairs of sandals in suede one blue & one red pair. Shared delicious parmigiana for lunch then dropped off sandals at the apartment. Managed to catch the receptionist & arranged to get a kettle. We went to find the Palazzo next and found an art gallery en route. The paintings in the first area were mainly abstract seascapes which were lovely, I particularly liked 3 of them & a lady came over to say she was the artist Carmen F. Fonseca from Brazil - we chatted for a while & she asked me to sign her book. Walked around all the other rooms to view the various different types of paintings in the exhibition, but the first was my favourite artist. Around the back of the building was the palazzo, people were milling about there & there was a sign about audios but no one around to open the place so we left. Meandered about for a while & stopped for a drink while we looked at some tourist brochures. Made the decision that we would go to Syracuse for a couple of days instead of a day trip to 3 different places one of which was there. Had disastrous meal this evening which I sent back & refused an alternative to. After arguing with the waiter for a while we paid for starters & drinks & left. Returned to Nerello the pizza place, Andrew had a pizza but mine became a takeaway as I couldn’t eat. Back at the apartment we checked hotels & Andrew booked Ortigia Inn from tomorrow until Thursday. Thankfully no late night club tonight so we slept…

Tuesday 2nd July

Up and had coffee by boiling a kettle – yay. I packed & we went to catch the 10.30am bus to Syracose by the sea. Arrived at 12.30pm at Ortigia the historic old town and checked in to Ortigia Inn then off out to find lunch. Ate at Gran caffe del Duomo in the lovely square. Stopped to buy some beautiful pink abalone shell earrings which I’ll wear later. After a siesta we went down to the sea and had a drink at Burgio al Porto and watched the sun set into the sea. Meandering around the old town we walked through a little park of banyan trees where lots of swallows we think, were tweeting. We’d seen them arriving earlier in their V shaped formation. I took a video just to record them. We eventually stopped for dinner at Vecchio Pub burgers & potatoes with bacon & cheese, so yummy. We sat in the garden which had a banyan tree beautifully lit. Had an ice cream on our way back to the hotel lemon for Andrew & a scoop each of fresh coconut & cinnamon and ginger - so yummy. Read for a while before bed.

Wednesday 3rd July

Up breakfasted & off out to find a boat trip. We had coffee & water on the seafront at Tavolo and booked a trip in a glass bottomed boat. Fabulous caves & a really lovely trip spoiled only by a horrendous child that screamed nonstop for the entire 1 12 hours. Didn’t cry just screamed giving us headaches 20 minutes in. An older lady sitting opposite the child eventually suggested that she may like to go for a swim? Walked up the old town area & bought me a lovely pale green broderie anglaise skirt reminiscent of a favourite dress I used to have. We lunched at Spizzuliamu a tuna salad for Andrew and superb gnocchi with baby tomatoes, shrimps and courgettes in thin strips, with a touch of fresh cream in the tomato sauce. Definitely my favourite dinner in Sicily Went for a siesta then decided to walk to the other side of the island that we hadn’t explored yet paying E6 for an outrageously expensive couple of emery boards at a farmacia en route. Nothing much over there except the 3 yawning cats, it seems to be the residential area. Found a lovely little square on the way back with a horse fountain and stopped for a drink at Archimede & tried the limone granita. Had dinner not far from there at Monzu, first restaurant which had cushions on the hard chairs since we arrived in Sicily. What comfort, never been anywhere before where every restaurant has metal or wooden chairs with no cushions, Sicilians must have bums made of rock! Pasta that I ordered was utterly raw & hard, but the sauce was delicious so I ate it with bread. Andrew had a sort of salmon & avocado sashimi salad. Back at the hotel we shared a glass of wine before bed.

Thursday 4th July

Got ready to go out & went back to Tavolo for coffee as yesterday’s was so good. Back then to the hotel to pack as we catch the bus at 11.58 back to Catania today. Sorry to leave Ortigia as it’s so pretty here. Bus back was uneventful, it’s much hotter here than in Ortigia. We found a Japanese restaurant called Sakura on the way back so stopped for sushi & spring rolls etc lunch. Andrew asked the chef for more wasabi & got the rawest strongest wasabi ever which he choked on completely. Back at the apartment air con on & sleep. Went out at 7ish for a drink before dinner which was great. Back to Sapora for dinner, huge mistake as they got my order wrong again. Full of loud Americans & loud music. When my order eventually arrived after Andrew had finished eating it was a bright green bun which was unbelievably sweet, everything covered in tomato sauce which I detest. Ate the chicken on it’s own, paid and couldn’t get away from there fast enough – would not recommend.

Friday 5th July

Our delicious coffee then we are ready for our last day here. We headed up the hill to the Roman Amphitheatre which was closed to the public, took some photos then found a little market to peruse, nothing much there so we stopped at Aquisto for coffee, water & limone granita for Andrew. Continued wandering until we found trattoria Monte St. Agata where we had a delicious lunch, wine & beer. Walked on then to Giardino Bellini which is steep to walk up but is very pretty with a great view & even better a proper breeze blowing to cool us down. Think I could just sit here till it’s time to catch the plane home, coolest we’ve been since we arrived. Back to the apartment for siesta time & read our books until it was time to get ready for dinner. We noticed that a couple of doors down from us the Nuova Trattoria del Forestiero was open, we had a fabulous meal & service loved everything we ate there. Wished we’d been there from the first night, but this was the first time we’d seen it open. Night club is still going at 3.39am - 5.30am seems to have stopped, too late to sleep much as we have a plane to catch.

Saturday 6th July

Up, coffee & packed everything, the receptionist has booked our taxi. This time it’s E25 a fair bit cheaper. Really not sorry to be leaving Catania, worst place we’ve ever been on holiday…. Uneventful flight, taxi home – and a lovely surprise. Barry & Grahame were both here when we arrived, with a birthday cake and a beautiful bouquet for my birthday. We had a lovely afternoon and evening together, with of course the ubiquitous visit to Cafe Balti on our first night home…