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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The time has come for Malta

I don't remember when my fascination with Malta started but it's decades long. I con only think that it was from back in the day as a teenager reading Mills and Boon romance novels and later, reading endless Harlequin romances. Several years ago, I was going to Prague to present two academic papers and I made a detour to Santorini - another spectacularly romantic place. Only after booking the Santorini part did I think that it could have been Malta instead. No regrets about Santorini. I'd go back in a heartbeat. But Malta has been calling for many years. 

This year, Sunita invited us to go to Italy with them. She's wanted to visit the Amalfi Coast since she was in high school or early university. I was not so keen about Italy but decided that since it was so close to Malta, I could do both. So in February when I was in Isla Mujeres, the idea of a trip to Europe became a definite "Must Do" if it included Malta. 

Sunita and I planned an itinerary. They'd go to England and a European tour and end in Rome. Robin and I would do Malta and meet Sunita and her family in Rome. Then we'd all go to the Amalfi Coast for a week and back to Rome for a few days before heading home. 

Along the way planning, we invited Subhadra. She decided to spend a week in Mata with Robin and I and would meet her friend Sara in Rome to continue on to Florence, then Switzerland,, Lyon, Paris and home. Subhadra's fascination with Malta began with one of her favourite movies - The Count of Monte Cristo - which was filmed on location on the smallest of the three main Maltese islands of Comino. The movie is one of my favourites too and I love the scenery of the cliffs from which the Count dives off. 

So that's what we did. We planned a very complicated itinerary of multiple countries and multiple legs of a four week trip with three sets of people meeting, staying and departing from various places. 

When I booked the flight in April and the itinerary changed soon after and two more times, I should have trusted my intuition, but I was too busy with other things to pay close attention. I should have. In the initial itinerary, we had 3 hours in Rome to get our connecting flight. Some connections are tight but this was a good amount of time to get through immigration in Rome and get to our gate. The departure flight from Winnipeg changed to 30 minutes earlier. Still good. Then the Toronto flight changed to a 30 minute later departure. I was comfortable with the connecting time so it was still good but getting tight. 

We arrived in Toronto with lots of time to spare but realizing that we'd have a tight connection so the three of us strategized over some Thai food as to how we we could efficiently get off the plane in Rome and get to our connecting flight. 





The best laid plan can go awry. And did it ever!  We kept looking at the gate info. to see when it would be updated with a departure time. Finally the flight left Toronto 45 minutes past the time it was supposed to. That meant we'd be lucky to make our Rome connection and could only hope that the Malta flight would be delayed. No such luck. 







The plane made up no time. in fact, it was a few minutes later than the already late arrival time. We deplaned very quickly but there was a HUGE line-up on the runway for a shuttle to take us into the terminal. It was at least another 20 minutes! 


We got into the airport and virtually galloped to the Air Malta check-in counter, only to be told by the adjacent Air Canada attendant that the Air Malta counter closed only a few minutes prior. Needless to say, we did not get onto the flight. 

It was quite a fiasco to find the Air Malta counter. We were finally told that they have no office at the Rome airport, only an agent on site. We each had to buy a one way ticket to Malta which cost us more than the return ticket we bought months earlier. Then we had to go outside and haggle with some criminal taxi drivers who must have thought we were stupid tourists so wanted to charge nearly $30 Euros for a 5 minute taxi ride. 

We finally paid 20 Euros to go to a hotel in Fuimicino which I booked on Expedia while waiting to pay for our Malta flight. We were doing all this on about 2-3 fitful hours of sleep on an overnight flight from Toronto. Fortunately the hotel was quite cute and the room clean and "Friendly". We showered and crashed for a few hours of much-needed sleep. 



Then it was time to find some food. Subhadra was not feeling well so she stayed and slept while Robin and I found the cosiest restaurant - the Pecora Nera (Black Sheep) about 5 minutes walk from the hotel. The owners could speak no English and our Italian was limited to Ciao (Hello/Goodbye) but we managed to get some great food served to us on their patio! And to think, we didn't order by picture. I don't know how we did it but everything was so delicious that it was very well worth missing the flight. That experience was almost a bad memory. 



Marinara topped pizza rounds, crusted zucchini 

Ricotta stuffed duplings

Grilled eggplant and chicken breast

Gnocchi in marinara sauce

Wine bar


We took some food back to the hotel for Subhadra and we had a chat about the missed flight. She said that she would not have known what to do if she was travelling alone but I've been in earthquakes, typhoons, blizzards, missed flights, volcanic ash and a host of other things when flying, so I get frustrated then put it aside and do what needs to get done without raging at the staff. That gets you nowhere - fast! 

So a lesson when flying - expect the unexpected.  





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