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EU to me are everything Completing the set

Writing a diary entry (I’m trying to get out of the habit of calling this a blog, since that word has kinda shifted meaning towards “personal op-ed column” IMO) at the end of the night rather than in the morning was an experiment more than anything. I mean, I’ve done it before (Moscow 2014 rings a bell), but generally I prefer to be sober/hungover rather than actually drunk while doing so. But Helen reckons the one I wrote on Sunday evening about my journey to and exploits in Larnaca was good enough that I should write them all drunk. It is with sincere apologies, then, that I’m writing this feeling chipper and sober after breakfast, sitting in the courtyard of my hotel in Valletta, Malta.

Yes. Malta. Not Cyprus. Yesterday I was in Cyprus. Do keep up.

I woke up before my alarm, at about 0615, and laid in bed listening to a couple of podcasts, forgetting that I should actually be watching the rest of WWE NXT Takeover War Games II. Come 7am or so I thought, c’mon Darren, you’ve got tourism to do. You don’t come all this way just to get drunk now do you?

The shower was vicious, in the best of ways. I don’t think I’ve ever used one with such phenomenally high pressure before, and not that I’d been feeling that tired but afterwards I was invigorated as fuck. Got dressed, packed my bags up, necked a large glass of water, and set out down to the sea front.

I thought it would be a bit naff to come all the way here and not see the water, and it is barely a stone’s throw away. The sky is cloudy, though the sun is threatening to burn it off but isn’t strong enough yet at this hour. There’s this statue of a winged lion, the text underneath explaining ... I dunno. Didn’t read it. Haven’t even zoomed in on the photo. I was distracted by the large bauble behind it on the pier.

This large bauble.

I guess that’s what they do for Christmas around here. Haven’t seen any other indication that they give a shit. Do they know it’s Christmas time at all? Anyway, enough dilly dallying. There’s a castle right next door, apparently. Isn’t there?

Oh fuck off. Is that it? That’s your castle? My hotel has more floors! Sorry Larnaca, colour me unimpressed. That said, I do like that I can walk right in front of it and that there’s a long promenade stretching as far as the eye I can see. Let’s see how far I can get along it.

«quick break to change seats - it’s just started to rain»

The waves aren’t exactly crashing in, but are enough to periodically bump over the wall, specifically in the bits where there’s no wall. There is nothing noteworthy on the roadside - a few restaurants, other businesses, houses, but nothing grabbing my attention. About 10 minutes further down some guy is fishing, otherwise it’s just a long promenade full of people just out for a walk - no-one looks like they’re doing anything else but just that. It doesn’t look like a commute. I assume therefore that I’m living exactly like a local and doing cultural experiences right.

There’s another, longer, more made-of-stone pier at the very far end but I can’t quite reach it, because looking at my watch it seems to be about time I turned round and went back. It’s 0810, after all. Time’s a-tickin’.

Quick stop to take a pic of a pub I wish I’d visited on Sunday instead of the Barrel House.

Upstairs at the Hotel Opera reception, I handed my key in. Yes, I’d walked all that way with my bags on my back having properly left the room for good. It’s now 8.30am and I’ve a cab booked for 8.35am, courtesy of Emirates, the airline. Yesterday when calling me to confirm the address they’d been confused, and for good reason; looking back across the square I spot a uniformed man looking confused, having parked outside where my room was. Hello! I’m your passenger.

I explain that while he’s parked where my room was, I’d had to go hand my key bag over the way; the hotel is indeed two separate buildings on different streets. “Well I’m from Larnaca and I’ve never heard such a thing!”. He’s jovial and away we go, once he’s used his local knowledge to not really have a clue how to escape the one-way system here.

He asks what I think of Larnaca and what I got up to, and it’s really hard to explain truthfully. I just tell him I spent most of my time hanging around the city and the seafront. Did I see the salt lake? No, I didn’t. Well we’re going to drive past it. A few minutes later we drive past the salt lake. Nice salt lake. He points at a building on the other side and tells me “That’s something to do with Muslims, I dunno”. Thanks for the tour!

At the airport I sign a slip of paper saying he got me there safely, and tip him. There are armed police or military loitering around, whose guns are fucking massive. Inside, the terminal is mostly deserted. I happen to be right next to the Emirates check-in desks, where there are 4 staff and zero passengers. The flight isn’t for almost 3 hours. I walk a circuit of the building looking for somewhere that might sell headphones but there’s nowhere. It does help me get familiar with where security is. I assume I have fast track here, but you need a separate pass to your boarding pass so I wander up to the desks.

