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4th April, 2016

Valletta, Malta

The canons roared for our arrival, well almost. In a pre-planned arrangement, the ceremonial canons just below Barrakka Gardens viewing point, high above Grand Harbour, were fired one by one as we backed into our berth.

We took the relatively short tour which took some of our folk to the Palazzo Parisio in the village of Naxxar. Built in the 18th century by the Portuguese Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, it was transformed in the late 19th century to what it is today by the banker Marquis Guiseppe Scicluna. These days his great granddaughter and her daughter are the custodians of this large old family home. Inside it is quite magnificent, with an impressive marbled staircase that leads up to rooms filled with lavishly decorated ceilings, murals, frescoes, antique furniture and rare paintings. The master bedroom has its own richly decorated family chapel, there is a superb billiard room, but the gilded, mirrored ballroom is perhaps the highlight. Outside the gardens, designed in the classic baroque style, were where we had time to amble.

After the visit our coach passed by the impressive Church of the Assumption in Mosta whose Dome, we were told, is the third largest unsupported dome in the world. During the Second World War a bomb pass straight through without exploding.

We took the opportunity of being dropped off in Valletta so that we could take a walk down Republic Street, which was popular as usual. There seems to be even more pavement cafes these days, even so we had a struggle to find a table in the sun, but it was lunchtime and there were many local business folk who must have had the same idea. Finally I left Mrs R to complete her mission, and strolled back down towards the harbour, stopping from time to time to take in the magnificent views.

It is always a delight to sail in to Valletta and departing this day was just as good as we had a second round of cannon fire as a send-off. Somewhere up there maybe a Saga photographer will have captured the moment, next year’s brochure perhaps?

Captain Philip Rentell

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