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DESTINATIONS harbour


Malta has reopened to British tourists, and it all feels pleasingly familiar, finds David Golledge


h travelweekly.co.uk


aving ventured little farther than my local high street for nearly four months, I have to admit I was feeling a bit apprehensive


at the thought of flying anywhere, even by mid-July. Since March, the idea of travel had transformed from being second nature to something quite alien. But any doubts were allayed as soon as I arrived in Malta, thanks to warm welcomes from my taxi driver, hotel receptionist and tour guide, warmer even than the Mediterranean island’s balmy temperatures. All seemed raring to catch up on lost time, with each telling me that I was their first British guest since lockdown. I’ve been to a few obscure places before, but it seemed odd to be blazing a trail by visiting Malta in July – especially as I’d been before and knew the importance of the British market.


CITY SIGHTS


As soon as we arrived in the capital, Valletta, the city felt just as captivating as I remembered – streets lined with honey-coloured sandstone buildings bathed in


glorious sunshine and awash with historic charm. Given the upheaval of recent months, the strange thing was just how normal it felt, with many locals going about their daily lives. Local guide Darrell told me that since reopening for tourism at the beginning of July, the country had seen a smattering of visitors, mostly from Germany and Italy. “British visitors should expect a warm welcome,” he added. The island feels like a melting pot of languages


and cultures, blending British, Italian and North African influences. Road signs, red telephone boxes and postboxes will look familiar to UK visitors, having remained ever since the former colony gained its independence in 1964. We popped into local institution Caffe Cordina, which dates back to 1837 and serves the traditional local pastry pastizzi with a choice of mushy peas or ricotta. Valletta was originally built to house the order of the Knights of St John, and their presence seems to extend throughout the tiny city. Despite appearing rather nondescript from the outside, the baroque ²


30 JULY 2020 RESTARTING TRAVEL | MALTA


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