This week in Malta I've been keeping a little diary of what I've been up to each day. I thought I might as well post them here!
I'll come back at some point to add some more of the photos i've taken.
Day 1 - Saturday 24th
Got up at 6
Left the house at 7:15
When we eventually got to the car park at Heathrow, we then had to get a bus, lifts, and the underground, with a lot of walking in between, to get to our terminal.
When we get to our check in desk we're told by AirMalta that they oversold our flight, it's already full, and we've been bumped.
There's another flight at 12, but it's at Gatwick. AirMalta buy us a breakfast, but I only manage one sip of my tea before they've arranged for a taxi to take us to Gatwick.
We get to Gatwick around 11. Lots more rushing through an airport with mum rushing ahead and grandma lagging behind.
At security everyone else goes through and I have to take my shoes off and get scanned.
Me and mum get to the departure gate first, then dad and grandma, but dad goes off to the loo and ends up further back in the queue.
Mum holds up the whole queue to have a go at the woman checking boarding passes who has had no part in the problems so far.
We get to our seats. a little later grandma appears. Mum spends the next 10 minutes staring anxiously at where people are getting on until dad appears.
Mum is grumpy that she has to put her bag in the overhead compartment for take off, sulks for the whole flight.
We're served a bottle of water and a crap roll. It has cheese in which gives mum another reason to moan.
In the in-flight magazine there's a page devoted to Michael Fassbender being recently spotted in Malta, with a photo of Chris Hemsworth.
Overall it's a good flight. Smooth, and some good views of Brighton, France, Italy and Sicily between the clouds.
Mum complains when they announce that bags have to be put back in the overhead compartment when we're still half an hour from landing.
Land at 4:01 Malta time. Queue for ages for passport checks, then move across to the one line that's moving really quickly.
We collect our luggage and find the driver who is there to take us to the hotel, dad goes off to find the mythical "desk 13" where AirMalta has left us €200 each as compensation.
10 minutes later mum goes off to find dad.
20 minutes later the driver is getting impatient because he has another family to collect to bring back to the airport. Mum reappears, then dad shortly after.
Go out to an ancient minibus and apparently take the route through the most run down and derelict part of Malta to the hotel in Sliema.
When we arrive we're told there's maintenance in one of our seaview rooms so I have to have one with a nice view of the flats opposite.
I should be able to move to a sea view room on Monday, and should get some compensation too.
We go down to dinner. The dining room smells fousty, it's full of old people and none of the buffet is labelled. I have a sheet of what might be beef in some sort of batter and rice. Can't eat much. I come up to have a lay down because I'm tired and headachey.
Hopefully the rest of the holiday will be better!
Day 2 - Sunday 25th
Still have a headache when I wake up, but it's not as bad as last night and comes and goes.
Bed is quite comfy.
Shower is very good. Powerful and very hot, although the head is a bit too low.
Apparently when the parents and grandma were down at breakfast, grandma said "There's Matthew" and pointed at some random dark haired man that looked nothing like me.
We're about to all go and meet in grandma's room and head out to Valletta.
Wandered along Sliema seafront, then through to the ferry. Saw a tiny lizard walking along a wall by the seafront.
Found the ferry wasn't running for the day because of the swell in the harbour.
We got coffees from the grumpiest street vendor ever, then got bus passes and caught the bus to Valletta.
Entered Valletta, immediately saw a living statue and thought "if we don't do something about this living statue, we'll be balls deep in jugglers".
Walked along the main street for a bit, then cut through some back streets. Saw the grand harbour, the higher gardens, then went down and back up a huge lift which Lex Luthor apparently had something to do with.
Beef ciabatta at Caffe Cordina. Too full for cake.
Walked back up the main street where a juggler had drawn a massive crowd. The living statue looked on forlornly.
Bus back to Sliema. Hotel dinner is much better than last night. Grandma asks if I'm growing a beard because I've gone a couple of days without shaving.
Day 3 - Monday 26th
Woke up at 5:30 with another headache. Slept on and off til the parents knocked the door at 8:25.
Showered, dressed and went down for breakfast.
Left grandma on a bench and walked back to the Sliema ferries (much faster than yesterday.)
Book tickets for the round Malta boat trip on Wednesday. Dad points out a slightly different route back to the hotel and mum snaps that the reason we left grandma behind was because mum wanted to look in some shops while we're here. But she hadn't told us that. She immediately goes into Marks and Spencer.
Me and Dad wander on to find where the boat leaves from on Wednesday, then up a street that's a weird mix of shops, houses and garages.
Spot the Malta Comic shop off a side street but it's closed. Wander up anyway to see if there's any opening times (there's not) and as we're looking a woman leans out her car window and says she's just looking for a parking space and she'll be back to open up. She drives off again and reappears about 15 minutes later.
