Hop, Skip and a Bathing Suit Barbara Kingstone July 5, 2020 Destinations, Europe, Malta, Mediterranean We all know what has happened to various professions during Covid 19. Along with many others, I am thinking about those in the travel industry. Travel has tanked. Seniors who, in the past, have enjoyed tripping to many destinations may just be getting ready to start planning their next getaway. Agreed.. When this pandemic is over, we will travel again, We are all in this pandemic together and are now chomping at the bit, to be on the move again. Although I’ve been to over 100 countries, it’s never enough. But I do obey the stay-safe rules-mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. I’m a travel addict and now recalling the high lights of my years of seeking and finding special destinations. They’ve all been great even those which are ugly and sad. Travelling is a mind broadening education and about all the good and bad in each country. So take those vita pills. Think ahead and let’s get up and go post Covid 19. What makes Malta with 3 islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, great for Boomers/Seniors? It’s so manageable. But then the choice of activities are so varied. This series is about destinations where I’ve already visited and found luxury, easy and enjoyable starting with The Republic of Malta, just 80 miles south of Sicily strategically set in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta has a history, that dates back to 5,900BC. Over the decades there has been a plethora of powers that wanted this strategically located island. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Normans, Crusaders, the Knights of St. John, Knights of the Order of St. John’s (this description refers to the noblemen from Europe’s finest families), plus a few more invaders. Here are some of my memories. The scent of hibiscus and oleander permeated the air and the gentle breeze flowed off the Grand Harbour in this UNESCO World Heritage City. Valletta, the capital of Malta, is scenic and obviously was an inspiration to the poet, Gordon George, Lord Byron, who spent over a year on the island. One morning in Upper Barracca Gardens, I saw a gentleman on a bench concentrating on his needlepoint. “I come here every morning unless it rains.” said Leonard, a middle aged man. I had stopped to speak with him. He didn’t seem to mind the interruption. In fact, like most Maltese, he was keen to talk about this island’s history and this countries ‘gifts’. Weather being one. As for food, I always search for local produce and keen to test specialties. First taste and you’ll want to take several sour dough loafs home. Thinking about it, makes my salivate. The Maltese adore their specialties, fish pie, rabbit stew, rustic dishes and honey pastry. Not far from my hotel, the Phoenicia Hotel, located near the Republic Gate, I queued at one of the stalls selling pastizzi, a local cheese-filled pastry. And what a great breakfast that was. The Republic Gate separates the town of Floriana and Valletta but there are so many villages and towns on the 16 mile (27 km) island that with a blink, you can easily miss one of them. It’s a staid city and my travelling companion for those few days was another journalist from Texas. So conjure up this imagine as she descended the staircase of the hotel. In what I could only describe as a white cheer leader’s mini skirt and a teeny white eyelet top, of course, with white cowboy boots. The jaw dropping outfit certainly got full attention during that day. There was no question she was the center of attraction where ever we went. “Why, we all dress like this in Texas, honey”, she said when she noticed raised eyebrows and hanging jaws As small as the various towns are, the driving is laughable. “We don’t drive on the left or right but in the shade.” I was told by a local who saw my furrowed brow, as I ducked a few fenders heading toward me. As for when to go. May, June and July are considered the favoured months. August is like being placed in an oven. With the literally 365 hundred churches and also a few dozen cathedrals, a plethora of statues and squares, fishing villages, beaches and resorts, I decided to start early each morning rubbing shoulders with the hectic local-filled market on Merchants Street. To miss Mdina, Malta’s medieval capital, is missing a town that truly looks like a model of the best middle ages stage set. Colorful flowers, cascade down wrought iron balconies which because of the their shape, are called ‘Pregnancy’. The maze-filled streets are other ‘worldliness’ and the silence made me want to scream. No wonder Mdina’s moniker is “Silent City”. No one spoke louder than a whisper, even in the cafes. The old trolleys/trams are worthy of a side trip to Sliema, one of the small, trendy and stunning town adjacent to Valletta. Only the 20 minute ferry ride to the second largest Maltese Island, Gozo. Is worth seeing. Beaches, honey resorts, a 2,500 year old Hager Lim Temple The 5,000 year old Ggantija Temple, the oldest freestanding structure in the world which even pre dates Egypt’s, Pyramids, certainly fills a day trip or even consider an over-nighter. And back to Valletta, art lovers wouldn’t want to miss Caravaggio’s, The Beheading of St. John, in the landmark, Baroque St John’s Cathedral. While there I meet actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, kind, talkative. He was in Malta to assist his German friend who was in a film,The Gladiators, being shot in Valletta. The backdrop of this island has often been used for many other films which has helped the economy for years. The startling cliffs, ancient archaeological sites, great achitecture, are perfect as backdrops for films. What does one buy? I liked the filigree jewellery and the glassware. But there are so many other fine crafted creations. Malta has been a member of the EU since 2002 and although the population is approximately 500,000, more expats are moving there since the climate is grant and healthy benefits are very good. (but know that extra insurance is needed). Homes aren’t inexpensive, in fact Malta is costly. Since the plumbing, often somewhat ancient with narrow pipes, do take some toilet paper for day tripping. However, if you are staying at one of the top-end hotels, there’s nothing to think about. Luxury abounds. The poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, said it all. “Malta is by far the most magnificent places I ever saw in my life”. I concur.