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Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

January 20, 2014

I'm planning for this thread to be my blog for our trip to Malta. We're within about a week of getting started and we are all getting eager to begin.

Day 1 of the trip will actually be January 29, 2014. That's the day we will get on a British Airways flight from Washington Dulles Airport to London Heathrow. Our friends, Marty and Shirley, will get on a British Airways flight from Philadelphia to London and we will meet at Heathrow. From there, on Day 2, January 30, 2014, we will all fly on Air Malta from London to Malta.

The Seabank All-Inclusive Resort Hotel will have a shuttle pick us up at the airport and transport us to the hotel where we will check in for a 27-day stay. I'll tell you later how it really worked, and any other exciting things that transpired during these first two days.

Right now we're packing, or at least deciding what we want to take. I have a hotel room and one tour, a full-day guided tour of Gozo, already booked. Everything else will be rather spontaneous.

I just wanted to start this thread and preserve a place where I can post things of interest (at least to me) and keep you informed of our progress.

Author: grandcircle

Joined: 3/5/2010
Posts: 269
Trips Taken: 0

January 24, 2014

Captianlarry and the Mrs...  

Have a wonderful trip !  Looking forward to reading about it. 

Annmarie

Forum Moderator

 

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

January 27, 2014

Leaving our Western Pennsylvania home tomorrow morning with the temperature a balmy -8 F. When we get to Malta on Thursday the high temperature for the day is forecasted to be 66 F and the low 63 F. Now, let me think a minute. Why is it I'm going?

Author: jl.anderson

Joined: 3/17/2010
Posts: 69
Trips Taken: 5
Countries Visited:

OAT/GCT: China, Peru, Ecuador, Ukraine, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda; 35+ more countries

Traveler Since: 2007

January 27, 2014

Hello Captainlarry,

Is your Malta trip one you have planned on your own and not through a company?

27 days seems like a long time to spend on one island - but it could be 27 fabulous relaxing days.

I'm going to Malta next fall so I'll be following your blog.

Enjoy!

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 277
Trips Taken: 7
Countries Visited:

many

Traveler Since: 1999

January 28, 2014

He did the trip planning on his own. Look for his "Extended Stay" posts in the Suggestions area for details.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

January 28, 2014

Like Janice said, JL, This is my attempt at somewhat replicating the GCT Classic Costa del Sol. Not exactly the same but similar in that not much is regimentated or even preplanned. As they would say in Hawaii, we'll just "hang out and hang loose."

Author: jl.anderson

Joined: 3/17/2010
Posts: 69
Trips Taken: 5
Countries Visited:

OAT/GCT: China, Peru, Ecuador, Ukraine, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda; 35+ more countries

Traveler Since: 2007

January 28, 2014

Sigh . . sounds awesome . . . maybe in retirement.

I hope you and your First Mate have a wonderful time.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 01, 2014

Okay. We are now settled into our very nice room in a very nice hotel on a very nice Mediterranean bay in a very nice country. If you get the idea that I'm pleased, you're very perceptive.

Initially we booked a "country-side view" room because I didn't think the ocean view was worth the 20 Euro per day difference in price. When we got to our room it had an ocean view. The reception desk told us it was not a mistake. Because the hotel is not full and we are staying for a full month they gave us a free upgrade. Now, with a couple of days experience, I think the extra cost might be worth it. But it's nice to get the amenity without paying for it.

The all-inclusive concept is quite enjoyable. We haven't even gotten ouside the hotel yet except to walk along the beach for an hour or so. Yesterday the weather was good, temperature about 63 F and some sunshine. Today has been rainy, heavy at times, for the whole day. The next few days are supposed to be much nicer. We plan to go into the town of Mellieha, about 2 miles, for church tomorrow. The Catholic Parrish church has an English-language mass at 10:00 AM. The next couple of days we plan to venture farther afield. There is a bus stop right in front of the hotel and a full day pass on the bus is 1.5 Euro. Just three weeks ago it was 2.5 Euro for not-residents. That roughly $2 ticket will get you anywhere on the island of Malta. The farthest point from our hotel is about 90 minutes, and that includes a mltitude of stops.

