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Each morning they pour in.  Off the yellow buses, reaching the Bus Terminus in City Gate with its Triton Fountain busily cooling the air with water gushing out of tipped vases held by three of Neptunes’ staff.  A message of what waits in store for the Maltese men, women and youths as they are first to lay claim to its streets and take their place at their desk, deep within the walls of a stately Auberge, echoing with the voices and traditions of the Knights who lived in it, long before it became the Ministry of Tourism or other administrative function.

But here they will push paper and pen, not sword or dagger.  Though, who knows?  Do those suits of armour lining the corridors, sometimes shift and sigh?  Could be. 

Once hunger sets in, its back out onto the streets to find a cafe’, eat pasitizzi and catch up on some gossip and make calls and plans.  But now they must jostle for a place to sit, amongst tourists and shoppers eager for a break before returning home to their town or village from where they have come.

The bells of St John’s Co-Cathedral begin to toll, so whoever did not manage to enter into this splendid abode, must wait for some time.  People from Italy, France, Britain, Germany, Holland, Japan and other nations are exiting the narrow Cathedral doors, with a look of stunned amazement at what they have just seen but eager to move on to the next site.  And hurry they must, because with all that there is to see in one morning, its amazing that their guide is able to steer them so well and complete the tour.  Maybe the bells keep time.

Over on Merchants Street, the Monti has packed up.  Since early morning their stands lined the bottom part of the road and attracted huge crowds of locals and tourists.  Some came to browse and pass the time before a coffee, some to purchase their fresh product for the day, others putting together an outfit for a fun-party or searching for a CD.  Now its time to pack up for the day.

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Shops close by 1.00 pm, shoppers go home, workers are back at their desks, shutters are drawn and siesta time arrives.  For the next 3 hours the pigeons have the place to themselves.  The Upper Barrakka gardens overlooking the awesome view of the Grand Harbour continue to attract tourists and some locals who spend some quality time snoozing on the shaded benches under the trees.

Slowly the pace begins to pick up again, before, in a little while, the opposite happens and those who arrived early this morning now embark on their exodus from Valletta, to their journey back home. 

In between rush hour and early evening, trade continue to dominate the streets before their shutters are noisely pulled down at 7.00 pm and cocktail hour officially starts.

On an ordinary weekday, the town is now transformed into an elegant lady, the mood is tranquil and the patrons more sophisticated and at leisure.  Carefully they choose their restaurant for the evening or go down a few steps into the cellar wine bars.  Others head for the recently converted 300 year old warehouses along the Valletta Waterfront, now offering a choice of several bars and restaurants open every day of the week for lunch or dinner. 

Over the weekend, the Manoel Theatre open its doors, whilst over at St. James Cavalier,  the art centre thrives.

Museums, 16th century churches, shady narrow roads and a legacy of the Grandmaster La Vallette himself, dominate the scene in this unique and historic town.  Too late, now, perhaps to look back and dwell on those days when Knights went about their business or later when sailors fell into the streets and Governors held Grand Balls.  But content to age with dignity and a fine reputation!

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Across the Grand Harbour, Fort St. Angelo sits proudly defending the Three Cities behind.  Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea.  The thick and sombre bastion walls rising up from the rocky shores and docks of the harbour, would relate unforgettable stories if given a chance.  But now they are silent, weary and proud.  Their job was done in 1565, in the Great Siege, defending the population from the invasion of the Turks.  Today, in the shimmering blue water below, are pontoons lined with Superyachts;  ship building yards;  leisurely waterfronts;  a casino and local trendy restaurants in centuries old buildings. 

The people here are caught in a unique time – between the glorious past and a beckoning future.  Some long to go forward , others hate the idea of change.
But the Church of Christ the Redeemer is a constant prescence in their shifting world.  And if they were heading forward too swiftly, one look at the relics in the church of St. Lawrence and they need no further reminding of the perils in store.

So the Festa arrives, the statues come out and the celebration begins.  The Feast of St. Lawrence, celebrated on August 10th is a major event and fireworks light up the sky and revelry erupts in the streets.  Families open their homes to their relatives and friends, stalls sell nougat and honeyrings and all is forgotten for the time or until the next feast, on 8th September – The Nativity of Our Lady.  Also the day when the Regatta is held, in the long tradition of Senglea.

A quick look around and it is evident that there is more to this place then you could ever imagine.  The Maritime Museum, The Inquisitors Palace, Malta at War Museum and the lovely Vedette, with a view across the Grand Harbour to Valletta and Fort St. Elmo can easily fill a day of sightseeing before heading back onto the yellow bus, satisified with a day well spend and a positive experience.


Millennium Travel
Mews 2, Dean Hamlet Complex
Triq il-Qaliet
St. Julian's STJ 3223

Tel: (+356) 21380596
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