Much of the Maltese economy is based on the tourist trade from Northern Europe and most of the bars, especially in the seaside place, are geared to that trade. Multiple huge plasma screens show football (soccer) from UK, Germany, Italy or wherever or else pump out interminable dance music on a continuous loop. That is all well and good, and I have no problem with it but occasionally I just want to find a friendly, quiet bar and have a beer either reading a book or chatting to the bar staff or other customers. On one of my frequent wanders through the backstreets of Sliema, I found just such a place and I loved it. It is called the Hole in the Wall and is a great little place.
On speaking to the new owner (of nine months standing) Ian and his lovely daughter Kristal I got a bit of a history of the place and also had some lovely evenings. Although well-documented on the appended website, I shall give you a brief synopsis here. The name "Hole in the Wall" is appropriate as that is what it literally was. There was a hole in the wall of the stable, which is what the building originally was, and an enterprising gentleman sold the local (excellent) Maltese wine to peopl through it. They would then either stand about drinking or take it home for consumption.
After 70 years and many changes in the hands of the same family, the bar has now been bought by Ian who is in the process of refurbishing it sympathetically, always conscious of the "olde worlde" charm of the premises. If you go here, and you should, just take a look at the doors which are not a design feature, they are still in use and are quite wonderful. I have included some images. There is a pleasant mix of locals, expats and travellers here and a good atmosphere.
Certainly I had some great evenings in the more touristed bars on the front but for something a bit more laid back and off the beaten path this place is well worth seeking out.
The bar is open Mon to Fri: 15:00 – 1:00 hrs and Sundays: 17:00 – 1:00 hrs although this is expected to extend soon. Being on one level, it would be wheelchair accessible although I am not sure about an accessible toilet.
It is a sad and awful truth of war that you don't have to be a soldier to suffer the consequences. This memorial is a case in point and reminded me very much of a similar memorial near where I live in London. I can almost guarantee the good people of Sliema did not have to fight a battle with international developers for use of the land like their London conterparts did.
This small but touching memorial stands on the seafront in Sliema and gives mute testimony to the appalling suffering and caualties of the Maltese people at the hands of the Germand and Italians during the Second World War. As I was walking towards his memorial, I was behind an elderly German couple who did not even pause to look at it. That made me think a bit.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the area of East London I live in has many Maltese people and many of the surnames were very familiar to me which made it even more poignant. Yet again, this is another of my tips you may wish to ignor completely, but if you are n the area I would urge you to just pause and reflect a moment on what happened here not so many years ago.
I have been struck in my relatively short time in Malta by how fond they seem to be of public statuary. Virtually every ten yards you will find some sort of statue, either old or very modern. I suspect it must be something i the Medittaranean psyche that like susch things.
Anyway, on a walk along the seafront between Sliema and St. Julians on my first day in Malta, I was struck by the sculpture you can see in the images. Relatively modern, it was not a tatic piece but the globe was revolving, apparently moved along by the water. I did see another similar piece later in Valletta so I am not sure if this is a popular form here.
Basically the globe rotates, fairly fast, but not as you might expect along an axis through the poles which is how the Earth apparenty moves but the other way, through an equitorial axis. It threw me a little but it was still a very impressive piece. As the images show, there are some fairly thought provoking pieces written around the base. I was slightly taken aback to find a Red Indian proverb in the middle of the Med!
I quote here in the title unashamedly from the title of the Dylan song, so wonderfully covered by Jimi Hendrix, such are my musical leanings.
Early in my stay in Malta, I was having a leisurely stroll alo9ng the seafront in Sliema, heading for the adjacent St. Julian's (San Giljan) when I came upon this tower. Initially, I was unsure if it was a genuine historical building or a modern reproduction, such was it's state of repair. It really was in good order and looked like it could have been erected a few years ago. I have seen such facsimile buildings on the island.
A little research, however, established it's provenance as one of the 13 towers built by the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta called Martin de Redin in 1658 - 1659. Redin was an Arago9nes knight. These were in addition to five towers built by his predecessor Grand Master Lascaris and formed an excellent defensive and warning shield around the island. The towers were all visible to the next one in the chain all the way from Gozo to Grand Harbour so an alarm of potential invasion of Corsair raid could be raised all along the coast. The alarm was raised by means of smoke during daylight hours and by bonfires at night.
I believe some of the so-called Redin Towers are accessible although this one appears not to be. I should point out that I visited off-season so maybe it does open in summer, I can find no information on this. I did find it rather impressive in it's state of repair although it is not large. The last image shows a more modern view and indicates the very seaside town out of season nature of Sliema in winter. Worth a look if you are passing. Just pause and think of the soldiers manning the tower watching for the possibility of imminent battle from the sea.