I'll post some pictures as soon as I remember how. I haven't posted before because the Internet connection was acting up. I hope it will stay up now.

More later.

Larry

Author: travelingcarol

Joined: 8/6/2011
Posts: 21
Trips Taken: 5
Traveler Since: 2011

February 01, 2014

 Larry,  I have been following your trip from the very planning stages and to duplicate your previous GCT trip to Spain that is no longer offered.   Look forward to your posts and photos.  I love this forum and am on daily following the different threads on GCT and OAT as I love the insite gained from "travelers" like myself.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 02, 2014

Thanks, Kevin. It's Noon here on the date that is Groundhog Day in the USA, but they don't seem to care here. We woke up this morning to clear skies and relatively warm temperatures. We went to breakfast a little early and then caught the bus at 9:00 AM. For 1.5 Euro each we got tickets good for all day. We only rode the bus about 10 minutes but it was all up hill. The Village of Mellieha is on top of the hill while the Seabank Hotel is by the beach at the bottom of the hill.

We were about 45 minutes early for church so we looked around. From the level of the church we could look northward and see both Comino and Gozo clearly. Those are the other two inhabited islands in the Maltese chain.

We went into the sanctuary about 9:35 AM and enjoyed the choir rehearsal that was going on at the time. Marty and I especially enjoyed the choral singing since we are members of a male chorus and we regularly rehearse and perform choral numbers.

The sanctuary we were in is a small "chapel" that is attached to the main cathedral. There was a mass going on in the main chancel but it was in another language. The chapel is about 300 years old and it is beautiful. There are many paintings, stuatues, and other icons all over the place. The dome is at least as high as the chancel is long.

My First Mate and I are not Roman Catholic but we enjoyed the service and our friends, Marthy and Shirley, appreciated us going with them. The sanctuary was full and there were some worshipers in temporary "over-flow" seating. We did not participate in communion but it took quite a while for everyone to pass by the priest and receive the host.

Once the benediction was pronounced we started walking on toward the center of town. We were walking up hill, and up hill, and more up hill. We finally got to the top of the hill and there wasn't much to see except the view, which was spectacular. There aren't many spots on the Island of Malta that are higher than "downtown" Mellieha. The Mediterranean is beautiful when viewed from the heights.

The surf breaking on the beach just across the road from the hotel sings us to sleep every night, It was a little bit stronger yesterday than the day before, but it has not died down very much today. When we see and hear the surf crashing against the seawall that supports the road, we think it must be high tide. But it hasn't changed since we've been here. Then I remembered from my Navy days that there is a fairly insignificant tidal variation in this part of the Med.

OK. I'm about to go to lunch. We still have a paid-up bus ticket for this afternoon so we may do a little bit of bus window sight seeing, I'll post again either this evening or tomorrow.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 03, 2014

Well, we went to lunch and what a contrast! It seems that Sunday Brunch at the Seabank is a bit of a Maltese tradition. Not just those of us who are "residents" of the hotel but a large contingent of locals just going out for the brunch made the hotel restaurant the busiest it ever gets. They had all sections of the restaurant open for seating and had double the number of buffet lines. Most of the "locals" were family units, many multigenerational, and mostly dressed in a fashion much nicer than their normal dress. It was interesting, but I'll be glad to get back to the less crowded conditions that we usually find at meals.

After lunch we decided to use our bus tickets to go to St. Julians, one of the commercial hubs of the country. We knew the bus number we wanted so we went to the bus stop and waited for it. Our hotel is located only about 14 kilometers, 8.5 miles, from the Gozo Ferry Landing which is the northernmost terminus of the bus line. So we boarded the northbound bus thinking we would just take the turnaround and ride it back south.

