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Malta & Gozo (Bradt Travel Guides) Paperback – 27 Apr 2010
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'Bang up to date and easy to follow. ... full of fascinating asides.' Journal of the International Map Collectors' Society - Spring 2011
About the Author
Juliet Rix has been a journalist for 25 years and has worked for the BBC (television and radio), magazines, online media and British national newspapers.
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The Lonely Planet book was not bad, but not much more than an executive summary. In comparison, this book was rich in detail, filled with maps, pictures, and even mentioned various Maltese people by name (as in "Mr So-and-So provides a fantastic tour at this museum"). It contained much more information, and even included noteworthy sights that are not tourist attractions, alongside information about how to get to them. (For instance, a former hospital that is now a conference centre is described in detail, with information about the different rooms, and tips for how to get to walk around inside it. Or disused tunnels that can be viewed by appointment only - alongside the contact details that such appointments can be arranged with).
I will return home with my copy - and it has been worn, spent a day in the rain with me, the pages have weathered, as I have taken it everywhere. The Lonely Planet book, meanwhile, has ended up spending most of my trip stuck in my suitcase.
I do think this guide neds updating as Malta is now in the euro and it's public transport has undergone a major overhaul since writing, but if it's landmarks and places to see then this book is great for ideas before you go.
Unusually in a travel guide, the author argues that Malta's USP is not the sun, sea and sand but its history and prehistory, and although this is evident throughout it doesn't detract from the successful sale of the island as a holiday destination, for many other reasons, in my opinion.
The author is not afraid to call a spade a spade, at times, and the overall feeling is that for the best part it is a passionately written guide which can be relied on. The author also usefully stresses the use of forward planning when necessary; sometimes booking well in advance.....to avoid disappointment at, e.g. Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (where, incidentally, children under 6 years not admitted).
Measuring in around 13.5 cm x 21.5 cm with a depth of around 2 cm, the Bradt Travel Guides are not the smallest available but they are certainly comprehensive. Malta and Gozo covers Malta in great detail, less so on Gozo, and Comino also gets a mention!
The 312 good quality pages are split into two parts, each then logically divided:-
Part One - General Information
1. History (page 3-19)
2. Background & Information (page 20-36)
3. Practical Information (page 37 - 77)
4. Planning for your interests (page 78-101)
Part Two - The Guide
5. Valletta (page 105-142, preceded by a map of 'Valletta Orientation')
6. The Three Cities Birgu, Senglea & Cospicua (page 143-158)
7. Sliema, St Julian's and Paceville (page 159-170)
8. Southeast Malta (page 171-186)
9. South Malta (page 187 - 200)
10. Mdina and Rabat (page 201 - 218)
11. Central Malta (page 219 - 234)
12. North Malta (page 235 - 248)
13. Comino (page 249 - 252)
14. Gozo (page 253 - 296)
Appendix 1 (page 297 - 298) - Notes on language and some useful words and phrases
Appendix 2 (page 299 - 300) - Glossary
Appendix 3 (page 301 - 305) - Further Reading
The book opens with a colour map of Malta & Gozo with a key and note of the main attractions, including The Hypogeum, St Paul's Catacombs and Valetta with a quick reference page number, followed by some colour snapshots of what you shouldn't miss, e.g. Neolithic Temples and Carvings, Gozo, Auberge de Castille & horse racing.
'Malta at a Glance' is a useful section which includes public holidays, currency, telephone codes, the flag and the national bird.
Overall the first 101 pages are dedicated to general information.
The second part has all the usual things you would expect to find in a travel guide, e.g.:-
getting there and away, getting around, where to stay - top end, mid range, budget, self-catering accommodation, eateries, museums & galleries, parks & gardens, buses, Post Offices, what to see and do, etc, with any quoted prices current at the date of publication (May 2010), so can only be taken as a guide.
Other general information includes Local Dishes, Maltese Bread, where to go and what to do with the kids in Malta, disabled travellers, The Maltese Cross, Malta's winds, Yelkouan Shearwaters, Lampuka, Cart Ruts, 'a Thirsty Island?'...the book is literally packed with information, interspersed with groups of shiny colour plates and peppered with black and white maps.
The comprehensive index on pages 307-312 is usefully enhanced with bold entries indicating main information pages and italicised entries showing the aforementioned maps which include birding sites, Roman sites, some top dive sites, swimming & snorkelling sites, Tarxien Temples and churches.
The style of writing is easy and the cross-referencing is efficient throughout, for example - looking at 'snorkelling', in the index, one finds references (for both islands) and some useful observations from the author, good and bad, e.g.:-
'Swimming, snorkelling and diving (from page 90)
There are some wonderful places to swim in Malta, but the brochures do not always give a very honest impression of what to expect. You may be promised a 'private beach' and find a rocky foreshore. Nothing wrong with swimming from rocks - unless you were expecting to build sandcastles.
The following should help you to choose where to go and key sites are plotted on the map, page 92. The main tourist centres of St Julian's, Paceville and Sliema (see chapter 7) as well as Bugibba and Qawra (see pages 159 and 244) are basically rocky coasts. Many Maltese prefer swimming off rocks because the water is usually clearest here, much clearer than around the sandy shores. This makes it ideal for snorkelling, but swimming from rocks may not be so good for young children or those nervous of deep water......
The longest beach on Malta is Mellieha Bay. It offers great sand and sea, but is marred by a long main road and summer crowds.......'
From Bugibba, Qawra and Salina Bay, page 244:-
'This is the mass-market tourism centre of Malta: sunnier than Blackpool, but without the beach (or the illuminations). The only sandy beach here is a scruffy man-made patch outside the Dolmen Hotel, otherwise swimming is in the paint-peeling lidos or straight into deep water off the rocks on the seafront, backed by the long parade of bars, dodgems and McDonald's.
This is the downmarket version of St Julian's. One stretch of waterfront is officially named Bognor Beach and the Bognor Bar offers a pint and a chip butty for 2.50. I think you get the picture.
The opposite side of Qawra from St Paul's Bay looks over Salina Bay with salt pans and, on the far side of the water, a Knights' tower and an odd looking hill. The hill is in fact a vast rubbish dump that can get smelly when the weather is very hot and the wind in the wrong direction.'........
Sometimes the entries seem a little out of balance with, for example, Mellieha in the north of the island showing only three eateries as opposed to Marsaxlokk, a beautiful fishing village in the south-eastern corner of Malta with double the number, although the latter is where the Maltese tend to go to eat fresh fish!
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