British influence in the Med (Updated)

UPDATE December 2015

It wasn’t a long term planned visit, but I returned to Malta for a long weekend in December 2015 and to Melliha at that, too.  In classic fashion, I found that lots had changed since the previous in the Spring of 2005 but also that nothing had changed too.  On that first visit the small island country had only recently joined the European Union.  They still had their own currency (it has now long been the Euro) and very little change, or benefit had come from it.  This has been the big change.  The roads are still in the main bumpy and busy but there were two big road projects that had gone in via grants from Brussels.  A St Pauls Bay by-pass and a by-pass around the tight streets of Mellliha, which makes the journey from the Airport and/or Valletta to Gozo a lot easier.

The hotel where we stayed was not there in 2005 either, it was wasteland just behind the Melliha Bay beach, which is the largest and sandiest on the main island.  The Melliha Bay hotel is large and impressive and I was mistaken thinking it would be quiet out of season, just before Christmas.  Not a bit of it, whilst not as busy as it would be in the summer months it had a lot of people in residence from all over Europe and, notably, Malta too.  Well, I guess we go away to other parts of the UK for a long weekend, don’t we?

The roads may be tight, busy and still in the same place as they were several hundreds of years ago but Malta is easy to navigate.  The bus services are cheap and plentiful.  We had two days’ trips on the weekend, one to Bugibba which is a resort style town on St Pauls Bay.  For us this included a visit to the very quaint Classic Car Museum which houses all manner of cars from across the years in a basement and a couple of hours spent in the relatively new and impressive National Aquarium (again funded by EU grant) which sits grandly at the end of the Promenade with great views across the bay.  Then the next day to a very Christmas Valletta, the walled capital city that sits grandly above the Harbour.  The main Street, Republic Street cuts straight through the centre and features a mix of shops including many familiar to the British High Street.  Even a BHS!  The red Phone boxes and pillar boxes are still there and festive music was being piped through the speakers in the street.  I do have to admit that there is something a little strange, walking through the ancient streets of Mediterranean capital city with ‘Shakin Stevens’ singing proudly about snow falling….

All in all, a great place to visit for a long weekend at any time of the year.  The weather in December was very favourable, not beach weather by any stretch but still pleasant enough to walk around in short sleeves.  In the summer temperatures, can climb up into the late 30’s.  English is the main language of the island – the locals/natives speak their own mother tongue – but just about all speak and understand the colonial one and if you want a Sunday Roast or a fry up, it didn’t look like you needed to go far for one.  It is cheaper than Spain too…(even taking into account the fall in the value of the Pound)

 

Valletta - Republic Street (December 2015)
Melliha Bay (December 2015)
Valletta, Malta. April 2005.
Gozo.
More British than Britain? The Maltese have clung on to these icons.
Mellieha Bay in the north of Malta
Mellieha, Malta
The Rock of Gibraltar
There is no getting away from the Apes (Monkeys) in Gibraltar. Icons of the Rock!
Patriotic steps. Taken in March 2007.
The top of the Rock of Gibraltar
Melliha Bay on a winter's afternoon in Malta