It's a tiny shop front but when you go in it goes back for miles and it's crammed full of stuff. Because everything is in front of everything else, you can't actually see anything.
Wander back to find mum, then go back to the hotel to collect grandma.
Catch the bus to Valletta then change to go to Rabat/Mdima.
Mdima seems very odd, with high walled narrow streets. Very quiet and picturesque. You can see the whole north side of the island from the cafés.
There seems to be a large group of art students all drawing the same building.
Buy a Maltese Falcon in a gift shop which I'm very pleased with!
The second café of the day has lots of sparrows around, but they don't like to pose for photos. I manage to get one good one though.
We find a bus that goes directly to Sliema, but there's lots of traffic. The rules of the road seem to be "if you see a bus coming, get out of the way. If you can't get out of the way, the bus will go anyway and you'll be tooted and shouted at by the driver".
We apparently pass every bathroom shop in Malta on the journey.
Towards Sliema the bus stops and the driver gets out and runs away. A new driver gets on who is much calmer but is blasting out some rave music.
When we get back to the hotel my proper room is ready and my stuff has been moved. It feels much bigger than the other room, and everything is much nicer, although I think I preferred the art in the first room!
Tomorrow the parents are taking grandma to look at a house and it's gardens so I'm going to do my own thing. Might just wander round Sliema for a bit, but I'm going to look at my hitchhikers guide to the galaxy for ideas.
I don't know if it's the heat, tiredness, not drinking enough or a combination, but I seem to have a headache every morning and evening.
Day 4 - Tuesday 27th
Woke up at 5am again, then doze til 8. Might try sleeping with the air con on tonight so I don't get too hot. It seems to be quieter than the old room.
Waking up is much easier now I can open the curtains and let some daylight in.
Decide I'm going to try and find the National Museum of Archaeology.
Have a lazy morning and catch up with what's been happening in the outside world on the Internet.
About half 11 I go and catch the bus to Valletta. Have to stand right at the front of a packed bus so I get a good view out the windscreen.
There's a lot of traffic along Sliema seafront until we get to an orange truck with its bumper smashed off in the middle of the road. A policeman is half heartedly kicking bits of bumper and glass to the side of the road between letting traffic drive over it.
A little further on an open truck full of crates of bottles comes out a side road and goes straight over the raised bit in the middle of the road. It looks like it's going to tip up and/or spill crated of bottles everywhere, but they get away with it.
At Valletta (no living statues or jugglers today) I walk down the main street and the museum is right there on the left.
I continue wandering for a bit, going left down the hill to the side we didn't go down on Sunday.
Head back up the hill to find some lunch and get a wrap in a tiny sandwich shop. Keep going and find a wall overlooking the grand harbour to sit on and eat it.
Wander along to the lower gardens and have a look round before heading to the museum.
The museum is fantastic. Loads of prehistoric artifacts from around the island. Lots of bowls and tools and carvings and things. Big fat women were very popular in Hagar Qim in 4000 BC.
I'd be interested to research prehistoric sculpting techniques and have a go.
Upstairs they have artifacts from the bronze age and the Phoenicians, as well as a bit about the mysterious cart tracks on the island.
Tempted to get a replica of the Sleeping Lady from Hypogeum in the gift shop, but got distracted by cake and forgot to go back for one.
Got a Strawberry cheesecake in Caffe Cordina. Very tasty.
Get the bus back to Sliema. This time I'm at the back of a crowded bus so it doesn't seem very eventful and I can't see if the orange truck has been cleared.
Back to the hotel to enjoy the sea view, watch the people walking past and wait for the parents to come back from wherever they've taken grandma.
Tried out the TV and found a German channel showing a crime drama where one of the detectives used a severed finger to point at the clues on a whiteboard then absentmindedly put it to her lips, and then a suspect being chased knocked himself out by standing on a rake.
After dinner went out to a pub (Tony's) so the parents could have a Guinness because today would have been Steve's 60th.
Haven't had a headache today so I must have acclimatised.
Boat trip round Malta tomorrow.
Day 5 - Wednesday 28th
Up early for cruise around Malta.
Have now heard four times about how yesterday they went to Mosta Dome where Dad sneezed and it echoed and reverberated for ages. Just thinking about it sets Mum off laughing again.
Get to Sliema ferries for about half 9, the boat leaves about 10 past 10. As we pull out from the harbour, all the rain from overnight that has collected in the roof drips down onto everyone at the edges.
Lots of good views of the coast, and I take a lot of photos. My camera battery runs out just as we pull in at Comino. I have a spare, but it's not fully charged.