A cruise around the Grand Harbour is a must for any visit to Malta, and trips are easy to arrange from the Strand in Sliema where the water taxis go from. In fact you'll have salespeople falling over themselves to sell you tickets. In the off season you can even bargain the prices down a little if you have patience. A typical cruise of the two harbours will take about a couple of hours and cost around 10 and 15 Euros. It can get quite choppy out on the wild Mediterranean when you are switching between harbours, so pick your day and take a bigger boat if you suffer from sea sickness.
Recently redeveloped, the Tigne Point area of Sliema offers a quiet, traffic free walk along the coast, with the best views of Valletta in town. This is where Sliema juts out into the rough seas of the Mediterranean, so the breezes are fresh and cool. The walk is worth coming twice a day for, and best of all its kid friendly, with high fences, stone walls, and no cars. While they demolished the old barracks to make way from the shopping centre, hotels, cinemas and recreation areas, they left Fort Tigne, which you can visit on your walk around the peninsula.
There's not really a lot to see in Sliema, but what exists in pretty dramatic and unmissable. The view of Valletta is the best, taking in the spire of St. Paul's Cathedral and the dome of the Carmelite church at the best possible angle. When the sun shines its softened light from the west about an hour before sunset, this is the perfect time to be here and take pictures. It makes the ideal place for posing, and you'll find many people doing just that.
Highlight of our visit walking (Mrs B recently had a knee operation) from Sliema into St Julians, took us around 2 hours at a very gentle place. Several cafes along the way for a few minutes rest and a beer, bus back!
Unveiled in 2002, this sculpture on Sliema promenade entitled 'White Shadows' depicts cut-outs of a family walking on the prom. It is an apt addition to the area (many people enjoy a stroll on the promenade here) and the concrete slab it is made from does not look out of place. The sculptor, Richard England, named the sculpture such because in the heat of the day, the large shadows that the cut-outs make earlier in the day disappear. In winter months, when the sun is at its lowest, the figures of the sculpture project mysterious-looking white shadows onto the promenade.
Head down to the Sliema Ferries terminus on the Strand and jump on a 'hop-on hop-off' open top bus tour of the South of the island which both starts and ends in Sliema.
Tickets can be bought before boarding at the small kiosk marked 'Maltasightseeing'. Then just get on the RED bus and relax. The best views are from the upper deck of course.
The tour takes around two hours and costs 15 Euro per adult but it is definitely worth the money and time. There is audio commentary throughout the tour and the driver will provide you with earphones so you can understand more about the history and tradition of the areas you pass through. Commentary is available in eight languages: Maltese, English, German, French, Danish, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.
The highlight of the tour is the fishing village of Marsaxlokk where a great little market takes place and seafood can be enjoyed at the harbourside. You also enjoy excellent views of the Grand Harbour in Valletta from the tourbus. The beauty of this trip is that you can hop off the bus wherever you like and rejoin a following service, just make sure you keep hold of your ticket!
About 7 buses operate a day during weekdays and Saturdays with about 4 in operation on Sundays. There is a gap of an hour between each. Don't miss the last one! Also be aware that some of the places you visit may be closed on Sundays. It's best to check before you get off.
Manoel Island is ripe for tourist development now and I believe plans are afoot for this along with the development of Tigne Point a bit further down the Sliema promenade. Completion date is estimated for 2012 - main components of the development will include a marina village consisting of about 450 residential units, a modern yacht club, a small hotel, a casino (the former quarantine hospital), a sports center and a small-scale marine-related commercial development, and a modern marina catering for 400 berths - see website below if interested in this multi-million pound project. Sounds a huge project!
For now though these ducks are sitting tennants! Their little duck homes can be seen just a the beginning of Maonel Island just after crossing the stone causeway on the left hand side. The craft centre that used to be here has now relocated to the crafts village not far from Mdina.
The old Seawater distillery was built in 1881 and it was the very first such factory in Malta. Getting fresh drinking-water was always one of the main problems of the island, but this distillery was used only for quite a short period. You will find this historical building next to the church of Jesus of Nazareth.
I really spent a lot of time on the balcony of my room in Hotel Milano Due because it was great to watch the sun rising or when a large cruiseship was going to sail into the harbour of Valetta, like you will see it here in my last photo !
I think it was really worth to pay a bit more for a room facing the waterfront directely and not only side-wards with 5 baloconies in a row next to each other, where only the 1st one has a tiny bit of a view from the backside of a sidestreet.
b.t.w. at the beginning of November I payed here 31 euros for the single-use of a doubleroom, breakfast included.
Manoel Island used to be the island, where explosives and gunpowder was stored and there are several forts as well. Fort Manoel was built like a star and it dates back to 1725. There is a bridge nowadays to the island, but I just had a look at it from the distance, I simply did not have enough time to explore every part of Sliema.
"The Strand" is the name of the great boulevard along the coastline of Sliema and Gzira, a great area to relax and enjoy the great panorama with boats and La Valetta in the background. Most of the sightseeing buses start from here or have at least a station there, where you can join the tours and a ferryboat is sailing on a regular basis from the Strand to Valetta.