The woman behind the counter is stern-faced but friendly in tone, which is really dissonant. I say hello, I’m already checked-in, can I use fast track though? She says no, you upgraded with miles, so you can’t. OK, fair enough, thank you. I walk away and then another lady is shouting Mr Foreman! Mr Foreman! Come back please! Together the two of them figure out that actually yes, I’m totally entitled to fast track and lounge access (this much I already knew, since the boarding pass on my phone said so).

Fast track would be faster if the three people ahead of me weren’t all getting the third degree from the immigration officer. When it’s my turn he barely even opens the passport and just waves me through, a bored look on his face. Security is reasonably fast, though my new trousers once again trigger a frisk by one of the guards. My throat and eyes react very badly to the monstrous odour of perfumes in the duty free and I’m happy to escape upstairs to the Aspire lounge.

Whee! I have the entire lounge to myself, there’s no-one else here but staff. Excellent. I avail myself of some Pepsi max and some cheese and sausage rolls and go sit by a window staring out at not much really.

There’s an outdoor terrace doubling up as smoking area, and a fish tank over the way. It’s a nice enough place and the WiFi is really fast. Oh, wait, WiFi - I should try and watch the rest of WWE NXT Takeover War Games II! So with another plate of food and a bowl of nuts and fruit, plus a local beer, I put my headphones and the show on. Holy fucking shit it’s spectacular.

Near the end I’m nervously checking the time a lot. My boarding pass says boarding starts at 1110 and finishes at 1115, from gate 25, which doesn’t seem too far away. I pack up at 1059 and set off. As I stride through the terminal the tannoy is playing a repeat recording of some loud alarm/beeps and “AN INCIDENT HAS OCCURRED”. Wonder what that is? At 1102 I reach the gate and the same Emirates staff who were at check-in are looking nervous, then relieved once they spot me, shepherding me to get the fuck on quickly. Apparently I’m the last person, delaying this ‘ere 777-300. Whoa. Really? It’s scheduled for 1135!

So, as I’ve repeatedly said in the preceding paragraphs, I was flying Emirates today. It’s a long-haul plane for a 2.5hr sector between Larnaca and Malta, which I was absolutely delighted to discover existed as I was planning this trip - I genuinely didn’t know about it in advance, unlike when I did that Frankfurt to Madrid thing a couple years back. I’ve never flown Emirates before and have been very much looking forwards to this.

Hello, Emirates business class, nice to make your acquaintance. Why is there so much fake wood everywhere? Looks ... nasty.

Moments after I board they announce that boarding is complete. I’m starting to wonder if I was the only person flying just this leg today (the plane started in Dubai a few hours back). Oops.

It’s a pretty tight squeeze to get into my seat, 8K, because the TV screen is in an awkward place as this is a bulkhead row. A man comes and barks ORANGE OR APPLE JUICE at me. Orange, I meekly request. No pre-flight booze on here due to local regulations, I believe. Anyway, time to acquaint myself with the seat and stuff. There is next to fuck-all storage so everything has to go in the overhead locker, and due to the aforementioned TV screen it feels very private – though that means very little when there’s only about 6 people in the whole cabin.

I’ve got plenty of legroom, such that even my feet can’t reach the pocket where the food menu is stored. Once we’re airborne I asked what I want to eat and I’m like, well, I haven’t managed to read the menu yet. He shows it me and I opt for “the chicken”.

We’ve a very multinational crew today. I know this because the English first officer in his pre-flight chat went through everyone’s name and nationality as if he was reading out the runners in the 100 metre Olympic final.

The TV doesn’t easily come out of its place, there’s a knack, so my handler has to come back and sort it for me. The faux wood wireless handset is hard to displace from its storage, and when I finally manage to do so it tells me to put it right the fuck back.

I do put it back, it’s almost impossible to use anyway. There’s another more traditionally shaped handset, awkwardly placed behind my left shoulder, and the TV is touch screen so I’ll just use that. It’s not calibrated correctly though, and I have to learn to touch just a little bit below whatever it is I want to click.

This is what Cyprus looks like when you fly away from it.

This is also a bit of Cyprus.

And so is this. This is my favourite bit.

