September 2015 Twinning Visit to Malta/Marsa.
We left Bristol Airport very early for our week in Malta. On arrival we were met at the airport by Councillor Dominic Spencer, his wife Claudette and their lovely girls. We then went to our hotel and stayed in the Sliema area that day and enjoyed the hotel. On Friday we (Steve and Pat Morgan, Barbara and Gordon Taylor) hired a car and travelled to the Blue Grotto and walked down to the sea and had a boat trip out to the beautiful caves which was a cool area in intense heat. After a late fish lunch where we sat on the restaurant roof with a beautiful view of the sea and the island Filfla we returned to the hotel. In the evening we had been invited to Dominic’s family summer residence a caravan on the official Government site at Bahar ic-Caghaq which we drove to and had a really enjoyable evening and were invited to another caravan with many people for a musical evening of folk music.
On Saturday we spent walking around Valletta visiting the Upper Barracca Gardens where we enjoyed one of very many Kinnie drinks to cool us down. We walked past the new Government Buildings, the new City gate and the Restored Royal Opera House where we found that the Russian Ballet was doing some performances so on a whim we booked tickets! In the evening we took a taxi to another hotel in Sliema where we met with Dominic and Claudette’s family to join friends and helpers of the Government Minister Dr Jose Herrera who we have met several times before for an end of summer BBQ. We were able to give him this year’s Bridgwater Guide and he remembered us! We were sat beside the harbour looking over Valletta by night- wonderful.
Sunday we travelled to Dingle Cliffs (the highest in Malta) where we enjoyed the views and tried to find Clapham Junction Cart Ruts but somehow we missed them by taking a detour along the cliff tops! We did find a fantastic Restaurant called The Cliffs where we had intended to have a drink but the food looked so good and it was very popular with local people we decided to have a light lunch. It is an environment sensitive business with lots of information about the area where it sources much of the produce it uses plus it own garden.
Monday we had a slightly quieter day taking a Harbour Cruise and in the evening went to the Ballet which as it was outdoors there were a few drops of rain- once the stage had been dried we had a very enjoyable evening.
Tuesday was a very busy day! We popped into Marsa and had a quick look around but could not get to The Bridgwater Playing Field as there were workers blocking the entrance. We drove to Dominic’s home in Hamrun (next to Marsa) where Claudette cooked us very tasty Ravioli. We then were taken to the VIP area beside the Grand Harbour where the National Regatta was to take place (8th September is a national holiday) this happens every year on this date. It was extremely hot so were very grateful for shade and drinks that were provided. During this time we were introduced to the Minister for Sport and his charming PA and we also met someone who worked for the Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat (who is our Honorary Vice President) We enjoyed the many races and Dominic was able to take Gordon (ex Navy and a sailor) to meet and see all the different classes of boats that are raced. Marsa was supposed to be favourites (we had been told by several Maltese people) there are 2 teams an A and a B from each town and the points are given for each race and totalled up. Marsa managed to win the prestigious shield for each team so to say were delighted was an understatement. The celebrations accompanied by drums and various other instruments were loud and noisy!
We returned to the hotel and in the evening Francis Debono and his wife Carmen came to our hotel.
We sat on the 9th floor having a drink and we had a fantastic lightening show behind the clouds (no thunder) we had lots to talk about. On our last day needing to find some presents we drove to Ta Qali Craft Village where we had a very heavy rain storm. In the evening we drove to Marsa and visited the council offices, the first time we had been since it became operational. It is really beautifully done with many photos on the walls and the Bridgwater picture and dedication plaque we had presented are in the main area of the entrance. Waiting for us was the Mayor Francis Debono and members of the Marsa Historical Society who we have met before so it was great to see them all again. We had taken lots of information about Bridgwater which was of great interest and much talk was enjoyed! We presented a book about Somerset to the society and the Mayor- we had also taken Articles from the Museum and Francis will use them as rewards for the children of Marsa who come for free computer lessons. We also presented Francis and Dominic (who arrived a bit later) with an old photograph of the Cornhill in Bridgwater (see photos of all of these events)
We were then taken to the Valletta Waterfront (just a short distance from Marsa waterfront!) where all the liners dock and the area has been upgraded and has many restaurants where we were provided with food! It is a beautiful area and a very relaxing end to a busy but wonderful week. It was the first visit for Barbara and Gordon for about 10 years and it was revisiting many places that were remembered from the 1960’s when he was stationed in Malta. We then said our very fond goodbyes as we were leaving the next morning.