Malta & Gozo 23rd December 2011 – 2nd January 2012
Our first hotel in Malta was the 4-star Ramla Bay resort on the very NW tip of the island from where we could see the Gozo ferries departing from Cirkewwa harbour. Ramla Bay resort is a very big impersonal sort of place, a long way from anywhere. Good buffet meals were the order of the day. Our group of 23 met with the leader at 7.15pm to receive our information for the next day’s walk.
Our minibus usually left at 09.00 sharp and we were usually walking by 9.30. The terrain was undulating for the most part and the paths sometimes very rough. Most spectacular of course were the cliff-top walks, which became challenging in the very strong onshore gales which we experienced for a couple of days.
Maltese ChristmasMalta highlights were the Victoria Lines, Ridge fortifications built by the British in the mid 1800s to give the garrison something to do, the ancient city of Mdina and the bizarre filmset village of Sweethaven, built for Robin Williams 1979 film “Popeye”, a busy tourist attraction even on Christmas Day. Valetta needs at least 2 full days to do it justice and we could only give it a few hours, but St John’s Cathedral was very memorable. We travelled to Valetta by local bus from the ferry terminal on a “day off” from the group. Gozo immediately struck us as much greener than Malta. Hotel Calypso at Marsalforn was our base for 5 nights. Comfortable with buffet meals, except the gala dinner on New Year’s Eve – 7 courses which went on forever!
Walking was very similar to that on Malta, but many tracks were waterlogged and seemed to collect most of the run-off from the terraced fields. Gozo is compact and there are a lot of small towns and villages most with substantial churches. This is a very devout nation, 98% Catholic. My guidebook said there were 350 churches and I could well believe it. As on Malta, the cliff walks were the most spectacular.
On the whole Malta/Gozo was a very good Ramblers Worldwide holiday. With hindsight we wished we’d added 2/3 days to our 10 for a better look at Valetta, as some of the group had. We very much enjoyed the company of the diverse members of the group, mostly pensioners like us, but would have preferred slightly later starting times for our walks. We were often back at our hotels in the early afternoon which left 4 hours to fill before the evening group briefing.
Incidentally we were not impressed with the rooms allocated to Ramblers Worldwide guests. In both hotels we were obliged to pay a hefty supplement to obtain a room with a sea view.