Emirates in-flight entertainment is meant to be utterly fantastic, but with such a short flight I don’t have time to really explore it. I am really impressed though that in the movies section they have a documentaries collection, and I opt to watch the film about Robin Williams. I also opt to stop trying to use my own earphones because they keep falling out of the socket, and resort to the provided ones which are tight around my head and feel like Erick Rowan is doing that move where he crushes his opponent’s skull with his two fists. They sound alright though.

Being the twat I am, I start wondering where the fuck the champagne is. Then some champagne arrives. Hurrah! And also the food service.

The fruit salad is insanely juicy and delicious. The bread’s alright. The butter was probably spreadable on its own, but the cutlery was so fucking cold I think it instantly froze the butter and bread on contact.

The chicken thing with fried kale and swede or whatever, that were nice ‘n all. The chocolate thing was a bit too heavy.

Got through it like gangbusters though eh.

The Robin Williams documentary is really good and you should all watch it. NOW. GO ON. I really want to look as cool as an old David Letterman does.

Out of the window there’s stuff. What is this. Crete? Big fucking airport, I know that for sure.

Hang on, let’s have a closer look.

There’s 2 USB sockets so I charge my phone. My champagne glass isn’t allowed to get empty, receiving what I count as 4 refills throughout the flight. Hurrah!

The film finishes about half hour before we’re due to land. I don’t bother trying to watch anything else, though I do briefly get online thanks to free in-flight WiFi that works pretty well. Suddenly out of the window I’m, like, fuck! Is that Malta? That must be Malta.

Upon landing, whoever’s driving the plane hits the brakes hard, twice; the second time is enough to send something crashing in the galley, and a lot of headphones and pillows from unoccupied seats onto the floor. Whee, that was fun.

Helicopter sadly not for me.

It’s a small airport with no airbridges. Us business class and them up front in first are let off first, into our own bus. I mean, come on, we’re nowhere near full, do you really have to actually stop the other passengers from sharing this bus? Bleurgh. Anyway, it’s a short drive across the tarmac to the ... non-schengen entry? Hang on, I’ve only come from Larnaca... oh, yeah, everyone else came from Dubai. D’oh!

“You’ve come from Dubai?” “No, Cyprus” and I’m waved through. So now I’m legally in Malta and FUCK YEAH, I’ve now been to every EU member state. Woohoo! That’s the purpose of this lightning trip, to tick off the last two before Brexit renders me a prisoner on Britain’s shores. I’m quite disgustingly smug about the achievement.

I’m also desperate for a piss, so quick loo break then a rummage around my pockets searching for the €40 I know I had earlier and now no longer have. Fucking hell Darren you idiot. Ah well, these free cabs, let’s just mentally consider them each a €20 ride and let it go.

Cabs, multiple? Yes, because Emirates lay on a car at both ends for business class passengers. This guy is easy to find because he’s holding an Emirates sign with my name on it. We shake hands, he expresses his dismay at how little luggage I have, and we’re on our way to Valletta.

It looks amazing. Like, jaw-droppingly so, even just as a giddy passenger in a cab. My hotel is almost as far into Valletta as it’s possible to go, and all the narrow streets and traffic making it not the quickest ride but it’s a pleasure just staring out of the window. Once we reach my hotel, The Vincent, there are two members of staff at the door awaiting my arrival.

Yes, they really are. They only operate reception between 9-11am for checkout, and otherwise are there on-demand, and I’d notified them ahead of my flight number and expected arrival time. Hence they were waiting for me. It’s a slick tag team operation; the guy gets me a glass of water, the girl hands me a form to fill out, the guy takes my €0,50 eco tax, the girl shows me a map of Valletta, and then I’m shown to my room. Sorry, my suite.

It’s down through this cute courtyard. She explains that all the rooms have their own unique decorative style and I’m in the Arabic one, called appropriately enough Araba. It’s great, holy fuck.

As she finishes explaining everything she seems to be kinda angling for a tip in that “hmm, have we forgotten anything...” kinda way. But then when I hand her a tip she outright asks “what’s that for?”. Huh.

No time to waste, I change t-shirt and then set off for a wander around the city. I do have both the paper map and Google maps but generally I’m just gonna play it by ear. I mean, the whole city is a UNESCO world heritage site so I doubt it’s gonna be nasty. Standing in front of the hotel facing in either direction I can see water. Let’s go ... left. There’s horses up there.

... and that’s yer lot for this entry. Because, as I type, it’s 10:50am and I have to check out of my hotel in the next 10 minutes. I’ll write up what I got up to in Valletta on Monday in another entry.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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