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TOP stars like Brad Pitt in the film Troy and Colin Farrell in the Alexander
movie have been sampling the delights of Malta.
So I jumped on a plane to find out what all the fuss is about. Three hours
later and I was there.
No sign of Brad, so I thought I should explore the island which, until
recently, was better known as a kiss-me-quick holiday destination.
Thanks to epics like Gladiator, also shot on the island, Malta is now a
Mediterranean honeypot for Hollywood film-makers and has long ago left behind
its bucket-and-spade image.
SPIRIT OF MALTA
MY first stop was the neighbouring island of Gozo. With some friends, I
joined a jeep safari trip. Our driver was more than happy to fill us in on the
history of the place during our bumpy and fairly rustic ride.
A few short stops to take in the fishing bay of Dahlet Qorrot, the red sand
beach at Ramala Bay and the impressive salt pans at Marsalforn Bay came before a
relaxing catamaran trip to the island of Comino. A chance to snorkel and swim,
not to mention snooze on board the boat, was welcome.
Unfortunately, probably thanks to all alcohol being free, the long trip back
to dry land resembled an 18-30s initiation ritual.
The Spirit of Malta Adventure, which includes the jeep safari, catamaran
trip, lunch and drinks costs pounds 41.50 per adult, pounds 28.20 per child
under 12, and is well worth the cash if you like wine with lunch!
ONE of the best things about Malta is the food. If you’re a seafood lover,
you’ll be in heaven. The harbours are host to restaurants stuffed full with
fresh catch of the day
And there’s nowhere better to sample fishermen’s fare than La Dolce Vita
restaurant in St Julian’s.
It’s a favourite with visiting celebrities and its walls are adorned with the
faces of the rich and famous.
Brad was still proving elusive, but the superb food, bustling atmosphere and
excellent staff made it a night for my stomach to remember.
AFTER a dubious encounter with the St Julian’s night life think Irish-
themed karaoke bars we woke to a tour of capital city, Valletta.
A guided half-day tour costs pounds 14.50 per adult, pounds 8 per child and
takes in the impressive Barraca Gardens, from which you’ll get superb views of
the Grand Harbour featured in upcoming blockbuster Alexander.
After visiting various churches and other points of natural beauty, our tour
guide was reluctant, despite our pleas, to take us to the bar where Oliver Reed
is said to have dropped dead after an epic drinking binge while filming
Gladiator. But we did persuade him.
Make sure you book a tour or buy a good guide book. There’s lots to see, so
it’s a good idea to know what ancient building you’re looking at.
And take some ear plugs, if you’re a light sleeper.
As everything is within walking distance, even the most exclusive hotels are
just a stone’s throw from noisy night clubs. Despite its undoubted charms, Malta
still is a bit brash, so I would prefer it as a short-break holiday destination,
to grab some Mediterranean sun and escape the everyday cares of home.
Unless you spot Brad Pitt, right, in which case I might even consider moving
The Sunday People, January 9, 2005