When we got to the Ferry Terminal the driver parked the bus in what appeared to be a semi-permanent location and shut it down. He then told us that was the end of his shift and he was going home. We had to get off and find another bus going south. After a 15 - 20 minute wait we boarded another bus with the same route number and began a three-hour stretch that was interesting, tiring, and exasperating.

The Sun was shining, the bus was comfortable, the scenery was interesting, and all was well for the first twenty minutes. Then we got to the built-up urban part. Suddenly traffic was very heavy and barely moving. I don't know where everybody was going on a Sunday afternoon. To show you how slowly things were moving, we got off the bus and continued walking in the same direction. We consistently stayed ahead of the bus.

But then it started to rain. We were prepared with hooded rain jackets, but for a few minutes it was raining rather hard. We took shelter under the awning of a sidewalk cafe. We had already decided we were ready to catch the bus back to the hotel since the only establishments open were restaurants and bars, The next scheduled arrival of our bus, #222, was two minutes after we got to the bus stop. The actual arrival was 46 minutes later. There had been a accident invlovling one or more buses and...

Well, we got on the bus, which was quite crowded at first, and eventually, in the rain and after dark, got back to the hotel. The bus stop that serves the hotel is actually about 50 meters up the street, but since everybody left on the bus was going to the Seabank Hotel, the driver stopped to let us off at the hotel door.

I was able to stay awake long enough to eat dinner, but went to bed early and slept long. I don't plan to be quite as active tomorrow.

Author: mary jayne halli...

Joined: 9/25/2010
Posts: 51
Trips Taken: 27
Traveler Since: 1989

February 03, 2014

Many years ago, at least 20 0r more, took a Saga trip (before we got connected with Grand Circle) for two weeks in Malta, I believe we stayed in Valletta, thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks and what I mainly remember were the buses.  As all had indicated, they were ramshackle, irratic, cheap to ride and FUN when you didn't have any real schedules, as you are sort of indicating.  Also remember that each VILLAGE we went to (to me thery were cities as I live in a city with less than 3000 people and they were MUCH MUCH larger) was that each village had a HUGE church, I would call them cathedrals and they indicated if you stayed on the island of Malta for a year, you could pdrobably attend a different one each day of the year.  It was wonderful.  I too miss gthe Bajondillo trips, we had repeated them I think 8 times, meeting and remeeting dfolks each year and sorry thjey no longer offer it.  Have a GREAT time this winter in Malta.  We are ENJOYING our well below zero every day and where I live, we have had almost 60 days of below 32 degrees this winter.  buuuuur.

Author: franniepat

Joined: 3/11/2010
Posts: 50
Trips Taken: 10
Countries Visited:

Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Mexico, Alaska, Canada, Western US parks.

Traveler Since: 2008

February 03, 2014

As a fellow Pennsylvanian from the midstate, you sure are missing alot of snow-we're due 3 storms in one week! I was in Malta this past fall and your blog reminds me of those buses and how much fun(?) they are! I'm sure you will enjoy your stay there and there are something like 360 churches to attend!

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 04, 2014

Yes, franniepat, I'm getting daily reports from friends and family back home, and I'm glad I'm here. Today was kind of cool, in the low 60s F, but totally sunny. It's a dirty job but somebody has to do it! It's supposed to start raining tonight and rain all day tomorrow.

We just hung out around the hotel and did very little this morning. Just after lunch we bought day-long bus tickets (1.5 Euro each) and rode the bus about 35 minutes to the town of Mosta. We went there to view the famed Mosta Dome, the church that has the third largest unsupported dome on any church in Europe. and the ninth largest unsupported dome in the world. It is also the most beautifully decorated church I have ever visited.

The Miracle of Mosta took place during WWII when a German bomb, nearly 500 pounds, fell through the dome into the congregation of over 300 and did not explode. The dome was repaired and a replica of the bomb is now on display at the church.

The church is closed to the public from 12:00 to 15:00. We were among the first in line when it reopened for the afternoon. A chamber music group was also waiting to enter the church and I helped them carry their instruments into the church. They were there to provide music for a funeral. We left before the funeral actually started but we did get to sit and admire the church while listening to the musicians, inclucding a vocalist, perform. It was a delightful time. The church at Mosta is still my favorite church I have visited.

