Loving the Maltese Connection
Malta is a small island country consisting of a few islands in the Mediterranean sea. The country is 316 sq kilometres and has a population of 416,000, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It’s population is growing and so is its tourism economy, even in winter. I enjoy travelling in the off-season, you get deeply discounted airline tickets from Air Canada, hotel prices are much lower and it is far less crowded providing a more relaxing and authentic experience.
It was quite an amazing weekend in Malta, gaining insight into the significant history of this regions from the Phoenicians, Romans, Moores, Knights of St. John and the French and British influence that established architectural and historical monuments that date 7,000 years, making them some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
I stayed just outside the historic capital of Valletta. which the greater city area is home to about half the islands’ population at the Hotel Phoenicia. It presented fantastic viewscapes of the harbour and was just outside the city gate to all the historic attractions within the Town, making the destination very walkable and tourist friendly.
The grand piano in the main lounge area attracted hotel guests to share their talents. The dining room hosted a local musician playing guitar and the included buffet breakfasts was incredible. The mix of local pastries, cheese, meats and hot and cold foods were just perfect for the taste buds. The bar was cozy and provided an atmosphere that reminded me of Cuba. I took a traditional Maltese nightcap and enjoyed the conversations. Each night there was an activity, including tango dancing. I wish I knew the art of this dance, maybe someday someone will teach me the steps with my two left feet :).
In the morning, I loved walking the hotel grounds as they had an exquisite garden, fountains, viewing, resting areas, mini-golf and a lovely hot tub and pool overlooking the city. The service was of very high-quality and I would recommend this stay to others wishing to visit the island of Malta.
Malta has established its tourism industry with many guides, maps, options and packages to experience their space. Although I only had 4 days here, it was simply not enough time to go to the other islands, I was able to capture significant highlights and make memories that will last a lifetime. It may be my love for island cultures, or just the magic of what was experience, but Malta is definitely one of the highlights of my travels.
Valletta has UNESCO status, a very common feature to the Great Northern Peninsula, with two sites (Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement) and third across the Strait of Belle in Southern Labrador (Basque Whaling Station). A walk through the historic city is maintained by a fort structure to see the architecture, the tiny streets, police of quads, preparation for Chinese New Year, outdoor concerts and more. A tour of the Palace Staterooms and Armory is a top attraction and so was the co-cathedral of St. John. An International Piano Competition was being held on the dates I was there, so an opportunity to hear up and coming as well as current stars play works of Mozart, Beethoven and other legends. Some things did remind me of home though, I ate at the Office restaurant, a car had posted “MHAs” and the Canadian flag was clearly flying at a Demajo House.
As a rural Newfoundlander, I like exploring and visited Floriana. There were many parks, flowers, water towers, churches, monasteries and walking trails. I enjoyed seeing the port and all the activity happening around the waterfront. There were many stray cats around this city and actions have been taken to build homes and provide food and water. After a stroll through Floriana, I visited the Museum of Archaeology, which was just fascinating. The displays were bright, well presented and it was very kid and family friendly. A walk to the another side of the city provided a snapshot into some of the more modern buildings and the pleasure craft of the sea. There is something about having good timing, because en route to the restaurant there was activity at St. John’s co-cathedral and a concert was to happen at 8 o’clock. There is nothing like the acoustics in one of the most beautiful churches in all the world. Another amazing night in Malta!
On Sunday, it was decided to take a “Hop-on Hop-off” bus as the best means of transport to see multiple attractions in and around the region. They had two routes, red and blue. For obvious reasons, I took the red route as it provided the maximum value and took you to the Hypogeum, Temples, Blue Grotto and many more spaces.
The Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase (3300-3000 BC) in Maltese prehistory, located in Paola, Malta. It is often simply referred to as the Hypogeum, literally meaning “underground” in Greek. The Hypogeum is thought to have been originally a sanctuary, but it became a necropolis in prehistoric times, and in fact, the remains of more than 7,000 individuals have been found. It is the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/130).
The Megalithic Temples of Malta are must see attractions and the 4-D video experience at the museum is simply “wow”. Walking trails, flora, monuments and landscapes also provided a great means to enjoy the beautiful of the island.
It helped immensely that the weather was nice and warm, between 12-18 degrees, undoubtedly this added to the experience.
The Great Northern Peninsula is more than 363 linear kilometres with a population of 17,000 people. This region is a destination for tourists – like Matla, it has an incredible history. All cultures collided on the Great Northern Peninsula from the British, French. Basque, Vikings, recent Indians, Groswater Eskimo, Paleo-Eskimo and Maritime Archaic Indians. In fact, with the only authenticated Norse site in North America, it has the distinction of being the place where the “World Came Full Circle” an event 100,000 years in the making. We have incredible cultural, natural, tangible and intangible assets and have operators that are establishing unique and providing authentic rural experiences. There is an ability to make several connections and draw upon what Malta has done and continues to do to drive tourism as a means for the Great Northern Peninsula to continue to excel.
If you get the chance, maybe you too will find love in Malta or on the Great Northern Peninsula.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA