There are some places in the world that will always hold a very fond memory for you, perhaps somewhere used to visit in your childhood with family or friends, perhaps somewhere you went on honeymoon or a place that is your go to for total relaxation.
Malta is mine!
I think my earliest memories of Malta would have been when I was seven or eight years old. My mum and dad always used to take me, my cousin and my Nan on holiday. We probably went and visited many other places and countries but Malta we used to visit two or three times a year.
This was back in the days when you could smoke on an aeroplane, not me of course I was too young and they were really shaky and rickety. You know back in the day when you could drink as much as you like in my case it was Coca-Cola!
To be honest I don’t remember much about flying out to Malta other than that, but I remember many other things once we arrived. Firstly, the rental cars they will always saloon cars with that pseudo-leather plasticky interior which if you jumped in wearing your swimming costume or shorts and forgot to put a towel down first it was certainly unbearably hot!
I think the first few times we visited Malta we rented an apartment and it was normally in a place called St Paul’s. I always remember one of the first night we arrived sat on the power conveyed with my father watching the sun go down and being ushered off to bed because although it was only just getting dark it was really late and past my bedtime.
And when the sun came up in the morning there was always a smell, it’s really hard to explain but it’s only a smell you get in Mediterranean countries. It’s like the country is coming alive in the morning. The closest I have experienced the same kind of smell in England is walking past some rancid rubbish bins! No I’m not inferring that Malta was a horrible smell it was just an odour as the country came alive in the mornings.
We would often after the sun had risen walk down this long hill into the hustle and bustle of the town of St Paul’s. Probably back then town was overstretch of the word as in the day it was more like a rather large village. There was a square in St Paul’s and it was surrounded by little wooden shacks, well they had big wooden doors and these would open to reveal locals selling their wares. A common sight was fish and normally huge great big swordfish hanging from these doors. And if you wanted a fresh swordfish steak they would cut out a chunk there and then offer of some of the freshest fish you will ever taste.
Quite often the Maltese sellers would give me the actual sword from the swordfishes nose often wrapped in newspaper as a memento to take home. I wonder what the UK border and customs would make of that now?
Also in St Paul’s in the same square was a market with fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, olive oils many other locally produced things. The smells and aroma of that place was just fantastic and even to this day some 40 years on I can still sense it, so as you can tell it left me with a really nice memory.
In St Paul’s Bay there wasn’t much beach but beautiful sea and great snorkelling and this was something I did regularly with both my cousin and my father.
Dad always went exploring we found some great beaches and some real hidden codes which we had to climb down to where we would have the beach to ourselves and be able to snorkel and take our dinghy and have some great times.
The Maltese were and are extremely friendly people and love the English. We befriended some Maltese teachers who we always visited every time we went. They were lovely always welcomed us to their house, cooked us traditional Maltese meals and let us pick their grapes off the vines in their courtyard. Unfortunately, I have lost touch with those teachers but if you’re reading this and you know who they are please ask them to contact me.
You may not be aware of this but Popeye the movie was filmed in Malta and there is a local attraction called the Popeye village which is the actual set of the movie. When we first went there it was a great place all made in wood. But in subsequent years of our visits it was the same wood as our very first visit and it had got a bit rickety and tired.
I remember one year being in a pool room/bar with my parents they were probably drinking beers and cocktails and I was living it up on my Pepsi when a really catchy song came on which I later found out to be a song called Dolce Vita by somebody called Ryan Paris, it’s still occasionally comes up on my iPod today it hasn’t aged very much and draws a great big smile on my face when I think about where I first heard it.
We used to walk to a bakery and would sit outside and have a coffee and cake. I think I might have been on milkshake. The mum and dad would order pizza. This pizza was amazing it literally got cooked fresh with the fresh ingredients and put on our plates Yum Yum Yum that was so good!
There is something about food abroad especially in smaller countries. Because they produce stuff to be eaten locally they don’t care how big their tomatoes are or if they’re all perfectly round they just care that they are fresh. Let’s hope with Brexit that we might start doing the same and finally put flavour back into our fresh food.
I could have literally written a book about Malta and all the fond memories it holds for me, but a few years ago I revisited St Paul’s Bay in Malta and all those sheds have now become coffee shops and ice cream parlours and the apartment block that we used to stay at and the swimming pool that we used to swimming at 10 o’clock at night had now been turned to some kind of social housing.
The bakery is still there and there is still some of the quaint things that I remember, but we did stop going with mum and dad many many many years ago and I asked my dad why and he said Malta had been over commercialised. I was young, I didn’t really know what that meant but now I do! However, it’s a few hours flight from England, still quite reasonable, excellent weather and you can always find a cheap hotel deal in Malta. So it’s always on my radar if I want a quick getaway abroad and a nice relaxing holiday.