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Maltese Moments And Hollywood Heroes

By The Bondi Travel Bug on May 27, 2016 in Other

Photo: The Bondi Travel Bug

Photo: The Bondi Travel Bug

‘The Pub’ in Malta’s historic capital city of Valletta is unassuming to say the least. The tiny establishment’s exterior is inconspicuous, but inside it’s a shrine of sorts to one particular Hollywood legend.

This is the saloon where swashbuckling silver screen hero Oliver Reed passed away of a heart attack at the bar after drinking himself into oblivion.

We stumbled upon the venue while walking the narrow streets that make up the 800 square metres of this tiny historical town and decided to go in.

The walls are covered in photos of Reed and some of the movies in which he starred. Among them are The Three Musketeers, Oliver, The Devils, Woman in Love, Tommy and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but it was while working on The Gladiator with Ridley Scott with Russell Crowe in Malta that he died.

A red-blooded and fiery character, Reed left nothing in reserve and lived life to the fullest. It’s just a shame he didn’t take that day off the demon drop to smell the roses and discover what Malta has to offer.

A tiny southern European island in the Mediterranean with a population of only 450,000, Malta is the smallest and most densely populated country, per capita, in the world.

Valletta was built on the highest point of the island with magnificent views to see the invading forces and was therefore much sought after as a military base. Over the centuries, Malta has been ruled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Spanish, French and the British – all attempted to use Malta’s strategic position in the Mediterranean as a base to launch military strikes.

Malta achieved independence in 1964 and became a republic in 1974.

Malta is a popular European tourist destination due to its many beaches and warm climate. During summer, from mid-July to mid September, the island can be very hot, with temperatures soaring up to 36 degrees, while spring and fall can be hot and humid also. The period from June to September is probably the best time to visit with an average temperature of 30 degrees.

While our time in Valletta was limited, we did find time to line up to visit St John’s Co-Cathedral and the short wait to see what was inside was well worth it. The Knights of Malta’s main church is up there with the most important Baroque buildings in Europe. Designed by military architects in the 1570s, every inch is covered in gold and marble, and the exquisitely painted vaulted ceilings are something to behold. Even the floor is a sea of tombs in coloured marble.

Another highlight inside is a painting by world-renowned artist Caravaggio. It’s his largest (and only signed) painting and depicts the beheading of St John the Baptist.

Outside of Valletta the countryside is surprisingly arid. Just a 20-minute drive away is the old walled city of Mdina.

Evidence of settlements in Mdina goes back to before 4000BC. It was possibly first fortified by the Phoenicians around 700BC, because of its strategic location on one of the highest points on the island and as far from the sea as possible.

When Malta had been under the control of the Roman Empire, the Governor built his palace there. Legend has it that it was in Mdina, in around 60AD, that Paul the Apostle lived after his ship ran aground on the islands.

Walking inside the city today it looks as though not much has changed since St Paul’s day – with the exception of a spattering of cafés and restaurants.

While in Malta we made a rather exciting gastronomic discovery: pastizzis. These small savoury pastry snacks are a stable of most Maltese locals and they come in a variety of fillings, including ricotta, peas and meat. Yum.

As it turns out, ‘The Pub’ the perfect place to wash down these moreish snacks. Be warned though; it is so tiny and tucked away in a narrow cobblestoned street that if you blink you’ll probably miss it. It’s worth tracking it down, though, if only to throw down a beer (or perhaps a sparkling water) and purchase the T-shirt that shows just how much alcohol the legendary actor consumed on that fateful day.

Vicki Gilden at Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166



136 Archbishop Street, Valletta