I dressed for being at sea and forecast showers, so it's a bit hot and sweaty in the blazing sunshine on Camino. Leave grandma in a deck chair and wander round the island to the tower, which has good views from the top. Lots of little lizards and chickens around.
Head back to find grandma and have an ice cream before the boat leaves again at 4.
More good views and sunset between Comino and Sliema. There's a short shower of rain near St Julians but we miss most of it.
My spare camera battery dies just as we pull in at the harbour at about half 5.
Have a cup of tea by the harbour, then mum wants to go and look in a Christmas shop, so mum and dad go off and I go to find a bus with grandma.
The bus is packed out, grandma gets on and the driver immediately shouts that it's full. I jump on anyway and he doesn't seem to care.
Parents reappear at 7. At 7:30 we go out to Ta' Kolina, a traditional Maltese restaurant. I have a Maltese platter of rabbit, Bragjoli and Maltese sausage.
Unfortunately they've left the tape of traditional Maltese music in the car for too long so it has turned into Queen's greatest hits.
A couple of good examples of grandma being deaf at dinner. First me and Dad talk about the Maltese platter and decide that's what we'll have, then grandma immediately points it out on the menu and reads out whats in it to us.
Then after we've ordered:
Grandma: What are you having?
Dad: To eat?
Grandma: No, to eat.
Back to the hotel, very sleepy. Hoping for more of a lie in tomorrow!
Day 6 - Thursday 29th
Catch the bus to Valletta, then change for Marsaxlokk.
Almost saw it from the boat yesterday, but it's at the back of a big bay with lots of container ships and big cranes at the front.
Walked along the front. The water in the bay is very calm and full of little fish. There's loads of brightly painted fishing boats that all have eyes of Osiris on the front.
Today is the tourist tat market. The fish market is on Sundays.
Stop at a seafront café and I try a Kinnie, the Maltese soft drink. It sort of tastes like cola flavoured things taste (but not actual cola) with a weird fruity/herbal aftertaste that gets stronger the more you drink. It's not bad, but I don't think I'd have another one.
At the next table a daily mail reader tries to explain the Syrian refugee crisis to a pair of Americans.
Continue to the end of the dock, then head back.
There's lots of old men fixing up and painting their bright fishing boats.
On the way back we pass a seafood restaurant. Sitting out the front is a man trying to eat a plate of mussels while being stared at intently by a cat.
We briefly manage to lose grandma in the tat market, despite it being one row of stalls on a perfectly straight part of dock.
Suddenly lots of police motorbikes and cars around, turns out to be an escort for a swish black car. Two men in suits get out, wander to the dockside and point at things while one man takes their photo and a few security men stand around conspicuously. According to a nearby local, one of the men is Malta's Minister for Justice.
Grandma wonder if they're planning the Queen's visit next month.
Grandma then tries to ask all the locals if they're looking forward to seeing the Queen. They all either don't understand or don't care enough to respond.
Catch the bus round to the Ghar Dalam prehistoric cave, but miss the stop and end up in Birzebbuga.
Lots of men driving remote controlled model yachts around the bay. One of them has a list of answers to FAQs on the back of his shirt, apparently the yachts cost €3000.
Attempt to find somewhere to eat. End up outside a café with a very vague menu, and a very vague waiter. The foods not bad when it eventually turns up. We later find the guide book says that there's nowhere good to stay or eat in Birzebbuga and it's only got a sandy beach (with a view of the other side of the container ships and cranes) going for it.
Grandma used to swim here when she was little.
Catch the bus back and successfully get off at the caves. It's a bit underwhelming. The museum has one interesting room about the prehistoric animals that used to live in Malta and how they got there, a room full of cases of thousands of examples of very few types of bone, mainly teeth and toe bones, and then it's a long way down a lot of steps to a small stretch of cave.
Catch the bus back to Valletta. There's lots of people in different choir outfits milling about. There's a competition or festival going on.
Call in at the Museum of Archaeology gift shop and buy the Sleeping Lady I forgot to get on Tuesday.
Café Cordina for cake again. This time I try a Maltese honey ring. It's very tasty, but the pastry takes a lot of chewing. Like the Kinnie, I'm glad I had one but don't think I'd want another.
Wander back along the main street looking in the shop windows. You can buy a watch for only €34550.00
Bus back to the hotel.
Day 7 - Friday 30th
Off to Gozo today. Grandma doesn't want to come so we leave her to do her own thing and catch the bus up the north-east coast to Cirkewwa.
The bus is packed and the driver has to get out the cab and shout at people to get them to move back far enough to make room for a girl in a wheelchair to get on.
It suddenly empties out a lot when we reach the stop for the connecting bus to the Popeye village.
