|Hagar Qim Neolithic Temple|
Malta first appeared on my horizon in books on the archaeology of the Mediterranean. Some of the oldest Neolithic temples yet discovered are there, including the Hypogeum, an underground ritual complex unparalleled anywhere in the world.
|Upper Barrakka Gardens and Bastion|
Then I discovered Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles, a series of sweeping historical novels. One, The Disorderly Knights, was largely set on Malta, and played against the background of the Great Siege, when the Ottoman Empire besieged the Knights Hospitallers of St John. That was it for me. Not only was I hooked on Lymond, that flawed and fascinating character, I was also snared by Malta itself and the breathtaking spread of unbroken history of the tiny collection of islands.
|Foyer of Asti Guest House|
So, when I decided to spend part of my retirement lump sum on travel, Malta was right at the top of my list. An online search found the Asti Guest House, what looked to be a cheap and cheerful B&B on Valletta's St Ursula Street. Air Malta had a good deal on flights, so despite my deep fear of flying, I was off.
|Old Yellow bus|
Malta turned out to be everything I’d dreamed of, and more. Valletta, Marsaxlokk, Rabat and Mdina captivated me. The old, mostly individually owned and run yellow buses seemed to be held together by paint, rosaries and prayers, were driven with insouciant disregard for the mostly unsurfaced roads and other road users, and the Maltese were unfailingly cheerful and friendly.
When I returned to Malta the next year, walking through the gate in Valletta’s massive walls was like coming home. That was my last visit for some years. I went back for a third time in November 2012, to find some changes. By now Malta was part of the EU, the yellow buses had been replaced by a fleet of Arriva buses, some the bendy sub-species, and were in a rather drab blue and white livery, and most of the roads were surfaced. But the magic still remained. It still felt as if I was returning to a familiar and much loved place. I'll be going back, needless to say, when I can afford it and when I can screw up enough courage to walk onto a plane...
Apologies for a travelogue of a post, I could rave for a long time about Malta. I'll spare the reader my overenthusiastic burblings, and just say that plot ideas leapt out at every corner. One of them was inspired by Caravaggio's paintings in the Oratory of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta. The title appeared at the same time—Caravaggio's Angel. It took another six years for me to start working on the idea, over a year to finally finish, polish and submit it. Now, just short of eight years later, Caravaggio's Angel is to be released this month by Totally Bound.
It can be preordered from March 18th, will be available on their website on March 28th, and on general release from April 25th. Link HERE
To finish up, if you want to visit Malta, and would like to stay in a basic and scrupulously clean B&B in an old Maltese house, I recommend the Asti GH. If you want something less basic, then try the Castille Hotel - it used to be a palace!