A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
White Night Festival Lights up a Future Capital of Culture
My husband and I were staying in Sliema, which is just across the harbour from Valletta and has great views of the city, it's also only a 15 minute bus ride away.
The well organised bus services ran packed buses every few minutes from where we were staying and we bought tickets at the local Arriva transport booth on Sliema prom for just 3 Euros each, which entitled us to all day travel around the island and use of the late night buses to return to our hotel.
Valletta is only a small city with a population of about 7,000 inhabitants but around 60,000 people were expected to join the throng as the celebrations got underway from 6pm onwards. Just inside the city gate a large stage was set for a rock concert and we joined the crowds who were carrying picnic baskets and their own chairs on the late afternoon bus to the city.
We had decided to go a little earlier and have our evening meal there to avoid the rush and as twilight set in, the whole of the city started to light up with strings of lights strewn across the main streets and buildings illuminated in vivid colours.
All of the parks were open including the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens overlooking the Grand Harbour and, at the other side of Republic Street a hike uphill brought us to Hastings Gardens where market stalls sold traditionally made goods and local food while another band played Native American music.
On Republic Street we visited the beautiful little church of St. Francis with its clusters of chandeliers providing a wonderful atmosphere of tranquillity while the noise of the city played out just a few steps away.
St. John's Choir Sing on Steps of the Cathedral
Later on we heard brass bands in St. George's Square playing a selection of Abba songs and other pop music but I think my favourite was in Cathedral Square, where the choir of St. John's Co-Cathedral were running a kind of Juke Box competition, inviting the crowd to vote for songs they wanted to hear. This was followed by a round of well know Gospel songs such as 'Oh Happy Day' and 'Allelujah', which British X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke turned into a big hit a few years ago. See our video.
Alongside all the revelry, the capital paid its respects to what it called the undisputed 'king' of the city – the pigeon, with a giant model of a pigeon suspended from a crane over St. George's Square while acrobats and other street performers entertained the crowds.
There were no seats but a welcome rest against a wall with a plastic glass filled with quite a passable white wine was just all part of the buzz. I think Jean Parisot de la Vallette, after whom the city was named, would be proud to see the place alive and bustling with life after almost 500 years since it took his name.
In all, there were one hundred different events and musical performances representing all genres going on throughout the evening and you could even get an app for your mobile phone if you wanted to keep up with it. We just did it the old fashioned way - went with the flow and soaked up the atmosphere.
At the end of the evening the one way system diverting the crowds down to the bus station ensure there were clear routes in and out of the city, which is all pedestrianised, and buses seemed to arrive every few minutes with a 'fill up and go' rationale that was highly efficient.
Fantastic, fabulous, amazing and all kinds of other superlatives spring to mind. Okay, it was exhausting and I was dead on my feet at the end of it but isn't it good to feel young again?