Get the ferry from Cirkewwa to Mgarr on Gozo. As we're approaching Comino, a big black helicopter takes off from near the tower, circles a few times, goes back to Comino, then flies off. We wonder if it's the Minister for Justice again.
The "Welcome to Gozo" sign is written in Comic Sans.
Bus from Mgarr to Xaghra. Lots of narrow winding streets, lots of landrovers coming the other way who have to slam on their brakes and reverse out the way.
Halloween seems popular in Gozo. Lots of decorations up, including an archway that's had big scary eyes and teeth added to it.
Go to the Ggigantija (sp?) prehistoric temple at Xaghra. Another interesting museum about the prehistoric inhabitants of Gozo, and some more fat lady sculptures.
Walk down a long path to the temple, with good views of Gozo all round. There's loads of the little lizards we saw on Comino around, and some huge black bees buzzing between the flowers. Some of the bees have bright blue wings and gold spots on their backs.
The temple ruins are interesting. They've been graffiti'd by visitors in the 1800s carving their names on the rocks. A few of them went to the effort of carving in a font with serifs, and one even carved in cursive.
While attempting to photograph a black bee, mum discovers a chameleon on a bush. It's very well camouflaged and difficult to spot even when you know it's there.
Exit through the gift shop, then get coaxed into another gift shop next door by a woman and her elderly mother. Mum us persuaded to buy a scarf knitted by the elderly mother.
Just miss the bus to Victoria (there's one an hour and it comes 10 minutes earlier than timetabled) so we find a café and have some cake.
Wander back round and catch the next bus. Again, it's early.
Attempt to get to the Citadel in Victoria. One road ends in a building site, the next road has been completely dug up and blocked off by roadworks. Turns out you have to got through the building site to get to it. Looks like they're building fancy new walls and gardens like we've seen outside Valletta and Mdina.
Mum takes photos of the building sites to compare with the finished version if they come back in future.
Walk around the outside of the citadel, but don't go in. More good views of Gozo. There's a maze of walls round the back with the occasional bricked off bit while they're doing the repairs.
As we're leaving, we see a monk with a big beard, brown robes and sandals come out of the citadel.
Walk back to the Victoria bus station (with a statue of William Hartnell on the corner) and go back to the ferry.
When we get to the port I'm feeling a bit spaced out as I've only eaten that slice of cake all day. I'd thought we were going to get a more substantial lunch in Victoria, but we didn't. Get a cup of tea and a packet of crisps and get on the ferry.
The monk from earlier is on the ferry too.
Very good sunset through the clouds on the horizon.
Get a packed bus from Cirkewwa to Sliema. No one gets off until San Giljan so have to stand most of the way. Shattered by the time we get back to the hotel.
Day 8 - Saturday 31st
Woke up between 2:30 and 3am to strange blue flashes. Look out the window to find huge clouds along the horizon with flashes of lightning.
Dawn of the final day.
Lazy morning. Breakfast, pack, listen to some Night Vale.
Dad wants a photo of me, mum and grandma stood at our balconies.
Check out just before 11. I get €16 back for my two days in a downgraded room.
As we check out the first proper downpour of the holiday starts.
A few hours to kill before the taxi takes us to the airport, so once the rain eases off we go to look round Sliema shops. There's one full of cool household things that Ellie would probably love. Mum finds a pietractor for sale and buys it.
Shelter from downpour part 2 in a doorway, then go to a Maltese supermarket. In there grandma meets the tiny elderly waitress from the hotel who gives her a hug and shakes all our hands.
Head back towards the hotel and stop for lunch at the seafront bar just up the road.
Head back to the hotel, through downpour part 3, which is pretty much a solid wall of water. All the roads have turned into rivers.
Back at the hotel we have to unpack, change into dry clothes and repack.
Then wait for the taxi to pick us up and take us to the airport. A newer minibus this time, and seems like a nicer route.
Join the shortest queue for check in, but it turns out to be the slowest. We see the other couple who got bumped from our flight out further up in another queue with their fingers crossed. They come and tell us they've been bumped up to club class. We're last to check in. Think the guy at our desk must be new.
When we finally reach the desk he says there's a problem with the seats and we immediately think we've been bumped again. Turns out that there are four seats, but we're just not sat together.
Then he tells us one of our bags is too heavy and the woman on the next desk has to explain that it's a combined weight limit and because our other bags are lighter, it's fine.
The flight back is uneventful. Read about 100 pages of The Last Continent. The crap roll is slightly better than on the flight out.
Our experience of flying with AirMalta is rounded off nicely by the car park machine saying we owed £145, when we'd already paid, but the guy in the booth just gave us another ticket and it was fine.
Got home at about 11.