Because of the expected rain we will not likely do anything very exciting tomorrow.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

February 04, 2014

I hope you'll have time to poke around Mdina.  And visit some of the excavations.  They're ongoing, so they change all the time.  In Gozo, we went to where Calypso's cave is supposed to be down a walk along the cliffs.  I didn't go, of course, but some of our group did.  There's a great glass gallery there, where I lusted over some of the creations.  But I couldn't afford an any of them.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 05, 2014

Today was a gorgeous day - nearly 70 F and sunny. The rest of the week is expected to be nearly the same.

We started this morning with a long (probably over 2 miles) walk along the beach. After several days of rather heavy surf Mellieha Bay was nearly dead calm today. Since it was so warm we started to explore some of the outdoor activities offered by the hotel. The activities are run as collateral duties by the members of the entertainment corps. We watched the boules competition for a while. The First Mate and I are bocce players and while the balls and the rules are nearly the same, they play on loose sand so we'll have to learn new techniques. You don't roll the balls in the loose sand.

Then we participated in the minigolf tournament. Certainly not a good test of golf but a lot of fun. I tied for the championship.

In a few minutes we'll go to the entertainment dome to view a Beatles tribute. Tomorrow we're going to Sliema to give the First Mate and Shirley a shopping opportunity. We are pacing ourselves so as not to do all of our desired touring too early. We have three more weeks to go.

Yes, Pauline, we plan to spend a whole day in Mdina and will visit a few of the archeologial sites.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 08, 2014

The weather just stays fantastic. Yesterday was just great but our friend Marty had some leg problems so we just hung around the hotel. I won the minigolf and my First Mate ran away with the shuffleboard tournament.

Today Marty was feeling better so we decided this afternoon to walk to the Red Tower. It is officially Fort Ste. Agatha. It was built in the Seventeenth Century by the sitting Grand Master of the Knights of St. John as mainly a watch tower to give early warning of an invasion and secondarily as a defensive fort.

The walk from the hotel to the tower was about a mile and one-half each way, but the tower is a good 400 feet in elevation above the hotel. It was a rather difficult climb but the tower itself and, especiall, the view from the top of the tower was well worth the climb. From the tower we could see all of the northernmost third of Malta as well as a lot of Gozo and all of Comino.

We came back a different route. It was shorter and safer because it was not on the main road. But it was steep and rough and kind of hard to negotiate, expecially for Marty and his bad leg. But we made it. We had been gone from the hotel just over three hours when we returned.

The thing that is good about this type of vacation is that we can take the whole day off tomorrow just to rest up. We don't really have anything planned until a week from Monday when we are going on a tour of Gozo. We will probably go to Mdina and Valletta sometime this week, but it will be on our own and on our own schedule.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 09, 2014

Well, let me summarize. We've been here at the Seabank Hotel in Mellieha, Malta for 10 days now, and we have 17 more to go. There's going to have to be something really nasty happen in the next couple of weeks to make me change my mind from thinking this is one of the greatest vacation trips we have ever taken.

The hotel facilities are very nice. Our room is large with a balcony overlooking Mellieha Bay. We're on the fourth floor and the second room from one end of the hotel. So we are isolated (and insulated) from most of the noise of the public areas. Daily service of the room is very good. The only problem is the bathtub and trying to take a shower. But we have conquered that difficulty by asking for and immediately receiving a rubber bath mat. It's still a bit awkward but now I feel safe. We had four bottles of water in the refrigerator when we checked in and any we use is replaced the next day by the maid.

The food in each of the dining rooms we have visited is very good and plentiful. We still have one dining room to go before we have tried all five. The only limit on the food is self-imposed -- eat as much as you want. The same is true of drinks. Wine, beer, soft drinks, and a wide variety of coffee related drinks are pretty much available anytime day or night. If you want a mixed alcoholic drink there is a bartender on duty from 10:00 AM to midnight to make whatever you want. All food and drink are included in the price of the room. Ours is 106 Euro (about $145) per day.

