In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea sits the beautiful island of Malta, just 50 miles south of Sicily and 175 miles east of Tunisia in North Africa. It is actually the Republic of Malta and is somewhere that we have wanted to visit for a very long time.
Qawra and Bugibba
Our hotel, the AX Seashells Resort at Suncrest, was located in the north of the island in the resort of Qawra which is part of the district of St Paul’s. A long rocky outcrop stretching into the sea contains the resort of Bugibba on the north western edge and Qawra on the south eastern and has evolved over the years into probably the biggest tourist area on the island. Lots of hotels, nightclubs, and bars fill Bugibba with just a few in Qawra but it looks like it could be seriously tourist-busy in the summer months.
We were there out of season though so the hotel was more relaxed and the whole area fairly quiet which is just the way we wanted it. With a little sunshine thrown in if possible.
Once we’d checked in we headed out for a walk around the headland to get our bearings and some fresh air. Battling the heavy wind we wandered up to Qawra Tower by Qawra Point Beach. This seemed to be where Bugibba started, difficult to tell, and was also where the Malta National Aquarium was located.
We weren’t interested in going in the aquarium but it looked pretty good, very modern and a lovely restaurant. We wandered round the shop though and used the toilet so I suppose that is going in isn’t it?
Bugibba Storm Damage
On the 24th February this year Bugibba was hit by Malta’s worst storm for nearly forty years and suffered serious damage to lots of historical sites and many hotels. Apparently over 180 tons of debris was collected by the authorities in the following days. As we walked, or rather as we got blown, down the coast towards Bugibba Bay Square we passed so many damaged buildings that it almost looked like a war zone.
It’s not actually as bad as I’ve painted it with only the pools and bars right on the rocky beaches being a little wrecked, the rest of the town looks okay as usual. Bugibba is known as a real party town with all of its clubs and bars which I’m sure still get going after dark (when we are well tucked up in bed). Taking a sneaky shortcut back to Seashells we did cross the main shopping/restaurant/bar street which is very helpfully called Tourist Street, or Triq it Turisti in Maltese. Weird huh?
We were excited to be heading back as we’d been invited to a Reception Cocktail Party in the Ambassador Lounge. How posh! We’re not really cocktail people but being a reception the drinks were gratis so we couldn’t say no could we? Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as upmarket as we expected and a tall glass of something bright blue was handed out to everyone whilst the Customer Services girl tried to shout above the music. Funnily a few of the guests weren’t English so had absolutely no clue what Miss Shouty was going on about and a few others just didn’t fancy the nuclear cocktail. We, however, loved it and sat back enjoying the amusing Carry-On type of show unfolding before our very eyes. Very very funny.
A fabulous dinner in the Coral Cove Restaurant followed which included as much local wine and beer as you wanted. After slightly overdoing it on both food and drink we agreed that we had to be very careful with this half-board nonsense to prevent putting on several unwanted stomach inches.
Meeting the Captain and Jazz
Next morning we headed back to one of those tourist shops that advertises trips and excursions, you know the ones I mean. There is usually a local fella outside trying to sell you a speedboat trip somewhere you really don’t want to go. We’d seen one in Qawra and were welcomed by a friendly local girl. When I say local, she was local to south London so in minutes we were getting on like a house on fire and she was fascinated by our JWalking lifestyle. She looked like she might be called a hip and trendy name so in our minds became Jazz. The hard-selling completely disappeared as we were just after leaflets and info but she did introduce us to her Maltese boss who we dubbed Captain Morgan after all the boating posters.
The Captain told us all about the boat trips and also all about his obsessive gambling addiction. How if we booked anything he would just spend the cash we gave him in the betting shop as soon as we left. Jazz on the other hand just told us about her three children, their various fathers, and her troubled life in Streatham, South London. What a treat!
Bugibba and St Paul’s
As the weather was better and the crazy wind had dropped a bit we retraced our steps round Qawra Point to see Bugibba in the sunshine. It’s all part of St Pauls which is the biggest town in northern Malta and it’s population actually triples during the summer months with all the tourists wanting to visit. Much nicer and interesting to see more historical sights such as St Pauls Shipwreck Church.
Founded in memory of Saint Paul being shipwrecked on these very rocks the coast continued round to the impressive Wignacourt Tower. Also known as St Pauls Bay Tower, it is the oldest surviving watchtower in Malta built in 1610 as a defence against the Ottoman Empire. Variously used as a police station then a post office it is now a museum. Looked amazing in the afternoon Maltese sunshine.
At the end of our first full day we wandered back to the hotel before a more sensible evening meal and soft drinks. We planned to enjoy the food on offer and not go too crazy like a few of our fellow glutenous guests. With the weather improving and forecast to be even better we decided we quite liked Malta and were looking forward to more exploring over the coming days.