Whenever in the past I've been to the Mediterranean, I've usually come back and done things like playing bouzouki music for a fortnight upon return; the idea being to recreate the atmosphere, and to remind myself that I've been away.  It's nothing new of course, people try to evoke pleasant memories by taking holiday snaps, buying souvenirs, and so on.  That begs the question - what would you take away from Malta in the way of memories, or anything else for that matter?

(By the way, if you're wondering what a bouzouki is, and are too afraid to ask, think of the theme tune to Zorba the Greek)

I can't think of many places I've been to in the past and felt so immediately relaxed.  That's possibly due to the fact that the flight is relatively short and painless, but it might also have something to do with being greeted at the bar of the Hotel Phoenicia with champagne and canapés. 

Victoria Citadel, GozoMalta is of course very UK-friendly, Eurovision votes notwithstanding. Short of draping the Union Flag everywhere and piping Elgar into each room, the Hotel Phoenicia could hardly have been more British in its feel, sporting photos of past guests such as a young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Noel Coward and others.  The hotel manager beamed as he told us how 'colonial' the Phoenicia was, and looked slightly perplexed at some of the party's slight expressions of embarrassment at the term.

Each hotel manager, whether of sprawling ostentatious complexes such as the Malta Hilton, or of smaller more intimate hotels such as the Phoenicia will tell you how the raw materials, the artistic and architectural influences, the colour schemes, all inherit characteristics from their locality.  This is where both Malta and its sister island Gozo score big, in being able to incorporate centuries-old character with that which is modern.

It's obvious to anyone who visits that the Maltese are very proud of their island, and also that as a people they are friendly and accommodating as a rule.  In today's bland business-speak, you could say that they are service-oriented. 

The wine cellar at 'Ta French' in GozoFor such a small island - or group of islands to be more precise - Malta boasts more five star hotels than you could shake a stick at, especially in the St Julian's area.  In my opinion (rarely offered as it is), if your job depended on staging an overseas conference, and that the delegates and partners had a good time with no major glitches, you couldn't do much better than Malta.

As with anything in life, there's at least one problem - the food.  You might just eat too much of it.  My discovery of the trip was that of sun-dried tomatoes.  I found them a refreshing change from my staple diet of black pudding, fish & chips and Lancashire hotpot.

So that's what I took away from Malta, a love of sun-dried tomatoes, and pretty much all things Maltese.  Oh, and also some quite good photos too.  Either I'm easily satisfied, or I actually did have great time at a wonderful place with good company.  I think it's probably the latter.

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