There is live entertainment almost every night. Similar to a cruise ship, there is a company of young, talented singers and dancers who present a variety of styles of entertainment. Also like a cruise ship, the entertainers have other duties as well. They administer most of the athletic (actually more entertainment than athletics) programs including the programs for the children. The indoor swimming pool and hot tub are open and avaliable, but the outdoor pool is closed. It's not because of the weather, it's because the area around the pool is being refurbished.

There is a bus stop right in front of the hotel. A full day bus ticket (get on and off as many different buses at as many different stops as you want) costs 1.50 Euro (about $2.10). In less than two hours you can be anywhere on the island of Malta. Going to Gozo is a little more expensive and a little more trouble, but still very doable. We have a guided tour of Gozo scheduled for next week,

But there really is little cause to even leave the hotel grounds. But there are some very interesting venues in walking distance -- albeit a fairly tiring walk. You have to go uphill to get almost anywhere from the hotel. The most interesting places close by are the Red Tower and the town of Mellieha. Both are 300 or 400 feet in elevation above the hotel level. But we take our time, rest when we need to, and make the trek without difficulty.

Today we went to the town of Bugibba to visit Kennedy Grove Park. It is a national park dedficated to the life and memory of President John F. Kennedy. It's another of those places that is important for what it stands for more than what it is. But, this being Sunday and a holiday weekend, and with the weather being sunny and the temperature being 65 F, the park was full of picnicing families. A nice view into the life style of Maltese families.

When I do something different and exciting I'll add another chapter.

Author: merleo

Joined: 4/23/2012
Posts: 31
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 1996

February 10, 2014

I am enjoying your blog very much. Millieha is unfamiliar to me so your writings have stirred up my curiosity to want to see what I missed.  I was in Malta many years ago, when GCT offered it as a 14 day trip with a post extension in London.  My hotel was on flat land on Tower Road in Sliema and being on the 11th floor had a wonderful view of the Med. I have great memories of my trip to Malta and Gozo.  Also had the opportunity to hydrofoil to Sicily to see Mt. Etna before it started acting up again.  Am looking forward to your Gozo adventure.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 14, 2014

A lot has been going on in the past few days, but yet it has been slow and relaxing. Just today we rode the bus, two buses actually, to Mdina and spent a few hours walking around that spectacular city. We rode one bus from Mellieha to Bugibba and changed to another bus on to Mdina. As long as we were on streets running one direction things were fine. When we turned a corner the wind blew like a wind tunnel. But it was still great. There is so much history in the town and such a variety of architecture. Sadly, though, it has become much more commercialized even in the past three years. But that can be overlooked and the city is still quite enjoyable.

Two days ago we rode the bus to St. Jullians to do some shopping. Our friend, Marty, is having a birthday this coming Sunday, and he has been craving an American style hamburger. So as we passed a Burger King I invited him in for his birthday dinner. He loved the burger and fries.

We finally found the Bay Street Shopping Center and discovered that it is more "up-scale" than we remembered. After looking around a bit we started looking for the bus stop to take to get back to the hotel. We got mildly lost and finally, believe it or not, I stopped to ask directions. Following the directions I was given we found the bus stop and half an hour later were back at the hotel.

Today is Valentine's Day and that makes a big splash here at the Seabank Hotel. They are running a special for the weekend, meals, shows, spa treatments, and lodging for the the locals. They expect about 1,000 additional persons, couples and families with children, in addition to those of us who are registered here. To give us a little break from the crowds they have arranged a special dinner in a room not normally used for that purpose and only 80 of us are invited. Nice gesture since we are not used to the big crowds, or the children.

We will not do much this weekend, just stay away from the crowds as much as possible, and rest up for the trip to Gozo coming up on Monday morning. We will be picked up at the hotel at 8:15 AM and the trip takes about nine hours.

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