Valletta, Malta

Photo: Joshua Zader via flickr
Photo: Joshua Zader via flickr

Your flight to Malta kept getting delayed. A few minutes turned into an hour. An hour turned into two. You quickly lost your first afternoon on the Mediterranean island. But the delay ended up being a good thing. Your flight took off closer to sunset. As you descended toward Malta’s airport, the sky had faded to pink. The water almost looked purple. While lights were just starting to make Valletta’s churches and stone fortifications start to glow. Your normal arrival turned into an almost magical one.

You’re further delayed by, well, your own navigational skills, as you try to find your hotel in Valletta. The city may have been built on a grid pattern, but steep hills, narrow streets, and pedestrian-only alleyways make the capital difficult to figure out. It does give you the chance to immediately see the Upper Barrakka Gardens, the Grand Harbour, and St. John’s Co-Cathedral. You eventually find the hotel across from the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose grand dome you noticed earlier during your flight.

Casa Ellul looks like a regular Vallettian home from the early 19th century with its Neo-Classical facade. Its coved vestibule, colonnaded fireplace, and patterned tiles on the ground floor look fairly typical, as well. But the family who owns the home recently turned it into a small boutique hotel. A little sitting area and a large statue of Heracles fill the courtyard, where a chilled glass of Prosecco is awaiting your arrival. Design-focused suites feature timber-beamed ceilings, local artwork, and sleek gray bedding. Some rooms have jacuzzis. Others have views over Marsamxett Harbour. They all feel both comfortable and luxurious at the same time.

Photo: CASA ELLUL
Photo: CASA ELLUL

After drinking the Prosecco and chatting with your gracious hosts, you head outside to see the city at night. Despite your late arrival, you still have plenty of time to get to Rampila for your dinner reservation. The restaurant and wine bar, near the City Gate, is part of an old cavalier, where munitions and slaves were stored. The entrance looks like you’re heading underground. In a way, you are. The terrace opens to reveal hidden tables that look back toward the city, though. Between the view, the traditional Aljotta soup, and a bottle of Maltese Cabernet Franc, you’re starting to feel right at home in Valletta.

You feel so comfortable, in fact, that you opt for another glass of wine, instead of returning to the hotel, after dinner. You find Tico Tico down a little alley that used to be part of the red-light district. Music and people spill out of the little bar. The smell of tapas dishes mixes with the salty air. While you can hear the sound of corks popping from wine bottles every few minutes.

Just one more drink. Then you’ll return to Casa Ellul, climb into your cozy bed, and fall into a deep sleep. Only sunlight, streaming through your terrace’s louvered doors will wake you in the morning. Valletta is indeed magical.

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