A Stroll in Sliema

Sunday October 9th 2005

Breakfast could probably be worse - porridge for instance. At least the bread is decent if you can persuade the dull knife to cut. Check if the plate is clean and don't touch the chair's sticky arms. Ok, you get what you pay for - and it is cheap - but none the less reality doesn't fit the description very well.

Via Sir Adrian Dingli Street you can cross the peninsula and get to The Strand, where the ferries lie. From here you can go to Valletta, on a harbour cruise, around the island, to The Blue Grotto, to Gozo or even to Sicily.

On the way we noticed the local architecture with yellow blocks of stone and brightly painted bay windows. Many houses have small pious figurines on the wall beside the door.

From Sir Adrian Dingli Street in Sliema House in Sir Adrian Dingli Street

Knocker Pious decoration  Pious decoration
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On The Strand we enjoy an espresso with a view across the harbour to Valletta and then walk along the waterfront to our side of the peninsula. Concrete boxes up to eight stories high have replaced almost every traditional house on Tower Road.

The sun shines and there is a breeze from the Med - lovely weather. The water is very clear and some swim or sunbathe. There are many natural "tubs" along the rocky coast, and some of the tubs have clearly had a helping excavating hand.

The Sliema-Valletta ferry Balluta Bay seen from Tower Road on Sliemas North side
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St. Julians' Harbour

We go on towards St. Julians, where we drop in at The Mariner's Pub. Our lunch is a light sandwich with canned tuna in tomato plus a pint of the local lager, Cisk.

This is certainly no gourmet's temple, but there is a terrific view over Balluta Bay from the balcony, until a sudden shower drives us inside. The shower doesn't last long and we go home for a siesta. We are still pretty tired after the journey and sleep like babies.

Two hours later we emerge. Down on the corner I enter Vino Veritas to get a table for tonight. The waiter asks for my name and haltingly writes "Pi". I take the pen and write BENTZEN in capital letters. Then he asks: "Are you Polish?".

Helle is reading the menu outside. You can have spaghetti with rabbit, Spaghetti con corniglio, and that is new! We stroll along the waterfront towards St. Julians; the aim is to find a café where life passes by, while we sit comfortably watching its progress.

Traffic is dense, and with intervals one of the vintage yellow-orange Bedford buses passes by. The vintage buses are a characteristic sight in Malta. Like yesterday many locals are out for a promenade, and there are many children with bikes and toys.

Bus in Main Street, St. Julians Malta-bus Malta-bus
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Above St. Julians' harbour houses climb the rocks in a half circle, and on the quay tourists thrive in the restaurants. At San Giuliano's there is parasol-shade and we order espresso and water. The waiter asks kindly:
"How are you?".
I answer "Fine thanks. And you? Are you busy?"
"No" he says and continues: "at the moment it is almost relaxation, but later we'll be running like dogs!"
A lively English party seems determined to empty the wine cellar, and a few metres away a couple of Maltese paint their wooden boats with a clear blue. A small handwritten sign warns: "WET PAINT".

St. Julians' harbour One of the traditional fishing boats - a luzzu St. Julians' harbour
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On the way home we make a detour to the streets behind the waterfront. Everything here is very quiet and residential. Many houses have names: "Broadway", "Lincoln", "Edison", "Warrior", "Per Gynt". Cars are parked everywhere, but you see no houses named Volvo or BMW.

Dinner at Vino Veritas

Vino Veritas on Facebook

The sun sets at about half past six. Lights are switched on, and out on the point in Paceville the casino's neon sign wakes up. There are many guests at Vino Veritas, so it was wise to reserve a table.

Helle gets deep-fried Maltese cheese with salad as a starter and I get mushrooms + shrimps with a fragrant garlic flavour. Big portions!

For main course we have ordered spaghetti con corniglio (rabbit), and the portions are huge. I wonder if there was a prize if we had eaten it all? We could have shared one portion and still have left some.

It is a busy place, and it is clear that the staff wants you to finish quickly and make room for new guests. For instance the main course was served less than 30 seconds after our starter plates had been removed. No time for a smoke or a discrete burb.

The wine is called "Red Label" something. The waiter and the label say it is a local wine, but the label also says that the grapes were harvested in Italy.

In general imported wines are more expensive than the "local" wines, so maybe it has something to do with tax and customs, and besides there cannot possibly be enough space in Malta to grow the wine consumed.

When we have eaten the rabbit and half the spaghetti we cannot possibly eat more and finish off with coffee and a brandy. The bill is 18.40 Maltese pounds.

Vino Veritas

59, Sir Adrian Dingli Street, Sliema. Tel. 21 324273.
Open 12 - 14.30 and 18.30 - 24.00.

Pizza and pasta restaurant visited by many locals. The food is good and cheap. "Normal" portions are huge, but you can get some dishes in smaller portions with a 30% discount. When we visited, pop music was played semi loud and this can be annoying. We also felt that they wouldn't mind sincerely if we finished quickly; however service was kind and professional.
Price level: cheap.
About Vino Veritas

John, a Malta Veteran

We are not ripe for bed and visit the hotel bar. An old gentleman asks kindly if this is our first visit to Malta. He is tall and has a tan and snow-white hair and beard. He obviously wants to chat and tells us that he has been to Malta many times during the last 49 years.

The first time was with the Royal Navy after the war and since then he has been here many times with his wife and daughter. Once they lived here for 18 months when he worked for the Navy.

Then his wife died a few years ago, and John returned to Malta to see if the ghosts were gone. They were, he says, and now he has returned on his own once again.

We chat and are joined by a heavy-set beer drinker from Manchester. He and I go outside to have a smoke. In Malta you may not smoke in public places like bars and restaurants.

We agree with this, "but why are we treated like lepers?", the guy from Manchester asks. It is past midnight before we get to bed.