Luckily it was only a short walk from where the bus dropped us off and it was all downhill so dragging the bags wasn’t too much of a chore. The sun was shining and it was a perfect Spring temperature as we made our way along the driveway to the Mellieha Bay Hotel and to the reception.
Mellieha Bay Hotel…
I could tell that Kim wasn’t overly impressed. The hotel was opened in 1969 and I had visited and stayed there in 1996 and 1997. At nearly fifty years old and almost twenty since my last stay the place was showing its age and to be honest you would probably have to say a little beyond its best and in need of some attention.
But what the place lacked in style was more than compensated for by the welcome that we received at check in. In a 2013 report by the World Economic Forum Malta placed seventeenth in a list of most friendly countries in the World (Iceland was first and Bolivia was last but I don’t think the list included Syria or Palestine) and it is also currently placed sixty-seventh in the New Economics Foundation Happy Planet Index.
The room wasn’t ready and the man at the desk apologised for that but I didn’t really mind at all because just along the way at the end of the room I could see the bar so we made our way to the delightfully sunny terrace and ordered a beer.
This turned out to be rather a shock because it was €4.50 for a half a litre which for my sort of travel budget feels like a bit of a mugging so one of the first jobs was going to be to find a mini-market with sensible prices.
Luckily we sat close to a couple who were preparing to go home and as they had been there for a week were full of good advice about bars, shops and restaurants. They told us about the weather, the buses, the sightseeing and the hotel. At some point in the conversation he leaned forward and whispered ‘yesterday the French started to arrive and they are a lot of them’ and we could tell by the tone of his voice that this was something that he clearly disapproved of.
It didn’t take long for the room to be made ready and soon we were unpacking, changing into summer clothes and admiring the spectacular view from our balcony across the bay to the village of Mellieha on the opposite side. Kim’s Malta assessment was still on the wrong side of the love/hate scale but that view helped nudge it in the right direction.
We walked out now to investigate the place and strolled around the edge of the horseshoe shaped bay with its sandy beach and multicoloured sea that sparkled in the sunshine and made our way to the string of bars on the other side. As we walked we found some nice looking restaurants with reasonable prices and all the while the indicator needle on the scale was moving positively. I confess that I too have been guilty of making hasty assessments on arrival at places but I generally find it is best not to – things generally work out for the best – and if they don’t you can always trash the place!
Mellieha Village, Malta…
It was a steep walk to the village with a long sweeping road that looped around in extravagant sweeping bends and we were glad when we reached the top and the huge Parish Church. Every village in Malta and Gozo has a church the size of a medieval cathedral and all have a story of how it was paid for and built by the residents of the village and this one is no exception. It is indeed a grand structure standing in the most prominent place in the village with glorious views in all directions.
The main square has had extensive infrastructure works since I was last there but really you can’t really accuse Mellieha of being especially attractive but along the main streets and the steep side alleys, so steep that the pavements need steps, there are some interesting buildings and some fascinating balconies – some looking rather precarious I have to say.
Apart from a visit to the war time air raid shelter cut into the rocks under the church, there isn’t a great deal to see in Mellieha, even though it has been included in the EU list of ‘European Destination of Excellence’ it isn’t really a tourist destination and it is all the better for that, so after a while exploring the streets we made our way back down to the bay and selected a bar for a beer and a snack of a Maltese platter.
The beer was a lot cheaper than the hotel and the platter was delicious so by the time we returned to the hotel via the mini-market Kim was coming round to my point of view about Malta. I think she was starting to love it!
After a walk along the beach front and a temperature test in the swimming pool – way too cold – we spent the early evening on the balcony where the fierceness of the afternoon sun was replaced by the soothing cool of early evening as the scents of the gardens wafted into our room on a gentle breeze and we looked out over the glassy translucent sea as the lights of Mellieha started to flicker on one by one and leave a reflection in the sea.
Kim chose the restaurant, she is so much better at it than me and we had an excellent first meal and I think we both knew that we had found a place that we would be returning to.
Since you are here, check out my visit to the Mellieha World War Two Air Raid Shelters.